Primary School (Kindergarten-Grade 2)

Dive into deeper learning.

A walk through the halls of our Primary School reveals children joyfully engaged in all types of learning—counting in Spanish, singing math facts, painting at the easel, writing an original book, creating props for Readers’ Theatre, and observing the parts of a sunflower. By completing these activities and reflecting on what they’ve learned, our students gain more depth and meaning from every learning experience than they would at other public and private elementary schools. 

“We allow children’s individual interests to further their learning, developing children who learn for life, not just for school.”

— Amanda Irwin, Primary School and ECP Director
For kindergarteners and first and second graders, the value of the intangible skills they develop far outweighs the technical knowledge they gain from classes and projects. As they prepare for more academic challenge in our Intermediate School, children accrue self-reliance, confidence and an eagerness to solve problems.
 
Teachers present academic concepts in ways that excite students about the topics and that offer an array of benefits for their overall wellness. For instance, our Primary School students participate in the daily mile, a wellness program that prioritizes outdoor exercise time for students and introduces countless learning opportunities in science, social studies and more.

We celebrate childhood during these years of explosive cognitive growth.

Research shows a child’s happiness directly correlates with academic achievement. Our school environment is truly ideal for children because it combines the best childhood experiences with the best educational practices delivered by passionate and skilled instructors—so your child is excited, engaged, and happy.

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  • Overview and Philosophy

    In a friendly, dynamic, flexible environment for children, students are encouraged to learn and grow by asking questions and thinking outside of the box. They explore together, gathering experiences that build their repertoire in the areas of oral speaking, concept building, problem solving, negotiation and character development.

    • Students benefit from enriching opportunities through participation in meaningful learning experiences, such as service-learning projects, field trips and group activities that are directly related to the curriculum.
    • Formal and informal assessments take place throughout the year, helping us create a complete picture of your child’s growth.
    • Children are thoughtfully transitioned from grade to grade, building upon their skills as academic, interpersonal, and organizational expectations increase.

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  • Distance Learning in Primary School

    Our distance learning model combines synchronous instruction of foundational skills, teacher-guided workshopping, connection with in-person classroom cohorts and opportunities for virtual socialization, collaboration and peer interaction. Students are engaged in live Zoom classes every day.
     
    Even as Old Trail students are learning on campus, we know that many families may wish for their child to remain home. Should you prefer to keep your child home, our Primary School distance learning dean, Vicki Marty, will work with you and your child to ease the transition, to ensure you feel connected to the Old Trail community and to prioritize your child’s growth—academically, socially and emotionally.

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  • Kindergarten Curriculum

    Kindergarteners encounter diverse experiences designed to hone their emerging academic skills and foster overall growth through activities such as:

    • Planting flowers and vegetables in our on-campus garden and classroom raised-garden beds, and observing hatching eggs and chicks
    • Exploring Japan in an in-depth cultural learning experience
    • Using hands-on manipulatives to enhance math and technology skills
    • Writing, illustrating and publishing books in Writing Workshop
    • Partnering with Fifth Grade Buddies in our yearlong mentorship program
    • Participating in the Red Cross Learn to Swim program

    Language Arts
    Through our Language Arts and Reading program, students gain the strong foundational skills necessary to develop into strong readers and writers. Each student is assessed individually and continually in order for teachers to provide various levels of differentiated instruction.  Students learn to recognize sight words, letter and word sounds and syllables. They practice reading aloud with fluency and participate in conversations that build comprehension, as well as develop speaking and listening skills. Through Writing Workshop, students are Introduced to grammar, punctuation and spelling. They write and illustrate non-fiction texts and personal small moment stories. Students also dedicate time to handwriting, working on proper letter and number formation.

