St. Matthew's Lower School (Kindergarten-4th Grade) consists of one class at each grade level. Each class is self-contained and team-taught by educators who take responsibility for planning, teaching, and monitoring the success of all learners in the class. The team of full-time homeroom teachers work together and share their expertise to build a dynamic learning environment at each grade level. Homeroom teachers have access to breakout rooms, which allow teachers to work with smaller groups and/or individuals.
Our curriculum is rooted in inquiry and subject areas are connected through essential questions. This integrated curriculum provides a strong foundation in literature-based reading, phonics, writing, hands-on mathematics, and social studies, and it also allows for personalized learning by creating space for individual student questioning. Specialist teachers also work with students during the week in the areas of art, music, science, innovation, library, and physical education. Social-emotional learning is woven in throughout the day with regular morning meetings and direct lessons in both intra and interpersonal skills. The learning environment is both challenging and nurturing, placing strong emphasis on academics as well as building character and learning through service to others. Children in our Lower School develop curiosity, think critically, work collaboratively with others, find joy in learning and solving problems, and express creativity and ingenuity.
Hours and Schedule
The Lower School day runs from 8:20 am - 3:00 pm. There are also options for extended days. The After-School Enrichment Program offers classes in a variety of subjects Monday-Thursday from 3:15 - 4:15 pm.
After-School Care is also available Monday - Friday from 3:00 - 5:00 pm.
A Typical Week in Lower School:
In addition to the core subjects taught by homeroom teachers (language arts, math and social studies), science, art, music, innovation, library, religion, and physical education are very important elements of the Lower School program. These subjects, though woven into homeroom activities, are also regularly scheduled each week and taught by teachers who have professional backgrounds in their specialty.
During the school day, a strong emphasis is placed on the development and refinement of the ability to read, an effort that exposes students to high-quality literature as well as phonics and word analysis skills. Value is placed on the knowledge and pleasure that reading provides. Creative and expository writing activities emphasize each child’s authorship and the mastery of the protocols of composition while promoting the ability to communicate ideas effectively.
A dedicated Lower School Learning Specialist delivers direct support to students during their literacy classes and provides consultation and strategies for differentiation within the classroom. Three times per year they conduct literacy screenings for all students in Kindergarten through 4th Grade. Using this data, along with observations from the teachers, they identify students who may need additional learning support or challenge. Together with our School Counselor they meet with teachers once a week to strategize and develop support plans.
The mathematics curriculum, Everyday Math, aims to develop in each student a strong understanding of mathematical concepts and the mastery of facts. Instruction includes manipulatives, math games, cooperative learning, and problem solving in journal work. Students are challenged to maintain open minds, be curious, think divergently, make intelligent guesses, and problem-solve for everyday situations.
Social studies integrates activities from multiple disciplines around meaningful topics and points of focus. The goal of the social studies program is to help children understand the many communities – both near and far, present and past – to which they are related, and the responsibilities that are associated with those relationships.
Science allows the students to investigate and appreciate the world around them. A Lower School science teacher plans experiments and other activities with the students in the science lab, in their classrooms, or in the natural environment of the school’s twenty-eight acre campus.
In art, students work in small groups to develop self-expression and the appreciation of one’s own creativity as well as that of others. Students are exposed to and experience basic techniques and explore different mediums.
Innovation is used to enhance and support the core curriculum. Students utilize various tools from laptops and iPads to robots, 3D pens and microprocessors, both in the classroom and in the dedicated Lower School innovation lab (LaunchPad). Each year students build upon their knowledge of skills and concepts learned with the goal of preparing students for Middle School.
Music and movement activities provide children with joyful, engaging musical experiences to help develop each student's ability to become a life-long music maker and an informed music listener. Students are involved in lessons and activities that incorporate active music making, musical skills and concepts, as well as preparation for school performances.
Daily skills-based classes are taught in a developmentally appropriate manner with a focus on personal fitness, and the development and refinement of basic motor skills. A strong emphasis is placed on the cultivation of attitudes of cooperation, mutual support, and sportsmanship.
Library time is devoted to stories, projects, locating and checking out books, learning library skills and reading. Specialists foster an interest and joy for reading to help develop positive, life-long habits that reinforce literacy skills.
Chapel and Service Learning
The School Chaplain visits Kindergarten through 2nd Grade to prepare for special chapels and seasons of the church year. Religion classes begin in 3rd Grade with a focus on spiritual development and community service. Fourth Graders lead the weekly K-4 chapel service. In addition, students attend the weekly K-8 chapel led by the Head of School, where each grade shares classroom news and periodically makes a presentation to the entire school.
A vital part of each child’s education at St. Matthew’s Parish School is participation in our grade-level and school-wide Service Learning programs.
Kindergarten cares for others by holding lemonade stand fundraisers to benefit our friends at St. Paul’s School in Haiti, and by visiting the elderly for a Valentine’s Day concert at the WISE and Healthy Aging Adult Day Service Center in Santa Monica.
Traditions like “Bubs” the class bear, the annual Teddy Bear picnic, animal reports and the Community Helpers play are the foundation for the 1st Grade’s service learning project. Students hold a recycling drive and donate all proceeds to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Micro-Finance Program - which currently assists families at St. Paul’s School in Haiti to become community helpers and farmers.
2nd Grade social studies explores natural habitats including the ocean and rain forests. Second graders serve as leaders for the School’s relationship with Heal the Bay, giving three opportunities for students to help clean up our local beach.
The 3rd Grade social studies units on world geography, the Los Angeles community, economics, and the human body all provide opportunities to explore how different social service organizations help people who don’t have ready access to health care, as well as children who have educational challenges. A read-a-thon raises funds for malaria prevention in Malawi through the GAIA Foundation, an art and school supply ingathering at Christmastime supports the work of the Neighborhood Youth Association in Venice, and personal first aid kits help clients of the Downtown Women’s Center.
In order to develop an understanding of the problem of local hunger, 4th Grade students support the work of the Westside Food Bank, a warehouse that distributes food to 65 social service organizations on the Westside of LA. Issues of global hunger are explored alongside studies in science about nutrition. The funds raised have helped implement a hot lunch program at St. Paul’s, our partner school in Haiti.