Primary School (Kindergarten - Grade 4)
What a joy it is to see every jumper-clad girl bound through the door each morning to ask and answer her own questions! Innovative teachers design small classes that dare each girl to step up, to challenge herself, to reach beyond what she already knows. We partner with parents to celebrate each girl as we propel her through the remarkable transformation from curious Kindergartener to confident Fourth Grader.
In Primary, our interdisciplinary curriculum is inspired by findings from Laurel’s Center for Research on Girls. We know how girls think, learn and feel. Students are guided to make informed guesses about how the world works then test their hunches with experimentation. Grade-level themes shape deep investigations of big ideas and help girls add strength to their understanding by connecting learning in each subject.
As girls grow, they tend their own class gardens in our courtyards and greenhouses; LAB Days spent out at our 140-acre Butler Campus further their inquisitiveness about the natural world. Teachers steer girls to follow their questions to classroom books, the Primary’s Lake Library, the science lab and online sources. Each girl’s distinctive imagination grows through reading and the arts as she works with hands-on, minds-on materials to express her understanding creatively.
Come see for yourself! You need only amble down the game hall to see the latest feats of our Primary School engineers: girls design and build toys, rides and machines. Our youngest students develop their ears for world languages in Chinese, French and Spanish, ready for immersion in one language by Third Grade. On an Assembly day, you may find girls performing what they have discovered, sparking the curiosity of other girls. We hope you will visit us soon to see Primary girls at Laurel joyously learning in action!
Heather Diemer Havre ‘86
Director of the Primary School
Associate Director of the Primary School
Philosophy and Essential Questions
Through a comprehensive, integrated language arts program, Laurel girls become independent, fluent readers and writers. Students read a variety of genres and learn vocabulary, reading strategies and new perspectives. Laurel girls grow from seeing their own experiences reflected in the material they read. They learn to communicate effectively and to practice the research process while making connections with other coursework. Students assess their writing through self-evaluation and peer and teacher feedback.
- What makes writing worth reading?
- How is this story my story?
- What techniques make writing clear, creative and persuasive?
- How can I make valid inferences based on contextual clues?
- How can the process of reading texts help formulate my moral development?
Laurel’s social studies program prepares students to become responsible and productive citizens. Through our integrated, engaging curriculum, girls deepen their understanding of the world and apply their knowledge and skills to make effective personal and public decisions. They learn to think independently, conduct research, write effectively and express themselves orally through dynamic lessons that address students’ learning styles.
- How does where people live affect how they live?
- What is the influence of past events and tradition on the present and the future?
- What factors, including geography, contribute to the rise and decline of civilizations?
- What forces support the development of regions?
- What are the responsibilities of active and involved citizens?
Mathematics are integral to functioning efficiently and effectively in today’s society. We value the purposeful use of mathematical resources in decision-making and celebrate the beauty of thoughtful mathematical procedures. Laurel teachers facilitate individual and collaborative investigations in which they require students to construct their own mathematical knowledge. Participation in this journey refines students’ computational, manipulative, problem-solving, critical-thinking and logical-thinking skills.
- What is the pattern and how do I know?
- What tools do I use to solve problems?
- How can my knowledge of mathematics help me when I encounter unfamiliar problems?
- How do I communicate mathematically to represent my ideas?
- How do I construct mathematical knowledge and build connections to the world?
The Laurel School science department seeks to provide every girl with the tools to courageously explore the physical world and to become an ethical, compassionate contributor to it. We believe that hands-on experimentation and teamwork are essential to girls studying science. Our students achieve success in thinking critically, solving problems creatively and articulating their ideas and findings to others.
- How can I investigate the natural world as scientists do?
- Why is it important for me to work collaboratively while conducting hands-on experiments and communicating the results of our scientific research?
- What can I do to help solve real-world problems?
- How do I positively and negatively affect the physical world around me?
- What can we learn from mistakes?
Studying languages in Grades K through 8 creates a solid foundation for children to become lifelong language learners. Teaching is done almost entirely in the target language to provide students with an immersion-style experience. Our goal is for students to develop a sense of confidence in their own abilities, to function in the target language and to genuinely enjoy language learning. Exposure to different languages and cultures broadens girls’ worldviews, enhances their sense of empathy and promotes curiosity about the world.
- How does learning to speak other languages enable us to contribute to a global society?
- What can different cultures teach us about our own way of living?
- What kinds of connections does multiculturalism empower us to make?
- What impact does learning one language have on the accessibility of other languages?
- How does learning to communicate in another language enhance critical-thinking skills?
Art is a language of expression and communication. It involves discovering ideas and transforming them into visual form. This process is nurtured through exposure to diverse examples of art (in our own and in other cultures) and through repeated opportunities to work with a variety of art media and techniques. The visual arts involve developing the ability to look analytically, while offering an exploration of varied materials and processes.
- What is art?
- Why and how do people create art?
- How does visual art communicate?
- How and where do artists get their ideas?
- How do I use materials to visually articulate an idea?
In a classroom community, students learn to take risks as they explore their creativity. They engage in exercises that develop basic skills in each art form. As girls move through the performing arts curriculum, they grow from practicing the skills to using the skills in varying forms of self-expression. A cumulative curriculum allows students to build on previously mastered skills and to take each art form to the next level. Emphasis is placed on a creative, engaging process that leads directly to a final product.
- How do the performing arts express and shape culture and identity?
- What makes a good performance?
- How do the performing arts enhance my view of the world and the way I identify beauty and movement?
- How do the performing arts promote risk-taking and communication?
- How does process affect final product/performance?
The P.E. program is designed to help girls attain a basic understanding about the body and its capabilities and limitations in movement. Through a variety of activities, students explore movement and develop spatial awareness. Girls are encouraged to understand their personal strength and to cooperate with others. As the girls progress through Middle School, basic skills, knowledge of sports, physical activities, fitness and game play are emphasized.
- How do I use my body and the space around me to participate in activities safely?
- How do I demonstrate a respect for difference during physical activity?
- Why are sportsmanship and teamwork important?
- What concepts and skills are essential to successful participation?
- How does my behavior toward others impact my effectiveness as an athlete?