Yes! It's the Lower School!
We take STEAM class in our homeroom. You start sitting at the rug. The teacher explains what project we will work on that day—like designing snowflakes and printing them on the 3D printer. Or building a tower using paper and tape. Then we go to our tables and talk with our teammates and make a plan. We get to work together and be creative. There’s a lot of excitement in the room.
We get to work together and be creative. There's a lot of excitement in the room.
GFA is a true partnership—not just between the student and the teacher but also between the school and the family. We’ll make a plan for your child together. We never stop innovating, imagining new possibilities. We’re always asking: What’s happening in education? What’s in the best interests of the students?
We never stop innovating, imagining new possibilities.
The journey is the destination.
Each grade in Lower School is a step (or a hundred steps!) in a journey. Our teachers create an intentional, immersive experience that moves naturally from one week (and month, and year) to the next. We pay attention to fundamental skills and habits of mind, but we also practice leadership, develop social connections, and explore the outdoors. The result is a safe, fun, challenging education in cooperation and creative thinking, risk taking and resilience, identity and independence.
A word about what we wear.
Lower Schoolers wear uniforms. Why? They make getting dressed in the morning super-simple, they keep everything equal, and they convey a general sense of respect for learning. Also: The language in our actual dress code isn’t gendered; the same rules apply to everyone. Details matter. So does an inclusive, affirming community.
What leadership looks like.
Our fourth graders—the oldest students in the Lower School—take an active role in leading their community. Together, we organize committees (Greeting, Garden, Assembly, Community Service, and Student Perspectives) that allow students to debate issues, make recommendations, and take responsibility for the well-being of the school.
What it feels like to be here.
It’s spacious, light-filled classrooms. It’s family-style lunches and bi-weekly assemblies. It’s a full gymnasium and an organic garden, a science lab and a robust service learning program. It’s dedicated classrooms for world languages and music and art and technology. It’s a salt marsh and Audubon trails. It’s a playground and a courtyard and a community assembly room. Most of all, it’s the warmth and spirit and brilliance of the inspiring people who want to be here.
For young children, school starts with relationships. That’s what I love about bundling up twice daily to spend recess with the kids. That’s what I love about the ways in which our teachers truly know our students. That’s what I love about family-style lunch in the Lower School. When you break bread with folks, you get to know them at a new level.AléWa Cooper, Head of Lower School
- PreK: Self Reliance
- Kindergarten: Cooperation
- First Grade: Risk Taking and Creative Thinking
- Second Grade: Persistence
- Third Grade: Resilience
- Fourth Grade: Identity and Independence
The goal of the PreK program is to foster self-reliance and self-esteem; stimulate curiosity, creativity, and a love for learning; and focus on the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth of each child. Teachers partner with students to create meaningful studies of the world based on collective student interest.
Kindergarten is the foundation for students to embrace the joy in learning and to begin to contribute to GFA's inclusive spirit. Students cultivate a connection to our world and begin to understand their place in it. Cooperative work and play is the cornerstone of the program that activates the development of intellectual curiosity, social acuity and emotional intelligence.
The first grade program fosters a love of learning and helps students deepen connections to the school community and the world at large. Students are encouraged to be creative thinkers- to use what they know to figure out what they do not know. Students explore multiple ways to solve problems and are empowered to take risks. Working independently and cooperatively, mistakes are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow.
The goal of the second grade program is to help students utilize their growing academic and social skills to continue to explore the world around them. Students learn to think critically and how to manage challenges socially and academically. Continued collaborative work and risk-taking through an interactive and engaging curriculum occurs.
Third grade students are prepared to be courageous, confident, resilient and open to new experiences in the classroom and the world. Students continue to build upon their skills in an engaging level of rigor across the curriculum. Students take increased ownership of their own learning by learning to advocate for themselves.
Fourth grade is a year-long journey of embracing one’s self and the role each student plays in the Lower School community. Students learn to take ownership of their own learning and take on formal leadership roles with increased responsibility and independence. The fourth grade year is a celebration of the culmination of skills and time in the Lower School while preparing for life in the Middle School.
