When children are young, their minds are hungry for learning! School should be a place for them to explore their curiosities, unleash their creativity, and develop their competencies. During the formative years, children model what they see in those around them. Knowing this, school should be a place where mentoring occurs, and where children are surrounded by knowledgeable, caring teachers. Since children exhibit a myriad of interests, school should be a place where the curriculum is broad and comprehensive, so that each child finds an avenue for self-exploration and success. Breck's Lower School program is designed with this in mind.
Curiosity and creativity begin in the preschool years. Our youngest children are immersed in classrooms with abundant materials and given time to explore and discover. Grounded in the educational pedagogy of Maria Montessori, children move about their environment choosing their own activities, at their own paces and follow their own inclinations. Over time, they come to recognize the power of decision-making and they advance in the development of their cognitive skills. Fast forward to second grade, where children are given the opportunity to use their creative ideas to plan for special events, like Grandparent’s Day. A second grade teacher asked, "What do you think our grandparents would be interested in doing?" With more than thirty ideas on the board, students worked in teams, using their creative energy to make plans for the activities and centers for this special day. In a fourth grade classroom, the Lego station is a favorite corner of the room during the early morning hour. It’s a place for creativity to emerge and where students learn how to work in collaboration with others. What our teachers know about motivation and engagement deepens their commitment to giving our students the opportunity to live in their imaginations, to be creative, and to explore their many ideas in the classroom.
Critical to the education of a young child is the relationship that develops with older students and adults in the community. At Breck, our Lower School students are the benefactors of being in a P-12 one-campus community! Preschoolers are reading buddies with third graders, kindergartners are “bio-buddies” with Middle School students, and first graders all have a senior buddy with whom they share experiences throughout the year. Our fourth graders learn about leadership through their service in the dining room and their participation on the all-school sustainability committee. Upper School Science Research students share their projects with Lower School students . . . resulting in Lower School students seeking to be in the science research class some day. Beyond the mentorships that develop between students, the relationship between students and teachers is the most essential ingredient to a successful learning experience. In Lower School, the teacher-student relationship can be described in one word: personal! Students feel their teacher’s care . . . see them as full of knowledge . . . know their teachers are in tune with just what they need as learners . . . and trust them as advocates. Students say their teachers "love to teach" and "really care about our learning."
At the heart of the Lower School program is a curriculum that is comprehensive and innovative! Literacy and Mathematics are the foundation of the classroom program. With a strong foundation in reading, writing, and math, young children develop the confidence for more sophisticated concepts. Scientists emerge in the early years . . . just ask any Lower School student to talk about the birds they see at the feeders or the interdependence of plants and animals. They also become excited to learn about the regions of our country and to become cartographers as they explore our world through maps. Breck is technology-rich — laptops and iPads are integrated into every classroom! Beyond the classroom, Lower School students are immersed in Chinese or Spanish, learn to play the recorder and African/Japanese drums in Music, paint like Picasso and Mondrian while learning the history of Modern Art, participate in cardiovascular fitness and skating in Physical Education, and develop an appreciation for the many faiths we practice in our world. Our guidance program completes the comprehensive program with lessons in friendship, conflict resolution, and our C.A.R.E. program. Students engage in lessons focused on character education in the classroom and in the home. The breadth of the Lower School program taps into every child’s strength and interest — and gives every child the opportunity to thrive!
Surely, there are lots of good schools, but what makes a great school? We believe it is a school that has a clear mission, a commitment to a broad, innovative curriculum, a notable faculty, and a strong sense of community. We believe that children deserve this kind of learning environment when they are young. For it is when children are young, that the habits of learning are developed. I invite you to come inside our classrooms and have a look around.
Lower School Director