A child’s first three years are critical for the development of language, attention span, social skills, and problem-solving capabilities. Our Primary School is designed to meet these needs through a Reggio-inspired/project-based approach. It provides a solid academic foundation for future learning and stimulates cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual development.
Through constructive play, the curriculum provides students with opportunities for:
- Positive social and emotional interaction
- The development of respect and compassion
- Creative expression
- Decision making
- Safe risk-taking
- Reason and logical thinking
- Increased responsibility and independence
At St. Francis, we offer an enriched curriculum that is planned, implemented, and continually revised by degreed professionals who have the knowledge and skills to create an excellent, developmentally appropriate program.
Primary students are invited and helped to live out their faith in exuberant and creative ways. Gathering together at chapel becomes the heart and soul of our community as we celebrate God’s goodness, learn to be attentive to his word, and pray for the world. Worship takes place twice a week, with special focus on the holy days and holidays, and teachers take these lessons into the classroom the rest of the week. Faith in our heavenly Father challenges us to go deeper, to ask questions, and to live ever more fully in God’s world.
To find out more about Primary School chapel, click here!
To live and work in our rapidly changing world, children must learn to ask questions, think critically, solve problems, and work with others. Our Primary School program—modeled after the early education programs of Reggio Emilia, Italy—teaches these skills through child-initiated projects requiring teamwork and problem-solving. The Reggio approach fosters in-depth inquiry and shared responsibility for learning between the child, teacher, and peers.
The Primary School’s Reggio-inspired/project-based approach encompasses several key components:
- Children are seen as competent, resourceful, curious, imaginative, inventive, and possessing a desire to interact and communicate with others. All children have potential, construct their own learning, and are capable.
- Teachers are seen as researchers who listen, observe, and document children’s work and growth. Teachers are learning alongside the children. Serving as facilitators, they plan and provide learning opportunities, stimulate thinking, and encourage collaboration.
- The environment is the third teacher. The room that the teacher organizes provides the immediate background for the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development of the child. Our Primary School provides a stimulating environment in which a child can maximize his or her potential in each of the four areas of development: cognitive, social-emotional, spiritual, and physical.
- Emergent curriculum builds upon the interests of the children. Projects emerge and are in-depth studies of concepts, ideas, and interests. The student experiences learning through play and interaction.
Our emergent curriculum is based upon the questions and interests of the students within the class. Teachers observe students engaged in conversation and play; from these observations spring projects that often span several weeks to several months. Topics are discovered as the students’ interests vary from class to class and from year to year, with new projects unfolding and following the lead of student inquiry. Teachers ask questions to inspire thinking, provide materials and experiences, and assist in student research. The result? Students who are focused and demonstrate a much greater attention span. Collaborative endeavors that are full of dialog and active learning. Benchmark skills that surface time and again in project work. And meaningful, student-centered study that serves as a hallmark of St. Francis.
Our Reggio-inspired curriculum isn’t our only stepping stone to future success in the classrooms of St. Francis’s Lower and Middle Schools. Our thriving collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture program is another. This pupil-centered, best-practice method positions teachers as “story takers” who carefully record students’ thoughts, words, and ideas, which are then acted out by classmates. Teacher-student interaction helps our educators hone in on specific literacy skills, including print concepts, word encoding, vocabulary, and punctuation—all of which meshes seamlessly with the Writer’s Workshop methodology of Lower School. Another aspect of the program is the importance of dramatic play, which enhances learning through a focus on the listening, speaking, and reasoning aspects of literacy.
Our Primary School curriculum encourages both critical and creative thinking through the following:
- Project work, in which students collaborate to research topics of interest and solve problems through active exploration and discovery
- Center time, where interesting choices may include language and writing experiences, reading, science exploration, creative art, cooking, math games, block building, home living, dramatic play, and manipulative activities
- Group time, including class discussions, music, drama, Spanish, and gross motor and physical activities
- Small group interaction, which differentiates instruction
- Individual time
St. Francis’s developmentally appropriate curriculum goes beyond state and national standards, offering:
- Balanced literacy practices: We strongly believe that an effective reading program exposes students to a wide variety of print, encourages students to actively use reading and writing as tools for learning, and offers a balance between phonics and whole language.
- Reggio-inspired/project-based learning: Our students develop 21st Century skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication, collaboration, leadership, and commitment, through hands-on exploration of topics that are student generated.
- Special programs: Primary School students engage in art, music, computer, drama, library, motor, and Spanish education.
- A model spiritual-development program: We demonstrate that spirituality is important in everyday life and provide a faith-based community in which students attend chapel at least once per week.
The Primary School offers a nurturing and supportive environment in which parents are welcomed and encouraged to participate in their child’s education.
- What grade levels are served in Primary School?
- What is the student-to-teacher ratio in Primary School?
- Are there reasons to enroll my child in school before kindergarten?
- How is the day organized?
- How is my child's learning measured?
- What is the Bridge program?
- What are the qualifications and experience of Primary School teachers?
- Is St. Francis's Primary School program accredited?
Thanks to our curriculum alignment with the St. Francis Lower and Middle Schools, we have found that children are better prepared to enter our kindergarten program after participating in our Primary II or Bridge program. While most other school programs target children over three, St. Francis relies on the most recent brain research findings to create a foundation that cumulatively builds throughout a child’s formative years. All phases of the curriculum prepare children for the next level of learning. Teachers plan rich experiences to enhance children’s brain development and their understanding of themselves, their friends, and the world around them.
Our faculty are highly trained in documenting learning, including collecting samples of work, photographing children “in the moment,” and recording mastery of a skill or concept. Following nationally scaled guidelines, we assess each child’s development and, through scheduled conferences, plan and set goals for the child’s particular needs and gifts.
St. Francis' Bridge program serves Primary School children who may be chronologically of kindergarten age, but who would be better served by another year of instruction before entering kindergarten. In addition, Bridge:
- Provides individualized curriculum that addresses developing academic and social needs
- Offers flexibility to accommodate students' needs yet increased structure to prepare for kindergarten
- Has the following restrictions:
- Class size—Minimum of ten students required to offer Bridge
- Age—Students' birthday must be within a six–month range of March through August
While St. Francis does not have a Bridge Program every year, the school will consider offering a Bridge Program when there is a sufficient number of mission-appropriate students interested. In years where there are not enough candidates to warrant a formal Bridge class, the school will consider mixing those students amongst an older group of Primary II students.
Our teaching faculty comprise the finest teaching teams in the city. On average, these educators have 18 years of experience. All of our lead teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree, while several lead and assistant teachers hold master’s degrees. Our faculty are committed to lifelong learning and are regularly involved in both teaching and professional development.
If we can help you in any way, please contact the Primary School Office (713.458.6166).