Language Arts in grades one through four incorporates a variety of teaching modalities. The teachers focus on individual student abilities with small group, targeted instruction. Students practice all forms of reading which include read-alouds and silent reading throughout the day in all subjects, developing a love of reading and literature. The Write From the Beginning program exposes students to all forms of writing, making them effective and creative communicators.
The math curriculum is strategy-driven, hands-on, and enables students to reach their potential through small group instruction using technology and manipulatives. The teachers have been trained in Cognitive Guided Instruction to strengthen students’ critical thinking skills. 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.
Social Studies promotes community building and cultural awareness. Teachers use a variety of nonfiction and historical fiction literature to bring history alive and relatable. Students awareness of current events are 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).
Music, led by Ms. Mary Haughie, 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 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.
Visual Arts, led by Mrs. Heather Abreu, allows young artists to explore a variety of different artistic techniques while working towards mastery of color value, types of line and shape, pattern, rhythm, balance, emphasis, and unity in their own art. Students are given creative opportunities to experience historic and current art while observing these artistic elements and principles, and developing personal preferences.
The lower school SPARKE physical education program is a researchbased standards driven curriculum. The SPARKE 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. PE teachers are trained yearly at the SPARKE Institute in San Diego. Curriculum and all equipment needed to implement the SPARKE program are updated and purchased yearly to ensure a 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 lifestyles, 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 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.
Technology Teachers in grades one through four have iPads readily available to them through the use of in-class carts. This allows teachers to use programs from McGraw-Hill, iXL, and Spelling City in their classrooms. A technology curriculum is taught to ensure 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 differentiates instruction, engages them in the material, and enhances their 21st century technology skills.
First through Fourth Grades participate in schoolwide projects and activities. With our focus on service and stewardship, each grade has a charity they support throughout the year, including AdoptaPriest, The Little Sisters of the Poor, St. Jude’s, and Adopt-a-Class Scholarship program for our fourth grade visit to Mission San Juan Capistrano. Students understand and appreciate that they have a moral responsibility to help those in need.
Students engage in daily lessons across all subject areas through handson activities in centers, student and teacherled discussions, and extensive use of technology. Both inclass 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, Tumbleweed Camp, Tree People, 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 problemsolving, 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 a 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 play structure is available to our younger students.