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, and visual media.

Our primary resource in elementary language arts is Literacy Place by Scholastic. This resource provides a balanced and trans-disciplinary approach to all aspects of literacy: reading, writing, communication, and critical thinking. Our Writers Workshop lessons are guided by  6+1 Traits, a program that supports the individual writing growth of our students.  In addition, our curriculum is enhanced by a variety of print materials, including classic literature, poetry, magazines, the internet, and essays.

Features of the Seneca Academy language arts program include:

  • Reading and writing linked to all subject areas.
  • Specific instruction for skills and strategies in reading, writing, and critical thinking.
  • Integrated spelling and grammar instruction.
  • Large and small group and 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 goal of the social studies curriculum at Seneca Academy is 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, the Seneca Academy Social Studies curriculum facilitates information gathering, sharing, and analysis about our environment and society in a rapidly changing world. Our 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.

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.

Seneca Academy’s social studies curriculum:

  • Is guided by IB/PYP’s trans-disciplinary themes.
  • Allows for the development and application of trans-disciplinary skills.
  • Utilizes project-based activities to fully engage students.
  • Employs a variety of print and electronic media as well as field trips.
  • Is informed by the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum and the Montgomery County Social Studies Curriculum.

The goal of the Seneca Academy Science Curriculum is 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.
The Seneca Academy learning goals and standards are informed by The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s “Science for All Americans Project 2061,” the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, the Montgomery County Science Curriculum, and the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum.

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.

Seneca Academy’s science curriculum:

  • Is guided by IB/PYP’s trans-disciplinary themes.
  • Allows for the development and application of trans-disciplinary skills.
  • Provides inquiry-based, experiential learning indoors, outdoors and on field trips.
  • Lays a foundation of conceptual understanding, content knowledge, and scientific skills.
  • Fosters a meaningful understanding of the scientific method beginning in our earliest grades.
  • Is informed by the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum and the Montgomery County Science Curriculum.

The goal of the Seneca Academy math curriculum is for students to develop a thorough understanding of concepts in addition to computation. Emphasis is placed on students’ application of mathematical thinking to solve every day problems. Students demonstrate their understanding of complex mathematical concepts as they communicate their processes in problem-solving through a variety of methods.
Our primary resource for elementary math education is Everyday Math, an exemplary program developed at the University of Chicago. The Seneca Academy Math Curriculum is additionally informed by the Montgomery County Math Curriculum and the Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum.

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.

Seneca Academy’s math curriculum:

  • Uses hands-on activities to acquire concepts.
  • Links new concepts to meaningful past experiences.
  • Provides project-based learning.
  • Includes games to increase “fact-power.”
  • Teaches problem-solving using multiple strategies.
  • Offers opportunities for cooperative learning.

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. Conversational Spanish lessons are included in the weekly plan for each elementary class. Spanish is learned through story-telling, games, songs, and movement. By teaching class in Spanish, students are immersed in the foreign language and learn the use of the language in meaningful situations.  Students gain insight into their own culture and language through the discovery of different patterns and interaction among language systems and cultures.

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. Students have an opportunity to express themselves using materials and techniques such as clay, drawing, painting, sculpture, paper maché, and weaving. They are motivated to pursue art activities which relate to other areas of the curriculum as well. 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.

Experiences in music can 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. Music brings another dimension of beauty into the student’s life that will bring lifelong pleasure and is a wonderful bridge between cultures across the globe. Students have special time each week for music appreciation, singing and dancing. Our 3rd and 4th graders have a special unit to learn the recorder and our 5th graders learn percussion instruments. An after-school band for students in 4th and 5th 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 program promotes agility, endurance, strength, and body awareness. The students participate in activities appropriate for their developmental level and may include: ball skills, cooperative games, loco-motor challenges, and rhythmical movement patterns. 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. The SPARK program, which supports the National Standards for Physical Education and the development of healthy lifestyles, motor skills and movement knowledge, and social and interpersonal skills, is the resource for this program. In addition, there are several after-school opportunities for students to engage in physical activities such as soccer, field games, and outdoor adventures.

The goal 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. Students are taught to become proficient in keyboarding, word processing, creation of presentations, and data management and reporting. Computers are located in 3rd through 5th grade classrooms. 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.

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.