Lower School

St. Francis’s Lower School is a lively center of learning that’s infused with the joy and excitement of discovery, all in an academically enriched, rigorous curriculum. Encompassing kindergarten through fourth grade, the Lower School continues the development of the whole child by building on the academic, social-emotional, physical, and spiritual groundwork developed by the Primary School program. Students benefit from a student-centered, inquiry-based learning environment that encourages critical thinking, problem solving, respect for others, and collaborative work. Dedicated, nurturing educators teach small classes using an appropriately balanced and academically stimulating curriculum.

Signature Programs

Spiritual Education

Our Lower School religion curriculum is aligned with the growing ability and curiosity of Lower School students, who are encouraged to make connections between what they believe and how they live their lives. Through two weekly chapel services and one religion class, they learn that they have value and significance, have much to share and contribute, and have an invitation from God to live in communion with others. In addition, chapel offers many chances for peer involvement and leadership—from reading Scripture and leading prayers to bringing a musical offering and carrying the processional cross.

To learn more about Lower School chapel, click here!

Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning Approach

St. Francis faculty members are trained in the Social, Emotional, and Academic Learning (SEAL) methodology. This research-based approach to K–8 teaching focuses on the strong link between social-emotional skills and academic, personal, and civic success. Integrating SEAL into the St. Francis curriculum helps students develop five core competencies:


Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. This includes accurately assessing one’s strengths and limitations and possessing a well-grounded sense of confidence and optimism.

Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals.

Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others from diverse backgrounds and cultures; to understand social and ethical norms for behavior; and to recognize family, school, and community resources and support.

Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups. This includes communicating clearly, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict constructively, and seeking and offering help when needed.


Art à la Carte

Art à la Carte, an innovative program designed to expand student appreciation of historically significant art and architecture, was founded by St. Francis parents in 1986, and has since been adopted by a number of schools nationwide. Art à la Carte offers students in grades K–8 the opportunity to explore the visual arts—including notable artists, paintings, sculpture, and architecture—from prehistoric through modern times. Through trained parent docents, students learn to approach art as educated critics, building confidence and inspiring their own creativity. The Art à la Carte curriculum is a part of the school’s standard academic offering.

School of Music

The St. Francis School of Music is an extracurricular instrumental and voice program available to students in grades K–8. Students attend private or small-group lessons with professional musicians for in-depth study after school or during school enrichment periods.

To learn more about our School of Music offerings, click here!

Leadership Opportunities

At St. Francis, we believe that effective leadership requires interpersonal skills and competencies that must be learned through experience, practice, and the assessment of successes and failures. In other words, young people can only learn the skills of leadership if they are allowed to exercise it in meaningful ways. Students take on roles in their classes as leadership ambassadors and participate in service opportunities through in–gatherings, conversation committees, and stewardship.

Leadership responsibilities expand in fourth grade with opportunities to read Scripture in chapel services and participate on the Lower School Leadership Council. Council representatives are randomly chosen and rotated every quarter, and each fourth grader has the privilege of serving on the council during the course of the school year.

Alpha Community Time

Lower School students gather as a community once a week during Alpha Meetings, which are led by our fourth-grade student leaders. A prayer is followed by the Pledge and National Anthem, then the students lead us in a greeting and a share. Lower School students look forward to this gathering every Friday!

Curriculum

Language Arts

Lower School’s language arts philosophy is that of a balanced literacy approach based on research and best practices. Students engage in various activities throughout the day, such as read-alouds with accountable talk, differentiated word work, and a holistic understanding and application of grammar and mechanics. In addition, students become powerful readers and writers through the Workshop approach to instruction. They are encouraged to reflect and grow as they learn to advocate for themselves and others, deepen their own and others’ knowledge, and positively impact the world in which they play a part.

