Differentiation of instruction ensures that all students are challenged at their own levels of achievement. Character education is taught and emphasized throughout the school day.
At Roycemore, each student is seen as an “original.” We embrace who they are, where they come from, and their journey by welcoming them into a supportive community that feels like home. It takes a team effort. Not only do they have a group of educators on their team, they also build relationships with students in different grades. Parents and teachers partner to best support each student.
In our Lower School, we strive daily to help children develop self-esteem and lifelong learning skills in a safe, nurturing and diverse community. Each student’s personal success is ensured through a stimulating college-preparatory curriculum focusing on the growth of the whole child.
Differentiation is an important part of the Lower School curriculum. Teachers know where each learner is on a continuum of knowledge and support their unique growth throughout the year. In addition to small class sizes, the support of both a staff Learning Specialist and a Gifted Coordinator helps to meet each learner where they are.
Our faculty and staff aim to help all students achieve their academic, creative, physical and social potential. Emphasis is on the individual student. We provide a supportive environment with small classes. Within this environment, dedicated teachers provide a challenging curriculum and individual attention to students to advance their knowledge and develop responsibility, self-confidence, discipline, self-respect and empathy.
At Roycemore, children come from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. The school encourages understanding and acceptance of all cultures. All Lower Schoolers have recess together. Diverse, multi-age groups play together in a baseball game or work together to build an animal hospital out of sticks and leaves. We also come together as a school several times a year to Stand Against Racism with the YWCA, participate in a carnival put on by the high schoolers at Halloween, celebrate the winter season, and many other events so our Lower Schoolers feel part of the larger Roycemore community. It feels like family.
Lower School Overview
In Lower School, the core curriculum is taught by the classroom teacher. Students also receive instruction in world languages, art, music, physical education and library skills from specialized faculty.
Our Lower School faculty use a variety of educational approaches like differentiation of instruction and teaching on gifted model to ensure that all students are challenged at their own levels of achievement and are not bored. Character education is taught and emphasized throughout the school day. The school day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. From 7:30 a.m. until the beginning of school, there is a designated room with supervised activities for all Lower School students arriving early.
A hot lunch is prepared at school by HandCut Foods and is provided to all students, with the cost included in the annual tuition and fees. Students in Grades 1-4 participate in a cafeteria-style lunch in our dining hall, where they may choose from at least two entrees, salad bar, sandwiches, soup, milk, water and mostly fresh fruit for dessert.
Roycemore’s Extended Day Program (EDP) is available for students in pre-kindergarten through Grade 6, for an additional fee. EDP provides socialization, outdoor and indoor physical activities, enrichment and snacks. A quiet homework room staffed with college student aides is also available. EDP begins at 7:30 a.m. for students who arrive early and goes from after school until 6:00 p.m. There is no charge for morning EDP. The Extended Day Program is also available during some vacation periods.
For students in Grades K-4, after-school enrichment activities or clubs are offered daily until 4:00-4:15 p.m. Besides being fun, they emphasize academic skills, enhance the school’s curriculum and involve socialization, higher-order thinking skills, and learning to follow directions. The clubs offered vary from year to year, depending on interest and sponsor availability. Some clubs are sponsored by teachers, some by parents, and others are offered for a fee through outside organizations. This year, Lower School students can participate in Chess Club, Creative Improv with Mudlark Theater, Cross Country running, STEAM, Fitness Fun Friday, Lego Club, Martial Arts, and the Sprout Gifted program.
Character education is an integral part of the Lower School. Both the Lower and Middle Schools participate in a program called The Leader in Me. It is a very positive social-emotional learning program based on author Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.
The goal of The Leader in Me is for students to understand that they all have the essential qualities to become leaders. The Leader in Me also helps to create a common language within our school by teaching students the 7 Habits:
Habit 1: Be Proactive • You’re in Charge
Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind • Have a Plan
Habit 3: Put First Things First • Work First, Then Play
Habit 4: Think Win-Win • Everyone Can Win
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood • Listen Before You Talk
Habit 6: Synergize • Together Is Better
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw • Balance Feels Best
Every Monday, the whole Lower School gathers together to instill a sense of community, to discuss the seven habits and to give out “Way to Go” awards, which are certificates that celebrate and reward good behavioral choices based on the habits. These may be given by a teacher or another student who witnesses children following these precepts. There are also class meetings where students gain a sense of community, responsibility and caring for others. Leadership Week takes place at the beginning of the school year to help children understand that good leaders are kind to others, and that this is valued and expected in Lower School.
