Academics
Lower School

Our Everyday

Every day in the Lower School is filled with eager and engaged students, inspiring teachers, the joy of learning, exploration and fun.

Chapel

All Lower School students begin their day, Monday – Thursday, coming together in the peaceful and centering setting of Chapel. They enter the doors and are greeted by teachers and administrators and sit with their classmates and teacher. In the Episcopal tradition, they sing, learn from a daily homily, pray, reflect and start the day anew. All are welcome and encouraged to participate, and often other religious holidays and traditions are observed.
 
St. Margaret’s chaplains incorporate one of our six character words, trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship, into the homily messages. There are times each month when homilies are delivered by guest faculty and staff. Each Monday, our student leadership teams deliver video presentations including events for the week, character trait reminders and special announcements. Beginning in grade 3, students serve as acolytes, readers, and assist with the Chapel technology. It is just one of many leadership opportunities in the Lower School.

Classroom Time

Following Chapel, students return to the classroom where they take part in a classroom meeting to connect with their teachers, classmates and the day’s work ahead.  The daily schedule is purposefully designed for each grade level to allow for the right amount of consecutive classroom learning as well as breaks throughout the day in the form of snack, recess, lunch and special subject classes.
 
The morning consists of classroom instruction and one of the eight special subject classes: science, ICE Lab/STEM, library, Spanish language, music, visual art, The Good Shepherd Program, and physical education. Students take a break for snack and play time. They participate in a number of outdoor activities during recess and lunch including:  basketball, handball, soccer, kickball, hopscotch, tetherball, reading, or in the Exploration Zone complete with arts and crafts, LEGOs, builder blocks, bean bags, board games and more.  We realize that students need a variety of options to choose from each day during their free time.
 
After recess, most students have a large block for math.  The Lower School uses the Everyday Math program including math fact fluency, computer games and extensions. 
 
In grades kindergarten through 2, students play first and eat second.  We have found that the little ones have such great desire to play that they often forget or choose not to eat.  By having them eat second, they have ample time, are already played out and ready to eat. Grade 3-5 eat first and play afterward.
 
Lunch is followed by another large consecutive block of time for English Language Arts instruction.  In Kindergarten through grade 3, students are taught using the Houghton Mifflin basal text series along with novel studies beginning in grade 2.  Students rotate through guided reading centers, spelling and computers.  Grade 4 uses the Jr. Great Book series along with leveled readers, and grade 5 uses the Reading and Writing Project from Columbia University Teacher’s College to guide students through leveled readers.
 
Students then attend another of their 8 special subject classes and return for the Teacher’s College Writing Project.  This program utilizes mini workshops focusing on specific writing skills that are then applied to each student’s individual writing piece.  Students write for at least 30 minutes every day. 

Classroom Design

Lower School classrooms were completely remodeled in 2014, specially designed for young learners. Each classroom is equipped with moveable tables and chairs to foster quick reorganization of the classroom for different kinds of activities and instruction. A classroom can be set in rows facing the front of the classroom, grouped into tables for cooperative work, or even stacked within minutes for a completely open floor in which students can be seated on the carpet for a number of activities. Each classroom has custom designed cubbies or lockers to house student books, sweaters, supplies and personal items. In order to reduce distractions within the classrooms, each room has a ‘distraction free’ wall in which only the interactive white boards (Promethean) are present. All other items are purposefully beautifully displayed on the thematic bulletin boards around the room.
 
Students use laptops in grades K-2 and one-to-one Surface Tablets in grades 3-5, and classrooms are equipped with document cameras.

PAWsitive Tartans!

We are committed to the social, emotional and academic growth of each and every child.  In terms of social growth, we have adopted the nationwide Positive Behavior Support (PBS) system in which pro-social behavior is thoughtfully taught to each student.  Students participate in a “Passport Walk” twice a year.  It is during these times, that expected behaviors in the classroom, Chapel, outdoors, on the bus, etc., are reinforced.  Students are recognized with PAWsitives whenever they are seen doing the right thing, which is often and all over!  They are then able to redeem these PAWsitives for special privileges throughout the year.

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An independent preschool through grade 12 college-preparatory day school in Orange County.
St. Margaret’s Episcopal School
31641 La Novia Avenue
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
949.661.0108