In first grade, new worlds open up for students, academically and socially, as they move to the end of the Lower School hallway and begin to use Gordon's campus in new ways.
The first grade classrooms open up onto Gordon's pond and the stream, which offer a new world for students to explore throughout the school day. First graders also travel to the Britt Nelson Dining Hall for lunch every day, and use the Creamer Science Lab for science class, bringing every corner of the campus into the first graders’ universe.
A first grader’s universe also expands for recess. For the first time, the Jeanne Picerne Playground, atop Gordon’s sledding hill, is part of their daily routine. This space includes extensive play structures and a pair of basketball half-courts, as well as unlandscaped wooded spaces where generations of Gordon students have played “elf village” and “fairy village” according to ever-evolving student-generated rules.
The first grade classrooms are next to the fourth grade ones, and first graders have a formal connection with their new neighbors through the buddy program, which pairs them each with fourth graders for thoughtfully designed adventures over the course of the school year. They’ll also see their fourth grade buddies in a leadership position at the regular Lower School town meetings. These monthly meetings feature presentations from Lower Schoolers of all ages, giving first graders their first taste of student-led formal presentations.
For a first grader, Gordon’s multicultural curriculum continues to focus on personal self-expression, identity development, and learning about the experiences of others tied throughout the year with new written challenges. Through read-alouds, poetry, class discussions, nonfiction writing and extended narrative assignments, students practice identifying their own strengths and passions, learn to tell their own family stories, and build the listening skills that allow them to authentically appreciate the different perspectives of their classmates.
This identity development will also contribute to a child's emerging sense of themselves as a learner. As they tackle the fundamentals of arithmetic, spelling and grammar, they will be asked to reflect on which strategies work best for them, and where their personal places of growth lie. When classwork turns to academic skills, students may find themselves working in smaller groups on different assignments to suit their own emerging strengths and challenges.
For the first time, students begin sharing their academic work with people outside of their classroom worlds. Family members visit the classroom in December and May for two author receptions, compelling students to complete, revise and publish original books and share them with a fresh audience. These proofread-and-bound books, which draw on students’ reflections about what makes their family special, provide students with a satisfying finished product and direct experience of what it means to be the author of one’s own story.