Grade Level Highlights


Emergent Curriculum

Curriculum is not predetermined or written ahead of time. Curriculum is designed from children’s observed and expressed interests, curiosities, and explorations. Through keen observations of children, ongoing documentation, and the use of provocations (materials, books, questions, experiences) teachers collaborate and construct curriculum to support children’s ongoing engagement and learning.


Ready to Write

Weekly activities designed to support the development of hand muscle readiness for the demands of writing. A series of three to five weekly activities are play-based and build patience, skill, and confidence. Examples include: stringing beads on a pipe cleaner, stacking wooden spools, racing pom-poms across a table using a squeeze toy, or using tweezers to pick up and sort objects by attribute.

Sensory Exploration

Our early childhood classrooms are sensory rich environments. From playdough to moon sand to water table play to shaving cream to coffee grinds to Gak and more children push, pull, prod, and shape materials of many textures. Music class, fingerplays, and songs offer auditory explorations throughout the day. And the outdoor and movement class offerings invite and encourage children to move their bodies gaining confidence all along the way.


We offer a transitional kindergarten program for children who are either not yet age eligible for kindergarten or who would benefit from one more year of play based curriculum and academic foundational skill building before kindergarten. TK blends hands on learning experiences with more structured, academic learning experiences.

Each year the children in TK are introduced to various artists and art mediums. From John Hawkinson to Louise Nevelson to Michangelo to Frank Stella, children learn artists’ techniques and style. With this newfound knowledge children more confidently approach their own artistic endeavors throughout the classroom.

Learning About You and Others

The defining curriculum in which the TK anti-bias learning is rooted. From learning about pioneers and westward expansion to homelessness and food pantries to addressing individual’s needs, TK children explore how people are similar and how they are unique.

Literacy in TK

In addition to the Handwriting Without Tears program and foundational phonics instruction, part of TK’s curriculum is to read Caldecott winning picture books. These award winning books promote rich discussions about plot and vocabulary and offer endless opportunity to make predictions and extend learning through additional activities. As the Caldecott list grows so, too, do the learning opportunities!


Strong People

What makes a person strong? Is it physical strength or mental strength? Are kindness and compassion forms of strength? Guided by their teachers, Kindergartners dissect and wrestle with the idea of what makes a person strong. They examine people in history such as Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, as well as modern day heroes, such as Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel into space. Through examining the qualities demonstrated by these people, Kindergartners begin to identify the strong people in their own lives.


STEM Challenges: Provoking and Stretching

Through provocations, authentic problems, and open-ended solutions, first and second grade students are stretched to think through, visualize, and create answers to real-life questions. How can we create a small-scale bridge that will support the weight of cars? What kinds of materials strengthen bridges, and how can we position supports to be the most effective? Through experimentation, not-so-successful attempts, collaboration and refinement, students begin to understand the iterative process involved in engineering and design.

What’s On Your Mind?

Each week there is dedicated time for students and teachers to come together to discuss and explore what they are feeling and experiencing. This specific meeting time for social and emotional learning allows students the space to bring up issues or questions they may have or for teachers to proactively introduce topics that can be challenging to sort out. Was there a disagreement on the playground? A game that felt unfair? When is it OK to “tell” a teacher? What are ways I can be clear and still kind? Teachers help students find creative and collaborative ways to approach and handle these challenging concepts.


Theater and the Classroom

Plays and performances are woven into the fabric of everyday learning at Lesley Ellis.

Each year, students take part in a play that is connected and intertwined with their social studies curriculum. The plays, created using an inclusive, anti-bias lens and crafted by Lesley Ellis faculty, give students the opportunity to actively experience historical events and attitudes. Recent plays include: Buffalos and Bedlam! and Muskets and Mayhem!

Bringing History to Life

What better way to learn history than to live it and share it? In their study of the Civil War period, for example, students examine the perspectives of different groups of the time. Why might a southern plantation owner, a slave, and a factory worker from a northern city have unique viewpoints? Students collaborate to get in-depth knowledge about the customs, perspectives, goals, and daily lives of these different groups. Using life size detailed drawings, students share their knowledge with the school community. While entertaining and informing peers, schoolmates and parents, students also hone research skills and practice public speaking and presentation.


Leadership, Independence, and Compassion

Students lead the all-school assemblies; working in rotating teams to present, share their all-school photos, set up and manage the sound system, and writing the script for the presenters. They are given increased responsibility as students mature and are ready to take on more tasks. They learn about their own organizational styles as they manage a heavier workload and keep track of assignments. Using their iPads and Google calendars, they develop strategies for long range planning. With greater maturity comes a greater expectation about independence and more challenging work.


The Pebble in the Pond Effect OR You Make a Difference!

Small acts = big impact.

Lesley Ellis students learn about how their small acts of kindness often have a huge, far reaching effect. It begins by them doing a simple act of kindness first for themselves like taking a walk or having a cup of hot chocolate. They learn that first they must take care of themselves before they can effectively care for others. They then identify acts of kindness they can perform for someone in their family, a friend, their school community, strangers, the environment, and finally an organization. These concentric circles of kindness grow bigger and broader with each act. Students chronicle what they are doing each day in their blog. Eventually they share their blogs, inspiring one another by seeing what they each are doing. This activity promotes growing self-awareness and a sense of increased responsibility for something outside of themselves.


Mentoring and Leadership Program

Students develop as leaders by organizing and facilitating Middle School meetings and by serving as Peer Group leaders. The Annual retreat by 7th and 8th grades to Salisbury State Reservation allows students to participate in a variety of activities designed to prepare them to be peer group leaders.

This leadership opportunity pairs seventh and eighth grade students with groups of younger students in first through fourth grades. These student led groups discuss topics such as community building, respect, having a positive attitude, and how to work together as a group.

Lesley Ellis School graduates are leaders who:

  • Creatively solve problems using strong critical thinking skills
  • Stand up to injustice because they appreciate diversity and recognize bias
  • Take risks and self-advocate, recognizing their learning styles
  • Actively contribute to their many communities
  • Communicate and collaborate effectively with peers and adults.