Science, Language & Arts offers a rich, classical curriculum with a revolutionary approach.
Children are natural-born scientists. We seize upon this natural curiosity and begin exploring the wonders of our world in our earliest grades. In hands-on observations and experiments, students develop critical thinking skills through questioning, observing, and drawing their observations and outcomes. These vital skills start children on a lifelong path of testing and tracking their assumptions, and allow them to take part in the scientific method from a very early age.
Each classroom has an observation center that is developed and built throughout the year by the children themselves. Children collect plants and insects to observe, recreating their natural habitats in various terrariums. Other terrariums support plant life such as succulents or ferns; still others host friendly fungi.
Math and literacy
The principles of mathematics are examined in context with games and objects, rather than through rote learning. Mental arithmetic is a large part of not only the math program, but the French language program. Our approach ensures that children come away with a fundamental understanding of our number system and how it works – that its patterns and organizing principles are not only learned and understood, but embodied.
The SLA approach to reading recognizes the importance of phonological awareness and graphemic-phonemic correspondence as building blocks, but is rather a three-pronged approach that integrates basic phonics with practice in pattern recognition as well as training in the important art of scanning and summarizing. This begins in preschool with scanning pictures for information, and continues with scanning for key words and phrases into the upper grades where fluent readers use these tools to read for information. Teachers at all levels integrate scanning, pattern recognition, and summarizing activities into their work with children throughout the day.
Despite the trend toward teaching children to read at ever-younger ages, we know from experience as well as current research that pushing children to do things scholastically for which they are not developmentally ready can have detrimental effects on their success in school and in life. In particular, we do not formally teach children to read before age 6 unless a child shows sufficient interest and readiness. However, we use games and other pre-reading activities with our youngest students that are designed to stimulate and develop their reading brains.
Beyond literacy, the SLA approach to reading is designed to instill a love of reading and books, as well as an understanding of how to use reading as a source of education, information, social connection, personal growth, and lifelong pleasure and fulfillment.
Children have an innate creativity we encourage and foster. The arts are integrated into our day with drama-based language practice. Dance is integrated with social studies. Language is taught through music. Painting is integrated with science. Children learn to draw from observation, a key science skill . . . but we also promote a love and appreciation of art for art's sake!
Physical exercise and fresh air
Children need to move, and often! Daily physical activity is a high priority. Our children spend an hour outdoors every day. We are fortunate to be a short walk from three local parks, including Fort Greene Park, a resource that we exploit not only for free play but also for science and art instruction.
Dance, music, and movement are taught in institutes – instruction over a period of weeks or months that vary throughout the year. Sometimes they are linked to the thematic unit. For example, when students are studying West African cultures, they learn djembe and sabar drumming and dance. Other institutes include tumbling, kung fu, double dutch, and circus arts.
Visual arts instruction focuses on process rather than performance. An initial exploration of how various media work and behave individually and together leads to a far greater ability to render creative ideas.
As part of our Executive Function curriculum, children practice yoga. The activities are carefully designed to promote the development of the forebrain, as well as core strength, proper breathing, balance, and body awareness.
Buckets & Beats is a multi-level and multi-year stick drumming course that teaches children rhythm, coordination, and basic musical vocabulary and notation.
Children explore their roles as members of the local community. They develop relationships with community members and actively participate in the life of the neighborhood.
Children learn conflict resolution, empathy, and effective communication skills through coaching in Nonviolent Communication, a powerful tool they'll carry into adulthood and for the rest of their lives.