Elementary School Experience
Kindergarten - 5th Grade
Step into a Kindergarten classroom at Riverside and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in a bustling world populated by industrious readers, writers, engineers, scientists, police officers, firefighters, and more, all busily attending to the sacred business of childhood: bringing their vivid imaginations to life through their daily interactions and creations. At this age and stage, children continue to learn best through play, so the program is designed to provide them ample time to engage in open-ended imaginative play, where they can hone their social and emotional skills. Across the curriculum, this group’s lessons are designed to be fun, engaging, playful and highly physical. Thinking and communication skills grow rapidly at this age, so there is a strong emphasis on developing their capacity for reasoning, problem-solving, perspective-taking, self-expression, and personal responsibility. For that reason, this is the year our Kindergartners begin staying for the full academic day and this is the year they formally begin the curriculum that will sustain them throughout their Lower Division years. Likewise, this is the year that they begin to take on more significant leadership roles within the classroom and beyond, serving as gracious docents when visitors stop by their classrooms and leading our bi-monthly Rise & Shine celebrations.
Off to see the world! Armed with passports and personalized cardboard suitcases, RPDS’s first graders step beyond the familiar boundaries of class and school life and enter the wider world as global citizens! Eager to travel across vast deserts and lush, verdant landscapes, they seek out what is unique and wondrous about each location as well as what binds us all together as a global community. With each leg of their yearlong journey, homeroom teachers and content specialists collaborate to design lessons that weave literature, the arts, sciences, engineering and mathematical concepts into a cohesive learning experience. Students at this age are anthropologists and naturalists at heart! With a heightened awareness of their own feelings and a sensitivity to the perspectives and experiences of others, they are eager to work collaboratively to protect the Earth, its diverse people, and its fascinating creatures and habitats.
At RPDS, Second grade is the year of refinement across all developmental domains. Reading and writing become more fluent and automatic at this level, meaning students are now capable of reading and writing for longer stretches of time for both pleasure and for information. Mental math processes are also becoming more automatic, allowing the use of concrete manipulatives to begin being replaced with pictorial representations of mathematical concepts and algorithms. At this stage, thinking and problem-solving skills are taking off, allowing them to understand cause and effect, to organize their ideas logically and to communicate complex concepts with increasing detail and clarity. For all of these reasons, second grade is the first year RPDS students begin to earn letter grades in the major subject areas. Socially, our second graders are forming closer, deeper bonds of friendship and are capable of great empathy and concern for others. Eager to take what they learned about the world around them during their First Grade Travels, our second graders are ready to go deeper now, investigating various types of communities and the important roles that people play in each. After enjoying a beloved chapter book series called Flat Stanley, our second graders each release their own paper Flat Stanley into the wider world to explore rural, suburban and urban communities across the globe. As each Flat Stanley returns to report all that was learned on his trip, our students develop a deeper understanding of the diverse lived experiences of others and then use that new knowledge to develop a unique community all their own.
3rd Grade begins an exciting lifelong adventure for these children; having tackled the literacy strategies needed to decode the written word, students begin to “read to learn” as they use textbooks and other sources to make sense of unknown concepts. Continuing with the Fountas & Pinnell Literacy Program, students continue to build their fluency and comprehension. As experienced readers, our 3rd grade students partner with kindergarten “reading buddies” and will come together each trimester to share a favorite story. 3rd Grade Students continue to study Singapore Math concentrating on multiplication, division, fractions and continued model drawing. In Science classes, students continue to investigate real-world applications through Amplify Science studying forces, inherited traits and weather. The 3rd grade Social Studies program takes the students all over the United States studying each region in depth, culminating in the Northwest Region with the study of Lewis and Clark’s expedition and finally bringing it all together the students celebrate a State Fair at the end of the year. 3rd Grade students are also very proud to learn cursive through the Handwriting without Tears curriculum.
Beginning in 4th grade, each class is taught by a subject area teacher highly trained in their expertise. Students move in a relaxed yet responsible manner to each of their core classes. These include Mathematics, History, Language Arts, and Science. The students are also given a choice to continue their exploration of the Spanish language or switch to a Non-Western language and begin studying Mandarin Chinese. The Singapore Math curriculum continues to spiral and includes multiplication and division of fractions and decimals, angles, and more complex model drawing. The Language Arts curriculum follows the Lucy Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop model as students write personal narratives and literary analysis and delve into whole class novel studies and book clubs with their peers. In Science class, students continue with the Amplify Science curriculum and study waves, energy, features of the Earth, and vision and light. In addition to these core subjects, 4th grade students attend specialized courses in Art, Music, Bible and STEAM as well as daily Physical Education and recess. Throughout all of these subjects, our teachers encourage critical thinking in our students utilizing thinking routines and probing questions.
Classes continue to be departmentalized in 5th grade with students learning from teachers specifically qualified in their areas. The Singapore Math curriculum includes ratios, percentage, perimeter, area, volume, and averages. Language Arts instruction continues following the Lucy Calkins method as our students become eloquent writers and proficient readers. In Social Studies our 5th graders begin with the Civil War and move forward to recent history in the 20th century. Fun activities include re-enactments as well as timeline creations and escape rooms. Our 5th grade scientists study Earth’s patterns and ecosystems along with a dip into Chemistry and matter. Art, Music, Bible and STEAM instruction continues. As well as Physical Education classes every day, 5th grade students can participate in the North Florida Independent School Athletic Conference. RPDS participates in Boys and Girls Basketball, Flag Football, and Volleyball. The primary goal of the program is to provide the students with an opportunity to play a school sport where the focus is on enjoying the games, learning the sport, and being part of a team.