A Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 12 co-educational independent day school in Westchester County, New York

Lower School

Learn. Discover. Together.

Igniting a Love of Learning

The Lower School years encompass a step-by-step journey of transformational growth as children move from Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 4. Lower School students partner with expert teachers in active learning, which engages their natural curiosity and develops a strong academic foundation. Students discover a love of literacy as they advance from learning to read to reading to learn. They practice expressing their ideas clearly in speaking, in writing, and through creative outlets. Students explore science, numbers, technology, and culture, asking questions and listening carefully as they build an understanding of the world and their place within it. 

Students learn best when they are engaged and active, when they feel they belong, and when they are challenged just the right amount.

Our invigorating and supportive program recognizes each learner’s unique timetable and needs. The measure of success is in the ongoing process rather than the finished product. In a joyful and nurturing environment, students love learning. Teachers and parents/guardians view each other as partners, and they communicate regularly to know, support, and nurture each child. 

Small class sizes and a uniquely low overall student to teacher ratio of 6:1 in Pre-Kindergarten and 9:1 in Grades K-4

In homerooms, lead teachers and assistant teachers collaborate to build a strong learning community and deliver instruction based in math, social studies, and language arts. In their “specials,” students discover music, creative art, science, physical education, computer science, library, and, beginning in second grade, French or Spanish. Each year, students engage in projects that cross disciplines, using their learning from multiple subjects to solve a problem or create a project, deepening their understanding and interest. Study skills, metacognition (learning how to learn), and developing a growth mindset are taught at all levels and across all areas as students learn to listen actively, organize their work, and manage their time. 

Cultivating Character in a Caring Community

Ask any RCDS Lower Schooler what “CARES” stands for, and they will tell you:


Lower School teachers are trained in the Responsive Classroom philosophy, which provides a consistent toolkit and vocabulary for the social-emotional learning strategies they teach and model every day. What does this look like? Each day begins with a morning meeting in which students and teachers greet each other, share something important about themselves, practice social-emotional strategies and skills, and preview the day ahead. Each classroom in the Lower School features a “peace corner,” and our students and teachers regularly practice evidence-based mindfulness strategies. Our report cards and parent-teacher conferences review academic progress as well as social-emotional and real world competency development. 

Explore Our Curriculum

Lower school principal

Dr. Stacey Sotirhos

Lower School Office Phone

A Day in the Life of a Lower Schooler

The Lower School operates on a six-day schedule cycle in sync with the Middle and Upper School. Students have physical education most if not all days and outside recess (except in extreme weather) every day. 

Sample Schedule:

8:15: Arrive to school and do morning work
8:30: Morning Meeting in Homeroom 
9:00: Physical Education
9:45: Special Class - Computer/Music/Art/Science/Library
10:30: Snack
10:45: Reader’s & Writer’s Workshop
11:30: Shared reading
12:00:  Lunch
12:45: Math
1:30: Recess
2:15: Choice Time and 1:1 work with the teacher
2:50/3:00: Dismissal
3:15 - 4:15: Clubs (Optional) 
3:15 - 6:00: Extended Day (Optional)

Living Our Mission

Teachers are supported by the directors of each of the School’s strategic initiatives in integrating our school-wide values into the program at every level. This lays the foundation for a lifelong understanding of and commitment to our motto of Not for Self, but for Service.  


Health and Wellness in Action 

Every Lower School classroom is equipped with a peace corner. Students learn strategies for mindfulness and meditation because research shows that these practices decrease stress, distraction, depression, anxiety, and anger, while also benefiting health, well-being, social relationships, and academic performance.


Diversity & Inclusion in Action

Diversity & Inclusion is woven throughout the Lower School programs, structures, and community. Teachers routinely review the books and units in their curriculums to make sure that all children see themselves reflected in their studies. It is the responsibility of all teachers and staff to make sure that our students feel they belong, and we design frequent professional development and training to equip teachers with tools and strategies for active inclusion.  


Public Purpose in Action

In second grade, students study the Long Island Sound and become passionate about keeping the sound clean and preserving its ecosystem. Students conduct research and create an illustration that shows an animal who relies on the Long Island Sound as its natural habitat. The second grade then partners with a printer to turn their illustrations into a calendar, which they sell. They donate the proceeds to Sound Waters, one of Rye Country Day’s community partners. 


Global Studies in Action

Kindergartners engage in a study of homes around the world. After establishing the definition of a home, they investigate the styles and materials used to meet the need for differing shelters around the world. They reflect on their own homes, building blueprints of inside and outside features. Synthesizing all that they learn over the course of their study, students create a model home.


STEAM in Action

Third graders learn how science, art, and technology are all interrelated in the design process as they design, build, and construct LED light sculptures using Arduino mini computers. As further proof of the intersection of the disciplines, they carry these projects from science class, to computer class, to art. Through this interdisciplinary project-based unit, students experience the joy of seeing the intersection of their learning from multiple classes, which adds depth and meaning.


Educational Technology in Action

Over the course of fourth grade, students learn to build and program robots to interact within an environment they create. Throughout the process, students consistently test, tweak, and refine their robots to enable them to maneuver within unique terrains.


Sustainability in Action 

Students across the Lower School collaborate in maintaining their own dedicated garden during science class, and they donate the produce they harvest through partnerships with local organizations. Once they get to Grade 4, our young environmental activists become members of a Sustainability Team that leads the School in committing to our recycling efforts through announcements, classroom and office visits, and favorite events, such as the RCDS Recycling Challenge.

Life in the Lower School