Language Arts in grades one through four incorporates a variety of teaching modalities. The teachers provide differentiated instruction through targeted whole class, small group, and one-on-one instruction. Students develop literacy skills through a Common Core-based curriculum that includes phonics, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Students read and write both literature and information texts, exploring different genres as they build skills and develop a lifelong love for literacy. Teachers implement Thinking Maps to engage students in the writing process as they practice creative and effective communication in the 21st century.
The math curriculum targets Common Core standards to prepare creative mathematicians. It is strategy-driven and hands-on, enabling students to reach their potential through small group instruction using technology and manipulatives. The lower school’s vertically aligned curriculum focuses on the development of each students’ number sense, measurement, geometry, and data analysis skills.
Teachers promote student awareness in all of the sciences (life, earth, and physical) through experimentation, field trips, and engaging discussion. Students learn first-hand and become personally responsible for a variety of living things. Hands-on physical science activities are adapted to meet student curiosity and enjoyment of learning. The lower school works collaboratively to develop and maintain a garden, which serves as both an outdoor learning space and an example of stewardship and caring for God’s creations. Students learn not just the what of science, but the why, becoming responsible, socially-conscious scientists in the process.
The Social Studies curriculum promotes community building and cultural awareness, preparing students to be global citizens. Teachers use a variety of nonfiction and historical fiction texts to build engagement and help students access different points of views, both from history and from around the world. Students are exposed to history, geography, economics, politics, and government. Students’ awareness of current events is highlighted through class discussion in which stewardship and individual responsibility are intertwined.
Our Catholic faith is lived in every facet of each day. The religion curriculum spirals through the grades to deepen students’ understanding and faith life experiences during their NDA journey. First Grade explores God’s goodness and provident care (God is Good); Second Grade learns about God’s forgiveness as students prepare for First Reconciliation (God Cares for Us); Third Grade deepens their faith through the sacrament of Holy Eucharist (We Believe); and Fourth Grade learns that God guides us through the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes (God Guides Us). Students are called to embrace the Catholic identity of the school while also learning about religion around the world and the different cultures that make up the rich tapestry of NDA’s student population.
Music focuses on all aspects of musicianship in order to give students social, mental and physical skills they need to appreciate music. Participation in the Mass and concerts is fostered in the classroom through the study of instruments, genres, singing, listening, analysis, multiculturalism, and musicianship. Students study notation, history, and theory in a tiered curriculum giving them the knowledge and tools for music learning and participation throughout their lives. They also prepare for performances and learn transferable skills for demonstrating professionalism in a variety of spaces.
Visual Arts allow young artists to explore a variety of different artistic techniques while working towards mastery of color, value, and form. In this studio-based class, students will learn the fundamental aspects of composition and design and understand how to establish cohesive and dynamic works of art. Students are provided with opportunities to become familiar with historic and contemporary art, while observing these artistic elements in action and developing their personal preferences.
The lower school SPARK Physical Education program is a research-based standards driven curriculum. The SPARK PE program integrates health education, cardio workouts, and skills-based activities that build on each other to prepare students to stay fit and play organized sports in the middle school and high school years. Curriculum and all equipment needed to implement the SPARK PE program are updated and purchased yearly to ensure consistent implementation of the goals embedded in the program. Students work hard and play hard during PE. But most importantly, they know and understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle, sportsmanship, and reaching their goals as a result of this experience.
The lower school Spanish program focuses on developing a love of language acquisition, an appreciation for different cultures, and a foundation in the oral and receptive acquisition of the Spanish language. Students develop a strong vocabulary, an ear for the language, and begin to communicate in the second language through receptive, oral, and written skills. Children in the lower school Spanish class enjoy learning the language through music, games, projects, visual media and interactions with fellow students in the classroom.
Teachers in grades one through four have iPads readily available to them through the use of in-class carts. This allows teachers to use a variety of educational apps, including iXL, Khan Academy, Spelling City, Epic!, and Google Classroom in their classrooms. A technology curriculum is taught to ensure the safe and proper use of equipment while students are also learning skills needed for creating digital content. Teachers integrate technology into everyday lessons at school and at home. In class, students take advantage of a variety of educational programs that differentiate instruction, engage them in the material, and enhance their 21st century technology skills.
Students participate in schoolwide projects and activities. With our focus on service and stewardship, each grade has a service organization that they support throughout the year, including Little Ripples, Adopt a Seminarian, Pencils of Promise, CoachArt and the Adopt-a-Class Scholarship program for fourth graders visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano. Students understand and appreciate that they have a moral responsibility to help those in need and live out the Catholic faith through acts of charity.
Students engage in daily lessons across all subject areas through hands-on activities in centers, student and teacher-led discussions, and extensive use of technology. Both in-class and onsite field trips allow students to experience, discover, and connect their learning to the real world. Culturally enriching experiences include visits to San Juan Capistrano Mission, the California Science Center, Underwood Farms and visits from Local Fire Stations, Mystery Readers in First Grade, and high school subject-specific experts. Many lessons are structured for students to experience the work themselves and engage in authentic real-world problem solving, from observing the life cycle of the butterfly to growing and maintaining a garden on campus.
Recess and Lunch
Our daily schedule includes a snack time and recess, as well as lunch with a playtime. Students bring a snack from home and can order a hot lunch or bring lunch. Students are in grade level groups for safety on the yard and can enjoy organized games of soccer, basketball or football, as well as independent activities of jump ropes and hula hoops. Our brand new, state of the art play structure is available to all students and is designed to promote creativity and cooperation.