Austin Peace Academy Lower School
1st Grade-5th Grade
Education is a continuous lifelong journey with many developmental goals and milestones to look forward to. Austin Peace Academy has the privilege of partnering with families early on in their educational journey to provide a strong academic foundation in the formative years of childhood development.
Our Lower School program serves children from 1st through 5th grade. We have recess on our playground everyday to give the children an opportunity to interact and cultivate relationships across the age levels. This also allows time for them to recharge in their own unique ways, whether engaging in soothing activities or playing hard. During the course of a day, children participate in individual, small, and whole-group lessons, as well as work both in partnerships and independently.
A child may quickly master one concept and need to spend a longer amount of time on another. This way, children experience learning as moving from one level of mastery to another, thus developing a positive and healthy view of themselves as learners. They also come to appreciate that all people have a unique set of strengths and challenges. We track the children’s progression through the curriculum with a combination of student record-keeping and portfolio maintenance as well as teacher observation, evaluation, and record-keeping. This ensures that all academic goals are met.
We believe that the best way that children learn about the power of peaceful, healthy communication and conflict resolution is through practice. We dedicate precious time to the ongoing teaching of communication skills, from discussions with the whole class to one-on-one coaching. Each year we partner with Creative Action to bring to the lower school students conflict resolution programs.
With each passing year, children acquire more and more sophisticated tools for problem solving; tools that they then have as active support to practice as real problems arise. Each class reflects on interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics on an on-going basis. In regular classroom community meetings, children experience the satisfaction of exchanging authentic accolades as well as raising their genuine issues and concerns. They then brainstorm positive responses to engender the changes they seek. Academically, we examine and celebrate peace leaders and movements throughout history. As the children learn about the challenges we face as a world community, they are inspired to design and implement service projects.
Our learning extends beyond the classroom walls. Students enjoy various educational and service oriented field trips throughout the year. We have gone to many places, such as museums, farms, the theater, and the greenbelt. We honor parents as invaluable partners. The classroom guides communicate regularly with parents in a variety of modes, from weekly class updates to regular conferences and progress reports. We rely on parents’ all-important insights to help us serve the children, and are always receptive to emails, notes, informal conversations, and special meetings. We have parent meetings, work days, and workshops throughout the year. We encourage parents to share in our many special events such as our Donuts with Dad and Muffins with Mom celebrations.
We provide our students with a strong phonetic approach to reading in the early years of development and then guide them to think critically.
Students are taught that scientists ask questions, gather information by reading and by investigating, and make connections. Students use concept maps to organize information and make connections across information. They are taught to draw and label diagrams. They use big ideas, such as animals have special features and behaviors that help them survive, to focus their study and help them identify important information.
Through a program called Writer’s Workshop, students are taught a comprehensive and thoughtful approach to thinking and writing.
At the primary level, students focus on essential understandings in social studies that help them understand why people do what they do. Using the Action Cycle framework, students investigate human needs, the context, actions humans take, and the consequences of those actions. They use active reader strategies such as surveying, predicting, setting purposes for reading, generating questions, and retelling.
Envision Math helps teachers create a rich classroom environment in which students at all levels become active, real-world problem solvers. Through teacher-led instruction, students develop mathematical reasoning, engage in discourse, and build strong mathematical habits. The program’s instructional framework supports educators as they strengthen their teaching practices and facilitates meaningful discourse that encourages all learners.