Lower School (K-4)

Lower School Academics


About Lower School

Kids are born to ask questions

They are curious about the world and how it works. Woodland’s Lower School gives our students the skills to find answers and the inspiration to keep asking questions.

Finding Their Voice

We know that every child is unique. Teachers team with both parents and students to ensure each student is challenged, honored, and has their passions discovered and nurtured. Throughout this journey, students are encouraged to take risks and take responsibility for their own learning, discovering their strengths, tackling their challenges, and finding their voices.

Strong Foundations

Our students build a strong foundation of reading, writing and mathematics and master key skills across disciplines to become adept learners. Classroom teachers work to design and integrate meaningful work with specialist teachers in the following subject areas to ensure a balanced curriculum.

  • Science
  • Design & Technology
  • Spanish
  • Fine Arts
  • Music
  • Physical Education

Bringing out the Best in Each Child

Our caring community values not only every student’s academic success, but also their social, and emotional development and maturity. Our teachers are known for being extraordinarily accessible and supportive and finding a way to bring out the best in every child. In each class, teachers develop mini-communities where every student is known and valued for who they are and the unique qualities they bring.

Woodland teachers are passionate about their commitment to deliver a learning experience that honors our students’ unique strengths and challenges. Ongoing assessment of student reading and math competencies begins in Kindergarten, allowing teachers to design lessons according to ability and skill. Throughout the grade levels, teachers provide one-on-one tutoring opportunities after school for those that may need or seek additional support.

Social Emotional Learning

Building Social Emotional Intelligence

Students need to be happy to learn to their potential. Social Emotional learning isn’t a weekly lesson at Woodland, but it permeates our whole school culture. We proactively address issues of student wellbeing in assembly, a daily classroom meeting, targeted lessons and through teachable moments.

We teach students tools and strategies to be present and calm, tap into their motivation, and build resilience. Our program addresses these five core areas.

I. Self-Awareness

Assessing feelings, interests, values, and strengths; maintaining self-confidence; Developing metacognition

II. Self-Management

Regulating emotions to handle stress, control impulses, and persevere in overcoming obstacles

III. Social Awareness

Understanding different perspectives and empathizing with others; recognizing and appreciating similarities and differences; using family, school, and community resources effectively

IV. Relationship Skills

Maintaining healthy relationships based on cooperation; resisting inappropriate social pressure; preventing, managing, and resolving interpersonal conflicts; seeking help when needed

V. Responsible Decision Making

Using a variety of considerations, including ethical, academic, and community-related standards to make choices and decisions



Science is Life.

Science governs the way we act, the way we eat, the way we grow, the way we live. One of the most important things a teacher can do for students learning science is to relate science back to everyday life as much as possible.

Science in Lower School is grounded in the natural world with strands in life science (microorganisms, plants, animals, and human beings) earth science (geology and meteorology) and physical science (physics, chemistry, astronomy). Our 10-acre campus extends to an outdoor classroom as students explore the beauty of the outdoors. Students function as real scientists as they observe and classify local flora and fauna. They explore the diversity of California’s ecosystems and study environmental phenomena. They monitor our Woodland weather station.

At every grade level we take field trips with local organizations to bring world class experiences to our students and to inspire them to be stewards of our environment.

Lower School Science



We are lucky to be living in a time when we can all be math people. And that is Woodland’s approach.

Our program is rooted in a desire to nurture deep understanding of mathematical concepts while encouraging critical thinking and perseverance. In each grade level, young mathematicians use a variety of tools and hands-on methods to make abstract concepts come to life. Visual models and mental math exercises deepen children’s sense of number allowing them to understand the quantity associated with each numerical symbol.

“There are two versions of math in the lives of many Americans: the strange and boring subject that they encountered in classrooms and an interesting set of ideas that is the math of the world, and is curiously different and surprisingly engaging. Our task is to introduce this second version to today's students, get them excited about math, and prepare them for the future.” Jo Boaler, Professor of Mathematics Education, Stanford University

Inquiry-based, contextual investigations engage children with challenging problems and encourage them to apply a variety of approaches to solving them. As they solve, children communicate their thinking with pictures, numbers and words, learning to express their mathematical ideas clearly and build upon them through collaboration. Most importantly, Woodland’s math program is designed to build confidence and foster an enduring love of learning in math -- for all students.



