The Lower School years, Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 4, encompass a time of significant growth for students. Intellectually, socially, creatively, emotionally, and physically, children acquire skills and knowledge that will contribute significantly to the quality of their lives, throughout their lives.
The Lower School strives to instill within each child a balance between individual development and commitment to community. Our invigorating and supportive environment stimulates and promotes ethical, social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth in every student. In a program that recognizes each child’s unique timetable and needs, the measure of success is in the ongoing process rather than the finished product.
For a student of this age, the most valuable skills and knowledge are not composed of isolated facts and repetitive drills, but come from the child’s ability to make meaning of the work by integrating it with prior knowledge and experience.
Our program in the Lower School is based on active learning, learning by doing, learning by challenging, and stretching in ways that promote growth in all developmental aspects.
Lower School classes are small, with homeroom instruction based in math, social studies, and language arts. The broad educational experience includes classes in music, visual art, science, physical education, computer science, library, and, beginning in second grade, French or Spanish. Many opportunities exist for various curricular areas to be integrated from time to time, thus deepening student understanding.
Some subject matters transcend all grades and all disciplines. Study skills are taught at all levels and across all areas. Teaching children to listen actively for directions and helping children organize their work and manage their time for long-term assignments are crucial building blocks to learning that are reinforced throughout the day, subject to subject.
Equally important to the academic goals for our students is Rye Country Day’s commitment to supporting students' social and emotional growth. This is defined in our school as "Character Building," and it is accomplished in all classrooms in a variety of ways. Besides situational instruction, intervention, and social coaching from Lower School teachers, the School takes advantage of nationally recognized resources to assist children in developing healthy and effective behaviors.
When a young child is socially happy and eager to come to school, great academic advancements can follow. Although children are held to high standards in the Lower School, the faculty has a keen sense of the learning continuum for children, and the teachers do not force students beyond what is developmentally appropriate for them. RCDS students emerge from our Lower School healthy, happy, and solidly grounded with a foundation for higher-level learning.
Responsive Classroom is a philosophy that complements our approach to teaching because it takes into account the whole child and addresses the social/emotional needs of the children, just as it helps to develop their cognitive areas. Teachers focus on building relationships within their classrooms to create a safe, nurturing community of learners. Throughout the day, teachers offer strategies and explicitly teach and model social skills with the understanding that children’s cognitive and social growth develops through the social interactions that occur throughout their day.
Community building activities are an integral part of the second grade curriculum. The focus is on increasing student awareness of the power of peer interactions. The community-building activities encourage children to consider the characteristics of appropriate, caring behavior and unacceptable, hurtful behavior. In addition, the Lower School Psychologist works with all the teachers to create activities and discussions that focus on the challenges and benefits of sustaining mutually rewarding friendships.
At Rye Country Day School we are committed to helping our students develop empathy for others and introducing the “Not for Self, But for Service” motto. In the Lower School, that translates to building a sense of community among the students and introducing service projects connected to the curriculum in age-appropriate ways.
The Rye Country Day after-school program allows children and teachers to interact in new ways while having fun together. During the fall, winter, and spring, after-school clubs are offered to students in the Lower and Middle Schools and reflect interests as varied as chess, drama, hip-hop dancing, and yoga. The clubs may change periodically throughout the year, depending on the teacher offerings and students' interests. The children are dismissed from class at 3:00 p.m. and are supervised in the Lower School Dining Room, where they can choose a snack before attending the activities of their choice on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday from 3:15-4:15 p.m. The after-school program is extremely popular with all grades and builds community within the School, as students of various grade levels come together with common interests.