Innovative Curriculum

Lower School

List of 1 news stories.

  • From "What If?" to "What's Next?"

    Todd Nelson, Director of Lower School
    Children are naturally curious. When they see something new, they want to know what it is and how it works, or they simply wonder, “What if?” In Barstow’s lower school, passionate instructors take “what if” moments and turn them into “what’s next” opportunities.
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Kindergarten at Barstow encourages up-on-your-feet activity as children learn. Ready for sight words? How about a rousing game of Word Swat. Want to explore the world? Build a rainforest right outside your classroom door. Guided by caring and creative teachers, students learn language arts, social studies, math and science as they play.

Kindergarten Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Mathematics

    Success in math begins with a clear understanding of number sense. Kindergarten students begin to develop an intuitive feel for numbers and a common sense approach to applying them. Using hands-on manipulatives, iPads and games, students learn number patterns, comparisons, place value, addition and subtraction, estimation, coin calculations, measurement, and even geometry. They also learn to tell time, create graphs and record data. 
  • Social Studies

    A kindergartner's world revolves around their personal experiences. Our goal is to take those experiences and expound upon them to help students make new connections with the world around them, whether in their own community or abroad. Rich experiences and connections encourage students to think, investigate and explore. It inspires them to research and read, verbally express their knowledge and promotes writing as documentation of their understanding.
  • Language Arts

    Becoming a fluent reader is essential to academic success. Literacy skills are the centerpiece of our curriculum as we dive into reading and writing on the very first day of kindergarten.  Many components are involved in becoming a confident reader: letter recognition, phonics, sight words, decoding and blending. We use Jolly Phonics, a synthetic approach that uses 42 sounds to parallel the 26-letter alphabet. Kindergarten students can become confident, fluent readers who enjoy the world of books.
  • Science

    Our science curriculum allows children to explore the world around them with engaging experiments and activities. Our students use their senses to explore biology, physics and even simple chemistry. Our activities allow children to learn scientific concepts to think critically. Students engage in higher order thinking and utilize and refine their science skills through observations, hypotheses and recordings.

Barstow Kindergarteners Learn to:

Kindergarten Faculty

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Kimberly Vasquez

    Kimberly Vasquez 

    LS Kindergarten Coordinator
    (816) 277-0343
  • Photo of Christina Kieffer

    Christina Kieffer 

    LS Kindergarten, Dir. of School Gardens, Varsity Track & Field Assistant Coach
    (816) 277-0307
  • Photo of Hollie Kloser

    Hollie Kloser 

    LS Kindergarten, LS Student Council Co-Advisor
    (816) 277-0439

List of 4 items.

  • Recognize

    100+ sight words
  • Decode Words

    for comprehension & fluency
  • Graph

    Create & interpret graphs
  • Measure & Record

    circumference, height & weight

List of 3 items.

  • Use Technology

    to build knowledge
  • Speak Japanese

    Count to 10 and greet others
  • Speak Spanish

    Speak phrases with ease

List of 3 items.

  • Journey

    through seven continents
  • Problem-Solve

    and collaborate through STEAM learning
  • Daily PE

    Develop fitness routines

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Language Arts

    Language arts leap off the page in Barstow Kindergarten classrooms. Everywhere a child looks, he or she sees the building blocks of reading, writing and spelling.
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Grade 1

Barstow first graders build on skills learned in kindergarten to make the leap toward becoming more independent and organized learners. Students learn to be good listeners, good friends and good citizens in their school community. They take on more responsibility for their own learning. Guided by caring teachers, students learn daily routines that give them a sense of dependability and consistency. They know where their homework sheet goes in their folder. They know when and where to return papers from home. They keep their desks organized. Regular tasks and responsibilities become second nature, so they can concentrate on a creative curriculum that is anything but routine.

Grade 1 Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Language Arts

    Students learn how language develops through reading, writing and word study. They become more confident spellers of high frequency and core vocabulary words through dictation, repetition and breaking down complex words into syllables.

