Elementary Curriculum

“To be truly educated, a student must…make connections across the disciplines, discover ways to integrate the separate subjects, and ultimately relate what they learn to life.”
Ernest Boyer 1995


Download a PDF of the Seneca Elementary Curriculum

The Seneca Academy curriculum is designed to be an integrated, trans-disciplinary program of study for students in preschool through 5th grade that facilitates the development of learners who can think and act independently. The Seneca Academy curriculum is guided by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and supported by a variety of other curricula and materials. The framework for our studies is detailed in our Program of Inquiry which outlines the trans-disciplinary units of study to be taught and learned in each grade level.

The Seneca Academy written curriculum addresses five elements. They are:

Knowledge:  Significant, relevant content that we wish the students to explore and know about, taking into consideration their prior experience and understanding.

Concepts:  Powerful ideas that have relevance within the subject areas but also transcend them and that students must explore and re-explore in order to develop a coherent, in-depth understanding.

Skills:  Those capabilities that the students need to demonstrate to succeed in a changing, challenging world, which may be disciplinary or trans-disciplinary in nature.

Attitudes:  Dispositions that are expressions of fundamental values, beliefs and feelings about learning, the environment, and people.

Action:  Demonstrations of deeper learning in responsible behavior through responsible action; a manifestation in practice of the other essential elements.
Making the PYP Happen,  pg 10

Seneca Academy teachers ensure that students gain the knowledge, concepts, and skills, and can demonstrate the attitudes and actions we have identified as relevant and significant through engaging, hands-on, inquiry-based instruction. In this way, our taught curriculum, or the collection of methods we use to transmit the written curriculum, is designed to ensure that Seneca Academy students are active participants in the learning process. Our primary method of instruction is inquiry–based and is supplemented by strategies such as direct instruction and project based instruction.

Social Emotional Art
Language Arts Music
Social Studies Physical Education
Science Technology
Mathematics Homework
Foreign Language


Social Emotional
Seneca Academy uses the Responsive Classroom® curriculum to inform the integration of social and emotional learning into our academic day. Responsive Classroom® is an evidence-based program that utilizes a variety of strategies to help teachers create a classroom and school environment that allows students to “feel safe, challenged, and joyful- places that free them to learn.” At the heart of this program is Morning Meeting. Each elementary class at Seneca Academy starts the day with a group meeting to address the transition from home to school, create group cohesion, share news, address concerns, and begin the school day. Our students enjoy this opportunity to interact socially with their teacher and peers, and it provides a sense of ownership and belonging within each class.

At Seneca Academy, we know that the social milieu can have a dramatic impact on a student’s ability to learn.  In addition to implementing the Responsive Classroom® curriculum, we address the social atmosphere in a variety of ways to ensure that it is a positive, nurturing one for all. Our developmentally appropriate curriculum, classroom organization, scheduling, and behavior management policies and procedures all intentionally guide our classrooms to a positive and productive social and emotional learning environment.

The attitudes promoted by the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program and supported and taught at Seneca Academy are:

  • Appreciation
  • Commitment
  • Confidence
  • Cooperation
  • Creativity
  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Independence
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Tolerance

Language Arts
The Seneca Academy Language Arts curriculum is designed to develop students who are proficient in reading for pleasure and content, who are clear writers of fiction and non-fiction, and are confident communicators through written, oral, visual, and digital media.

The Seneca Academy goals and standards for language arts learning are informed by the Common Core State Standards as well as the IB/PYP Language Scope and Sequence. These resources provide a challenging and developmentally appropriate set of literacy skills and abilities to be acquired at each grade level. Seneca Academy teachers implement reading and writing workshop techniques, using a variety of print materials, including classic literature, poetry, magazines, the internet, and essays that connect with units of inquiry being taught. Our writing program is also supported by the 6+1 Traits curriculum.

Features of the Seneca Academy language arts program include:

  • Reading and writing linked to units of inquiry and all subject areas.
  • Specific instruction for skills and strategies in reading, writing, viewing and presenting, listening and speaking, and critical thinking.
  • Integrated spelling, grammar, and handwriting instruction.
  • Large and small group as well as individual reading activities.
  • Daily opportunities for reading and writing for a variety of purposes.
  • Critical thinking skills are practiced through engaging projects and discussion.

