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Lower School Curriculum

Young girls come to Bryn Mawr full of wide-eyed wonder about the world around them. They have natural and abundant curiosity and many questions for which they want answers. The Bryn Mawr curriculum is designed to harness their enthusiasm and excitement about learning. In a caring and supportive environment, Lower School teachers encourage independence and risk taking, and, with age-appropriate pedagogy, provide opportunities for girls to develop strong academic skills and discover answers to their questions.

Course Descriptions

List of 11 items.

  • Art

    The study of art encourages creative thinking, problem solving, mastery of technical skills and respect for their own work and the work of others. Each year, girls use various media and styles to create original and meaningful artwork. They learn to build on new skills in the areas of drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, fibers and sculpture. Students interpret exemplars as well as class work while exploring a grade level theme, such as experience, imagination, connection, art history, global cultures and identity.
  • Character Education

    The character education program is taught in the Bryn Mawr Lower School on a weekly basis. Topics are based on the "Value of the Month" and are developmentally appropriate for each grade. Values such as honesty, loyalty, self-confidence and justice are discussed. Topics are structured to include what is happening in the class and current events. Some of the skills learned are conflict resolution, decision-making, assertiveness, clear communication and identification of feelings.

    The character education program is the cornerstone of the Lower School program, so that each student learns to treat others with respect and compassion. The program is adapted to meet the needs of our students. Young girls learn that each person has a responsibility for more than herself and her own well-being. Our entire Lower School community is involved in teaching values under the direction of the Lower School Counselor.
  • World Languages

    The Bryn Mawr Lower School offers an intensive World Languages program designed to foster a love of the French and Spanish languages and an appreciation of cultures around the world. Students take classes three times a week.

    All pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students will follow a Foreign Language Exploration (FLEX) program. That is, they will be exposed to both French and Spanish simultaneously throughout the year allowing them to learn basic vocabulary and phrases in each language. In December of first grade families select which language, French or Spanish, their child will continue learning for the remainder of their time in the Lower School.

    In the early years, our language program is filled with puppets, toys, games, songs, rhymes and materials that are intrinsically interesting to young children. The program is mainly oral in the early grades and a more formal grammar study begins in fourth grade. Students of all ages enjoy memorizing and performing a variety of dramatic skits and practicing applying their language skills while conversing with their classmates.

    Highlights and activities throughout the Lower School include cultural cooking projects, an imaginary trip abroad, taste-testing of traditional dishes from the countries they are studying, and a fashion show where students write clothing descriptions in the target language and present their work in front of the whole Lower School.
  • Language Arts

    The language arts curriculum is the core of the Lower School program. It includes skills children must acquire to successfully learn all subjects. The program strives to foster a lifelong love of reading by helping students develop an appreciation and enjoyment of the written word. Students are taught the critical skills necessary to read with a purpose and to retain what is read.

    Reading is taught through the use of children's literature. Comprehension skills are developed through small group discussions of the books read. Beginning readers are taught word-attack skills through a systematic phonics program. Emphasis is also placed on developing a strong sight vocabulary.

    Beginning in kindergarten and continuing through fifth grade, writing skills are developed as students keep journals and write stories, poems, prose and short research projects. Students are taught writing as an ongoing process that includes pre-writing and revising. Experiences with word processing are included at every grade level.
  • Library

    The Lower School Library has a collection of more than 10,000 books, including fiction, nonfiction and periodicals for students and teachers. All classes from kindergarten to fifth grade have a formal library lesson once each week, where students can listen to stories, browse and check out books, and receive instruction in information-seeking skills.

    The library curriculum is developmentally appropriate for each grade level and written to complement the lessons of social studies, language arts and science. In the use of the library, Lower School teachers and the librarian focus on developing a love for books and building a solid foundation in research skills.
  • Mathematics

    The math program in the Lower School offers students a wide variety of experiences. Basic skills are emphasized, including addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of whole numbers; decimals and fractions; and basic geometry.

    The main goals of our math program are to:
    • Build a strong foundation of number sense and basic math skills
    • Foster a love of and curiosity about math
    • Challenge and support different levels of math maturity and ability
    • Provide opportunities to solve real life problems
    • Encourage students to think independently and to use many approaches to solve a problem
    We also challenge students with more abstract concepts when developmentally appropriate. Students are introduced to time, measurement, word and logic problems, pre-algebraic concepts, exponents, negative numbers, two- and three-dimensional geometry, one - and four-quadrant graphing as well as statistics.

    In all grades, students use the “Math in Focus” program by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This comprehensive series incorporates math success through reading, writing, problem solving and discovery with opportunities for reinforcement and enrichments that develop conceptual and computation skills. Students also regularly take advantage of the 1:1 iPad applications that enrich and supplement their individual learning.
  • Music

    Our Lower School girls are active music makers! The music curriculum reflects the philosophies of the Orff-Schulwerk approach, which is based on things that children naturally love to do: sing, chant rhymes, dance and play instruments. Language is used as a bridge to musical rhythm, and active participation and creativity are emphasized.

    The Orff-Schulwerk approach is fully child-centered, and it takes advantage of the natural stages of a child's development. Throughout the year, the girls showcase what they have learned by performing in the winter and spring concerts, International Bazaar and various Lower School assemblies. Opportunities for ensemble performance are available through membership in the Choral Ensemble, open to girl in fourth and fifth grades, and the String Ensemble, which is open to all Lower School students.
  • Physical Education / Dance

    Lower School Physical Education is movement oriented to encourage each girl to recognize and develop her own physical capabilities in a non-competitive environment. Physical activities in all grades help develop coordination, endurance and a general sense of confidence both individually and as a part of a team. We also believe that physical education should be fun!

    Some highlights of the lower school Physical Education program include dance performances for kindergarten through first grade, a parachute routine performance for the second grade, the Maypole for third grade and jump rope routines (performed in class) for fourth and fifth grades. Additionally, the fifth grade organizes and directs Field Day at the end of the school year.
  • Science

    During their years in the Lower School, students are introduced to most of the major areas of science. They are encouraged to view themselves as scientists and to explore each topic through a variety of means. By following the steps in the scientific method, students learn to do experiments and to draw conclusions from their data.

    Throughout their studies of science in the Lower School, students are encouraged to have a sense of wonder and interest in the topics presented. In addition to learning basic scientific concepts, students are encouraged to develop a lifelong love of exploring and learning.

    Favorite topics include dinosaurs, health and the human body, force and motion, insects, birds, plants, electricity, space and weather.
  • Social Studies / History

    The Lower School Social Studies program fosters a progression of understanding each girl's place in a larger society. In kindergarten, it begins with a focus on each child's self-concept and celebrates her uniqueness. As the students continue through Lower School, the themes broaden to the larger world, exploring topics like living in a global community, Native Americans, ancient cities, the colonization of early America and modern day Baltimore.

    These topics come to life through the integration of technology, field trips and special events like the Bryn Mawr International Bazaar, where students explore traditional food, clothing, music and cultures of countries throughout the world.
  • Computer Science

    All girls, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, have access to and instruction on technology and computer science. Bryn Mawr’s curriculum encourages computational thinking and includes 3D printing, block-based coding, robotics, digital wellness, maker components, and technology basics.   
    Pre-kindergarten is a device-free program, while kindergarten through third grade students use one-to-one iPads. Fourth and fifth grade classes use personal Chromebooks provided by the school. At Bryn Mawr, we are intentional about using technology in the classroom. All devices are used with a specific purpose to enhance teaching and learning.