    Math
    In addition to basic counting and computation, our students are exposed to age-appropriate algebra and geometry, measurement, data analysis and reasoning skills. Students use models, graphs, words, shapes and tangible “manipulative” items to gain understanding of both simple and challenging mathematical concepts.  Students will explore number sentences, classify and organize data, and utilize online resources such as McGrievy Math, a proprietary program created by one of our teachers. Students gain reasoning and analyzation skills and apply them to real-world problem solving. Students express mathematical ideas verbally and in written form, providing greater proficiency and retention and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

    Performing Arts
    Students identify rhythm, melody, form, texture and timbre with many participatory activities. They learn to identify notes, phrases and rhythm patterns and use pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments to demonstrate this knowledge. Students sing verse and refrain songs and practice in-tune singing (pitch matching) with a variety of folk songs from the United Stated and other cultures. Students differentiate between rhythm and beat and practice performance skills in seasonal concerts for parents and peers.  

    Physical Education & Swimming
    Expanding mental, physical and social capabilities through activity and interaction, students participate in skill building activities in both our gym and swim courses. In classes designed to maximize participation, curriculum covers recreation, fitness and a range of creative pursuits. Red Cross Learn to Swim Program from Level I – III which covers primary skills, stroke readiness and stroke development. Students learn front and back floating and swimming in the process. There is also an emphasis placed on self-guided discovery and water games/play. At Old Trail, our swimming classes are tailored to the needs of each child, so that he or she can progress at a comfortable pace. The overall focus is for children to be happy and safe in and around the water.

    Science
    Students experience science through play, nature walks, games and other activities. This curriculum is designed to foster an appreciation of the natural world while learning to explain how living and nonliving things work. Throughout the year students participate in walks on the school campus to observe environmental changes that occur during the different season. On these walks students identify local plants and animals and develop an understanding of why these habitats undergo seasonal changes. A fieldtrip to a farm presents a comparison of the domesticated farm animals and the wild animals seen and discussed on our walks.

    Additional science units include a study of color where students mix primary colors to make secondary colors and separate color back out with paper chromatography. The water cycle and five senses units provide opportunities for experiments in sinking and floating, buoyancy, surface tension, optical illusions, and anatomy lessons.    

    Social Studies
    Students begin their study of the bigger world through a fun, me-centered self-study. They have the opportunity to share favorite collections, stories and picture boards. Expanding that universe to include family and community, students study diversity and participate in service learning projects that benefit the school community. In American History, students compare and contrast the lifestyles of the Wampanoag Tribe and American Pilgrims. In an extensive unit on Japan, students research culture, people, landmarks, sports, and other class-generated topics of interest. They learn to count and write their names in Japanese and experience a day in the life of a Japanese child. In conjunction with their farm studies, students apply economic principles to farming—including the environmental impact on the value and cost of crops.

    Spanish
    At Old Trail, the World Language classrooms have evolved in response to research on language acquisition and best practice so that every student can find success. Spanish classes are executed with comprehensible input in mind - the idea that language-learners must be provided with spoken and written messages in the target language that are easily understood. Outdated, grammar-based practices have been replaced with genuine engagement in the target language. The Primary division welcomes students to the rich and exciting world of natural language acquisition. Old Trail creates an environment with the right conditions for language to develop organically. Children at this level begin their engagement in a native like acquisition processes. They listen to stories, songs and other input that is relevant and to which they can connect emotionally, as this connection is what encourages them to internalize the language. Students communicate their comprehension through movement, art and simple phrases. 

    Technology
    Students use a wide variety of the latest technology resources to enhance their classroom activities.  Each student is assigned an Apple iPad as part of the Primary School One-to-One (1:1) program.  The iPads improve classroom learning with technologies like virtual fields trips that take students beyond the classroom using virtual reality and 3D design and printing to enhance imagination.  The iPads give students access to programs for drawing, introduction to computer science with drag and drop coding, and parents a window into student learning with electronic portfolios.  Students learn how to use logins and passwords for various programs and websites for school and home use.  Students perform internet searches, learn how to be safe online, and how to be good digital citizens. Each classroom has an interactive board, document camera, and AppleTV to support learning and collaboration.

    Students have access to the Makerspace DIY space which includes robotics and LEGO Education.  Basic keyboarding awareness, introductory robotics and camera use, are also introduced and used at this grade level.

