During this phase, children enter a stage of developmental integration in which they are organizing and combining various skills to accomplish increasingly complex tasks and understand concepts. Children develop more fully into unique individuals who comprehend and formulate questions and ideas about their immediate world. They learn to think logically, anticipate outcomes, classify objects and solve problems. They enjoy being challenged and encouraged and love to take on big projects and show the world what they have discovered.
Completing tasks, projects and other demonstrations of their learning help children at Blue School build self-confidence as well as a sense of responsibility in the community. Within a supportive environment they explore, play, and take small and big risks. With the tools and skills they need, children are given access to a grand exploration of the world, and a way to think through complex problems resulting in creative solutions. Through project work, children actively investigate their interests, discover new ideas and develop their own theories. In keeping with Blue School's mission and values, teachers in our Primary Program bring an intrinsic belief in the power and beauty of children's unique process of learning.
Children respond to learning and understanding in a variety of ways, but each child understands that both are acts of concentrated effort, filled with imaginative flights, flexible thought, and reflective summation. The product is no more valuable than the process, but is lasting and unique, a finely tuned combination of rigor and whimsy worthy of reflection and pride. Creative, activist, and innovative response is cultivated through the rich integration of the arts at Blue School. In response to learning, children create artifacts and produce musical and dramatic representations. Children also curate displays and spaces, enhancing their aesthetic sensibilities, while developing independence and collaborative habits. The result may be a 3-D representation of old New York City, a thoughtfully framed painting of a historical figure, a new systemic solution for recycling, or a reinterpretation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. The outcome is always a unique response to the understanding gathered during an inquiry or project. This is what distinguishes Blue School's integrated curriculum from every other.
A love of reading and writing begins to take shape during these years. Children are introduced to a wide range of literature and begin to connect to favorite authors and particular genres. When children become a part of that magical circle of readers and writers, it is a very exciting time for teachers and parents. Explicit, developmentally appropriate instruction is taught in the skill and strategy areas of reading, spelling, and writing. Frequent assessments keep teachers informed of the children's progress and make instructional planning effective. Children begin to develop the critical skills to interpret both fiction and informational texts. With writing, children explore personal narrative, procedural writing, imaginative stories, poetry, fairy tales, fables and other forms that arise during classroom inquiries and projects.
As they develop, the children's use of the language is integrated. Class study of food and local restaurants calls for the creation of a cookbook. A neighborhood concern may encourage a group of 5th grade activists to write persuasive letters to a councilperson. The magnificent light coming through a classroom window inspires a burgeoning poet to create a series of poems, which are proudly offered to all at a community meeting. Older children may decide that the novel they just read is so powerful that they absolutely must invite their parents to read it and follow-up with a classroom parent/child book chat. Second grade learners proudly share their reading prowess with kindergarten buddies.
Blue School sees literacy development as a social and community-building activity that fosters powerful and thirsty readers and writers. Advances in technology allow children to annotate one another's work, collectively write an article, author an iBook, or review precious primary sources.
The world language program at Blue School celebrates language as well as the diverse cultures attached to the language. It is our goal to integrate the world language into visual art, music, movement and play, so that there is a purpose and motivation attached to the learning. This approach embraces the notion of a working knowledge of a language. Because all faculty members aspire to the Blue School desire to make children aware of their marvelous multicultural city, there is an ongoing link between language development and classroom learning.
Our kindergarten through 5th grade sequence represents an essential balance of problem-solving investigations and computational skills. Many of the skills spiral up, to be taught yearly at incrementally higher levels, while some units are specific to particular grade levels. TERC Investigations and Math in the City, programs that embrace individual approaches to problem solving while meeting national mathematic standards, form the foundation of our math program.
All primary math work has real-life application. When children design playgrounds, they calculate dimensions and begin to understand scale. In order to make enough banana bread to feed parents and guests, children multiply, add and estimate. As 3rd-grade children contemplate that historical westward trek from New York to the Pacific coast, they calculate how far the wagon trains will travel in one day, and know how to weigh and pack wisely so their party will survive! Children see math as practical, challenging and easily transferred to many areas of their lives.
Science in the Primary Program is investigative and exciting for children. Much of the work that takes place in science arises from children's inquiries. A catapult made in the block area launches a study of simple machines. An earnest curiosity about explosions leads to an inquiry about motion and propulsion and how they apply to natural phenomena and man-made actions. A study of community food banks prompts the growth of a garden.
As children study the neighborhood and beyond, they look at geological structures, environmental issues, and the waterways comprising and surrounding Manhattan. Our studies encourage children to become responsible stewards of their world. Frequent trips to our BioLab, a space set up to accomodate young scientists with tools and explorations, assures that children see the importance of scholarly endeavors beyond the classroom.
Human Studies and Global Citizenship:
Children are curious about their world. As they grow, so do their extensive wonderings. Younger Primary Program children often ask questions about their immediate environment. Many of the studies coming from the lower Primary Program have to do with those people and places just outside the door. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Farmer's Market, and the East River are sources for questions and thoughtful, researched responses.
As children reach the upper Primary Program, they have increased interest in historical time periods. The Blue School is housed in an area of New York City that played a vital and controversial role during early settlement by European explorers and merchants. Stepping forward in time, the ghosts of the Revolutionary War are still creeping about in downtown Manhattan. Children at this age love to role-play and take sides in lively debates that resonate with many of the political, cultural and social issues occurring today. Field trips, invited guests, symposiums and reenactments keep the inquiry alive during all the Primary Program studies. Social studies and history are often the guiding force for many projects and in-depth investigations.