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Academic Program

Welcome to the Presidio Hill lower school classroom...

You can find information here about the lower school academic program, and spotlight features for each class.

Transitional Kindergarten

Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is an exciting first step in a youngster's elementary school life. Nurturing each child's natural curiosity, interests and talents is at the heart of Presidio Hill School's TK curriculum.

Students enjoy a program in which both nonfiction and fiction books are read aloud to them, helping them to build a strong foundation for reading development, listening and comprehension skills. Math concepts, including number sense, counting, estimation and measurement, are explored. The study of animal habitats, plant life and the forces of nature introduce students to scientific concepts. Visits to local resources, such as Presidio National Park, museums and farms, further enhance classroom learning. Students learn to become members of the school community, participating in composting, recycling, and care of the classroom and playgrounds.

An example of the hands-on learning that TK students enjoy is the Transitional Kindergarten Market. Each year the TK class studies food and farms and devises a community event to present in the spring. In past years, students ate their way through a food and nutrition unit that ended with a very special market. Read more.

TK Feature

TK Sample Schedule (PDF)


The kindergarten year is a magical one, and at Presidio Hill School we focus on the daily delights and discoveries that naturally unfold. With an undercurrent of community building and cultivating the strength and kindness of each individual child, the kindergarten experience is collaborative, mutable, and steeped in mindful self-discovery. Students at the kindergarten age are learning to explore and engage in the world around them in deeper, more meaningful ways. We work to establish clear structure and routines, frequently discussing important facts of life (such as logical consequences), which help students take risks and try on new behaviors in a safe, trustful environment. In kindergarten the students learn how to share their voices and opinions with the understanding that mistakes and disagreements are an essential part of learning.

John Dewey said, “Education is not preparation for life, it is life itself,” and we strive to echo that sentiment in our daily kindergarten agenda. Students have class jobs, strengthen their ability to solve problems independently, and build awareness of their own place within the community. We make decisions as a group, sharing ideas and listening to each other’s reasoning. Within the first six weeks of school the class will create the year’s job chart and class agreements, name their small groups, and decide the topics of many of our study units.

Throughout the year our curriculum is broken down into trimesters. We build our framework from an amalgam of resources including the California State Content Standards, benchmarks created by the Presidio Hill School faculty, school-wide curriculum (such as Investigations for math and Wilson Fundations for literacy) and, perhaps most important, the natural trajectory of student learning. As we engage in a physical science unit, for example, a particular class may discover a shared fascination for bridges. The teachers will then work the content standards and benchmarks into the lesson planning and allow the curiosity and enthusiasm for understanding and learning about bridges to propel an authentic and exciting learning experience.

One our favorites among the great leaders and thinkers in progressive education is Deborah Meier. She has written many books, including The Power of Their Ideas, in which she describes key characteristics of a good school environment. She spells out that the curriculum is rich and interesting and full of powerful ideas. She explains that these experiences are designed to inspire students with “the desire to know more” and that the learning “...sustains students' natural drive to make sense of the world and trusts in their capacity to have an impact upon it.” These themes of inspiration, desire, natural drive, and trust in the impact each child can have are what motivate us as educators in everything we do. Read more.

K Feature

K Sample Schedule (PDF)

First Grade

First grade is a fun and challenging journey. An emphasis on problem solving and the application of skills in new contexts make for an exciting year of discovery. Students are encouraged to explore their interests, learn from their mistakes, and grow as unique individuals.

In first grade, a literacy workshop approach—which incorporates mini-lessons, small group work, sharing, and individual time with the teacher—supports students’ development as strong, confident readers and writers. Problem solving and flexible thinking are emphasized as students are introduced to math concepts such as pattern recognition, geometry, addition, subtraction, measurement, algebraic thinking, place value and more.

An inquiry-based science and social studies curriculum challenges students to make observations, apply prior knowledge, ask research questions, create hypotheses, use materials and methods, collect data, analyze results, construct conclusions and prepare presentations. Topics may include: Native Americans, astronomy, oceans and trees. Community service, interpersonal relationship skills, connection to nature, and multiculturalism through the lense of hobbies and affiliations are also part of the social studies curriculum. First graders spend the first half of the year working with fifth-grade buddies, and the second half of the year with fourth-grade buddies. These powerful relationships provide opportunities to share knowledge across grades and build a strong sense of community throughout the school.

Forest Fridays are a good example of the engaging curriculum offered in first grade. Students spend most Fridays immersed in the natural world of the Presidio National Park learning about everything from native and edible plants to how to identify animal footprints.  Read more.

1st Grade Feature

1st Grade Sample Schedule (PDF)

Second Grade

Second grade is a magical year for learning and social/emotional growth. Students make the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” During reader’s workshop, students are taught how to choose “just right” books so they can read self-selected literature throughout the year. They work on building their reading stamina so they can work independently on their personal reading goals during the workshop. This allows the teacher to teach individual and small groups of students important reading strategies in the areas of comprehension, accuracy, fluency and vocabulary. In Writer’s Workshop, second graders write narrative pieces, opinion pieces about their favorite books, nonfiction and poetry pieces. Student choice is at the forefront of all literacy activities.