    Visual Arts
    Visual arts lessons are planned so that students obtain a richer understanding of class work by completing related studio art projects. These include self-portraits and family portraits and seasonal tree paintings, plus folk tale dragons, origami penguins and kites as an extension of the Japan study. Students are introduced to painting, collage and sculpture, utilizing a variety of techniques and processes. Students create “Wonderful World” projects inspired by books and songs. They are able to display their explorations of texture, line and shape in a variety of mediums including crayon, marker, tempera, watercolor, wood, wire and clay.

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  • Grade 1 Curriculum

    Our first graders continue to progress with the help of individual attention and deep learning experiences. Curricular highlights include:

    • Participating in hands-on learning units featuring wetlands, insects and birds
    • Experimenting with environmental science concepts in our on-site greenhouse
    • Expanding creative opportunities through Writing Workshop, Fourth Grade Reading Pals and Friday Premiers, our public-speaking program
    • Forming healthy eating habits by growing, preparing and enjoying healthy food, much of which is grown on our campus farm
    • Contributing to the community through our service-learning partnership with Medina Raptor Center
    • Participating in the Red Cross Learn to Swim program

    Language Arts
    Students become strong, independent readers, writers and oral communicators with the enriching opportunities our program provides. With the introduction of a variety of authors and reading concepts in our reading curriculum students will interact, read independently and compare and explore texts. Through spelling, grammar and handwriting units, students gain tools for success. They navigate the writing process—from idea through edit to final copy—in our Writing Workshop. Students complete a personal narrative, research paper and persuasive paragraphs. With poetry sharing and Friday Premiers, our scheduled speaking presentations, students are able to develop skills and gain confidence in front of an audience.

    Math
    Students learn and build upon a wide range of mathematical concepts beginning with numbers and operations, then counting and calculation. They advance their study to include money, time, estimation, geometry, measurement, reasoning and proof, and data analysis. Students cover addition and subtraction, and begin to understand multiplication and division. They utilize technology to represent data in pictorial models, charts and graphs—allowing them to visualize and add meaning to the numbers. By implementing enriching hands-on activities, our student mathematicians are able to explore mathematical thinking and express, share and apply these ideas to solve real-world problems.

    Performing Arts
    Students identify rhythm, melody, form, texture and timbre with many participatory activities including using pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments and vocal performances. Students learn to identify notes and phrases using folk music from the United States and other cultures as exemplars, compose their own rhythm and melodic patterns, sing on pitch (pitch matching) and perform with confidence.  
     
    Physical Education & Swimming
    With a wide variety of age-appropriate gym and swim activities, students build skills, and expand their mental, physical and social capabilities. In addition to basic fitness and recreation, students are introduced to cooperative play, tumbling and outdoor activities that help them gain flexibility and endurance. Students participate in many interactive group games designed to keep all of the students interested and engaged. Our swim program follows the Red Cross Learn to Swim Program from Level I – III which covers primary skills, stroke readiness and stroke development.   Water safety and water games are also a developmentally important portion of the swimming lessons at Old Trail. Water Safety incorporates the Red Cross WHALE Tales theme and practice sessions that encourage safe rescue/terminology and fitness activities.

    Science
    Investigations in science expand beyond the classroom to include learning experiences in the science lab, greenhouse and outdoor living classroom. With a focus on birds and insects students explore the natural world learning about local biodiversity in wetlands on and near our campus. Highlights of this study include bug hunts, nature walks, a visit from the raptor center and making bird calls. The study of forces and motion and light round out the physical science units. Student continue with hands-on experiences making and testing marble roller coasters and popsicle stick snowboarders, building and using kaleidoscopes and exploring chemical luminescence. Sustainability lessons are woven throughout the curriculum using the living machine and biomimicry as highlights.

    Social Studies
    Students explore worlds both inside and outside the classroom in our Social Studies program. They visit local wetlands in different seasons. With hands-on learning stations and edible education lessons, students learn about food choice and the impact on the environment, community and personal health. They explore economics by developing product ideas, and participating in sales and marketing. Through our unit in cultural diversity, students interview friends, family and community members about cultural celebrations and share their findings. Students also work on developing social skills through discussions of friendship, tolerance, boundaries and bullying.

