Primary School

A True Progressive Education

Progressive education is a legacy of thoughtful practice recognizing that students learn best in real-life activities with other people. In the K–5 primary grades, thematic studies, multi-age classrooms and mentor-apprentice relationships permeate the environment in both social venues and academic inquiry. We believe children are capable of complicated thinking, have their own wonderings and are marvelously prepared to focus on the complex and profound. Marylhurst children learn though hands-on experiences that support and respond to their individual level of growth in conjunction with the needs of the class as a whole.

4th / 5th Grade Blend

About the Program

Ravens M – F 8:30 – 2:30

Ravens Schedule

The Ravens class is made up of eighteen dynamic students who serve as the glue between our lower and upper-grade programs. They are a group with strong connections that enjoy learning together, laughing at common jokes, and supporting each other through life’s daily ups and downs. Fourth and fifth-grade students at the Marylhurst School are entering an exciting stage of growth and independence. Eager to learn new things, they enjoy socializing and working in groups to solve problems, both social and academic. Our approach to learning is student-centered, providing the opportunity for children to be self-directed while fostering both independence and cooperation. We place increasing emphasis on developing fluency in mathematics, reading, and writing and inspiring and supporting each student to reach her or his potential while embracing a love of learning. Ravens get together with their kindergarten buddies once a week for reading and planned activities. These informal meetings allow for cooperation and collaboration between the two classes and greatly benefit both age groups. Our activities are designed to give children opportunities to practice taking turns, sharing work, listening to each other, teaching skills, and forming lasting relationships with a buddy they will keep all year.

PE, Science, and Music specialist teachers each meet with Ravens in two hour-long sessions per week. Our specialist classes closely integrate with the children’s daily learning in the classroom, enriching the curriculum and helping to make important connections to the students’ lives.

Our overarching theme for the year is “Memoir and Biographies.” a theme that takes us into the magnificent stories that make up our own lives and a study of the life stories of others. This study includes fascinating authors, influential peacemakers, and other individuals who have interesting stories to tell.

In the fall we began our year-long study with a look at memoir writing by reading stories from children’s authors who have written about one period or significant event in their life. Books like Jane Yolen’s, “Owl Moon”, and Jeannette Caines’, “Just Us Women” demonstrate that even small events that are told with a personal point of view tell us much about the life of the writer. Guided by the question, “what are the significant events in our lives that shape who we are?”, students are exploring some of the moments that have been pivotal in their young lives. They have written stories with one common theme: soup. Their stories highlight family tradition by including a recipe and a description of the kitchen in which the soup is made. Raven soup stories are posted in the hallway outside of the classroom. The fourth and fifth graders have also interviewed parents about the first time they arrived in the family and written the story of that eventful day. Raven students will complete a fourpart autobiography, a memoir story, and various portraits to share at a culminating winter Authors’ Tea.

In the spring, Ravens will learn more about the lives of peacemakers who have influenced great change in world culture. Each student will choose a person in history who has worked for peace and shaped our collective thinking and then create an independent research project examining this person’s impact on history.

Students are now reading independently and are able to access much information through text. Our classroom reading times consist of book groups, whole class discussions, and independent reading periods. During reading times we work with the developing skills of comprehension, text synthesis, and inference to critically interpret both fiction and non-fiction materials.

Students are also learning how to discuss literature and enjoy sharing the books they’re reading in student-led book groups. With an extensive classroom collection and weekly visits to the school library, students have ample opportunity to read from many different genres and to learn to choose books that suit their varied interests and reading levels.

Studies of authors Allen Say and Eve Bunting will give students a chance to look closely at the works of one artist at a time this year and examine the types of decisions these writers made while creating their stories. These author studies will also link important connections in math, science, and social studies to our reading and writing program.

Raven students will explore their voices as writers as they become more sophisticated and skilled at editing for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. To help the children “think as writers,” we use writer’s notebooks as a place for them to document their daily lives, thoughts, and ideas and texts by published authors to model expert nonfiction and fiction writing. As detailed above, we have started exploring personal narrative writing as the children have begun to craft their own life stories, a model which will be used in writing biographies of famous inventors in the spring.

Lessons in spelling and grammar give students practice recognizing patterns and employing strategies as they begin to spell words conventionally in their everyday writing tasks. Cursive practice will begin in December using the Getty-Dubay Italic handwriting series, which is introduced in the Kindergarten classes.

Math in the Raven classroom features meaningful mathematical problem-solving. We believe that children learn best by exploring problems in depth while inventing personal strategies to approach various problems. Fluency and accuracy are critical at this age; however, our focus is on building a flexible knowledge of number relations as the third and fourth graders gain competency. We encourage Raven students to communicate their mathematical thinking through drawing, writing and sharing their discoveries with partners in small groups and whole class discussions. Throughout the year, Ravens will develop a foundation in several key content areas: work with numbers, work with data, and work with geometry.

Four mornings a week, Raven students rotate through specific math stations relating to one similar mathematical topic or concept. These rotations involve small groups of students working with a teacher, practicing basic math skills independently, or playing an nth strategy game.