Students maintain a science journal with weekly science labs, and they learn how to record their thinking and procedures during experiments. We use a variety of science curricula (FOSS, Engineering is Elementary, GEMS and Life Lab from UC Santa Cruz) that integrate with our current units of study. In math, students learn to apply computation skills to solve problems with an emphasis on the mathematical practice standards. Place value, regrouping, telling time, fractions, measuring and money skills are taught using concrete materials and with games and other tasks.

There is an emphasis on project-based learning in social studies, science and design thinking as students explore real world problems such as how food gets to our dinner table, how to design a water filter to clean water in third world countries, and how to design a gadget that makes art. These essential questions promote the skills of curiosity and creativity in the second grade classroom and beyond.

There are weekly friendship workshops to support students with kindness, empathy, and learning tools such as executive function skills. Students are taught to advocate for themselves whenever possible and act as upstanders when they observe unkindness on the playground. Class meetings are used to problem solve with each other when the class is struggling with a particular social/emotional issue. Read more.

2nd Grade Feature

2nd Grade Sample Schedule (PDF)

Third Grade

Third grade is an extraordinary time as students continue developing their individual voices and their ability to express themselves. An integrated and engaging curriculum encourages students to deepen their understanding of the interconnectedness of the world and their place in it.

From People in Profile, to the study of how humans across the globe communicate, third graders enjoy exploring people and places and the connections we all share. People In Profile, a joint biographical research project with the fourth grade, challenges students to understand how the lives and actions of individuals affect the lives of others over time.

Third graders' study of communities, both past and present, local and distant, further develops an understanding of the interconnectedness of our world. In language arts, comprehension is the focus as students develop the ability to recognize personal connections to the text. Third graders are also introduced to editing and cursive handwriting. Students explore geology, weather and our solar system as part of earth science. For natural sciences, they look at adaptations and biomes. For the physical science unit, we look at force, motion, simple machines and energy. In math, we cover multiplication and division, fractions, computations and multi-step problems.

As students transition from enthusiastic 8-year-olds to 9-year-olds, some social changes begin to occur. Students often become highly competitive, self-aware and impatient. They can be critical and individualistic. As these developmental changes take place, the third grade classroom becomes a refuge for the 9-year-old. Third graders are encouraged to work things out with their peers and practice kindness in the classroom. As third graders explore the boundaries with social graces and become more self aware, character education becomes a priority of the classroom. This is a year when we begin to tackle issues of bullying as it links to self-awareness, self-image and competitiveness. Read more.

3rd Grade Feature

3rd Grade Sample Schedule (PDF)

Fourth Grade

Fourth grade is a time to explore who you are, what you stand for, and how to reach your goals. In fourth grade students spend time discussing literature, writing informational and opinion essays, and building confidence with multiplication and division. In fourth grade, literacy is a journey through language.

Using workshop models, teachers work one-on-one with individual students, meeting them where they are and taking them as far as they can go. Social Studies and Science are discovered through real world simulations, hands-on experiments, and projects based around student choice. Fourth graders study California history from the perspective of nondominant cultures. Through the lenses of global sustainability and environmental conservation, students investigate earth’s systems, energy, and organism structure and processes. During math, students spend at least an hour learning new concepts, playing games, and practicing strategies independently. Students work with partners and groups to explore math ideas and stretch their math thinking. Fourth graders strengthen their knowledge of algebraic concepts, number sense, and geometric theorems.

Fourth grade is also a time a self discovery. Students learn about their own identity, diversity of others, seeking justice, and taking action for social justice. Fourth graders spend time focusing on who they are as individuals and how individuals come together to make a kind, sustainable, just community. Students are constantly practicing self reflection and mindfulness in order to set goals.

For an in-depth look at fourth grade curriculum, check out our People in Profile Unit. Read more.

4th Grade Feature

4th Grade Sample Schedule (PDF)

Fifth Grade

Students continue developing confidence in their ability to apply what they know in new and more complex contexts. As they look ahead to the transition to middle school, fifth grade students exercise greater independence and assume greater responsibility within the school community.

Fifth graders develop into independent, confident readers and participate in critical analysis and discussions of shared reading. During group discussions, respect and responsibility are emphasized. Word processing stresses the conventional editing process, correct spelling and grammar. Through current events, field trips and other activities, students explore civics, colonial America, immigration, U.S. geography and more.

Math skills continue to be framed in problem-solving scenarios. Students learn percents, decimals, fractions, two- and three-dimensional geometry among other math skills. Basic algebraic concepts are introduced in fifth grade.

Engaging in a variety of collaborative, hands-on activities, students employ the scientific method in their study of scientific units including astronomy, archeology, physics, properties of matter, energy and electricity, to name a few.

Angel Island and Immigration is a good representation of the engaging learning taking place in the fifth-grade classroom.  Read more.

5th Grade Feature

5th Grade Sample Schedule (PDF)