First Grade Highlights
When a Roycemore “Firstie” gets dropped off in the morning, they are greeted with a warm smile and they eagerly enter the room, anxious to see their friends and chat about our latest thematic learning. They enter a room with different working options like a standing table, wobbly stools, and squishy seats. Parents often stay to share what’s happening at home and laugh over the latest Firstie quote.
First grade thematic units integrate all content areas to create rich and authentic learning experiences. During our Wild Weather unit, students visit the Museum of Science and Industry’s Science Storms Exhibit where they can enter a life-size vortex, feel high speed winds in a wind tunnel, and test out a tsunami tank. The Firsties partner with high schoolers to make anemometers, barometers, and a rain gauge in the lab. We also practice the onomatopoeia of weather and use technology to help us experience and track weather.
During our America the Beautiful unit, we gathered postcards from friends and family across the United States to learn more about special landmarks and geographical features in each state. Songs, 3D models of land formations, and a mystery Skype with first grade classrooms across the country add to the richness of this unit.
The year ends with a biomimicry study in which first graders learn how to research one animal of their choosing. Firsties then design and build an invention based on their animal’s adaptations, like a sled mimicking antibacterial and aerodynamic shark dermal denticles, and a camouflage box (to hide toys from siblings) based on a coyote! Not only do the Firsties build these inventions, they also record their learning in a digital book.
While all content areas are integrated during this thematic learning time, first graders have dedicated math, reading, and writing time to ensure they develop the skills to pursue and communicate their learning. Academics and a deep love of learning are important but so is the social emotional growth of a first grader.
Each day begins with a morning meeting to welcome each learner and develop our sense of classroom community. We incorporate Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits to build leaders, guiding and supporting them at school and beyond.
First graders participate in gym daily and have a wide variety of specials including art, music, chorus, world language, library, and integrated technology learning. Firsties have 45 minutes of unstructured recess time where they learn to navigate social relationships, choosing what games to play, drafting the rules, exploring nature, and getting a chance to be a kid!
By the time the Firsties line up at the door to give their teacher a hug or high five goodbye, they don’t want to leave! They head to enrichment clubs like chess or cross country and then to the after school program to learn finger knitting or help design a cardboard village.
There is no question that a Roycemore Firstie is an inquisitive, thoughtful, and kindhearted original.
Second Grade Highlights
Second grade is a very exciting year in terms of developmental and academic milestones. Educational research shows that when learners are encouraged to create, they are achieving higher levels of thinking.
In second grade, one of our science units is on simple machines, which is purposely based on student-led creation and exploration. As the students learn about the six types of simple machines, they learn about the function and capabilities of these tools through questioning and hands-on experimentation. Meaning is created through experience, and in this unit, the students truly understand how simple machines work because they are given the experience to create their own functioning simple machines.
As second grade students’ literacy skills blossom and they become independent readers, they reach that exciting stage in their lives where they can use their reading skills to explore topics of interest. Roycemore second graders are able to apply these newfound skills during our rainforest unit, where each child researches and writes an informational book about a rainforest animal of their choice. This project challenges the students to research using online and text resources, identify important facts, organize and sequence information, and create a written product for others to enjoy.
The culmination of this project ends in a rainforest presentation where the students decorate the room, design a headpiece resembling their animal, and show off their typed informational book to their families and the rest of the Lower School. A favorite part of this project is not the amazing final products that the students create, but the pride and motivation that they exhibit throughout the process. The rainforest presentation has become an annual Lower School tradition, where older students enjoy reminiscing about when they did the project, and younger students develop a sense of excitement for the future.
Another goal in second grade is to give the students an opportunity to develop a global perspective and learn about other cultures and ways and life. During our Native American unit, we choose to focus on developing an understanding for the diversity and culture that shapes each tribe. Using authentic Native American legends as a teaching device, the students learn about social, physical, and spiritual aspects of Native American societies. An example of this is when we study the Iroquois tribe. The students a read a legend about “Why the corn husk doll does not have a face.” From that legend, the students gain knowledge about the Iroquois peoples’ natural resources, child rearing practices, and societal values. The lesson then ends with the opportunity for the students to create their own corn husk dolls in order to gain appreciate and provide authentic experiences.