As we integrate math into our themed study, students will explore net change, invent ways to represent change over time, and design a unique board game. Raven students will also investigate geometry through architectural innovations. As we explore biographies and the lives of people who influenced change, students will work with timelines from the past two centuries. We will also collect data, critique and refine our own data collection methods, compare different ways to display their data and begin to use statistical terms and measures.

Laura Stahly-Dronkowski — Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher

Laura has 25 years of teaching experience and was thrilled to join The Marylhurst School faculty in 2013. In the Midwest, she taught first and third-grade students and here in Oregon, she taught a blended class of fifth and sixth-grade children in Lake Oswego. Laura has a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Psychology and a Master’s of Science in Elementary Science Education from Purdue University. In her free time, she loves watching her children play soccer, she’s an avid reader, she plays piano, and is trying to get back into running. Laura and her husband, Dave, live in Happy Valley with their son and two daughters.

Dawn Hotchkin — Fourth/Fifth Grade Teacher and PE Specialist

Dawn has been working with preschool aged children in Oregon and Nevada since 1999 and came to Marylhurst in 2007. From Nova Southeastern University in Florida, she has a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Curriculum, Instruction and Technology. She is also certified in Montessori Early Childhood Education. “I absolutely love teaching preschool-age children; I learn something new from them each day.”

2nd / 3rd Grade Blend

About the Program

Meadowlarks M – F 8:30 – 2:30

Meadowlark Schedule

The Meadowlark class is a blended group of second and third graders, or as we say, New and Old Hands. Throughout the year twenty-one children will question, speculate, inquire, reason, and interpret together as supported by our over-arching theme of Communities and Systems.

Fall term is a series of firsts for some of the youngest students of the Marylhurst Primary School. Imagine opening your first Writer’s Notebook and being told it is all yours to fill with your own thoughts, ideas, and inspirations. Imagine the first time wrestling with a math problem and the excitement that comes with an “a-ha” moment of understanding and connection. Imagine being invited to write and draw in the sunshine of a garden, perched upon or under a bridge built by your classmates the previous year. Imagine the excitement and sense of trepidation of a first homework packet. Finally, imagine the mindful responsibility felt when asked to design your own classroom culture through an understanding of both the social colonies of the ant and the structure of human communities. Add in discussions of the larger themes in the story “The Iron Giant” by Ted Hughes and the beauty of the natural world expressed by the artist Andy Goldsworthy and you begin to get a sense of this Fall in the Meadowlark class.

Children of this age are naturally inquisitive. Our studies are formulated around natural questions and larger essential questions, such as, “What is the evidence that Earth has changed over time?” The children use nonfiction books to build a vocabulary of facts and are currently sampling a variety of atlases, maps, and topic-specific books. Appropriate use of technology and valid research resources are crucial lessons.

In Science the children are currently learning about both the layers of the earth and the rock cycle. Each is collecting a soil sample from their home turf in order to analyze and map the composition of what lies beneath their feet.

Literacy in the Meadowlark class is speaking and listening, storytelling and shared laughter, reading, and writing, poetry and list making, it is listening carefully and sharing ideas with vigor. Literacy is books, books, and more books. There is time for quiet reading, and learning the habits of quietly reading for an extended period of time. Literacy involves frequent individual meetings with a teacher to receive support and guidance. Literacy is crafting one’s imagination into cogent whole stories that intrigue and delight. Learning to express ideas across disciplines is fundamental work for the Meadowlark student.

In addition to both fiction and non-fiction writing, a poetry packet is sent home every four to five weeks. Each child is responsible for choosing a poem to commit to memory and then signs up for a class recitation. In April, during national poetry month, the Meadowlark children will become roaming poetry minstrels. Tap a student and request a poem. In addition to individual poems, occasionally a class poem will also be memorized.

The reading experience in a first and second-grade classroom is appropriately vast. Many second graders are moving towards a fluent reading style and the ability to sustain reading for increasingly longer periods of time. Third graders are learning to actively engage in ever increasing textual complexity. Each Meadowlark child has a book box with an identified “Easy,” “Just Right,” and “Hard” book. Getting to know themselves as readers is paramount at this age, and not tied to leveled books but rather interest, knowledge of oneself as a reader, and the idea that reading is purposeful. All children in the Meadowlark class practice active reading, the art of connecting text to personal experience, to previously read information and asking if what they are reading makes sense. This consistent subtext provides all readers with the tools to engage deeply. Weekly trips to the school library support budding interests as well as growing proficiencies.

Currently, the Meadowlark children have immersed themselves in a study of geologic time. Big number thinking, “What does one million look like?” and, “How do I represent the Earth’s age—4.6 billion years—in a way that can be conceptualized?” took up much of our late fall. In shifting their focus away from social insects, the children’s thinking has been guided by the essential question, “What evidence do we have that demonstrates that the earth has changed over time?” Together we looked at the three periods of Precambrian Time. What a wonder to discover that if earth time was represented using a twelve-hour clock that Precambrian Time would take up 10 hours and 32 minutes. The question persisted, “How to learn more about the rest of earth’s life span?”
Each child is becoming an expert on a particular geologic period so as to travel back in time to explore the atmosphere, and the animal and plant life. This project builds on the intersection of science and one’s imagination. The Meadowlark children are hard at work developing characters, which will include a sidekick and a villain. Using the classic traits of a hero, sidekick, and villain the children are expanding how to use adjectives and strong beginnings to engage their reader. They are using their new understanding of an arc of a story and budding research skills to create a graphic novel.

