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 begins with an exploration of self, where students express their creativity as they discover. Following this, they may conduct a forest school in Prospect Park or 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. Students will also focus on the following essential questions: How am I the same/different than other people? What is the same/different about my family when compared to other families? What is a community? What does it mean to be a member of a school/classroom community? What rights and responsibilities do we have at home, at school and in our classroom/school community?
  • First Grade: Our first graders begin the year by examining their identity and family tree; understanding what makes them unique and where they come from. Following this they explore community and neighborhood. 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. Finally they shift into learning about the nation, important figures in history, symbols, customs, and traditions. They record observations, conduct interviews, and create maps. Block play also remains important in the classroom and students often use blocks representationally to deepen their understanding of how structures, businesses, and neighborhoods function. They will focus on these essential questions: What is my family history and journey? What is important to know about our nation? What is important about our classroom community? How is a neighborhood and a community defined? 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 also begin the year by examining themselves: who they are and how they fit within the community. From there, they 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 within the city’s communities. Students research the development of the transportation system, bridges, 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 am I the same/different as others? What are the differences between equality and equity? 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 and why is NYC accessible/inaccessible and to whom? What can we do to help make NYC more equitable for all? Why are some people represented in history and not others? How do we change representation in history to include all experiences and perspectives?
  • 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, exploring both the ancient and modern aspects that country. Students will research why people move to another country in their immigration study. This in-depth historical investigation provides a context in which to learn about the ways that environment and human needs can affect the identity of a community. Literature, maps, field trips, and interviews with experts help answer questions and promote further study. Students will focus on the following essential questions: What is culture? 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? What is immigration and what is my family’s experience with it? What has the immigrant experience been like in the past? What is the most difficult challenge immigrants face today? What does it mean to be a good citizen?​
  • 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 civic concepts such as justice, power, and equality through studies of Landforms, Geography, Settlements, Lenape & New Amsterdam Government Formation, and the Revolutionary War. 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 demonstrate their learning through writing, graphing, creating simulations, and modeling. They will focus on these essential questions: Who gets to decide what informs history? What makes a complex society? Why does geography matter? How did New York City 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, social, and cultural understanding related to the United States. Students build on learning from their 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 The Bill of Rights, Westward Expansion, Women’s Suffrage, concepts of Freedom and Slavery along with the social movements of the present day 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? Is it possible to ​own​ ​land,​ ​people,​ ​and​ ​ideas?

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 8:45. Students have two recess periods per day (one of which might be movement class). 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.​ Weekly specials include Science, Library, Movement, Creative Maker Lab, and Music. Recorder instruction begins in third grade. Technology is taught weekly by our technology teacher 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?

In order to establish a love and habit of reading, children should spend a minimum of 20 minutes reading just-right books independently each night. Many children also benefit from minimal additional practice to internalize skills learned at school. In reading and writing, families of Kindergarten through 3rd grade students will regularly receive letters about the Fundations curriculum, along with some activities that children can work on at home. Students in grades 2 and 3 may benefit from additional time spent using Dreambox Learning, and online platform for developing math skills. Parents are encouraged to support students by encouraging them to use these resources and helping them find a good time and an appropriate place to do so.

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 45 minutes four 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.