    Spanish
    At Old Trail, the World Language classrooms have evolved in response to research on language acquisition and best practice so that every student can find success. Spanish classes are executed with comprehensible input in mind - the idea that language-learners must be provided with spoken and written messages in the target language that are easily understood. Outdated, grammar-based practices have been replaced with genuine engagement in the target language. The Primary division welcomes students to the rich and exciting world of natural language acquisition. Old Trail creates an environment with the right conditions for language to develop organically. Children at this level begin their engagement in a native-like, acquisition processes. They listen to stories, songs and other input that is relevant and to which they can connect emotionally, as this connection is what encourages them to internalize the language. Students communicate their comprehension through movement, art and simple phrases. 

    Technology
    Students use a wide variety of the latest technology resources to enhance their classroom activities.  Each student is assigned an Apple iPad as part of the Primary School One-to-One (1:1) program.  The iPads improve classroom learning with technologies like virtual fields trips that take students beyond the classroom using virtual reality and 3D design and printing to enhance imagination.  The iPads give students access to programs for drawing, introduction to computer science with drag and drop coding, and parents a window into student learning with electronic portfolios.  Students learn how to use logins and passwords for various programs and websites for school and home use.  Students perform internet searches, learn how to be safe online, and how to be good digital citizens. Each classroom has an interactive board, document camera, and AppleTV to support learning and collaboration.

    Students have access to the Makerspace DIY space which includes robotics and LEGO Education.  Basic keyboarding awareness, QR Codes, introductory robotics and camera use, are also introduced and used at this grade level.

    Visual Arts
    With projects designed to enhance their classroom learning, students draw interesting insects and sculpt their own imaginative versions out of wire and beads. They explore wetland environments in cut paper collage and paint landscapes in watercolor. They try their hand at life drawing by observing classmates as models.  Studying the works of famous artists and book illustrators, students observe and recreate works by interpreting their unique styles. In addition, they explore weaving and clay sculpture.

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  • Grade 2 Curriculum

    By the end of Primary School, our second graders have built a solid foundation of academic skills and social-emotional wellness. Our curriculum includes the following units and activities that continue to expand their abilities:

    • Exploring inventions and inventors of the past and comparing them to items they use today before sharing them with the whole school in our Inventors Showcase
    • Portraying a beloved character after studying a favorite book
    • Increasing math fact fluency and applying this knowledge to bar models and word problems
    • Conducting hands-on experiments about water conservation, hydroponics and solar power in our new outdoor classroom

    Language Arts
    Students learn to identify and explain the main idea and other important story elements both while reading and in discussion.  They learn to decode, spell and define challenging vocabulary. In our Writing Workshops, students learn the art of writing. They create personal narratives, research reports on topics of interest, poetry and realistic fiction. Armed with knowledge of the parts of speech, sentence structure, and punctuation, student writers are able to edit and improve their writing to share with a variety of audiences.

    Math
    Using enriched teaching methods including visual models, apps, collaborative work, hands-on activities, and gameplay, students are able to build on and master challenging math concepts.  Students develop solid conceptual understanding through a focus on problem solving. Through the use of concrete-to-pictorial-to-abstract development of concepts, students use model drawings to connect visual representation to problem solving and algebra. They explore patterns, addition, subtraction, fractions, money, measurement, multiplication and division.  In Geometry, students learn to identify both two and three dimensional shapes and their properties. Real world word problems included in every chapter apply the concepts and skills. Consolidation of the concepts and skills is reinforced by practice, activities, math journals, and homework.
     
    Performing Arts
    As their understanding of basic music concepts evolves, students identify notes, rests, verses and refrains. They read, sing and sign musical patterns and melodies. They explore meter through various styles of music and have the opportunity to create and improvise. Students are introduced to the Orchestra—learning about brass, woodwind, string and percussion sections through experiences and written tests. Connecting to their global studies, students are introduced to musical styles and instruments from around the world. 