Each child has a story to tell.

Becoming a writer begins with the confidence that your ideas are worth reading. It takes time and support to help our students find their own voice and develop their ideas fully. We use the Workshop Model-- a method of instruction -- which helps each student find their voice and motivation using mentor texts to foster a lifelong love of writing. They write personal narratives and memoir, research reports, poetry, and in later grades, historical fiction and plays.

We see writing as an important vehicle of thinking.

Through iterative drafting, students organize and refine their ideas, deepen their analysis and draw meaningful conclusions. With one-on-one conferences and small group work, teachers guide students to improving the work-at-hand while building enduring thinking and writing skills that last a lifetime.

The craft of writing does not come at the cost of the fundamentals.

Classes are balanced with grammar and spelling lessons taught both in context and to grade level standards.

Publishing parties are common here.

When students publish their work, they celebrate as a classroom community, often inviting families to share in their final products.

We teach cursive.

While Common Core has abandoned cursive instruction, we take stock in research that correlates better handwriting with greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory. Student are initially taught to print; cursive instruction begins mid-year in Grade 2.

second grade writing

What is a Writing Workshop?

A method of writing instruction that coaches students to write for a variety of audiences and purposes and shown to be more effective than traditional instruction. Popularized by Lucy Calkins in the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University in New York. This method of instruction focuses on the goal of fostering lifelong writers and emphasizes that students will write about their own lives, they will use a consistent writing process, they will work in authentic ways, and they will develop independence as writers.



We curl up with books here.

We believe that reading is one of the best way to nurture the intellectual mind. In a hectic world where technology permeates every moment, books are our refuge. They let us escape, they allow us empathize for others, they teach us new things. Our students are given time to develop as readers all the while developing a love of reading.

Pressure’s Off, Reading’s On

Children develop reading skills at different rates. To honor them and their stage of development, our reading instruction is individualized. Our small group just-right lessons provide the right amount of challenge and support so that each child is neither frustrated nor bored. We use multiple assessments along the way to monitor and support each child’s progress and make changes to groupings as necessary.

Skillfully Teaching Young Readers

In Kindergarten to Grade 2 teachers use a comprehensive and balanced program of instruction to teach kids to read. Systematic phonics and word study help students crack the code and learn how to tackle tricky words. In small reading groups, children are able to actively engage with the teacher to talk about books, ask questions, and make connections. Books are shared with families weekly so that our students can share in their progress and parents take part in their practice. Children learn about genres through high interest books, build their vocabularies, and develop their identity as a reader.

Fueling Learning Across Disciplines

In Grade 3 and 4, with a solid reading foundation, children transition from learning to read to reading to learn. They delve into non fiction books to enrich their learning in Science and Social Studies as well as study the author’s craft in young adult novels. We cover classics and contemporary fiction which address important issues that students can relate to and fuel class discussions. These texts allow us to nurture higher order thinking skills as students discuss and analyze situations, use evidence, take and support a stance. In rich classroom discussions, students develop excellent habits of mind and find their voice.

First Grade Reading

Innovation Lab

Innovation Lab

Creativity is the currency of the 21st century.

Technology is not computer class. Far from it. In Woodland’s Design Lab you’ll find our students learning how to think and creatively problem solve using technology. From coding and robotics to 3D modeling and design, our students innovate and iterate their own design projects. What’s better is that they work in partnerships and teams, learning the art and challenge of collaboration along the way.

Here are some sample Lower School projects:

Simple Machines

Harnessing the potential and kinetic energy of wheels, levers and pulleys, students design and create their own simple machines. They use technology to model simple machines and use a variety of hands on materials to build real life creations to lift and launch objects to solve real life problems.


Students explore the design challenges of specific situations and users. From ideation to creation and product launching, students go through the entire design process. Examples: Design a mode of transportation for the physically disabled. Reinforce a house to sustain storms. Design a robot that helps the environment.

Game Nation

Students learn basic programming and coding skills to design their own basic gaming experience.

Robotics 101

Students learn to program Thymio robots to complete a basic task. Then in partnerships, they develop, design and program a Robot Animal that has distinguishing behaviors. With their animal inventions, they write and direct a short film using a green screen and present their film in a powerpoint presentation for classmates.

