The Lower School Visual Arts program at Durham Academy is designed to provide students a variety of art experiences with the intention of fostering an appreciation of art and the value of personal expression. The acquisition of knowledge through the arts is viewed as a valuable component and complement to the core curriculum as well as daily life. Curriculum content encompasses skill development, art history, art appreciation and connections between the visual arts and other subject areas. Weekly lessons are intended to encourage divergent thinking skills, develop artistic exploration and encourage students to take creative risk in a safe environment through active learning. The visual art curriculum for first through fourth grade continually focus and build upon the concepts of the elements of art (line, shape, space, color, value, texture and form) and principles of design (contrast rhythm, unity, emphasis, pattern, movement and balance).
Drama is important for developing confidence, expressiveness and creativity in each child using movement, dialogue, pantomime and improvisation. Students learn about creating, designing, playwriting, directing and acting through a variety of literature choices and theater exercises. A combination of independent and small group work helps to develop intrapersonal skills used in creative drama. Each grade works on projects that teach them skills not only for the stage, but for confidence in everyday life.
At Durham Academy, students become musicians, singers and movers in a very active way. The philosophy for music and movement education for our students is rooted in the Orff Schulwerk creative process of learning music. Orff Schulwerk uses poems, rhymes, games, songs and dances as vehicles to actively learn the elements of music. Students explore rhythm, melody, harmony, form and expressive qualities through singing, speaking, moving, playing instruments, listening, reading and notating. A unique aspect of this approach is an emphasis on developing a student's creativity and the opportunities to improvise in many ways. Students create their own rhythms, dramatizations, lyrics/words, instrument parts and melodies for sections of many pieces. Their own work is encouraged and valued. Through this process, students gain a deep understanding and love of music as they develop their creative potential.
The Physical Education Program at Durham Academy emphasizes active living through participation in a balanced variety of movement experiences. We want to enable all students the opportunity to enhance their quality of life through active living and healthy decisions. Movement and play are focal points of children's lives, critical to all aspects of their growth and development. Our physical education program provides opportunities for all students in the Lower School to be physically active on a daily basis and to develop an appreciation for and enjoyment of movement. Students' active participation and success in a variety of activities is stressed over competition. Our health and wellness program uses hands on, active application on a broad range of topics and may include instruction on bones and muscles, nutrition, first aid and injury prevention.
Third grade science is a hand-on, experiential enrichment. Topics include science mystery, magnetism, physical science, geosciences, oceanography and ocean life.
A highlight of the year is the third grade Ocean Studies Trip and Sea Turtle Hospital visit.
A year-long unit on the United States ties in topics such as geography, climate, resources and the economy. Essential questions round out student and teacher discussions:
- How does the geography of a region influence jobs, homes, recreation, economy, and climate?
- How do people influence or impact the land and environment?
- How does geography affect the cultural identity of an area?
A country study on Mexico allows students to practice map skills and make connections between Mexico and the United States.
Third grade students start the year learning how to access keyboarding resources and drills. Proper hand placement and finger movement are the focus of the keyboarding curriculum. In addition, students learn the basic principles of developing a multimedia presentation. Skills necessary for creating a multimedia presentation include using Internet resources, downloading and organizing media files, citing sources, and using software to create the actual presentation.
Third-grade learners experience more independence, as problem-solving strategies have been developed. Students will investigate, understand, and use place value to manipulate numbers. Number sense and computational understanding is built on a firm understanding of place value. Though students continue to develop understanding of addition and subtraction, using strategies and properties proficiently, the standard algorithm is introduced. Several resources are used as students build a conceptual understanding of the relationship between multiplication and division: Investigations, Superstars Math, and teacher-created lessons. This year, students develop an understanding of the meanings of multiplication and division of whole numbers through activities and problems involving equal-sized groups, arrays, and area models. Mathematically proficient students communicate precisely by engaging in discussions about their reasoning using appropriate mathematical language.Teachers use Investigations, SuperStar Math, and Everyday Counts calendar activities to write math lessons appropriate for the students in their classrooms. Hands-on learning with math manipulatives is key to the students' understanding of math concepts. Many different kinds of math manipulatives are used including number lines, graphing activities, unifix cubes, links, dominoes, base ten blocks, pattern blocks, three-dimensional space figures, fraction bars, tangrams, hundreds boards, partner games and math software.
A primary goal of the third grade reading program is to increase reading fluency, stamina and comprehension. Third grade uses multiple types of texts, both fiction and non-fiction, to strengthen literal comprehension, interpretation, and analytic reading. The different types of text include trade books, magazines, as well as, print on developmentally appropriate websites. Students work in small groups, with a partner, in literature circles or independently to learn and practice specific reading skills and strategies. Our third-grade readers are given time to actively engage in thoughtful collaborative discussions. These discussions deepen their understanding of texts and enhance flexible thinking. Students have frequent opportunities to respond to their reading through writing. Two areas that receive purposeful attention are utilizing non-fiction conventions and the 7 Comprehension Strategies: Using and Creating Schema, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Inferring, Determining Importance, Synthesizing Information, and Monitoring for Meaning/Using Fix-Up Strategies.
Our ultimate goal for our readers is to guide them to create a reading life of their own and to inspire them to become life-long readers.
The Spanish class is conversational with an exposure to literacy in the target language. From the very first day, students are spoken to only in Spanish. The lessons parallel topics covered in science and math class. Students are engaged through familiar games and are encouraged to speak aloud their new vocabulary. Vocabulary in the third grade includes the nervous system and the five senses, the people, land and the culture of Mexico, our world, magnetism and gravity, Human Body, circulatory system, the earth, oceans and their characteristics, and sea turtles.
Writing instruction is organized around four units of study. Third-grade students begin with the unit Crafting True Stories. This unit extends students’ work with personal narrative while engaging more fully in the complete writing process, with increasing emphasis on drafting and revising work. In Unit 2, The Art of Information Writing, students write chapter books that synthesize a wide variety of information and learn to section their work into topics and subtopics. They are supported in this challenging work because they are writing about topics which they have firsthand personal knowledge. In Unit 3, Changing the World: Persuasive Speeches, Petitions, and Editorials, students gather and organize information to persuade people about causes the children believe matter. In the final unit of grade three, Once Upon a Time: Adapting and Writing Fairy Tales, students explore techniques of fiction such as writing scenes, using structure to create tension, and crafting figurative language to convey mood.
The writing program is built around the workshop model to instruction. Writers are given direct, explicit instruction in the skills and strategies of proficient writers. Students are actively involved in their writing. They spend time collaborating with writing partners. Writers are given opportunities to talk and respond to each others' work. As thoughtful and skillful writers, they learn to set goals for themselves.
Explicit instruction is given during a mini-lesson. Afterward, students are provided long stretches of time to write. During this stretch of time, teachers conference with students individually or work with small groups to maximize their potential as writers. Teaching is consistently responsive to the needs of the students.
Emphasis is placed upon the 7 Traits of Writing: Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, Conventions, and Presentation. These traits are an important support structure for fluent and thoughtful writers.