What makes the Spring School different?
- An astoundingly rich and complex curriculum, taught by teachers who are vibrant and inspiring as well as kind, patient, and loving
- Hands-on learning with manipulative Montessori materials
- Individualized instruction so that students progress at their own best pace
- A “contract” system which teaches children to organize and plan their time and effort
Each child in the Lower School has an entire team of teachers.
During the course of the week, each home room class will follow a rotating schedule spend time each day in four different classrooms:
- The Reading, Writing, and Literature Room
- The Math Room
- The Language Arts Room
- The Timeline Studies Room
Besides these main curricular areas, there is time during each week to study Geography, Choral Music, Fine Arts, Spanish, Physical Education, and Violin.
In Language, Math, Language Arts, and Timeline Studies, each class of about 25 students will have the attention at all times of two teachers who specialize in the subject. Every one of our teachers is a trained and certified professional; we do not have any assistant teachers. Some are Montessori certified, others are New Jersey State certified, and many are both. Each teacher brings a unique background, from being a lawyer in a previous life, to earning an advanced degree in history. And the faculty children, from toddlers through Upper School, are a large part of our community, making the Spring School more like an extended family than a school.
Mixed Age Classes
Children learn best in a family-structured environment, with classmates of different ages. Mixed age classes make it possible for us to individualize work, so that each child can work at just the right level in math and reading, without regard to age or nominal grade. Having role models, friends, and mentors of different ages also builds social and emotional skills.
The exact mix of our classes differs from year to year, but often we have classes of mixed Kindergarten – 2nd Grade and other classes of combined 2nd and 3rd Grades.
Is there homework?
In school, students use hands-on materials, but at home they can practice skills in math, phonics, spelling, and vocabulary, with workbooks, book reports, and other assignments. Homework is assigned based on each child’s individual level, regardless of official age or grade. Parents help by checking the daily homework and sending it in to school on specified days.
Are there tests?
To help with the important work of memorizing math facts, students work through math facts quizzes at their own pace. On test day, each child takes whatever test he or she has been studying for, whether that is “+ 2” addition facts or “x 12” multiplication facts. When a student passes by completing the questions correctly under time pressure, he or she goes on to the next test in the series.
There are also weekly tests in spelling beginning in Kindergarten. Students learn, not only to spell words, but to write complex sentences which use the words correctly in a context.
In the spring, 2nd – 8th graders take a nationally administered, computer-scored test of basic skills. Look at our recent Terranova Test scores to see how our children compare.
Montessori materials make abstract concepts concrete.
The Bank Game, with its unit beads, ten bars, hundred squares, and thousand cubes, makes it possible for very young children to understand the concepts of exchange, carrying, and borrowing.
The Stamp Game is a further step on the journey towards pencil and paper abstraction. Instead of a large wooden cube, one thousand is represented by a small green stamp. Colored pencils also help students keep track of the value of the units, tens, hundreds, and thousands places.
The concept of a fraction’s numerator and denominator can be very difficult to grasp, especially when it comes to converting one type of fraction to another in order to add or subtract. But the Fraction Pieces make this concept visual. Students who work with fraction pieces will have mental images of fractions such as 1/3 or 3/5. They will intuitively “see” that 2/6 are the same as 1/3, or that 1/5 is smaller than 1/4.
Test Tube Division and Multiplication Checkerboard are a huge hit with 2nd and 3rd graders, who can perform enormous calculations and truly understand the meaning of each step in the process. What does it mean when we subtract in a long division problem? It means we have finished distributing some of the beads, for instance, the ones representing “hundreds,” and can remove them from the board.
A High Level of Achievement
Students are motivated by hands-on materials and look forward eagerly to new lessons. You will not find any idle hands or bored faces in our math classes, but instead see a room full of curious and enthusiastic learners who spur each other on to new heights. The ethos at the Spring School is that work is enormously fun, and there are new and surprising challenges around each corner.
Problem-solving groups engage children in brainstorming creative solutions to word problems, as they apply their skills in computation, geometry, measurement, time, and money to the real world.
By 3rd grade, many students are able to work with Pre-Algebra concepts such as order of operations and exponents, and by the time they join our Upper School in 4th grade, may be ready to begin Algebra.
Lower Elementary Timeline Studies
Our children live in a world in which they play magical games with the swipe of a finger and order food from the back seat of an automobile. How did this world come to be?
Why are there stars in the night sky, and rocks, and seas, and elephants, and oak trees? How did humans come to be living on our Earth? What steps did humans take as they first painted on cave walls; gave up the life of nomads to plant wheat; embalmed mummies and built pyramids; created Greek myths and Corinthian columns; built Roman roads; invented the compass in China and the windmill in Persia; constructed castles and fought for them in plate armor; painted and sculpted divine art that celebrated the human spirit; sailed around Africa and across the Atlantic Ocean; met others of their kind who grew corn and potatoes; invented the idea of rights and freedom; found new sources of power in steam and electricity; and created automobiles, televisions, and computers?
In five years, we will show your child how the past has created the present.
Each year, the entire Spring School from Kindergarten to 8th grade will focus on one era in the Timeline of Life on Earth. Your child may enter the cycle at any particular point, and it will spiral around again.
Our Timeline Curriculum is unique to the Spring School, and integrates art, music, science, history, and technology. We know of no other school anywhere which offers a curriculum of this caliber to Elementary and Middle School students.
