Most of Buckley’s boys come to the School in their kindergarten year, which is called Beginners at Buckley. When the boys come in the fall, they are either five or six years old, and the majority of boys stay at Buckley for nine or ten years. During the Lower School years—Beginners through Class III—every boy learns the fundamental academic, artistic, physical and social skills needed to pursue excellence in the Middle and Upper Schools.
One of the most important fundamental skills we emphasize is helping boys develop their social skills and discover their own character. Throughout the Lower School Buckley’s motto, Honor et Veritas, frames our expectations for behavior and helps the boys develop their moral compass. Homerooms begin the day with a Responsive Classroom ® meeting that fosters a sense of community and recognizes each boy’s individual voice. Whole class endeavors, like putting on the annual class play, reciting poetry, singing in concerts, and exhibiting their artwork, all help promote a strong community bond and lasting friendships. The entire Lower School meets in small, multi-age, community-building groups to discuss values, such as courage and kindness, that are stressed throughout the year. We also conduct regular meetings to support boys with varied backgrounds and cultures and for boys who live with one parent or one parent at a time.
Believing that young boys need to feel comfortable and affirmed in their new school setting, the teachers in Beginners make it a priority to get to know each boy and to help all the boys establish new friendships. When the boys feel the confidence and love that comes from these early experiences of being valued and truly known, they are able to embrace the academic and behavioral expectations put before them.
When a student comes to the Lower School, close attention is paid to his language and reading readiness skills. While some boys read earlier, it is in Class I when the teaching of reading begins in earnest for every boy. In Classes I-III, each boy has reading lessons in small groups. They are taught the sequence of phonics skills and read from a wide variety of children’s literature and nonfiction books. Boys read each night for homework and choose from our large collection of books when they visit the Lower School library. Boys are taught to write in a variety of genres and have many opportunities to write stories, nonfiction pieces and poetry throughout their time in Lower School. Boys first learn to print and are taught to write in cursive.
The Lower School Math program centers around having boys develop a robust sense of numbers and a love of problem solving. Games, investigations and the use of various manipulatives give the boys many experiences of combining and taking apart numbers, and they begin to internalize number facts before they have been asked to memorize them. Teaching strategies are taken from several of the leading math programs, including Singapore Math and Context for Learning. Teachers and the Lower School math specialist carefully plan the curriculum on a weekly basis.
Social Studies lessons always include many hands-on projects and student discussion. In Beginners, the boys first focus on the importance of families, communities, and friendships. In Class I, they discover the basic needs of all people: food, shelter, clothing, and love. Their study includes closely looking at other cultures, both in the past and present day. Class II’s guiding question is “How does New York City work?” They explore and visit the city’s water supply system, bridges, transportation, parks, and skyscrapers. Their study culminates in the boys constructing a 24’ x 6’ model of Manhattan, entitled Manhattarama. In Class III the boys learn world geography, research explorers and dip into American history, especially the Colonial era. In each grade field trips help make their learning come to life.
In addition to the homeroom academic subjects, the boys have weekly opportunities to sing and play instruments, draw, paint and sculpt in the art studio, test their hypotheses in the science lab, learn basic coding and create projects using technology, and utilize woodworking skills to make wooden toys. Every day, they spend at least an hour at sports invigorating both their bodies and minds. In addition to developing sportsmanship, the boys’ collaboration skills are further honed by learning how to be a member of a team.
Their Lower School journey supplies them with the essential tools to succeed throughout their Buckley years. A boy leaves Lower School ready to be more independent and eager for new challenges!
Sonja Robinson, Director of the Lower School