    Young writers learn to compose complete sentences using capital letters, punctuation, subjects and predicates. They learn to add details and personality to their writing, as reflected in their weekly journals. 
    Students read stories together and in small, fluid groups that match their abilities. This differentiation allows teachers time to observe and work individually with each child. Reading aloud at school and at home promotes fluency, accuracy, comprehension and expression.
  • Mathematics

    Instruction begins with basic addition and subtraction, then applies those skills to higher level concepts including place and monetary values, telling and writing time, weights and measurements, fractions, graphing and geometry.

    Hands-on activities compliment pencil-and-paper lessons to keep first graders actively engaged in learning. To master math facts, they move through a progression of "hot pencil" timed tests at their own rate. To learn graphing, they flip coins and track results. To understand three-dimensional shapes, they take the iPads on a scavenger hunt through the school. Rotating through enrichment activities, they deepen their understanding of math strategies and concepts using manipulatives, games and other tools.
  • Science

    The three main areas of science study in grade 1 are plants, weather and matter.
    First graders learn how seeds travel, germinate and grow. They observe the growth cycle in the Barstow garden, where they work with middle school mentors to plant and harvest vegetables. Students learn to identify the three primary types of matter: solids, liquids and gases. They conduct experiments and observe and describe what they see. They also learn how weather affects our daily lives and how to collect and measure weather data. 

    During twice weekly STEAM classes, they practice coding, compete in games and engage in engineering activities that enhance the classroom curriculum.
  • Social Studies

    First grade students learn what it means to be part of a community: in their school, neighborhood, city and beyond. They develop an understanding of the roles of rule and law in society. 

    During a unit on national symbols, students use research tools to write and share reports that include an introduction, expository information and a summary about their chosen symbol. Geography study includes the culture, history and languages of Canada and Mexico.

Grade 1 Faculty

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Brooke Thompson

    Brooke Thompson 

    LS Grade 1 Coordinator, LS Technology Coach, ID+E Co-Coordinator
    (816) 277-0436
  • Photo of Jill Gilgus

    Jill Gilgus 

    LS Grade 1
    (816) 277-0302
  • Photo of Jordan Vaughn

    Jordan Vaughn 

    LS Grade 1
    (816) 277-0328

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Social Studies

    Grade 1 students enjoy taking the lead in their own learning, and the study of American symbols gives them the opportunity to do so. The learning is project-based, and driven by the students' interests and creativity. It’s often one of their favorite projects in lower school.
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Grade 2

Learning styles vary from student to student, so second grade teachers give children choices and variety in how they learn. Some students stretch their skills when they watch a lesson, some when they hear a lesson, and others when they do an activity connected to the lesson. Differentiation allows grade 2 students to review and build skills while stretching themselves academically, socially and individually. Our faculty knows every child in their classroom and values the unique traits and talents that guide how they learn.

Students begin the year knowing how to write sentences. Before the year ends, they can write a comprehensive five-paragraph report. They begin as early readers and end with the stamina to read chapter books and series. The transition from teacher-led to autonomous learning drives grade 2 students to excel in challenging science and math concepts that are more often taught in grade 3. It all happens in the second grade stretch between August and May.

Grade 2 Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Language Arts

    Language arts instruction recognizes each student's abilities, strengths and challenges. Individual assessments help teachers select materials for small reading groups in which the children participate.They discover new styles by engaging in read-alouds, guided reading and whole group activities.

    Writing instruction uses the "6+1 Traits of Writing" framework. The goal is to incorporate themes and ideas, organization, voice, fluency, word choice, mechanical conventions and proper presentation into their daily writing. They incorporate writing prompts and personal narratives into journal and letter writing and explore free writing in Writers' Workshop.

