Lower School

We engage the whole child.

Cultivating confidence. Developing competency. Encouraging students to trust in their own ability.

We lead by example and inspire a passion for learning that lasts a lifetime.

At Summit, you're just as likely to see a presentation on a famous American, as you are to explore the out-of-box thinking behind the design and function of a balloon-powered car.

Here, curiosity is ignited and potential fulfilled.

Watch a short video showing examples of our lower school integrated curriculum. As lower school students experience our inspiring classroom spaces, they learn to create with technology: to draw, code, program, and build--all words from the language of design. Students learn problem solving, creativity, and logic. Along the way they'll cultivate resilience and empathy--and develop a strength of character that will help them navigate the challenges of our ever-changing world.



Summit School has state of the art facilities and a thoughtfully planned campus to provide a fertile learning environment to develop the whole child. In addition to our exceptional academic curriculum that feeds the mind, Summit School has specially designed dining rooms that support our curriculum and serve nutritious food to feed the body as well as carefully designed spaces such as art studios, the Athletic Center, music rooms, computer labs, a multimedia library, two theaters, and others that speak to the creative soul of the elementary school student.

Our classrooms are spacious and designed to provide areas for individual work, group collaborations, and whole class learning activities. Technology is integrated into every classroom. The overarching theme of "community" permeates each classroom so that children feel included, valued, and safe to take risks in order to grow.


Portrait of a Teacher

The faculty of Summit School commit to these characteristics as defining features of our work in serving the needs of our students, their families, our colleagues and the school.

As an educator striving to develop the full potential of each child, I...

  • Enjoy and respect children
  • Understand the important stages in child/adolescent development
  • Observe children, giving particular attention to the unique qualities of each child
  • Facilitate and guide, fostering discovery, thinking, creativity and the construction of knowledge
  • Teach for deep understanding by designing a curriculum organized around meaningful problems, projects, and questions
  • Encourage students to form habits of mind as mathematician, scientist, historian, reader, writer and artist
  • Cultivate in students Summit’s core competencies
  • Gauge students’ understanding through multiple forms of progress-oriented and authentic assessment
  • Honor children as citizens, encouraging them to participate in a democratic society

As a lifelong learner committed to professional growth, I...

  • Reflect on the art of teaching and study the science of learning, always seeking to apply what I learn
  • Engage in ongoing personal and professional growth, embracing its inherent change
  • Study the Progressive Education tradition and apply its evolving principles in my practice: both pedagogical & curricular
  • Strive for excellence in my planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities

As a fully engaged member of the Summit community, I...

  • Demonstrate an attitude of service and flexibility, and use strengths and talents in a variety of ways to benefit the entire school community
  • Actively engage parents in partnerships for the good of the child
  • Model and uphold Summit’s Code of Conduct
  • Participate positively and with joy in the community life of the school


Lower School children come to us with a healthy curiosity, readiness skills, an eagerness to learn, and abundant energy. Lower School students engage in an active learning process in which teachers provide direct instruction, guidance with hands-on activities that promote critical thinking, problem-solving, cooperative learning, and facilitation of child driven inquiry. Instruction is differentiated so that students will develop reading skills at a level commensurate with their readiness levels and abilities through whole group, flexible small group, and individual instruction. Students spend the majority of their day in the homeroom but also travel to other parts of the campus in the afternoons to work with specialists in the visual and performing arts, physical education, and laboratory experiences.


Language Arts classes consist of instruction in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Growth in one area supports growth in the other skills. Reading instruction at Summit School is primarily literature-based. Vocabulary and comprehension are developed within contextual reading activities.

Lower School uses Words Their Way, a literacy program that develops phonics, vocabulary, and spelling skills. Used in JK-5, it provides a consistent methodology through the Lower School experience. Words Their Way is a developmentally staged approach to word study that teaches students to look closely at words, to discover the spelling patterns, syllable structures, and spelling-meaning connections of the English language that are needed for reading and writing. The heart of the program is the 'sort,' the process of grouping words or pictures that represent sounds into specific categories. The program allows teachers to design an individualized word study program and cover the developmental states of children in JK-5.

Expressive writing skills are integrated into Language Arts instruction and throughout the day. Students are encouraged to write their own stories, songs, story maps, lists, poems, captions, letters, and a research-based speech. Students participate in a writing workshop in which they learn the “6+1 Traits of Writing.” The writing traits include: 1) formulating ideas, 2) organization, 3) voice, 4) word choice, 5) sentence fluency, 6) conventions, and presentation.


Summit’s math curriculum strives to develop in students an understanding of concepts, an ability to apply concepts, computational fluency, logical reasoning skills, and an active engagement in using math skills.

The Everyday Mathematics program is used in kindergarten through grade 5. As described by the authors of the program, “Everyday Mathematics emphasizes the application of mathematics to real world situations. Numbers, skills and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to situations and contexts that are relevant to our everyday lives. Everyday Mathematics also provides numerous methods for basic skills practice and review.” Conceptualization is strongly emphasized and topics are often repeated at different points throughout the program with increasing levels of difficulty.

In addition to Everyday Mathematics, Summit teachers use supplemental materials to meet the needs of specific students to ensure that each child is challenged to meet his/her full potential. Students needing either additional support or acceleration of skills participate in small groups either within the classroom or pull-out groups.

Social Studies and Science

Whether learning about countries, famous people, history, or current events, Summit School emphasizes communication skills, comparing and contrasting of ideas, critical thinking skills, and compassion and responsibility toward others and the Earth. Science topics are also incorporated into the social studies units.

The curriculum presents a balanced study of earth, physical, and biological sciences. Over the course of the year, topics include nutrition, the digestive system, insects, landforms, weather and climate, Earth materials, and forces and simple machines. Students attend science lab taught by a specialist once a week to participate in hands-on activities that relate to these topics. In addition, scientific principles and topics are taught across disciplines.

Studio Classes

Lower School students participate in specialty classes that develop alternate regions of the brain and provide skills that contribute to success in other areas. Students attend the classes for a block of consecutive days.

Students participate in art, music, pottery, and guidance classes during studio. Scheduling classes in blocks allows for more continuity in teaching and learning than with the traditional weekly scheduling of special classes. For example, if the children are working on a painting project that requires mixing paint colors, they can spend five days in a row on that project rather than meeting on one day and then having to wait a week to use those mixed colors.

World Language

Students study Spanish through games, songs, and direct instruction using an immersion approach in which the teacher speaks primarily in Spanish. Emphasis is placed on basic vocabulary and vocabulary associated with the curriculum. The Viva El Español program is used as a basis for the curriculum.


The Wellness curriculum emphasizes not only the physical development of the children, but also mental prowess, teamwork, and sportsmanship. Research shows that regular physical activity helps students concentrate and perform better on academic tasks.

The Athletic Center has two gymnasiums, a well-equipped gymnastics room, a dance studio, and a weight room for older students. Students work with a different P.E. teacher during each of three terms.


Technology is a tool and instruction is integrated into the core curriculum. For example, students learn word processing programs in writing classes, produce animation projects, learn digital design, and design and program robots.


Co-curricular opportunities include the Big Friends/Little Friends Mentoring Program, after school enrichment reading and math clubs, chess club, a band program, and "Summit Afternoon Academy" courses.


Find out more about Curriculum