GFA’s Lower School students grow intellectually, realize personal creativity, and competency, develop self-confidence, build enthusiasm for excellence and achievement, and gain respect for the diversity of the world around them. Small group work, hands-on learning, personal challenge and responsibility, and an appreciation for the connections among all disciplines are integral components of our program.
My favorite thing about campus: GFA has amazing gardens and trees. Some of the trees are really old! Oh, and the bees!Alex, grade 3
A little while ago, our PreK students built an exhibit at Earthplace, a nature center in Westport. The exhibit allows you to work through—and possibly help solve!—nitrogen pollution in Long Island Sound. Building it required hands-on work in specialized topics across disciplines: the biology of kelp and oysters, digital photography and computer applications, exhibit design and engineering, sculpting and painting and measuring. And the result was a form of civic engagement. Oh, and the whole process was a blast. All of those things are happening most of the time in the Lower School.
The After School Club program offers interesting and fun activities to children in grades K-4 for an additional fee. Past clubs have included: Little Chefs, LEGO Engineering, Rocketry, Glee, Stop-Motion Engineering, Chess, World Languages, Sports, Art, Science, Service Learning, and Book Club, and more. Clubs are from 2:35-3:35PM, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Registration is available online in the Parent Portal.
Service Learning in the Lower School is centered around empathy, one of GFA’s core values. Through service to others, our students learn to put themselves in someone else's shoes and to see the world from a different perspective.
This Monday-Friday program is offered to PreK students from 1:30-2:40PM until Spring Break, for a reasonable fee. After which, PreK is a full-day program with dismissal at 2:40PM. The Enrichment Program will explore several themes: learning about community, understanding the environment and how seasonal changes affect animal behaviors, discovering the importance of our five senses, and increasing global awareness by learning about the seven continents of the world. In addition to participating in art, math and science activities, children will be given time to rest, read and play indoor and outdoor games.
2018–19 School Year Hours
Monday–Wednesday, Friday: 8:00AM–1:30PM*
Enrichment Program: 1:30PM–2:40PM*
After Care: 2:40PM–5:30PM
PreK students must be age 4 by September 1
*Optional until March Spring Break, after which PreK transitions to a full day, 8AM-2:40PM (except Thursdays, which start at 8:55AM)
8:00–8:30AM (On Thursdays, class starts at 8:55AM)
Morning Meeting; activities that support students' social, emotional, and cognitive development.
Guided Discovery — long-term, interdisciplinary projects with a focus on STEAM and seed-to-table curricula. Choices also include block-building and structures, art, dramatic play, bookmaking, and math-related projects.
Social and flexible thinking/whole body listening
Specials: science, technology, Spanish, music, art, performing arts, library, physical education.
Recess/Enrichment Program (optional until Spring Break; required thereafter)
*8:00 AM — Morning Meeting; prepare for the day.
8:45 AM — Math: use SMART Technology and manipulatives, or in kindergarten, work on patterns and sorting.
9:25 AM — Snack
9:30 AM — Team handball in PE class
10:20 AM — Perform puppet show in Spanish for kindergarten students.
11:00 AM — Recess: swing on the monkeys bars, share a sandbox creation, invent a new game, and make a new friend.
11:30 AM — Lunch: sample the kale that is grown in our organic garden.
12:05 PM — Walk to the beach to collect shells and study Sound life.
12:40 PM — Read in groups or write in your journal.
1:30 PM — Recess: throw the football, make a basket, and immerse yourself in imaginative play.
2:15 PM — Assembly/Buddy Time: sing "Happy Birthday" to friends, make announcements, share an art masterpiece, and learn more about your friends.
2:35 PM — Dismissal
2:35–3:35 PM — Clubs (optional): Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday
2:35–5:30 PM — After Care (optional)
*On Thursdays, class starts at 8:55 AM.