2nd grade innovation lab

Social Studies

Social Studies

Discover the World.

Students of Social Studies at Woodland do not simply study history, but become authentic historians and social scientists. We use a variety of captivating sources to develop deep conceptual understanding of the world around us. Students understand their roots and connection to the past, comprehend their context, recognize the commonality of people across time, and appreciate the delicate balance of rights and responsibilities in an open society.

We ask big questions about humankind’s past and present, such as:

  • How have humans made meaning of the world?
  • How are we connected to and different from those who have come before us?
  • Who are we as a nation and what are our values and traditions?
  • How have we found unity in the midst of our diversity?
  • What are our great achievements as a nation?
  • Where have we failed and what do we need to change?
  • What are our responsibilities to ourselves and to society at large?

To answer these questions, students practice using a diverse and comprehensive Social Studies skill set in order to authentically engage with the discipline. These skills include:

  • Geography and using maps
  • Making Connections
  • Developing an argument
  • Researching and finding sources
  • Synthesizing sources and perspectives
  • Analyzing sources (Including contextualizing and sourcing)
  • Using evidence from sources

Social Studies at Woodland engages students with the true work of the discipline, and develops their ability to make informed and reasoned decisions. Our students are prepared to contribute to the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent 21st century world.

Adapted from the National Council for the Social Studies and the NYS Social Studies Framework Written March 2016




The Art Studio is an incubator for creativity.

Students immerse themselves in the creative process -- from ideation and development to creation and presentation. Art making is dynamic, hands-on and open-ended, using a wide range of materials to explore a wide range of ideas.

Experimenting with a variety of materials--clay, paint, found objects-- students begin to develop the inner artist.

We focus on the artistic process, not just the product, working with students to develop and refine their ideas and then present them within their community.

Students gain inspiration through the study of a rich canon of modern and classic artists.

4th grade art

Visual Art in elementary and middle school is ripe with both possibility and opportunity. Expanding on these possibilities and opportunities is the freedom afforded the Visual Art Department by the administration here at Woodland.

This is now our fifth year studying the lives and works of an ever growing list of artists to drive our school wide art curriculum. Previously titled "Artist of the Month" and following a great deal of reflection and dissection of the student experience in the art studio, a far more accurate title, which will be used going forward, is something along the lines of "Inspiration Artist."

Each year Woodland students learn about and take inspiration from a handful of visual artists, typically five or six. These artists are arrived at toward the end of each school year and over the summer by looking back at the artists covered in years past and the media they work in. Taking this past list into consideration, art genres, media, periods not yet addressed are generated, and then artists--both past and contemporary--are researched to see which might cover the most of these bases. This larger list is then looked over for opportunities to address periods not yet explored as a school, as well as those from a variety of cultures/communities. The final filter this list is put through is looking for artists with the broadest body of work, that will ultimately allow for a broader range of grade level projects.

In using the work of established artists as our inspiration, students learn about the life, events and experiences of individuals they might otherwise never cross paths with. They are asked to consider historical circumstances that they may never experience, pose questions they have not yet taken the time to consider, look at a subject or situation from a perspective that is foreign to them. A changing set of artists allows for new material to be addressed each year, in a fashion appropriate for the grade level, and helps to engage students through the derived projects, supporting content, and the narrative used to communicate it all. In essence, each year students get the chance to view the world through five or six new lenses while building upon the exposure of past years.
To support students invest in their projects and the material covered in the art studio, this year we have selected artists whose work allows for cross curricular integration with other academic subjects. Presently we are just wrapping up our first major unit, ceramics, using the work of artist Katherine Dubé and her background in biology as our mutual starting point. Each grade level has been working on different projects based on Dubé's work each incorporating what our students have been working on this trimester in Science. This includes the conception of ideas, design, context framing, academic integration and reinforcement. Our curriculum has been laid out so that each project extends beyond the studio.

To help guide and structure our approach to visual art education, the department uses the National Core Art Standards for reference. We look to this set of standards first and foremost because they are already quite in line with our program goals: broadening students' perspectives, appreciation, and understanding as it relates to the arts and the broader world. These standards stress creating, producing, responding and connecting across grade levels with developmentally appropriate goals. Something that I personally appreciate is the way we focus on "producing" art versus the "end product". The true student work and learning occurs in the process of producing artwork.

