The primary grades program is rooted in the principles of responsive classroom and constructivism. As in the kindergarten program, social interaction and the development of the social skills of cooperation, assertion, respect, empathy, and self-control are given critical attention. Understanding that children learn at different rates and in different ways, differentiated instruction is key to the primary years program.

  • Students may have common lessons, work in flexible groups, or work independently using an individual contract based on their needs.
  • Science and social studies units are designed to engage students in hands-on learning.
  • Students might be exploring Pittsburgh, making toothpaste, creating an electrical circuit, or developing a video about the planets.
  • Field trips are woven throughout the curricula to enhance student learning.
  • Daily outdoor recess is an important part of each day's activities. The students use Mellon Park as their outdoor space for physical education during the warm months and the local Boys and Girls Club gym for physical activity in the winter.
  • Students have a formal music class twice a week and a formal art class once a week.
  • Students continue their instruction in Spanish with two sessions per week.

What is constructivism?

Constructivism is basically a theory - based on observation and scientific study - about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experiences, which may change what we believe or may cause us to discard the new information as irrelevant. In any case, we are active creators of our own knowledge. To do this, we must ask questions, explore, and assess what we know.

In the classroom, the constructivist view of learning can point toward a number of different teaching practices. In the most general sense, it usually means encouraging students to use active techniques (experiments or real-world problem solving) to create more knowledge and then to reflect on and talk about what they are doing and how their understanding is changing. Teachers make sure they understand students' preexisting conceptions and guide the activity to address them and then build on them.