Elementary School

Our approach to teaching kindergarten through fifth grade is firmly rooted in our philosophy that students learn best when they are invested in finding answers to their own questions. Our teachers use the Responsive Classrooms Approach to facilitate this process and provide meaningful learning experiences for each student, preparing them for the grades ahead.

What makes The Co-op School’s elementary school program unique?

The Co-op School honors and values the individual learner, who arrives at school with a wide range of strengths and competencies. We strive to meet students where they are, allowing for student empowerment, choice, and curiosity to lead the way when at all possible. We seek to differentiate instruction and recognize that there is not just one way to get to an answer, not just one outcome to a question. We are passionate about creating lifelong, joyful learners and responsible citizens who are prepared to face the challenges of the world in which they live with confidence and ability. Our low student-to-teacher ratio means our skilled and fully engaged teachers can teach to the individualities of every child through workshops as well as inquiry-based social studies projects. By emphasizing social, emotional, and academic growth within a positive and joyful community, our students are purposeful and successful learners.

English language arts: We use a balanced-literacy approach, which is comprised of the following five components: 1) the read aloud strategy 2) guided reading 3) shared reading 4) independent reading and 5) word study. This approach recognizes the need for explicit teaching of skills and the participation in activities designed to build comprehension and meaning.

Mathematics: The Co-op School uses TERC Investigations of Number, Data, and Space along with Math in the City’s Contexts for Learning Mathematics, programs that encourages students to develop their own understanding of problem solving while meeting national mathematic standards.

Inquiry-based Projects: We create curriculum with and for students in order to help them think and communicate as readers, writers, scientists, mathematicians, artists, and social scientists. Our projects are the core of what is happening in our classrooms. This constructivist approach to teaching is absorbed into our classrooms through a Reggio Emilia inquiry-based Open Work/Project Work periods. Projects are planned with attention to state standards, teacher goals, and individual classroom interests and curiosities.

The term “Project” refers to an in-depth look into a particular topic, usually undertaken by a class working on subtopics in small or whole groups, occasionally even individually. This approach to learning emphasizes student’s active participation in the planning, development, and assessment of their own learning. Long-term projects provide contexts where innate curiosity can be expressed purposefully. This enables students to experience the joy of self-motivated learning. They read, construct, research, interview, and recreate in various mediums. They go on trips, interview experts and have lively debates and conversations. Our teachers are observers and facilitators to the students’ interests. They step back and listen. They allow the students chances to problem solve. They document their ideas, questions, struggles, connections, and insights. Teachers ask provoking questions to gather prior knowledge and learn about curiosities. They present materials that they suspect will engage and elicit even further interest of the study. Here are some approaches per grade level:

  • Kindergarten: There is flexibility in determining what the projects will be in kindergarten, dependent on student enthusiasm. The school year always begins with a study of Interesting Things, where students express their creativity as they discover, collect, sort, arrange, experiment, and think with found and recyclable “stuff.” Beyond this, they may study bread, and explore how it is made, bought, and consumed via trips to local markets, experiments, and activities. Or they may want to learn more about babies, investigating what they eat and how they develop. They will focus on the following essential questions: What is a community? What does it mean to be a member of your school/classroom community? What rights and responsibilities do we have at home and in school? How are people and families the same and different?
  • First Grade: Our first graders are learning how to act effectively within a school community. Frequent field trips provide opportunities for students to examine the various aspects of their neighborhood and the roles of community members. They record observations, conduct interviews, and create maps. Block play also remains important in the classroom and students often use blocks representationally and deepen their understanding of how structures, businesses, and neighborhoods function. They visit neighborhood establishments—such as a garden or the post office—and ask questions. They will recreate real and imagined ideal cities within their classroom. They will focus on these essential questions: How can you define a neighborhood and a community? How does a neighborhood meet the needs of the people who live and work there? How can residents and neighborhood workers share in the responsibility of caring for their neighborhood? How does a neighborhood change over time? How do jobs and money affect communities?
  • Second Grade: Second graders are ready to expand the scope of their study beyond the present time and the immediate area surrounding the school. The interests of students and teachers inform the direction of project work, and New York City provides a rich array of opportunities. Students investigate the diverse geography, identity, cultures, and histories of communities. They research the development of the New York City transportation system, landmarks, and structures. They talk about green spaces and renewable energy. They continue to use map skills and constructing to communicate their thinking and deepen their learning. They will focus on these essential questions: How does geography influence where people live and why? How and why do communities change over time? How are communities the same and different? How does geography influence where people live and why? How and why do communities change over time? What is government and why do people need laws?
  • Third Grade: Third graders begin to have a deeper understanding of how communities relate to who we are. Stronger reading and writing skills support more comprehensive research and information-sharing as students delve more deeply into the past. Curious third graders look into historical migration patterns in New York and delve deep into exploring a country of their choice. This in-depth historical investigation provides a context in which to learn about the ways that environment and human needs can a‰ffect the identity of a community. Literature, maps, field trips, and interviews with experts help answer questions and promote further study. They will focus on the following essential questions: Why does geography matter? How do culture, geography, and history shape a community? How are world communities the same? How are they different? How does the past influence the present? ​ ​
  • Fourth Grade: Fourth grade students are able to think about increasingly complex social, political, and economic factors that shape communities. Students expand their understanding of such civic concepts as justice, power, and equality in a variety of ways. We ask that our students think about multiple perspectives and about how history is constructed. They analyze primary source documents such as letters, newspapers, paintings, and historic maps. Students can demonstrate their learning through writing, graphing, creating simulations, and modeling. They will focus on these essential questions: Who gets to decide what the history is? What makes a complex society? Why does geography matter? How did NYC come to be? What motivates people to explore and colonize other lands? What does it mean to be free? How do people, laws, and new technology shape a nation?
  • Fifth Grade: Our curriculum provides opportunities for fifth graders to develop geographic, economic, and social/cultural understanding related to the United States. Students build on learning from previous years’ study by identifying and analyzing key turning points in American history, such as 18th-century exploration and encounters and 19th-century westward migration and expansions. Students begin to explore concepts of freedom and slavery through field trips and class work that introduces them to history and politics. They will focus on these essential questions: To​ ​what​ ​degree​ ​does​ ​geography​ ​determine​ ​culture? How​ ​has​ ​geography​ ​shaped​ ​American​ ​history? How​ ​do​ ​issues​ ​of​ ​power,​ ​wealth,​ ​and​ ​morality​ ​influence​ ​exploration​ ​and​ ​colonization? How​ ​do​ ​key​ ​forces​ ​and​ ​events​ ​shape​ ​nations? Can​ ​you​ ​own​ ​land,​ ​people​ ​and​ ​ideas?

Grade Expectations: For a detailed look at what students are expected to achieve per grade-level, click on the links below:
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade

What’s the schedule for the day?

The school day begins with drop-off at 8:30 at each of the classrooms, followed by morning meeting at 9:00. Closing circle occurs just before dismissal, which is at 3:30.

What are the Specials classes and how often are they taught?

Our​ ​specials​ ​are​ ​a​ ​large​ ​part​ ​of​ ​our​ ​program​, during which ​important​ ​standards-based​ ​concepts​ ​are​ ​taught​ ​while​ ​supporting​ ​ongoing classroom project work​ ​whenever​ ​possible.​ Weekly specials include Science, Library, Movement, Creative Maker Lab, and Music. Recorder instruction begins in third grade. Technology is taught weekly by classroom teachers beginning in second grade. All students attend monthly Town Hall meetings and Open Mic talent events. ​Read a detailed​ ​overview​ ​of​ ​our Specials Program as it pertains to each grade.

Is there homework?

Research supports that there is little to no benefit to assigning homework in elementary school. Thus The Co-op School believes time is better spent interacting with your children in other positive ways. However, nightly reading is highly encouraged, and teachers may decide to send home individualized work for families to do together if additional support is needed

Does The Co-op School administer standardized tests?

Beginning in third grade students are given the CTP standardized test in order to help us be reflective of our teaching and curriculum. This test was developed by the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) and is the most commonly administered standardized test used in national independent schools.

What about world language?

Spanish is taught 30-45 minutes 4-5 times a week

Are there extracurricular community activities for my child?

Yes! Student council, chorus, drama, and health class, plus overnight trips for fourth and fifth graders. We also offer an extensive range of after-school enrichments. And families and students participate in a host of annual community events—from a Kids Gala to Community Potluck—and education events that take place during and after school throughout the year.

To learn more about our elementary school curriculum, please contact our education director, Mandy Vadnai at mandy@thecoopschool.org, or sign up for a tour.