Lower School

First-Fourth Grades

The Lower School provides an exceptional academic opportunity within the framework of a warm and nurturing Christian environment. Our focus is on allowing children to grow into themselves and to begin to gain the confidence and competence to succeed socially, emotionally, and academically.

Our teachers recognize each child as a unique individual and seek to identify their personal learning styles and abilities. We use that knowledge to develop a strong foundation in reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, science, and the arts for every student. They become comfortable thinking independently, taking risks, collaborating, and problem-solving early on and are well prepared for middle school.

Throughout their Lower School education, our students apply concepts that they are studying in the classroom to real world situations. These experiences enhance their ability to truly embrace these concepts and helps us foster a lifetime love for learning.

Learning by Experience

Our second grade students run the CES Post Office, CES Express. In addition to learning job roles and the concept of goods and services, the children practice letter writing and reinforce math skills by selling paper and postage, all while raising funds to purchase and present a mailbox to a Habitat for Humanity home in our own community. Our second graders also have a weekly class at The Barn to enhance their studies on the environment.

Our third graders practice their cursive and proper letter writing through our pen pal program with Christwood Retirement Community. Students and residents exchange handwritten letters several times throughout the school year, resulting in wonderful intergenerational relationships and new perspectives. Our Christwood friends attend the third grade World’s Fair in May and then meet their pen pals in person when the students visit Christwood for a year-end Bingo party.

Our fourth graders run their own popcorn company. Students handle everything from advertising and pricing to product and distribution. They learn about bookkeeping, business operations, marketing, and collaboration.

All Lower School students participate in canoe trips as part of our unique Outdoor Education Program.

Learning Lab

The Lower School Learning Lab provides students with individualized support in addition to their regular classroom instruction. Our learning specialists work with students three times a week, one-on-one, in a small group, or within the classroom, depending on the needs of the child. We incorporate structured sequential lessons allowing for more repetition, modeling, and hands-on exploration of topics. Students in first through fourth grades with a current educational evaluation on file also receive services from the Learning Lab. Our specialists work closely with classroom teachers to provide additional data and support to enhance the academic curriculum to meet all learning styles. We recognize that each child is special, and we value their individual differences and potential. Therefore, it is our goal to provide students with the strategies necessary to be academically successful.

Tapping into Special Interests

Our Lower School students have many opportunities to discover new passions and nurture their talents. Fine arts and music are incorporated into our weekly class schedule. Additionally, our award-winning school choir is open to students beginning in first grade. The CES choir performs on both campuses, at local events, and nationally. They have performed in Chicago, New York, Orlando, and Anaheim, CA. Lower School students can participate in our after-school Wildcat Players musical theater program and can audition for major theater productions put on by our creative and talented middle school and upper school students. Lower School athletic opportunities include basketball, cheerleading, cross country, soccer, and track and field.

Teaching with Technology

Throughout the Lower School, students use iPads at all levels to gain access to digital tools that enhance their education and encourage responsible use of technology for learning. Beginning in third grade, each student is assigned an individual, monitored school email address, has access to an individual Chromebook in the classrooms, and uses tools including Google Docs and Drive. All classrooms are outfitted with Promethean Interactive Whiteboard displays to better enhance classroom experiences. Lower School students also have the opportunity to participate in our after-school robotics and coding enrichment program, the Thundercats. The robots used in the Thundercats program are also incorporated into our Lower School STEM curriculum.

Lower School Curriculum

First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade

The first grade math curriculum places emphasis on learning and applying mathematical vocabulary. Basic fact strategies for addition, subtraction, and basic geometric shapes are introduced.  Problem-solving strategies are introduced in first grade using calendars, clocks, money, shapes, and fractions. Students are engaged in lessons and activities designed to develop the confidence needed to become lifelong learners in math.


The first grade science program strives to enhance both the children’s innate curiosity of their physical surroundings and their capabilities in scientific discovery through the introduction of scientific vocabulary and principles by participating in class discussions and activities, hands-on experiments, and field trips. Units in the domain of life science include living and non-living things, insects, and spiders. Special activities include the annual Bug Bash, Audubon Insectarium field trip, and spider project. A unit of study in the physical science domain includes the study of magnets. Special activities are magnet stations and a magnet invention projects. Units of study in earth science include the earth, sun, moon, and stars. Special activities are centered on the formation of different types of rocks.

Reading and language skills are the basic foundation for all learning. The goal for first grade students is to become independent readers as they develop a lifelong love of reading. The first grade program focuses on phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, grammar, writing, and listening skills. The Daily Five, a student-driven management structure, allows for differentiation in the classroom. Whole group, small group, individual conference, and partner work are utilized. Wilson Fundations, a comprehensive reading, spelling and handwriting program, is used to teach phonemic awareness, word study, vocabulary, handwriting, and spelling.