    Students work on differentiated vocabulary lists as they build their abilities. Through practice, pre-tests and tests, the goal is for second graders to develop a solid understanding of patterns and rules so they can spell correctly in daily work.
  • Mathematics

    Barstow second graders dive deeply into math. They learn more advanced addition and subtraction, double digit equations, statistics, multiplication and division at a higher level than  students in the same grade level elsewhere. Math instruction also includes place value, measurement, time and money and fractions. It emphasizes problem solving and reasoning.

    Teachers blend math learning by incorporating QR codes in the classroom. They produce video math lessons, which students watch by scanning a QR code and downloading the material. They have the ability to pause and rewatch the video as they complete the coordinating work at their individualized pace. They also meet with their teacher one-on-one for individualized instruction.
  • Science

    Second grade students get excited about science. Units include the study of insects, nutrition, the anatomy of the five senses and land biomes. The biome project incorporates their interest in science with the skills they learn in language arts, social studies and math. Students research and write a five paragraph report about the plants, animals, climate and geography of a biome of their choice. Using apps and iPads, they gather facts about rainforests, tundras, deserts and grasslands and create visual aids to accompany their reports.

    Students learn the scientific processes of observation, communication, inference and analysis throughout the year.
  • Social Studies

    Social studies focuses on the study of people and places in our community. Students learn to read maps and find locations on the globe. They work on character vocabulary to understand concepts of responsibility, respect, honesty, caring, fairness and courage to help build a strong classroom community.

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Mallory Plungkhen

    Mallory Plungkhen 

    LS Grade 2 Coordinator
    (816) 277-0437
  • Photo of Maureen Whittaker

    Maureen Whittaker 

    LS Grade 2, Varsity Girls Volleyball Assistant Coach
    (816) 277-0339
  • Photo of Katie Zeldin

    Katie Zeldin 

    LS Grade 2
    (816) 277-0368

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Research Skills

    Grade 2 students learn about the world beyond Barstow through a project that crosses all curriculums. For their biome research report, students study the grasslands, tundra, forest and desert. Each student chooses a biome and dives deep into researching its plants and animals and how they adapt to the climate and geography of that particular area.
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Grade 3

Third grade is the first opportunity students have to rotate classes including science, social studies, and Math Genius Hour. They practice independence, motivation, organization, time management and collaboration. Students engage in solving real world problems through interdisciplinary projects. Third graders develop responsibility and grit as they tackle new challenges.

In language arts, students engage in rich, meaningful mentor texts to decipher themes, understand characters, enhance their vocabulary and apply grammar skills. Math learning is differentiated to meet students’ individual needs. Teachers provide challenges and enrichment opportunities in all content areas. No matter the subject, active learning is always at the forefront.

Grade 3 Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Language Arts

    Third graders participate in multimedia literature experiences such as book clubs, podcasts and whole group literary discussions. Students explore new genres, including folktales, fairy tales, realistic fiction, historical fiction and non-fiction. Each week, they explore a mentor text that encompasses vocabulary words, comprehension and grammar skills. Through these books, third graders dive deep into themes such as empathy, individuality, perseverance, curiosity and adversity.

    In third grade writing, students refine their voice as a writer and express themselves through structured and creative writing projects. Students learn and apply writing structure and techniques throughout the writing process. They begin with brainstorming, compile their thoughts into a rough draft, then revise and edit to produce a final copy they are proud to share.
  • Mathematics

    Students work on fluency to recall math facts with automaticity. This fact fluency is the key to success in multiplication, division, and beyond. They also learn place value, units of measurement and area and perimeter. Small groups allow teachers to gauge individual student progress and offer more enrichment as needed.

    All students apply those lessons through project based learning and hands-on activities. Students will design a 3D city executing what they have learned about geometry, plan a Thanksgiving dinner, create a marketing plan for an amusement park, utilize their knowledge of area and perimeter to design a tiny home, and structure a business plan for their very own Shark Tank innovation.
  • Science

    Students take on the role of a scientist as they explore forces and interactions, ecosystems, life cycles, and weather and climate. These young scientists employ skills such as observing and asking questions about the world around them to make scientific connections. Within each science unit, students participate in inquiry based learning and STEAM projects. Our STEAM projects follow the Design Thinking Process to help students act as engineers and solve real world problems. In The Design Thinking Process, students ask, plan, make, improve and present. This cyclical process reinforces that idea that science is ever changing and evolving.
  • Social Studies

    Barstow third graders immerse themselves in historical study right in our own backyard. Major topics include historic trails, indigenous tribes of the Kansas City area, immigration, election and government, economics and a research project on individuals that have made a difference in our community or world. This helps shape their evolving understanding of their roles as citizens.

