Our upper elementary grades are marked by growing independence and applying both new skills and developmental maturities. Third graders are expected to put their hard-earned reading, writing, math, and cursive handwriting skills to work in many subjects, learning more PFS acronyms along the way: AEs, IRLs, POW. Home base is still in the West House, where as many classes as possible are taught in their Science West classroom, creating a transition between the cozy rooms of first and second grade and the fully chime-scheduled fourth grade. Binders in hand, third graders joyously navigate the hallways, and learn collaboratively with the older students in Morning Gathering, literature groups, some subject area classes, and recess clubs. In fourth grade, students move to new advisors, divided between three 4th/5th advisory groups in the Schoolhouse, and take on the expectations of almost 10 teachers, changing rooms almost every period. Technology begins to be part of their school day, with new network computer accounts and a two-year Information Skills curriculum that leads toward keyboarding, Microsoft Word, search engine and PowerPoint competence. Fifth graders build on the multiple competencies achieved in fourth. They are remarkably sure masters of their upper elementary universe, stretch academically once again, and by mid-winter, are looking forward to joining the older students in their sixth to eighth grade world.
Throughout these important years, and always at this Quaker school, taking care of each other and ourselves is our primary goal. Each week, these grade levels reserve a class period for discussions and activities about friendships, resolving conflicts, and practicing interpersonal skills. Teachers and advisors remain acutely aware of the unique developmental needs of this age group and create a secure environment for all to learn and play and grow.