The social studies program for first grade begins with and frequently revisits the examination and understanding of values. Students begin with the study of self and progress toward understanding diversity in families, communities, and the world. Efforts at self-understanding are complemented by exposure to historical and contemporary cultures to build appreciation and respect for the views of others. The appreciation and knowledge of cultural differences are reinforced with the Christmas Around the World study. Audio-visual aids, individual projects, and organized activities such as the Mexican Posada and the English Tea highlight the curriculum. Basic historical understanding, map skills, and an awareness of current events are discussed throughout the year.

Students begin to build a foundation with the elements and principles of art. During the first grade year, students experience drawing, painting, ceramics, printing, and sculpture using a variety of techniques. These techniques and processes develop fine motor skills and knowledge of materials. The students discover the power and emotional impact of color. Each student learns the necessary values and work ethic to work independently in a group studio. First grade students practice following directions and observation and listening skills. Artwork is displayed at our annual Art at the Park art exhibit. Students meet once a week for 50 minutes.

First grade students learn the basic foundations of music, and an appreciation for it. They have fun learning about keeping a steady beat and rhythm by singing fun songs and using Orff Approach instruments, such as rhythm sticks, tambourines, sand blocks, castanets, and xylophones. They also learn simple choreography to many songs. First grade students prepare a musical to perform during Literary Week. Music enrichment is held twice a week for 30 minutes.

Second grade math students continue to build upon skills previously learned, while becoming more fluent and independent problem-solvers. Students develop proficiency in various addition and subtraction strategies, which provides a foundation for adding and subtracting two- and three-digit numbers where regrouping is required. Hands-on activities and manipulatives are used to explore place value, money, time, and standard and metric units of measurement. Basic concepts of geometry, fractions, and multiplication are introduced. Critical thinking skills are encouraged and developed throughout the year.

The second grade ELA curriculum provides focused and individualized learning opportunities to ensure students are well-rounded readers and writers. The balanced reading program is comprised of whole-class instruction, guided reading, and independent practice. Students will be exposed to rich texts designed to broaden their reading skills and deepen their comprehension. Much attention is given to differentiating instruction in guided reading/writing groups to ensure maximum success. Students practice new strategies by self-selecting books to read independently and participate in literature circles. Engaging hands-on activities integrate vocabulary, grammar, and writing.

Fundations, a program used to systematically instruct students in phonemic awareness and word study, is also a vital component of the ELA block. It also includes instruction in handwriting, English orthography for spelling, and capitalization and punctuation skills. All learning involves active participation and aims to engage students through various modalities.

The integrated social studies and science curriculum, Social Living, focuses on a variety of topics including community, government, and wetlands, as well as various others that relate to the reading units. Second grade students also are privileged to attend weekly classes at The Barn, where they learn about the flora and fauna of our area. Several events unique to second grade are also a large part of the Social Living curriculum. During the Flat Stanley novel study, second graders participate in an extension project that encompasses geography and map skills. Also, each year the second graders run a campus-wide post office called the CES Express. Each student performs a job related to selling stationery, organizing incoming and outgoing mail, or delivering letters. The year ends with the study of biographies. Each student selects a person to research, and the study culminates in Biography Day, where students showcase the knowledge they’ve acquired.

Students continue to build a foundation with the elements and principles of art. During the second grade year, students experience drawing, painting, ceramics, printing, and sculpture using a variety of techniques, including papier-mâché, collage, and suminagashi. Students focus on art’s connection to literature and art’s ability to tell a story. Students illustrate and write a story with the help of eighth grade editors in the style of author and illustrator Eric Carle. Each student learns the necessary values and work ethic to work independently in a group studio. Second grade practices following instructions, observation skills, and independence, and works on building self-esteem. Artwork is displayed at our annual Art at the Park art exhibit. Students meet once a week for 50 minutes.

Second grade students learn the basic foundations of music and an appreciation for it. They have fun learning about keeping a steady beat and rhythm by singing fun songs and using Orff Approach instruments, such as rhythm sticks, tambourines, sand blocks, castanets, and xylophones. They also learn simple choreography to many songs. Second grade prepares a musical to perform in the spring. Music enrichment is held twice a week for 30 minutes.

The math curriculum emphasizes mastery of basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts.  Students review addition and subtraction and are introduced to simple fractions, linear and liquid measurements, and the processes of multiplication and division.  Along with achieving competence in basic computational skills, emphasis is placed on problem-solving and use of higher-level thinking skills as we apply mathematics to other areas of the curriculum and everyday situations.

The third grade ELA program builds on the skills taught in the previous grades. The reading curriculum includes independent reading, direct study of selected works in both whole group and small group settings, and vocabulary development. Through these patterns, children are exposed to a variety of genre and writing styles in order to foster a lifelong relationship with reading. The language curriculum covers the concepts of grammar, writing skills, dictionary skills, cursive handwriting, and spelling. The material is presented in a variety of ways geared toward the individual needs of each student. Grammar focuses on parts of speech and proper usage as well as application of knowledge through daily journal and expository writing.  Reading and writing activities are integrated with the topics of study in the science and social studies curriculum.

