Lower School

The early years in a child's life is filled with wonder, excitement, and joyfulness. At Breck, we honor this time by immersing children in play to unleash imagination, develop skills, and instill a love of learning. 

Our Lower School learning environment provokes wonder, stimulates creativity, and generates an innovative spirit for our students in preschool through grade 4. The Lower School academic program is comprehensive in scope and content; engaging students in literacy, mathematics, social studies, and science along with world language, music, visual arts, religion, physical education, mindfulness, engineering, and technology. With an eye on the future, we ensure our students are skillful collaborators, problem-solvers, and communicators, and character education and service learning instill an understanding of empathy and respect for others. Together with a research-informed faculty, Lower School students become independent thinkers and confident leaders. We know these foundational years are truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience and it is our privilege to partner with families through this important time.

Curriculum

Literacy

We believe literacy begins before children enter the classroom. We help them develop the skills to be effective communicators, proficient readers, and powerful writers. Through language-rich classrooms, quality literature, and personalized instruction, teachers instill a love of language from a young age. Kindergarten through fourth grade utilizes a reading and writing workshop model developed by Lucy Calkins from Columbia University’s Teachers College.

Preschool

  • Storytelling and writing through pictures and words
  • Vocabulary development
  • Meeting students where they are on the reading continuum
  • Nurturing confidence in communication skills

Kindergarten-4th grade

  • Explore a variety of genre
  • Form readers as thinkers
  • Build solid foundational reading skills and habits
  • Develop narrative and expository writing
  • Establish a writing voice and style
  • Focus on grammatical precision
  • Manuscript and cursive writing skills
  • Engage with informational text for research writing
  • Develop public speaking and listening skills

Mathematics

In Lower School, we develop problem-solving strategies, basic computational skills, the understanding of metrics and measurement, the introduction to algebraic thinking, and numerical exploration in data, patterns, and graphs. The Singapore Math In Focus program is used in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Preschool  

  • Use number patterns and objects to learn number conservation
  • Focus on counting, sorting, and classifying
  • Develop problem-solving skills
  • Develop number sense using concrete objects

 K-4th grade

  • Develop conceptual and analytical thinking
  • Use drawing, writing, and conversation to solve complex problems
  • Build mental math skills and flexible thinking
  • Use concrete, pictorial, and abstract problem-solving strategies
  • Build number sense and computational skills

Science

Our 53-acre campus of wetlands, ponds, native prairie grasses, and wildlife is a living laboratory that we explore through year-long immersion in a broad topic. Through field study and research, students see themselves as scientists and develop an affinity for the discipline.

  • Focus on observational and data collection skills
  • Develop journal writing and experimentation
  • Explore the Minnesota Zoo, the Science Museum, and the Mississippi River
  • Collect and send data to professional institutions such as Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Learn to investigate, question, and wonder
  • Engage students in making predications, developing hypotheses, and drawing conclusions
  • Conduct inquiry and research

Social Studies

The Lower School social studies curriculum develops an understanding of self and one’s relationship to others and to the environment. Through the curriculum, students study and develop an understanding of history, culture, geography, economics, government and citizenship. Social studies topics are integrated into a variety of curricular areas. Students engage in classroom discussions, research and project-based learning to deepen their knowledge of our community, state, country and the world. Woven throughout the curriculum is diversity and multicultural awareness, as we make connections to a broader picture of the world and our place in it. Guest speakers and field trips are used as resources to expand our lessons and ideas beyond the school walls.

World Language

Research shows that foreign language acquisition helps students perform better in their native language, read earlier, and gain a deeper appreciation and respect for other cultures. At Breck, students begin in our World Language program, studying Chinese or Spanish beginning in preschool.