Meadowlark children are embarking on a life-long mathematical journey. It is important that students feel both challenged and joyful as they learn to bring strong habits and positive attitudes to bear when working through problems. Children of this age are working to develop a set of math tools that are applicable across disciplines. This year we have focused on understanding number patterns; place value; and reading, writing and understanding whole numbers. Considerable energy has been devoted to building stamina, developing multiple strategies to approach a new problem and learning to organize and communicate math ideas and reasoning clearly. Walk by the Meadowlark classroom any morning and you will find the children deeply engaged in problem solving, pattern work, working on strategies such as estimation and rounding, discussing what is more than or less than, taking apart numbers (subtraction) or putting them together (addition). Each Thursday is “Golden Ticket” math. The children are given a particularly challenging problem in one of the math domains. Earlier this year the children created a math punch card (yep, much like that coveted coffee card) and with each successful “Golden Ticket” solution gain a punch. We have examined logic problems, writing problems to send to upper class buddies, determined the length of a thousand pennies, and built a tapestry of one million dots, all in support of understanding earth time and conceptualizing huge numbers. The children then created a geologic timeline, with specific demarcations indicating important events, which extended back to earth’s conception. Recently we have used these open-ended Thursday mornings to explore the concept of time. The children’s creation of individual personal timelines coincided with work on earth’s personal timeline. Quantifying measurement as a standard increment was also part of their exploration. Current Golden Ticket work involves pendulums as a means of tracking both human time, a grandfather clock, and earth time, Foucault’s pendulum. The children are currently constructing their own pendulums to test a “period” using variable weight and string length. The children also have a “Notes to Self “ journal, where they document understandings that support further work in math.

Music, PE and Spanish round out the busy days of a Meadowlark student.

Britta Daubersmith — Second/Third Grade Teacher

Britta joined The Marylhurst School faculty in 2012, but her teaching career began 25 years earlier at The Sierra School (now Prospect-Sierra) in El Cerrito, California. She also taught at The Friends School of Minnesota in St Paul, Minnesota, Berkwood Hedge School in Berkeley, California and locally at Oregon Episcopal School. Britta received her B.A. in English Literature from Lewis and Clark College and a Multiple Subject Teaching credential from Saint Mary’s College of California. Britta and her husband, Jim, live outside of Oregon City with their daughter and two chocolate labs.

Claire Deters — 2nd/3rd Grade Teacher

Claire is new to The Marylhurst School this year, moving to Portland in October of 2016 from her native state of Idaho. Claire’s teaching career began at the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, as Environmental Education Specialist. She also worked as an educator at a zoo and outdoor school in Idaho, a nature center in New York, a nature reserve in Connecticut and a natural resources camp in Vermont. Claire has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the College of Idaho as well as a Master’s of Science in Natural Resources from the University of Idaho. In her free time, Claire loves to read, explore outdoors, concoct science experiments for students and listen to live music.

Kindergarten / 1st Grade Blend

About the Program

Sparrows M–F 8:30–2:30

Sparrow Schedule

The foundation of our first primary grades curriculum is to pose questions, frame hypotheses, and to devise systems to answer what it is the child wishes to know.  This overarching philosophy permeates the classroom in both social venues and academic wondering.  The children of Marylhurst School are encouraged to learn in ways that support and respond to their individual level of growth in conjunction with the needs of the class as a whole.

In kindergarten and first grade, learning is at its best when instruction is both structured and exploratory: structured through a clear and predictable schedule; exploratory through carefully constructed areas of interest.

Students extend themselves and look at the world from different points of view as they move away from visioning themselves as the center of their own universe to becoming citizens who speak as a voice within a community. We believe that a child’s inherent academic, artistic, social and physical curiosity is best supported by his/her ability and confidence in communication.  We support their journey by helping each child find their individual, collaborative and collective voice.

Jessica Bernert – Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher

Jessica began her teaching career in 2006 with the Oregon City Parks and Recreation summer program. She continued to teach art classes and work in an after-school program while completing her bachelor’s degree. In 2009 she began teaching at The Marylhurst School in the fours program and moved into kindergarten the following year. Jessica has a Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences from Portland State University. She currently resides in Oregon City.

Hanna Mears — Kindergarten/First Grade Teacher

Hanna joined The Marylhurst School faculty in 2010. She is a lifelong Oregonian and loves to be outdoors, especially camping with friends and family. She is inspired by children’s interest in learning and openness to new ideas. Hanna spent the summer in Costa Rica through International Student Volunteers teaching 4-12 year olds art, theater and outdoor recreation. She has a Bachelors of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Southern Oregon University.