Social Studies

The Seneca Academy goals and standards for Social Studies are informed by the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) Curriculum Standards for Social Studies, the IB/PYP Social Studies Scope and Sequence, and the Montgomery County, MD Public Schools Social Studies Curriculum. Our Social Studies curriculum is designed to engage students in the inquiry of people in relation to their history, their current personal and cultural identities, and their future roles and responsibilities. In addition, we facilitate information gathering, sharing, and analysis about our environment and society in a rapidly changing world through a variety of print and electronic media as well as field trips. Seneca Academy’s hands-on, trans-disciplinary approach encourages students to develop the critical thinking skills that allow them to identify trends and connections across time and our world. There are two dimensions to the social studies curriculum: social studies content which describes the body of knowledge about specific topics that we expect our students to master; and social studies practices which describe the habits of mind, sociological and geographic inquiry and reasoning skills students need in order to use the skills they acquire.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Human systems and economics- including governments, communications, conflict, transportation and production.
  • Social organization and culture- including citizenship, diversity, family, identity, networks, rights, roles, traditions.
  • Continuity and change through time- including civilizations, discovery, exploration, history, innovation, and migration.
  • Human and natural environments- including borders (natural, social and political), geography, impact, regions, and landscape.
  • Resources and the environment- including conservation, consumption, ecology, energy, interdependence, pollution, and sustainability.

Social studies practices include:

    • Asking and finding answers to questions
    • Placing people and events in time and context
    • Analyzing cause and effect
    • Interpreting interactions between and among individuals, groups, and institutions
    • Applying geographic reasoning
Gathering, using, interpreting and evaluating evidence from sources
Defining opinions and evaluating perspectives
Taking responsible action
Communicating information


The Seneca Academy goals and standards for Science are informed by the Next Generation Science Standards, the IB/PYP Science Scope and Sequence, and the Montgomery County, MD Public Schools Science Curriculum. The Seneca Academy Science curriculum is designed to help students acquire the skills and habits of mind in scientific thinking that allow them to explore the biological, chemical, and physical aspects of the changing world around them. This is accomplished through a balanced study of earth science, life science, and physical science as well as the integration of technology. Our 6 ½ acre outdoor environment serves as a laboratory for many of our hands-on explorations of the natural world.

There are two dimensions to the science curriculum: scientific and engineering practices which describe the habits of mind, scientific inquiry and reasoning skills students need in order to be scientific thinkers; and science content which describes the body of knowledge about specific scientific topics that we expect our students to master.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Living things- including animals, plants, systems, adaptation, habitats, biodiversity, ecosystems, habitat, biology, and genetics.
  • Earth and space- including seasons, weather, climate, resources, systems, space, and geography.
  • Materials and matter- including properties and uses of materials, chemical and physical changes, changes of state, solids, gases and liquids.
  • Forces and energy- including magnetism, mechanics, physics, conservation of energy, equilibrium, and forms of energy.

Scientific and engineering practices include:

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigations
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

Seneca Academy’s math goals and standards are based on the University of Chicago’s Everyday Math program. Through Seneca Academy’s math curriculum, we expect students to develop a thorough understanding of concepts from numeral recognition to computation solving equations. Emphasis is placed on students’ application of mathematical thinking to solve every day problems utilizing hands-on activities and project-based learning. Students demonstrate their understanding of complex mathematical concepts as they communicate their processes in problem-solving through a variety of methods.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Number Sense– including counting, understanding the use of numbers, whole numbers, integers, fractions, decimals, place value, scientific notation, and relations.
  • Operations– including number facts, arithmetic, reversibility, relationships, properties, estimation, number theory, algorithms, and using scientific calculators.
  • Patterns, Functions and Sequences– including rules, relationships, patterns, relations, and formula models using variables.
  • Measures, Measurement and Reference Frames– including weight, temperature, time, calendars, timelines, linear measurement, angles, units of measurement, money, area, capacity, volume, density, and calories.
  • Geometry and Spatial Sense– including two and three-dimensional shapes and their relationships, notations, congruence, metric properties of plane figures, transformations of geometric figures.
  • Data and Chance– including collecting, organizing and displaying data, tables, charts, and graphs, data comparison, and probability.
  • Algebra and Uses of Variables– including equivalent names, number models, parentheses, operations, order of operations, write and solve equations, and function models.

