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The Lake: Elementary 3-5

Play-based learning gradually shifts toward project-based learning as the child's curiosity grows about the world around them.

Welcome to our Lake classrooms! At The Children’s School, we believe that children learn best in a child-centered, unpressured environment that allows each child’s development to unfold at its own pace. In elementary school, that means play-based learning evolves to incorporate more project-based learning as the child's curiosity about the world around them grows.


Children learn through play and through their interactions with the world around them. They learn best by doing rather than just listening to explanations of how to do something. Our teachers are guides that offer patient, thoughtful scaffolding – revisiting essential ideas over time and at different developmental levels in order to help the students build new layers of complexity onto their existing knowledge.


At The Children’s School, students are active participants in their own learning. It is the teacher’s role to guide their curiosity and help them find meaning through intrinsic motivation. At times, the teacher will direct the learning activity and at other times during the day, the children are given opportunities to choose from a selection of activities. They may work on publishing their stories, solving a problem in their math journals, playing with blocks, or working with other students on a group project.


As children grow, they embrace their responsibilities and learn to manage their own work. Teachers intersperse skill development into thematic investigations to assure the proper scaffolding of student growth in a given area of study. For example, during an eight-week project on pioneers, a teacher at The Children’s School would integrate skill development in research, reading, writing, math, science, art, and social studies by guiding the children’s natural excitement and curiosity about pioneer life.

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"Amusement Park Rides" -- Project Work in a Lake Classroom

Sometimes, projects do a "deep dive" into one academic subject, while bringing in others only slightly. For example, our fourth graders wanted to explore the engineering behind amusement park rides -- especially roller coasters. The topic opened a wide door into the world of math and physics, with lots of opportunity for hands-on building and classroom experiments.

Newton's laws of motion dominated the classroom as students hunted for the answers to questions on what makes a good amusement park ride and what keeps a ride safe for passengers. In addition to exploring the history of amusement park rides, they built their own testing grounds through marble runs, toy car ramps, and a host of model rides to compare and measure and understand the rules of speed, force, momentum, trajectory, the effects of friction, and more.

In their final presentation, the students wrote and performed their own skit that gave life and personality to each law of motion. The characters were forced to collaborate with each other during an epic and challenging roller coaster ride, illustrating each physics principle for the audience. In addition, the class prepared a jeopardy-style group game for the audience to test their knowledge after the skit on how well they'd learned the laws of motion for themselves! Spectators then moved into the classroom to see demonstrations of each student's individual project: each child had constructed their own amusement park ride or game that illustrated one or more of the laws of physics.

"I love the autonomy the children have to explore what's interesting to them and what feels right in the moment. "
Rachel S., TCS Parent

A TYpical Day in a Lake Classroom

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Each day, our teachers write the class schedule on the board, making time for project-work, and instruction in academic subjects. Our teachers are also mindful of each individual student's personal and academic goals in addition to the group's goals. These are layered into a framework that meets all state academic standards, incorporates recreation and free play, and includes weekly courses in art, music, library, and physical wellness.

Here's what your child might experience in a typical day in an elementary 3-5 classroom:

8:45 Morning Math

Morning Math: Students start their day with a math task, activity, or puzzle. It may be a review from yesterday’s math lesson, a real-life problem tied to project work, or a brain teaser.

9:00 Group Gathering

Students join the entire school for morning announcements led by a student.

9:15 Morning Meeting

Students meet on the rug to eat a snack if they wish and go over the day’s schedule.

9:30 Math

The teacher offers direct instruction on a math skill or concept, followed by time for students to practice, often through a fun game or other hands-on activity.

10:15 All-School Class

Each week, students attend classes in Physical Wellness, Music, Recorder, Art, or Library.

11:00 Project Work

Students work individually or in small groups to plan and execute large-scale projects around learning topics they have helped choose.

11:30 Recess

Students choose from different indoor and outdoor play options or quiet spaces.

12:00 Lunch

Students eat in classrooms. Two days each week, during all-school lunch, they may go to any classroom in the school for lunch. On other days, they eat in their own classrooms. A full half-hour assures that students are not rushed and can enjoy conversation and “breaking bread” together with friends and teachers.


12:30 Independent Reading or Book Club

Students read a fiction or non-fiction text of their own choosing or participate in a literature circle with peers.

1:45 Writing

Students write, edit, illustrate, and publish their own original stories, which become part of the classroom’s book collection.

2:30 Choice

Free play. Students choose from games, puzzles, art activities, block play, and more. Often students use this time to pursue their own individual “projects,” such as Lego building, drawing, or sewing

3:00 Read-Aloud
Students listen and discuss fiction or non-fiction read-aloud, often on a social justice theme and/or related to project work.


3:15 Dismissal and Pick-Up by Parents/Guardians

(Optional: TCS offers before and after-school programs. Learn more.)

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