Lower Elementary Experiences
Continent Study & Cultural Sharing
Each year all three Lower Elementary classes focus on one continent to study in detail — geography, ecology, maps, countries and cultural traditions. This type of focused and sustained project helps students to develop their research and writing skills, as well as to explore both similarities and differences of cultures other than their own. The study culminates with a Cultural Sharing Day during which children present reports, maps and projects they have created for their parents, peers and students from other levels.
Each spring the Lower Elementary children participate in an artist-in-residence program, which is based on the cultural traditions of the continent they are studying that year. Students spend a week working with the artist(s), learning stories, songs and dances particular to that culture. At the end of the week they present a performance for other students and for parents. Artists are usually invited from outside of the school and in the past have included folk musicians, professional dancers, and storytellers.
After the winter recess, each Lower Elementary class spends a week working with our drama teacher. They learn to read lines, practice moving on the stage and make props and costumes as they prepare an informal performance for parents and the other Lower Elementary classes. This is a fun, relaxed introduction to drama, preparing them for plays they will do in Upper Elementary and Middle School.
Taking place at least once a week in each LE classroom, Community Meetings provide valuable practice for becoming responsible, respectful and resourceful members of a community. Children learn about constructive problem-solving, develop the ability to work through problems, and begin to realize their own significance within a community. Students learn:
• to use their voices,
• to practice looking at issues from multiple points of view,
• to use mistakes as opportunities to learn,
• to see strengths in themselves and others,
• how collaboration can change things,
• that they have influence in a socially useful way, and
• what it feels like to set goals, plan and be able to carry out a plan.
Promoting fellowship and responsibility among a wider range of ages, the Partner Class Program is a long-standing tradition at WMS that enhances the benefits of mixed-age classrooms. The program pairs Lower School classes with Upper Elementary classes and Lower Elementary classes with Middle School classes. The Partner Class program helps establish a sense of community within the different ages of students.