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Maegan Miller

    Maegan Miller 

    LS Grade 3 and LS Lead Technology Coach
    (816) 277-0403
  • Photo of Asha Molina

    Asha Molina 

    LS Grade 3, LS Technology Coach
    (816) 277-0369
  • Photo of Amanda Stallings

    Amanda Stallings 

    LS Grade 3
    (816) 277-0318

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Self Expression

    Lower school theatre workshops get rave reviews from students in kindergarten through grade 5. When they get up on their feet and dive into dialogue and performance, students gain valuable new skills.
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Grade 4

Classes become departmentalized in fourth grade, allowing teachers to be content area experts in science, math, language arts and geography. Students build important skills — organization, responsibility, leadership and independence — that are a cornerstone of the experience. They become inventors, researchers, explorers and historians. Academic and personal growth and character development lays the foundation for success in middle school.

Grade 4 Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Language Arts

    Language arts in grade 4 engages students as they become more confident readers, writers and thinkers. They shift from learning to read, to reading to learn and they do so by choosing authors and genres that ignite their personal interests. They also further refine their personal writer's voice through free form prompts and structured writing exercises. Students learn to critique their own work and the work of their peers. They continue word study and build their vocabularies through reading, writing and spelling.
  • Mathematics

    Fourth grade math focuses on the "how" — how to develop mental math skills, how to unravel the content of a word problem, how to arrive at a correct answer. The strategies are just as important as the solutions. Students benefit from 90 minutes of math instruction every day. This enriched program allows them to complete the equivalent of fourth and fifth grade math curriculum in a single year, focused on fractions, pre-algebra and geometry. Barstow students are so engaged in the math curriculum that two thirds of their grade level participate in a weekly math club. During these morning meetings, students are introduced to regional and state competition.
  • Science

    Grade 4 scientists learn by doing. The science classroom becomes a hands-on lab where students brainstorm, research, design and build their own inventions. They analyze needs in the marketplace, construct prototypes and refine their products based on testing and user input. They also synthesize different scientific principles and combine them to create mazes and roller coaster models.
  • Social Studies

    Through the study of the regions of the United States, grade 4 students learn about the development of our nation. They use maps as primary source documents to help them understand the flow of people and products across America. They study states, capitals and the three branches of government, using iPad-supported learning to keep content fresh, relevant and interactive. Each spring, students delve into the history and government of Missouri. This culminates in a trip to Jefferson City to meet state lawmakers and witness the legislature in action. The experience serves as an introduction to the annual grade 5 trip to Washington, D.C.

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Sarah Brecheisen

    Sarah Brecheisen 

    LS Grades 4 & 5 Coordinator, Grade 4 Math
    (816) 277-0406
  • Photo of Kaiha Harris

    Kaiha Harris 

    LS Grade 4 Language Arts, MS Boys Soccer Assistant Coach and MS Girls Soccer Head Coach
    (816) 277-0375
  • Photo of Ryan McFarland

    Ryan McFarland 

    LS Grades 4 & 5 Social Studies
    (816) 277-0378
  • Photo of Karen Collins

    Karen Collins 

    Grades 4 and 5 Science
    (816) 277-0425

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Makers & Doers

    Any inventor will tell you, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving skills are critical to their process. In grade 4, students apply all those skills to the engineering design process and create products that can be used in daily life. The Grade 4 Invention Fair is one of the most eagerly anticipated events of the lower school year.
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Grade 5

Grade 5 is a bridge year at Barstow as students build skills that prepare them for success in middle school — independence, self-sufficiency and responsibility. Not only do they learn to manage at least eight teachers and subjects, they also manage their own materials, homework and time. They apply what they learn in one subject to another, using language skills to learn math vocabulary, and math skills to master science concepts. They even apply lessons from American history in music class!