Another engaging project that the students take part in is creating a replica of a Native American house. After studying the materials, steps, and building techniques that the Native Americans used, the students then work together in small groups under the facilitation of the Lower School art teacher. This is a great opportunity for the students to work together and apply their knowledge in a multidisciplinary setting.
Third Grade Highlights
The third grade integrated units form the basic structure of the school year. Every year, they study the United States government. After learning about the three branches of government, they divide into Congress, the President/Vice President, and the Supreme Court, and work together to propose bills based on areas of the students’ personal interests, ranging from legislation about the environment, smoking, and other contemporary issues. Not all bills are agreed upon by the students as they comprise the various branches, nor are they guaranteed to be passed into “law,” providing some insight into how complicated legislating can be. Often a representative from our local government speaks to the classroom; past guests have included the mayor of Evanston and the Congressional Representative from our district.
In third grade, they also learn about American heroes. Each student chooses a current or historical American hero, and reads a biography about him or her. Students then write a biography of their heroes and memorize it. On a very special morning, they invite their parents, friends and classmates from throughout the school to come to their “Wax Museum.” Third graders are dressed as their heroes and will recite their biography for anyone who stands in front of them, just like a modern interactive museum display.
Third graders also learn how to research as they study Maya culture and civilization, including housing, food, form of government, clothing, religion, and more.
The year concludes with a unit that combines reading, imagination and acting skills, as the students study folk stories, tall tales, and what makes a “Trickster Tale.” They then write their own scripts, create sets and props, and practice, practice, practice to put on several trickster tales for parents and other students of Lower School.
Fourth Grade Highights
In the fourth grade, students delve even deeper into subjects, as well as reaching across curriculum areas to see how things are interconnected.
With the concept of the Hero’s Journey, they explore the genre of fantasy by watching a fantasy movie and reading the book “The Conch Bearer.” They then identify heroic character archetypes and outline the structure of the hero’s story. Fourth graders also choose a fantasy novel to read on their own; later they create a game based on their novel and share it with parents during the end of the year Culmination Night.
Our fourth grade has an ongoing relationship with our local Junior Achievement chapter, which sends a representative to discuss different facets of financial literacy, business and entrepreneurship. The group hears about the different roles in business, sourcing of materials, and learns about banking and finance by “spending” their paychecks and entering deposits and withdrawals on a balance sheet.
In science, they learn about force and potential kinetic energy by building a vehicle that serves as a test subject throughout their Design and Motion unit. Other concepts covered include Newton’s Laws of Motion, friction, and air resistance.
An in-depth integrated unit from last year was on soil and its relationship to our food and our health. Students completed chemical tests on soil samples from an area on school grounds where they hoped to start a garden. They learned which kinds of soil and other nutrients are important to plants. They also dissected real worms, and worked on case studies where they were soil scientists diagnosing nutrient deficiencies for farmers in Africa.
The history of Chicago offers a variety of diverse figures to learn from: fourth graders are introduced to Jean Baptiste DuSable, an African American who was the first permanent settler of Chicago. Students conduct a simulation while learning about Illinois’ role in the Underground Railroad. A popular activity is a classroom “trade rendezvous” like the ones that used to happen between the Native Americans in our area and French, Dutch and English trading forts. We also discuss Illinois waterways and their importance to the vitality of the state. They read maps to see the historically important rivers.
Last year they completed an exciting new blogging project. A guest speaker who is a web designer spoke with the class about the purpose of websites, how to market to your clientele and showed a little bit of HTML code. Everyone chose their own topic that they were passionate about, named their blog and chose the look of their blog. They learned how the internet can be a useful tool as well as a way to share your interests. They read each other’s blogs and learned how to leave constructive comments.
As the “seniors” of Lower School, fourth graders earn the privilege of taking an overnight trip to Springfield, our state’s capital, toward the end of the school year. They can see sets and costumes from the movie “Lincoln,” they visit the restored home and New Salem neighborhood of Abraham Lincoln when he lived in Springfield. They also visit the Lincoln Presidential Museum, tour the beautiful capitol building and rotunda, and they stay overnight in a hotel!