The Children's School

The first thing that strikes many visitors at RCDS is the peace and beauty of our 20 acre campus. What strikes them next is the sight of children running to class, playing outdoors, laughing and talking because they are experiencing childhood as it is meant to be. They look healthy, excited and alive; they hold doors not just for adults, but for one another. Here they are cherished but not pampered, challenged but not pressured, organized but not regimented. They work hard and play fair.

At RCDS, it is understood that students learn using multiple intelligences and differentiation is a key component of classroom practice.  Children are taught to think creatively, read critically, and reason logically.  The value of both individual and collaborative learning is stressed, which calls for the collective support of students, parents, and teachers.  To this end, students are taught to their individual strengths and encouraged to deepen and expand their interests within the curriculum.  A student’s sense of wonder and inquiry is highly valued and students are encouraged to make responsible choices within the framework of classroom expectations.

The Children’s School offers a rigorous, supportive, developmentally-appropriate program to students from Pre-K through Fourth Grade. Throughout the grades, project-based learning is a central feature of the curriculum and teachers develop essential questions to guide their students through research and learning.  Because the arts complement the central importance of academics at RCDS, projects can be documented through individual and collaborative essays, art work, music, and drama. Our arts teachers are professionals in their fields and they consistently elicit creative, focused work from children at every age.

Throughout the grades, we are constantly mindful of the interaction between children’s social, emotional, and ethical development and academic lives. Each year, the school selects a theme (e.g. consideration or individuality) that is woven into the academic curriculum as well as all-school and class activities. Conflict resolution, mediation, anti-bullying programs and class/ school wide meetings all contribute to the creation of a caring, collaborative community.

The youngest students learn in a language-rich environment that prepares them for literacy, numeracy, and other academic work. The pre-reading program focuses on children’s dictations and all-important phonemic awareness (the association of sounds with symbols,) and the pre-writing program stresses motor coordination through the use of manipulatives and art materials. As students reach reading readiness, teachers introduce letter study; word families and organic vocabulary study. Reading aloud is an essential part of the daily curriculum throughout the grades. In math, young children use concrete materials and sensory-motor activities so that numeracy will literally be encoded in their bodies; there are dozens of opportunities every day to point out mathematical relationships and questions as the children explore their environment.

As children’s verbal and mathematical skills, knowledge and capacities develop, they participate in highly individualized learning activities. Basal readers are not used at RCDS; the curriculum is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, teachers offer the children books that are carefully chosen to meet individual interests and reading levels. Writing is also an essential part of the curriculum. From very early on, children write in their daily journals and they develop technical as well as organizational and creative skills. Writing workshops based on the Lucy Calkins/Teachers College approach insure that writing is a personally satisfying, continually challenging, and enjoyable endeavor.

In the Children’s School, students are guided by the faculty to articulate their particular interests outside of the classroom experience.  Creating a fundamental, age-appropriate and experiential understanding of the evaluation criteria is a significant first step in developing an individual portfolio for each of our young students. Independent Studies projects may be short or long term and will be shared with classmates, supporting the value of self-expression and encouraging mutual support among students. This portfolio will “follow” them into the Middle and Upper Schools as a foundation for possible projects but also reflection on the development of these personal interests.

On-going assessment is vital in steering academic development.  We use a wide variety of formal and informal assessments including portfolio that align with the achievements and expectations included in the Core Standards.  A cornerstone of assessment is the Comprehensive Learning Profile (CLP) created for each student.  This is a concise composite of strengths, challenges, interests, and recommendations that informs long and short-term instruction of each student.  The profile is updated yearly.
Rockland Country Day School   34 Kings Highway Congers, NY 10920   Tel: 845-268-6802
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