Learning about great leaders and developing leadership qualities is a key component of grade 5. Through service projects, volunteer opportunities and (when possible) an annual trip to Washington D.C., students develop a deeper understanding of what it means to be a good citizen.

Grade 5 Curriculum

List of 4 items.

  • Language Arts

    Barstow teachers help each student become a passionate, habitual and critical reader. By the time students enter fifth grade, they have experienced Writer’s Workshop for five years. They understand mechanics and voice. They can develop a topic sentence and support it with points of proof. So in fifth grade, they delve into a more personal relationship with their writing. They move from structured writers to creative writers. They also write thesis-driven essays submitting them to a contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution, and consistently win top honors.

    In Reader’s Workshop students engage in literary analysis through class book discussions and in-depth author studies. They read similar genres, but at their own level — often at a high school level — to ensure they are engaged and challenged.
  • Mathematics

    Mathematics instruction focuses on decimals, fractions, percentages, in-depth word problems and pre-algebra. Students analyze problems to first define the problem and then solve it. They are able to synthesize information across content areas and understand how those concepts relate to each other. This deep understanding provides a foundation for algebraic thinking. When students finish fifth grade math at Barstow, they finish the equivalent of what many sixth grade students in other schools have learned. Barstow sponsors an award-winning math club, where 2/3 of students in the grade level choose to participate. During weekly morning meetings students practice and prepare for online and in-person math competitions.
  • Science

    Building on the inventive skills Barstow students develop in fourth grade, fifth graders give form and structure to their own curiosity. They build bridges, including design, structural integrity evaluation, budgeting, and economic concepts of supply and demand in materials acquisition. Implementing the process of scientific inquiry, students design and conduct their own individual science experiments, presenting the results at Barstow’s science fair.

    Students gain an understanding of how Newton’s Laws of Physics impact their daily lives. They learn to observe, infer and predict by continually analyzing their world. Students use real-life examples when analyzing the physics behind extreme sports.
  • Social Studies

    The Barstow social studies curriculum develops the student citizen, helping our students understand the world around them and their ability to affect change. During the fifth grade study of leadership development, students learn about leaders in all areas of society. They understand how good leaders share, inspire, compromise, and assert themselves through civil discourse. They also assume leadership roles throughout the lower school putting into action their role as student citizens.

    Applying their leadership and student citizen knowledge and skills, fifth graders visit Washington D.C. for a week-long trip to better understand the structure and function of government. Even when this trip had to be canceled in the spring of 2020, teachers created a virtual visit to the monuments of the National Mall, government buildings, museums and significant historical sites. (For many fifth graders it was a highlight of the virtual learning semester.)

    Students also participate in Barstow City as part of the economics curriculum. During this entrepreneurial exchange, students create their own businesses and marketing plans, use currency earned during the school year to buy and sell products and build financial literacy.

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Ryan McFarland

    Ryan McFarland 

    LS Grades 4 & 5 Social Studies
    (816) 277-0378
  • Photo of Catherine Metcalf

    Catherine Metcalf 

    LS Grade 5 Math
    (816) 277-0334
  • Photo of Jennifer Padberg

    Jennifer Padberg 

    LS Grade 5 Language Arts
    (816) 277-0329
  • Photo of Karen Collins

    Karen Collins 

    Grades 4 and 5 Science
    (816) 277-0425

List of 1 items.

  • Spotlight on Scientists at Work

    Tabletops are sticky with Pop Rocks, soda and salt. Plastic bottles flip and fall noisily to the floor. And an odor of vinegar permeates the air. Welcome to the world of grade 5 scientists at work.
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