The science and social studies curriculums are integrated throughout the year to promote the development of conceptual thought and skill acquisition while providing information new to third grade students.  Specifically, students  begin by studying the solar system, then narrowing the  focus to Earth (land forms, map skills, oceans, continents, volcanoes, earthquakes, weather, etc.).  Following a general study of our planet, students concentrate on learning about one continent at a time (climate, products, plants, animals, major cities, religions, cultures, topography, major landmarks, etc.).  Third graders end the study of the world with North America.  As a culmination of the  study of the continents, the third grade puts on the World’s Fair presentation, which includes costumes, food, art, music, performances, and traditions from various areas of the world.  Along with the study of Earth, our solar system, plants and animals, a major emphasis in science is the use of the scientific method.


Third grade is a big year for art. The students continue to build on their foundation with the elements and principles of art. They “travel the world” studying the art of many cultures and artists, including Louisiana artist George Rodrigue. During the third grade year, the children experience drawing, painting, ceramics, printing, and sculpture using a variety of techniques including papier-mâché, collage, and watercolor. Students create masks, drums, shields, and Mexican suns, among other projects. Third graders also have a special outdoor art installation project during Art at the Park. Students meet once a week for 50 minutes.

Third grade students learn the basic foundations of music and an appreciation for it. They have fun learning about keeping a steady beat and rhythm by singing fun songs and using Orff Approach instruments, such as rhythm sticks, tambourines, sand blocks, castanets, and xylophones. They also learn simple choreography to many songs. Third graders prepare songs from different countries in to perform for The World’s Fair in May. Music enrichment is held twice a week for 30 minutes.

Skills developed in previous grades are studied more in depth in fourth grade.  The curriculum is designed to ensure students connect and apply mathematical concepts in a variety of ways. Students use the knowledge of multiplication facts to solve 3- and 4-digit multiplication problems with regrouping and long division with 2-digit divisors and quotients. By learning to solve problems and learning through problem-solving, students are given opportunities to connect mathematical ideas and to develop conceptual understanding. Fourth grade students participate in the school popcorn company project to enhance math skills related to money, gathering data, graphing, measurement, and comparing, while also enhancing cooperative learning.


The science curriculum in fourth grade is intended to encourage students to question and understand concepts related to the world. The scientific process is stressed throughout the science curriculum. This includes the skills of observing, classifying, inferring, predicting, communicating, using space and time relationships, using numbers, and measuring. Topics covered using the McGraw Hill Science text include plant processes and reproduction; animal classification and adaptation; electricity and magnetism; rocks and minerals; matter; oceans; light, color, and sight; and hearing and sound. As a culmination of the plant and animal studies, the students take a field trip to the National Big Branch Wildlife Refuge Area. Applying the scientific method is an integral part of the many skills the students will cover. The students participate in numerous  hand-on experiments related to the science curriculum.

In fourth grade ELA, the primary focus is building the students’ prior knowledge of language skills with challenging and thought-provoking activities. The predominant approach teaches reading and writing through a literature–based reading program. Students are placed into homogeneous groups while using selected works in a small group or whole group setting. Author awareness and appreciation for the story are developed while reading class sets of selected novels. Creative and critical thinking skill strategies are interwoven with basic reading skills appropriate to the abilities of fourth grade readers.  The curriculum is also made up of oral presentations, creative writing, and technical writing skills as a way of exploring and sharing ideas. These skills are integrated into other subject areas, thus increasing the base knowledge of students and helping them internalize what has been learned. The students are required to apply knowledge of grammar, vocabulary, and spelling skills to their writing assignments. Through the use of trade books, students are exposed to a wide variety of stories and literary genre in an attempt to foster a love for language and quality literature.

The fourth grade social studies curriculum focuses on learning the regions of the United States. Scott Foresman: Social Studies Regions is used to guide the study of the various regions. During this study, students learn about the land, history, economy, natural resources, industries, and people of each region of the United States. In order to understand this information, the students master map skills and utilize charts and graphs to comprehend the diversities and similarities that make up the different areas.  The fourth grade students are in charge of operating a popcorn company that allows them to apply their knowledge of economics to a real-life situation. The Fourth Grade Popcorn Company is an endeavor that the students participate in that relates to topics of supply and demand in social studies. Each fourth grade class alternates taking turns in performing the duties in popping and supplying popcorn to the student body each week. The goal of the social studies program is to create sensitive, responsive, and responsible students capable of accepting other customs and values of the diverse population within our own country.

Fourth grade art students continue to add skills and comprehension of their foundation in art. Students continue to study the elements and principles of art, gaining a better understanding of the application of media, techniques, and processes. Students study architecture and become builders of haunted mansions from recycled materials. Students also develop an understanding of art in relation to history and culture along with its connection to other disciplines. Students more deeply explore drawing, painting, ceramics, printing, and sculpture. During fourth grade, students also learn to become independent composers of art while building self-esteem and confidence. Artwork is displayed at our annual Art at the Park art exhibit. Students meet once a week for 50 minutes.

Fourth grade music classes consist of continuing foundations of music theory. Students learn how to read music and play the piano and percussion instruments. The fourth graders present a special performance to honor veterans each year. Music enrichment is held once a week for 50 minutes.