Foreign Languages
The goal of the Seneca Academy Foreign Language Curriculum is to expose students to a different language than English, and introduce them to different cultures and perspectives. Seneca Academy Spanish is taught using Descubre el Espanol developed by Santillana, and based on the Standards for Foreign Language Learning. These standards identify 5 goals of language instruction: communicate in languages other than English, gain knowledge and understanding of other cultures, connect with other disciplines and acquire information, utilize comparisons to develop insight into the nature of language and culture, and participate in multilingual communities at home & around the world.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Vocabulary and Comprehension, Communication and Cultures
  • Vocabulary and Phonics, Communication and Connections
  • Vocabulary and Structure, Communication and Comparisons
  • Vocabulary and Language Functions, Communication and Communities

The goal of the Seneca Academy Art Curriculum is to engage students in creative processes where they may explore and experiment with a variety of media. The Seneca Academy Art goals are informed by the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards. Students have an opportunity to express themselves using a variety of materials and techniques. By including exposure to art classics and learning about great artists, an appreciation for the fine arts begins as students develop a broad base of general knowledge that is part of our cultural literacy. Seneca Academy also provides an after-school arts program for students in kindergarten through 5th grade.

Specific areas of study include:

  • Painting
  • Collage
  • Drawing/Coloring
  • Construction
  • Printing
  • Modeling
  • Design
  • Units of Inquiry Collaboration
  • Community Project

Experiences in music contribute to cognitive, physical, and emotional development. Music is about singing, rhythms, and beat. It is also about learning to be part of a group and creative expression. The Seneca Academy Music skills and abilities are informed by the standards developed by the National Association for Music Education. Students have special time each week for music appreciation, singing and dancing. Our 3rd and 4th graders have a focused unit to learn the recorder and our 5th graders learn percussion instruments. An after-school band for students in 4th through 8th grades and an after-school chorus for students in 1st through 5th grades round out our music program.

Physical Education
The opportunity for physical activity and outdoor experience is a daily part of our educational program. Research suggests that physical exercise improves mood and increases learning. Our playground and playing field area provide a wide variety of opportunity for physical challenges. Our Physical Education curriculum follows the SPARK program, based on the National Standards for Physical Education, and promotes the development of healthy lifestyles, motor skills and movement knowledge, social and interpersonal skills, agility, endurance, strength, and body awareness. The students participate in activities appropriate for their developmental level that may include: ball skills, cooperative games, loco-motor challenges, dance, and yoga. The study of nutrition and other aspects of healthy lifestyle are a part of our program. Emphasis is also placed on fair play, teamwork and personal best. In addition, there are several after-school opportunities for students to engage in physical activities such as soccer, field games, and outdoor adventures.

The focus of the technology curriculum at Seneca Academy is to give students an understanding of how technology can be utilized to enhance their learning experiences. In the younger grades, our focus is on learning and practicing basic academic and social skills with video, audio, and digital print technology supporting the curriculum. Students begin their formal instruction in the use of computer technology in 3rd grade. In 4th and 5th grades, students become proficient in keyboarding, word processing, creation of presentations, and data management. Computers are located in the classrooms in order to facilitate the use of technological tools. Students may use computers for word processing, information gathering, project development, and reinforcement of basic/advanced skills in academic subject areas. Technology skills throughout the grades are used to complete learning goals in the overall Seneca Academy curriculum.

Specific areas of study include:

The purpose of homework:

  • Keyboarding
  • Word Processing
  • Presentation Production
  • Data Management
  • Internet Research

Homework Policy
The purpose of homework:

  • Establish habits of responsibility
  • Develop independent work-study skills
  • Give parents an insight to the skills and subjects being taught

Homework will usually be one of three types:

  • An enrichment activity
  • A reinforcement activity of a skill already taught
  • If no homework is assigned, please encourage your child to read independently or share a book with you

Homework will not be assigned over holidays or weekends and should take
15–60 minutes to complete depending on the grade level of the student. Older
students may expect to spend more time completing homework. If your child is spending more time than this, please contact your child’s teacher. Students in grades 4–6 will receive additional information about homework as a student at Seneca.

Homework is for the student to do independently unless otherwise noted. Provide a time and a space, but please allow him or her to complete the work alone. We all learn from mistakes. It is suggested, however, that parents look at completed assignments. If a student is unable to complete the assignment with minimum parental direction, the student should bring the uncompleted assignment to school for additional teacher instruction.

If a child is absent due to illness or vacation, that student must complete all
homework missed in a timely manner. Questions about homework should be directed to the classroom teacher.