  • Learn about the cultures of Chinese- and Spanish-speaking countries
  • Build vocabulary through singing, dancing, and conversation
  • Develop confidence in speaking, reading, writing and listening
  • Apply skills in conversation, performance and written form

Visual Arts

Learning to create through the visual arts teaches students fine motor skills,

Engagement in the arts gives students the opportunity to explore the principles of art and design, gain an appreciation of the artistic process and understand the role of art in society. Through art, children develop fine motor skills, spatial thinking, and self-expression. In our art spaces, imagination and creativity flourish. Breck students study concepts, vocabulary, and technique through:

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Fibers
  • Jewelry
  • Museum studies

Performing Arts

Students’ lives are enriched through the study of music. In Lower School, children explore music through the methodologies of Orff Schulwork, Kodaly, and Dalcrose. Our music program introduces music’s universal quality as a common bond in our diverse culture.  Creativity is expressed through singing, listening, and movement. Private string, piano, percussion, or guitar lessons are offered on campus.

  • Learn about melody, rhythm, and harmony
  • Explore form, dynamics, and texture
  • Understand timbre, tempo, and movement
  • Participate in a band/orchestra rotation (Grade 4)

Library/Media

Often described by students as one of their favorite places on campus, the Lower School library boasts more than 20,000 titles and develops a lifelong joy of reading. Whether students are searching for a secondary source in our online catalogues and databases or hoping to uncover their next nightly read, their time in the library is filled with new discoveries.

  • Browse our collections
  • Participate in book discussion and author studies
  • Practice independent reading
  • Research topics of interest
  • Access online databases

Technology Education

Technology in Lower School includes our digital citizenship curriculum, keyboarding, robotics, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Students use technology to practice, create, innovate, and problem solve. Lower School faculty utilize an online portfolio application to document and share student work with families.

Preschool - 1st grade

  • iPads are used for coding, skill reinforcement, and product creation.

2nd - 3rd grade

  • Content applications and presentation programs are explored
  • Keyboard instruction begins
  • Online research skills are developed

4th grade

  • One:one laptop program begins
  • Assigned a Breck email address for classroom communication and work
  • Computers are used daily for composition, research, blogging, and computational thinking

Physical Education

Students develop cooperation, respect, personal confidence, and a healthy sense of well-being.  The program focuses on individual skill development and lifelong fitness utilizing our three gyms, field house, pool, ice arena, track, and outdoor fields.

  • Ice skating
  • Swimming
  • Ball handling
  • Soccer skills
  • Track
  • Gymnastics
  • Aerobic fitness  
  • Rhythms  
  • Health and nutrition
  • Physiology  

Religions

We study and celebrate many faiths and cultures to deepen our own concepts of spirituality and expand our understanding of others. Religion is explored through:

  • World religions
  • Literature
  • Life stories and experiences
  • Religious traditions
  • Social responsibility

Distinctive Programs

Social Curriculum/Character Education

We practice and reinforce dimensions of good character with our C.A.R.E. (Character Always, Respect Everyday) curriculum. We work to promote a respectful community and support children as they demonstrate responsibility, respect, friendship, kindness, and honesty.

  • Understanding self and others
  • Focus on friendship skills
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Awareness of bullying and conflict resolution
  • Develop self-advocacy skills
  • Use of Responsive Classroom to build community

Community Engagement

We believe it’s important for children to see the impact they can have on the world…with one act of kindness, a generous heart, and a helping hand. Reflecting our mission of social responsibility, Lower School students learn to give both on and off the Breck campus.  

Activities & Opportunities

  • “Biddying” where our older students serve and befriend young students at lunch
  • Local nursing home visits
  • Feed My Starving Children
  • Numerous community food, clothing, and book donation drives
  • Student-led initiatives
  • Philanthropy grants

Student Leadership

In class, children have weekly responsibilities to practice leadership in various roles. Beyond the classroom, students have opportunities to demonstrate leadership with the following opportunities:

  • Student Council
  • Chapel Committee
  • Sustainability Team
  • Service Committee
  • Admissions Ambassadors  

Co-curriculars

Lower School students participate in year-long activities, including

  • Mustang Club
  • Chess Club
  • Robotics

 

Calendar

Lower School Student Life