Primary School

Primary School

The primary school (kindergarten through grade 2) focuses on determination and integrity. Lessons that center and extend these two values are woven throughout advisory programming and integrated throughout the curriculum, always reminding us of who we are and strive to be as individuals and a school community. There is also a focus on civics and celebration of the children, families, and cultures that make up our beautiful, diverse Harlem community. 

Each day begins with a morning meeting where students practice greeting one another, public speaking, listening carefully to others, and mindfulness. At the end of each day, students complete any remaining classroom jobs, prepare to go home, and organize for the next day. The class gathers for a final circle on the rug to celebrate what they’ve learned, share commendations, and say goodbye.


Primary students spend more than two hours each day focused on literacy. Our goal is to provide students with a literature-rich environment that offers many opportunities to learn and practice reading skills and strategies. Beyond whole-group instruction, students participate in small reading groups that meet throughout the week, read independently, visit the library, and have personalized opportunities for practice.


The Math in Focus Singapore math curriculum focuses on teaching fewer concepts with greater depth and more complex problem solving than typical programs in the United States. Each new concept is concretely introduced with physical manipulatives, such as linking cubes or teddy bear counters. After mastering the concrete, students move to pictorial representations such as drawing pictures or symbols, setting them up for more advanced mathematics in middle and high school. In primary school, students master foundational skills, including adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing, as well as measurement concepts, including length, width, time, money, mass, and volume.


We use the inquiry-based FOSS curriculum to guide lessons as students develop an understanding of the world around them and hone skills in inquiry, investigation, and analysis. Held three times per week, primary students study earth science (fall), physical science (winter), and life science (spring). First graders focus on "Air and Water," "Sound and Light," and "Plants and Animals," while second graders study, "Pebbles, Sand, and Silt," "Solids and Liquids," and "Insects and Plants."


Each primary student has a dedicated computer or tablet and an email account, with devices remaining at school. Students learn basic operations, web navigation, typing and word processing, and digital safety and citizenship. Technology is incorporated into each subject, giving students many opportunities to practice with these tools in a safe environment. Students leave primary school able to create and share documents, investigate topics on the internet, and communicate with classmates and teachers via email.

In partnership with Harlem School of the Arts, primary students take arts classes twice per week. One period each week is dedicated to visual arts (drawing, painting, sculpture), and one period each week is dedicated to performing arts (music, dance, theater). Highlights of the primary program include percussion, chorus, interdisciplinary dance, and improvisation.​​​​​​​

The teaching team and school counselor lead activities to develop habits that support living up to our pillars and Creed during a weekly advisory block and a weekly community meeting. These blocks emphasize our pillars of determination and integrity, our individual responsibilities as students, and the exploration and celebration of the diversity of cultures in our class and larger school community. At a developmentally appropriate level, this time is also used for beginning our understanding of civics and grappling with current events in our class and larger community.

Students learn to contribute to the school community by taking responsibility for a rotating set of jobs in their classrooms. This includes maintaining their classroom library, cleaning and organizing their desks, and helping to pass out materials.


Our physical education program (held four days per week) gives students a sound understanding of the foundational skills that apply to organized sports so they are prepared to participate in competitive athletic environments as they grow older. We value teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility, and the opportunity for all participants to grow from their experiences.


In mindfulness (one day per week), students learn breathing and movement techniques to help focus, manage emotions, and strengthen awareness.


Primary students have a 40-minute recess in the schoolyard each day to play soccer, basketball, or four square; make up their own creative games; or just relax with friends.


Our meals and snacks focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Our lunch period begins with a pause for silent reflection and ends with a brief, informal meeting for daily announcements.


As an optional block at the end of each day, we provide a quiet study space for students to complete their homework. Even in the youngest grades, we encourage independent completion of homework. However, teachers are available to answer questions, give additional practice work, and guide students in choosing independent reading books.


Students can choose from activities such as block building, coding, mancala, chess (link is external), and more after homework and personal learning are completed. 


During this time, some students work with a mentor (either an older student or adult volunteer) on a weekly basis.


View our elementary school and middle school curriculums

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