The 2018-2019 school year will be Year Five of our Timeline cycle, and we will be studying the age of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. We will make candles and spin fibers into yarn as our ancestors did by hand for centuries. We will build water wheels and study models of steam engines. We will read the Declaration of Independence and immerse ourselves in the early years of the United States. We will experiment with fossil fuels such as peat, lignite, and anthracite, and see how petroleum is refined into oil and gas. We will learn how electricity is generated by spinning magnets, and how electrical circuits work. We will look into models of internal combustion engines and see how factories like Henry Ford’s changed the way things were made.
Then, in 2019-2020, the cycle will begin again with Year One.
Our studies in Science and in Fine Arts are tied to our Timeline studies, so when we study Ancient Rome, for instance, we work with simple machines and the laws of levers, and when we study the Renaissance we reproduce Galileo’s experiments with pendulums.
The curriculum below gives an outline of all five years of our cycle:
YEAR ONE: The Universe, the Solar System, the Earth, and Life from its Beginnings to the Age of Reptiles
YEAR TWO: Mammals, Humans, and Ancient Civilizations in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa; Ancient Egypt
YEAR THREE: The Classical World of Greece and Rome
YEAR FOUR: The Middle Ages and the Renaissance
YEAR FIVE: The Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and Early America
Reading, Writing, and Literature
In Literature class, we read books that go along with our Timeline Studies. When we study the Middle Ages, we may read tales from King Arthur or from the Arabian Knights, or stories about dragons. When we study the Classical world, we read Greek myths.
Teachers read aloud to students every day so they can experience rich language which may be above their independent reading level and discuss the complexities of plot, character, and theme.
Students also read their own assigned chapters in novels and meet with their reading groups to discuss what they have read. They write the answers to comprehension questions.
Students write creatively, and they also work on the structure of paragraphs and essays to write factual research reports or opinion pieces.
No workbooks here! Students work with hands-on materials to build words phonetically, match homonyms, identify prefixes and suffixes, find synonyms, punctuate sentences, and more.
Montessori Grammar Symbols make the abstract concepts of the parts of speech simple and visual, so that students as young as Kindergarten can identify nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, and prepositions.
We practice handwriting every day on our special Montessori lined paper, using d’Nealian handwriting for the younger students, cursive for the older.
Students leave our Lower Elementary with a rich vocabulary and an extraordinarily strong foundation in the mechanics of the English language.
Our professional Fine Arts teacher, Ms. Heather, has access to a studio space generously equipped with a variety of media (tempera, watercolor, oil, pastels, charcoals, acrylics) and materials for sculpture that include a potter’s wheel and kiln, plaster, and papier mache. We have accomplished projects as varied as making paper and creating Indonesian batiks.
Ms. Heather’s art lessons are designed to complement our Timeline Curriculum. In the past several years, here are some of the projects students have worked on:
Timeline of Life:
- leaf prints in clay
- printmaking with animal designs
- phases of the Moon collages
- cave paintings
- Egyptian canonic jar designs
- Greek vase designs
- Plaster of Paris 3D Greek urns (3rd graders)
- Grecian architectural reliefs of the three orders of columns
Middle Ages and Renaissance:
- Viking longships
- royal self-portraits
- illuminated letters
- plaster frescoes
- Mona Lisa portraits
- stained glass rose windows
- willow pattern blue-and-white plates
- reverse charcoal drawings
- Mayan masks
Lower Elementary Science
The history of science is an integral part of our Timeline Studies.
When we study the Timeline of Life, we identify specimens of rocks and minerals as we learn about the rock cycle. We create wind currents as we learn about weather and make it “rain” in the classroom through condensation. We use microscopes to investigate one-celled life and explore the anatomy of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals with hands-on observations and dissections.
When we study Ancient Rome, students learn about simple machines such as wedges, levers, and pulleys, and experiment with constructing machines to experience how effort and force are saved.
When we study the Renaissance, students build telescopes as Galileo did, by combining a convex lens with a concave one. They make models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions, such as the parachute.
Our Industrial Revolution studies find us pumping water with suction pumps; constructing water wheels; exploring magnetism and static electricity; building series and parallel electrical circuits; and testing the properties of fossil fuels.
Lower Elementary Spanish
Students have the option of signing up for Spanish lessons during the school day. Our native Spanish-speaking teacher builds conversational confidence with games, songs, and stories.
Physical Education and Outdoor Recess
A sound mind grows in a sound body. Lower Elementary students attend Physical Education class with Coach Ralph just about every day. They also enjoy healthful outdoor exercise at recess.
Students have the option of studying Suzuki Violin with our staff of professional music teachers. Both group and private lessons are available during the school day.
The students love performing for our entire school at their Holiday and Year-End concerts, and we also enjoy the many special performances which our music faculty make possible for our school. In 2018 we enjoyed a concert of a horn, piano and violin trio playing Debussy and Beethoven, and also a flamenco dance concert!
Parents are welcome in our school! On Bring Your Parents to School Day in February, we invite parents to share the work day with our students.
At the end of each school year, we create a Pageant to share what we have learned in our Timeline Studies. Students perform plays, sing and play the recorder, and demonstrate projects in a Science and History Fair. Often the dramatic productions involve making our own scenery and costumes, and parents are welcome to help.
The last week of school we take part in Field Day team competitions, with relay races and other sporting events.
And there’s so much more – the Fall Foliage Festival, the Spring Picnic, the Historical Costume Parade on October 31, the celebrations of many holidays…. At all of these, we invite parents to share their knowledge and skills with our school community.
Bring Your Parents to School Day
The Timeline of Life Pageant
The Fall Historical Costumes Parade
Standardized Test Scores
Our students, on average, perform many grade levels above their peers on national standardized tests. In the spring, 2nd- 8th graders take the national Terranova Exams.