To be a member of the Greenwich Academy Lower School is to be part of a community that, at its core, values love of learning, relationships, risk-taking, and citizenship. First and foremost, our girls are known.
We love having the opportunity to get acquainted with each of our students and to watch and support their growth as they make their way through the Lower School. We celebrate the individuality of each of our students, recognizing that we all learn better when we are surrounded by diverse perspectives and ways of thinking.
We pride ourselves on providing not only a rigorous academic program, but also a PC-Group IV program that is full of rich and engaging experiences for the girls. Our remarkable faculty develops and redevelops these powerful experiences on a regular basis, responding to not only best practices, but also to the girls and their interests and passions. No two years are exactly alike. Further, our faculty as a whole is extraordinarily talented, not only in their primary teaching area, but also in ways that surprise and delight the girls. Having our teachers share a bit of themselves in this way is encouraged and celebrated.
From the buzzing classrooms, to the laughter and smiles in the hallway, to the pride in being a GA Gator that the girls wear on their faces, the Greenwich Academy Lower School is a special place to spend one’s days.
The pre-Connecting experience is one of joyful learning. Our teachers strive to create a space that is safe, warm, and welcoming to all students—a home away from home. We take full advantage of our spacious, light-filled rooms to create a play-based learning environment that strikes a balance between skill-building activities, project work, and plain old fun. We encourage our students to express themselves through dramatic play, block-building, drawing and painting, dance, sculpture, storytelling, and writing. We also take full advantage of our outdoor environment, which includes a courtyard and garden beds, a soccer field and playground, marshland and forest. And while PC girls love to connect with our CC neighbors, on the grounds and bike paths and the bus up to the big campus, they also build a bond as a class that is uniquely their own.
Connecting Class is a year of social and academic exploration. Our goal is to guide each girl in her character and intellectual development while providing a nurturing and safe environment in which students take risks and develop curiosity and a love for learning. We complement a strong emphasis on structured academic time with play-based learning, and CC lessons extend far beyond classroom walls. Whether the girls are exploring the nature trail system of our beautiful campus or simply romping on the playground, outdoor time is essential. An academic CC highlight is the culminating box project, a weeks-long in-class science assignment that has girls constructing an animal and its habitat, while researching, writing, and illustrating a booklet to accompany the display.
In Group I, learning and doing are the complimentary, inextricable strands forming the DNA of student life. In our tinkering curriculum, for example, girls think, build, test, re-think, and build again, learning and problem-solving in groups and on their own. And fortifying every endeavor is an awareness of relationships—within the community (the Big Sister program with Group IV is a highlight), the world (another highlight: the Flat Stanley global geography/performance project), and most importantly, with herself.
Building, exploring, and risk-taking are the keys to learning in Group II. From our hands-on math stations and engineering challenges, to reading adventures and creative written works, the girls in Group II construct their own understanding. A year of growth in terms of independence and responsibility translates into proud accomplishments. While girls celebrate their achievements, they also learn the value of mistakes as an interesting and essential part of the learning process.
Serving as the bridge year between lower and upper elementary grades, in Group III students develop the organizational and study skills that they’ll use for the rest of their school days. At the same time, we continue to value collaboration, which is woven throughout the Group III curriculum. America is a particular academic focus, and more than just facts and treaties, girls study how history gets made, how it changes, and how perspective plays a part. Highlights of the year include a performance based on the Lewis and Clark expedition, a simulation of a wagon train on the Oregon Trail, and spring Fridays spent exploring and investigating outdoors as part of our Into the Wild program.
Group IV is the senior class of the Lower School, and our girls own that. Our through line is leadership. They take an actual leadership class, taught by a variety of GA educators, from the Head of School to the school counselor, and covering public speaking, financial literacy and responsibility, team-building, and what it takes to be a leader. They put on the Famous Women Wax Museum, a hallmark combination research and performance project celebrating influential women from past and present. And through it all, they are big sisters to their Group I little sisters, building them custom toys in the Engineering & Design Lab and cultivating a bond that will continue to grow for years to come.
The Lower School art curriculum encourages girls to find their voice through art using a all manner of media and to discover new ways of expressing themselves visually. We build on skills year by year, introducing more complex projects and new materials and techniques as the girls progress. Students create work in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, clay, and collage. We study artists and illustrators and complete a project based on their work. The girls also learn that artistic expression is not limited to the studio—we incorporate art into all aspects of the Lower School, from painting at PC play time to papier-mâché for Group II’s Famous Buildings history project.
Every Group I class takes 10 weeks of chess instruction taught once a week by an instructor from the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. Girls become familiar with chess fundamentals—the pieces, their values, how to play and notate games—and lay the foundation for GA’s robust chess team, made up of students in Groups I-IV. The chess team participates in many area tournaments and hosts two tournaments on campus. Many members also compete in the annual All-Girls National Championship held in Chicago.
In Lower School dance is curricular from PC through Group IV. our program emphasizes ballet, modern, and hip-hop techniques as well as the elements of dance (space, time, and energy), relationships to one another and the world around us, choreographic principles, and mindfulness. We provide students with age-appropriate performance experiences during grade-level shows and Lower School assemblies. And in the studio or in the classroom, we strive to help each child grow in ability and self-confidence so that she can experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of physically expressing herself creatively.
The Lower School music program reflects and celebrates our belief that every child has natural music expression. Our hands-on, voices-raised approach develops skills through singing, listening, reading, writing, and studying different instruments. In addition to our weekly class time, girls participate in two to three performances a year, allowing them to gain confidence and share their musical journey with others.
From our littlest Gators taking quick laps down at Ridgeview to Group IV girls learning sport-specific technique and team concepts, physical education is an essential part of Lower School life. It’s fun, to be sure, but it’s also purposeful and structured. It helps build confidence and a positive self-image. It develops motor skills and fitness, social skills and relationships. Twice-a-week classes for PC and CC ramp up to three in Groups I-IV. And while they’re mastering technique and rules of play, they also learn how to lead and how to follow, how to compete and how to cooperate. And ultimately, they learn the fun of fair play.
GA is a leader in STEM subjects, and we start building interest early. Lower School students meet with their science teachers twice a week. Through hands-on experiments the girls develop an understanding of the process of scientific inquiry while engaging in a balanced curriculum in the life, earth, and physical sciences. During their classes, students are encouraged to explore the world around them while making predictions, recording their results, and using evidence to reach conclusions in individual and group experiments. From PC’s exploration of nature, architecture, and bubble science, all the way through to Group IV’s takeover of the GA’s Engineering & Design Lab, our girls are not afraid to observe, ask, and experiment.
Every Lower Schooler takes Spanish class twice a week. We emphasize communication, concentrating on listening and speaking skills, active participation, culture exploration, and content-related instruction. Starting with song and games, our program follows the natural sequence of language learning: understanding, speaking, reading, and writing. The primary focus of Spanish instruction in the LS is on understanding and basic speaking skills.
Head of Lower School
The Lower School day begins at 8:00 AM (8:15 for PC), and has a staggered dismissal from 2:40 to 3:20 PM Mon-Thu. Fridays are always half days, letting out from 11:30 AM to noon, depending on grade.
All students get morning snack and eat lunch in the Dining Hall, except on Fridays.
Lower Schoolers can participate in two after-school enrichment programs, Serendipity and Friday Afters, as well as the bus-friendly Study Hall.