Math

Mathematics in Lower School is an active, student-centered, inquiry-based program. Lessons incorporate increasingly complex visual models—seeing, touching, and sketching ideas—to create pictures in the mind’s eye, helping learners construct, understand, and apply mathematical ideas. The program offers a balance of conceptual understanding, procedural fluency, and real-life application.

Social Studies

An essential component of social studies instruction in the Lower School is its integration within the language arts curriculum. Students are immersed in collaborative and independent learning experiences that promote and stimulate constructivist thinking, allowing them to discover and examine areas of focus—including historical events, people, geography, cultures, social awareness, and governance.

STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math)

Through hands-on investigations and experiences with living organisms and phenomena from all areas of science, Lower School students develop the ability to think scientifically and deepen their understanding of core ideas. Using the engineering design process as a tool, they formulate inquiry; develop and use models; plan and carry out investigations; analyze and interpret data; design solutions; engage in argument from evidence; and obtain, evaluate, and communicate information. Learners use the understanding gained in the sciences to spark beginning engineering projects and, eventually, to guide them through the development and production of items aimed at solving community-based problems. Interwoven throughout the year are explorations of ways that art, technology, and mathematics inform, express, and inspire work in science and engineering.

Spanish

The Lower School Spanish program provides a learning environment that encourages language acquisition and usage through hands-on activities, projects, games, and songs. The incorporation of St. Francis-relevant holidays, calendar events, and prayers helps students bring the Spanish language into their daily lives.

Visual and Performing Arts

Lower School students take part in a range of visual and performing arts courses, including drama, art, music, and choir. Our fourth graders also participate in orchestra. Visual and performing arts presentations often require additional time outside of the school day, calling for personal responsibility, faithful attendance, and completion of duties in order to contribute to group success.

Technology

St. Francis provides an enriched learning environment that integrates technology resources into the daily curriculum. Students learn basic technology skills, content, and vocabulary through an online learning platform. The program equips students with the abilities to keyboard, word process, be good digital citizens, and exercise online safety, as well as expand their media and information literacy skills. Students apply these skills as they work on projects integrated into their core curriculum.

Physical Education

We offer a balanced physical education program that provides a laboratory within which children explore, meet both success and momentary failure, and learn about themselves and their capabilities. The “Dynamic Physical Education” (DPE) program offered to St. Francis K–5 students also emphasizes the values of health-related fitness. Lower School students attend physical education class four times per week, and enjoy a wide variety of activities presented in a well-structured manner.


Lower School


The St. Francis Lower School addresses the 21st Century skills of collaboration, presentation, and creativity.



FAQ's

Do all students attend chapel and receive religious instruction?

Chapel services are a very important aspect of a St. Francis education, and all students attend twice weekly. Students from each grade level play an active role in the service as ushers, acolytes, crucifers, and readers. Parents are welcome to attend the services with their child. Religion is also taught in the classroom on a weekly basis by a religion teacher.

How much homework do students have each night?

Homework varies for each grade level. All Lower School students are asked to read for 20 minutes or more every night. Depending on projects assigned, additional homework time may be needed. The Lower School has designated Wednesday evenings as Family Night, when no homework will be given; however, students are still asked to read.

How will my child participate in community service?

Students have the opportunity to give to the community locally and at large through grade-level service projects, all-school ingatherings, Barker’s Pajamarama, the St. Nicholas Toy Ingathering, and other projects that may arise during the year.

What is the class size in Lower school?

We assign 18–20 students to each class, with four homeroom classes per grade level. Kindergarten classrooms include a teaching assistant.

What are the teaching credentials of Lower School teachers?

All Lower School teachers hold a bachelor’s degree, and 43 percent have earned a master’s degree as well. Our teachers have years of teaching experience and are committed to lifelong learning and a growth mindset. Professional development is a major component of our faculty expectations.

Is St. Francis’s Lower School program accredited?

Yes. St. Francis is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) and the Southwestern Association of Episcopal Schools (SAES), and is a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).

If we can help you in any way, please contact the Lower School Office (713.458.6122)