These learning goals and projects reflect the student learning all the more for having them occur in a shared space alongside their peers. Sharing a creative learning space with others presents a natural opportunity to weave elements of social-emotional learning into both the curriculum as well as weekly classes. Skills that are discussed, practiced and encouraged include various forms of communication, social and self awareness, not to mention self management. Creating art in a classroom setting is a wonderful opportunity for students to balance their own wants and needs with that of the larger group; it's not that "no one leaves happy from a good compromise" and more of "how can I be successful and true to myself in this shared space?"The more we work to develop these skills--both in art as well as across campus--the more comfortable and secure our students will feel, and with time, encourage students to take an idea further or to take a creative risk.

Process has been mentioned several times thus far and for good reason. Process is where the learning is happening, the product is merely the results. Students are assessed on the processes they participate in and work through over the course of a given project. In this way students are not being assessed on "good" art versus "bad" art. The process they went through to get to the resulting work is:

  • What was their understanding of the content?
  • Where did they attempt to include this in their initial ideas?
  • In the final product, can they point out where they included elements of project criteria?

To support students in reaching this end goal of investing in the process of a project, a given unit is deliberately structured so the "making" follows preparation. Over the course of a given unit the first 2 classes are spent on:

  • Exposure
  • Information, context, background
  • Necessary skills and technique practiced
  • More fully informed, projects are planned out (typically in sketchbooks) to streamline success

The following (~2) classes are spent executing this informed plan:

  • Some basic/general review of project and work thus far
  • Bulk of class spent executing the plan

Each unit concludes with a constructive feedback process at an appropriate level

  • Feedback possibilities include:
    • Whole group presentation
    • Small group critique
    • Partner sharing
  • Reflection
    • On project
    • On original idea
    • On resulting work
    • Process
      • Successes
      • Struggles
      • Adjustments if attempting again
  • Self-assessment (in middle school)
    • Uses single point rubric
    • Reviewed and adjusted by teacher
      • Added opportunity for students and teacher to clarify and communicate their understanding



Learning through the arts helps us to explore, shape and communicate our sense of identity and understanding of the world, while providing opportunities to develop self‑confidence, resilience and flexibility. At Woodland School, students not only learn about music theory and history but also learn to appreciate a great range of music from around the world.

Students put theory into practice with music-making activities to explore the musical world around them. Every student participates in two school-wide performances, providing an opportunity to share their skills and take part in a collaborative, community event. Students also have opportunities throughout the year in assemblies and off-campus performances to perform in small instrumental and choral ensembles.

Students begin to apply basic note reading on xylophones and metallophones in first and second grades, then proceed to demonstrate their proficiency on recorders in third and fourth grades. In tandem with applied learning on a musical instrument, students continue to develop their singing, Solfège training, and aural awareness through singing integrated into the curriculum and musical performances.

4th grade music



Our fun and interactive world language program develops students who are competent language learners as well as culturally competent people.

Using a spiraling curriculum, students build their vocabularies and knowledge through many modalities, including games, songs, stories and interactive dialogues. As they familiarize themselves with pronunciation, students practice scripted dialogues and conversations.

Students learn about many regions around the world and their cultural components -- history, food, music, monuments, events and inventions.

Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, all students in our lower and middle school will participate in Spanish classes and continue through the end of their eighth grade year at Woodland. We believe by making Spanish a focus in our world languages department-- and by beginning the study of Spanish earlier--that we will be able to take our program and understanding of this world language to an even greater level.

Physical Education

Physical Education

Our PE program centers on sports and sportsmanship. Our coaches help students develop spatial awareness, coordination, and fundamentals of fitness through a variety of sports including basketball, soccer, badminton, ultimate frisbee and handball. Students build their fitness levels, learn game strategy and rules, and support their classmates in play.

Students continue to develop their athletic abilities in our after school ‘everyone plays’ athletic program. We aim to teach all students how to be part of a team, how to be gracious in victory or defeat and that winning goes beyond the final score. We believe in having fun, mastering one's effort, focusing on values and learning from our mistakes.