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.

Lower School Principal
Barbara Shea, M.A.T.

Our Philosophy

The Lower School strives to instill within each child a balance between individual development and commitment to the 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.

This is why 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 across all areas. Teaching children to actively listen 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 support the students' social and emotional growth. This is defined in our school as "Character Building" and 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.

The Responsive Classroom is an integral part of the Lower School character-building program and permeates every classroom, every day.

It 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.

Lower School