Through geography, humanities and history, students explore the diversity of their school, community, city, country and world. The boys are expected to develop an understanding of the complexity of the environment in which they live. Discussions and activities are designed to foster a capacity for thoughtful and intelligent communication. The curriculum challenges boys to develop responsible leadership skills and independent thinking. It is structured to emphasize concern and respect for each individual, as well as communities and cultures. Community service activities, undertaken when appropriate, encourage students to be responsible and caring citizens. At one point in the school year, the full lower school division will study one culture in depth.
To help the boys become independent, self-reliant and sensitive to the needs of others, the year begins by exploring the Browning community and the ways in which individuals function as part of that community. Students explore what it means to be a Browning gentleman and a good friend and citizen in their school community. Further, Kindergarten students also investigate various theme units throughout the school year. These units allow the boys to explore various topics of interest, while incorporating many different components of the curriculum such as math, science, and writing. The units of study also encourage the development of a curious mind that is open to pursuing new knowledge. It gives the boys the skills to ask questions and process new information. Often the themes are related to seasons or holidays, such as apples, Thanksgiving and winter holiday traditions, and penguins in the winter. We also allow the boys’ interest guide us in developing new themes, particularly during the Spring semester.
Boys begin an in-depth exploration of their environment by studying themselves and their families. Throughout their investigations, boys are exposed to the idea of accepting differences in themselves and others. They practice solving their own disputes using conflict resolution and compromise as they learn to get along in a group setting. A unit entitled “The Family” explores the many roles people play within a family. Another unit on “The Neighborhood” explores the idea of community and recognizes the usefulness and importance of people with whom the students may come in contact every day. These activities become an important part of the overall understanding of the many cultural differences students will experience throughout their lives. In conjunction with these studies, geography and beginning map skills are introduced. Discussions of major holidays, historical figures, heroes and current events, supported by field trips, invite the boys to become responsible citizens of the world.
Grade two students begin the year by learning about how we govern ourselves within our class, school, and general communities. We discuss rights, rules, and the responsibilities of citizens towards one another, followed by an inquiry into different types of government and how the U.S. government works. We study orientation, mapping tools, cardinal directions, and the interpretation of information from a spatial perspective, thinking about how maps influence our everyday lives. From mapping, students begin an inquiry into the 50 states and find evidence for how geography, climate, and natural resources influence the lifestyles and cultures of people. Students consider the questions - what makes a state different and unique? And, how does where we live influence how we live? Our final unit will have students delving into an exploration of New York City neighborhoods and boroughs, learning about the factors that influence the culture of a neighborhood, as well as in which communities residents decide to live. Students will develop research, presentation, and collaborative skills throughout the year, with each unit enriched by field trips, guest presenters, and culminating projects that show the depth of their understanding.
Students are encouraged to participate in large and small group activities that will help them discover the value of teamwork and cooperation. Students continue to learn to read and use maps. Field trips, art, music and literature are used to enhance and enrich the curriculum. An ongoing chronological study of colonial America is conducted throughout the school year beginning with the Native Americans then moving to the Pilgrims, one of the first groups of people who settled in the New World and ending the year with the Dutch who began a life in New Amsterdam, which is present day New York City. Throughout the year, students demonstrate their understanding of the material taught in diverse ways. For example, journal writing is done with the study of the Pilgrims, expository essays are written with the study of Native Americans, and mini research projects are completed when learning about colonial New Amsterdam. In addition, small quizzes and tests are administered to check for understanding.
Research skills and strategies are taught by studying interdisciplinary units: Human DIgnity and the American Dream, Conflict and Change (Revolutions), and Courage and Perseverance (Movements). Major points of study include: causes, events, results and how certain individuals influenced and affected different points in history. Boys also explore current events through a multi media television channel for which they write, produce and present news to the Lower School.