    Physical Education & Swimming
    With a varied mix of sports and activities, students enjoy the social interaction and self-expression our classes provide. From jumping, throwing, catching and kicking to learning how to play team sports with strategy, students activate their minds and bodies in new ways. They play soccer, team handball, floor hockey, basketball and gymnastics. Instructors also utilize obstacle courses and our climbing wall to build skills in balance and coordination. In our Red Cross swim program, students progress between Levels II to IV. They improve their strokes, kicks and turns and continue to learn water safety—from proper diving and jumping to various ways to tread water.  At this stage students are also challenged with an endurance swim, many completing a one-mile swim over the course of multiple classes.

    Science
    Students engage in scientific explorations in the science lab, living classroom, and outdoors on the school’s campus and beautiful surrounding Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Through in-depth studies of environmental issues students explore a variety topics including plants, seeds, the water cycle and water conservation, and the sun and its alternative energy possibilities. Science extends into physical science units that include sound, simple machines, engineering, and robotics. Highlights of the year include building hydroponic gardens from recycled materials,  taking walks on campus to identify the wide diversity of trees, preparing and examining dry mount slides under a microscope to observe leaf structures, wiring circuits and connecting solar batteries to power several toys, making musical instruments and analyzing sounds using a virtual oscilloscope, and a series of robotic and engineering challenges.

    Social Studies
    Social Studies and Science curriculums are integrated and experienced through a year-long unit titled, “Magnificent Things”. Students learn about inventors and inventions from the past and how their creations have a direct impact on your lives today. The driving question is, “What problems do inventors solve?”  The students will study the history of transportation (cars), the history of flight, famous buildings around the world, and the history of toys. At the end of each unit of study, parents are invited to the student lead showcase where all students will have the opportunity to share their learning and be the ‘experts’.  The products created through both collaboration and individual work follows each step of the Engineering Design Process.

    Spanish
    At Old Trail, the World Language classrooms have evolved in response to research on language acquisition and best practice so that every student can find success. Spanish classes are executed with comprehensible input in mind - the idea that language-learners must be provided with spoken and written messages in the target language that are easily understood. Outdated, grammar-based practices have been replaced with genuine engagement in the target language. The Primary division welcomes students to the rich and exciting world of natural language acquisition. Old Trail creates an environment with the right conditions for language to develop organically. Children at this level begin their engagement in a native-like, acquisition processes. They listen to stories, songs and other input that is relevant and to which they can connect emotionally, as this connection is what encourages them to internalize the language. Students communicate their comprehension through movement, art and simple phrases. 

    Technology
    Students use a wide variety of the latest technology tools to enhance their classroom study.  The children have access to desktop computers, interactive whiteboards, document cameras and a computer lab. Second graders use iPads in a 1:1 setting in the classroom.  Students use technology programs for drawing, drag and drop programming and coding, and computer-aided design (CAD). They learn to log in to their school accounts and cloud-based file storage and access and use logins and passwords for various programs and websites for school and home use. Students use word processing, age-appropriate websites, map creation programs and Google Earth. They perform internet search techniques, learn how to be safe online and how to be good digital citizens.   Basic keyboarding skills, QR Codes, introductory robotics, presentation creation, camera use, and movie and book creation are also introduced and used at this grade level.

    Visual Arts
    Students gain a deeper understanding of their global studies with related artistic project ideas. Students explore geometric shapes, parallel lines and hot and cold colors through drawing, cut paper and weavings. Students imagine and create their own place where the inhabitants live in harmony, then reflect on their creation in a written summary. These Peaceable Kingdoms and Queendoms are based on literature and global culture.  Through artwork, students also explore Polar scenes, city skylines, and self-portraits in sculpture, cut-paper collage, clay and printmaking. In conjunction with a visit to The Cleveland Museum of Art, students compose still life drawings using a crayon-resist and watercolor technique as part of a project-based learning in Spanish and Art.

Opening children to the full wonder of learning

Old Trail School is a private day school for preschool through grade eight students located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.