Lower School

Students Start on the Right Foot

The Lower School introduces students in pre-kindergarten to fourth grade to a wide variety of educational subjects and begins to instill a lifetime love of learning. In our elementary school, students start their learning experience in a supportive environment, with hands-on, integrated technology, and parental involvement. By the time they move on to the Upper School, they've received instruction in language, music, art, mathematics, science, and history and have learned to manage academic responsibility with instructor support.

Three and Four-Year-Old Pre-K Explorers

The Margaret A Wilby School for Early Learning invites children to expand their curiosity and to create wonder at the world around them. We provide children with the strategies to reach their highest potential in a safe, nurturing environment. 

Find out more about our 3 and 4-Year-Old Explorer Program!


A Kindergarten child is developing intellectually, socially, emotionally, and morally within the context of a complex community. In support of each child, the Kindergarten classroom provides a safe and caring environment in which children can make sense of their experiences.  Kindergarten students are engaged in a continuous learning journey. They are exposed to different types of learning styles, study many themes, and engage in social experiences.  The students make connections to the world around them, acquire a love of learning, gain confidence in their abilities, take risks, and grow socially and emotionally throughout the year. We believe that children should have the following experiences in Kindergarten: 

  • Collaborative work and planned purposeful play time
  • Meaningful individual and group experiences    
  • Opportunities to think about their learning
  • Opportunities to form memorable friendships
  • Activities that will further develop large and small muscle coordination

It is important for Kindergarten students to learn how to function within a group in order to experience the joys of being and learning together.  We strive to help children find a comfort level with the following social goals: 

  • Being away from home   
  • Developing relationships and investing in learning at school
  •  Exhibiting responsibility for one’s belongings and taking on additional responsibilities in the classroom
  •  Developing mutual respect toward each other’s ideas, feelings, and personal space
  • Becoming more independent, learning to make compromises, dealing with frustration, and managing transitions
  • Accepting and following directions, routines, and classroom rules
  • Developing self-regulation strategies and habits
  • Developing self-confidence by speaking in front of others, participating in group activities, and making individual choices


First Grade

First grade is a time when children begin a major transition in their intellectual growth.  They begin to approach the world more logically.  This year is a key year in terms of both social and academic growth.  First graders love to manipulate things.  Hands-on, experiential learning and design-process activities are a major component of the curriculum. Individual differences and learning styles are becoming clearer.  Some students may prefer working in groups; others prefer concrete tasks on their own. Some students grasp concepts quickly; others need more time for growth.   The first grader is extremely open and eager to learn all she or he can. Curiosity, imagination, and enthusiasm are at their peak at this point in a child’s life.  It is a critical year for forming good work habits and attitudes.  First Grade is a building block in the strong foundation they will need for continued success at Chapin. The first grade curriculum helps children to explore the world through all of their academic disciplines in our immersive thematic units. Rich children’s literature is a starting point to helping them experience the wonders of the many different topics that interest and tantalize the first grade mind. They will travel to Antarctica for a math, language arts, and science unit about penguins.  Explore solids and liquids to discover and apply the scientific method, as well as have a great deal of fun!  First graders become farmers and learn all about planting corn and the different farm animal on their trip to Howell Living History Farm.  They then use this knowledge to design and build their own farm in an integrated math unit toward the end of the year. Several other trips will help to highlight our many themes.

Second Grade

Second grade is a time of social, emotional, and cognitive growth.  As children gain confidence in their abilities, they develop a greater sense of independence.  They are more willing to take risks.  Their peer relationships become increasingly important and their circle of friends broadens.  Second graders begin to solve problems without adult intervention and assume greater responsibility for their actions.  As expectations increase, students realize the need for structure and self-discipline.  Better organizational habits begin to develop.  Students are also more observant and “tuned in” to the world around them.  Their ability to make connections and to relate one concept or idea to another gradually evolves. In second grade, an effort is made to integrate curricular themes, providing opportunities for students to make connections and relate ideas.  The goal for the school year is to have all second graders become excited about learning and to view their learning as an engaging, fun experience.

Third Grade

Third grade is a time of “expansiveness” in children’s development, a time when they are beginning to look outward more than before and take in new experiences, new people, and new ideas with a zeal and energy that can seem dizzying to adults.  More aware of the gap that separates them from adults, they are forming stronger relationships to the group and building on their own sense of identity. With this comes less dependence on the teacher. Developmentally, this is the appropriate time to encourage and support the independence they are ready for and seeking.  Third grade is a transitional year that sees children through huge leaps in physical, social, emotional and cognitive growth. The third grade curriculum allows children to expand their views through the study of the Native American culture and the defining qualities of the different regions of the United States.  They learn to look at rocks in a new, more analytical way in their Rocks and Minerals science unit.  Different perspectives are gleaned from third grade literature, including author studies and literature that is thematically connected to the social studies curriculum. Children also have many opportunities to further develop their individual “voice” by writing for a variety of purposes: to persuade, to describe, to tell a story, and to report information.  Math builds on the concepts and skills presented in second grade with an emphasis on multiplication and division. Special days include our Native American Potlatch celebration and field trips to the Sterling Mine and Churchville Nature Center.

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade is the bridge year between childhood and preadolescence. Students go through many changes throughout the year and need to feel secure, confident, and comfortable with themselves, their peers, and their surroundings. They must be able to negotiate, compromise, and mediate differences with their fellow students in acceptable ways. Fourth grade is also a time when students become acutely aware of boy/girl differences and are very concerned about issues of rules and fairness. During the year, students are presented a variety of opportunities to help them develop the social skills necessary to cope with all of these social-emotional issues, as well as guided conversations with the US Student Character Committee. Fourth graders have an irrepressible enthusiasm for learning. This is the time when key skills, such as organization and time management, are developed in order for students to become independent, responsible learners.   The fourth grade curriculum includes many units of study which allow students to view the world through the eyes of another, generally someone their own age, but perhaps in a different time or place. Chapin’s Virtues and developing the students’ leadership role in the Lower School supports discussions on the theme of empathy across many types of literature and genre. Our Language Arts and Social Studies lessons are strongly linked, and our fourth graders begin to find universal truths about relationships, families, and ultimately, about themselves.  Cooperative learning activities in social studies and science, whether working on a design challenge presentation with a partner or exploring the far reaches of the universe, encourage the students to develop their critical-thinking and social skills that enhance their friendships and their learning.  The irrepressible enthusiasm that fourth graders have for learning is met with appropriately challenging work that is supported by incrementally increased demands and teacher guidance.  Children leave their fourth grade year confident that they have mastered many of the skills necessary for success in Chapin’s Upper School and for taking on greater levels of independence and complexity. 


In support of Chapin’s philosophy to educate the whole child, the Lower School curriculum offers many opportunities in the arts, music, physical education, foreign language, library, and technology.

Find out more about Co-Curriculars at Chapin!

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