Lower School

Advancing Curiosity


Academics in the lower school are premised upon building a solid foundation in reading, writing, and mathematics, but these fundamentals are combined with innovative theme, project-, and problem-based learning opportunities, which integrate all resource areas and disciplines.

Lower school Project after school

This project approach weaves a thread of understanding that builds context and connection between our students and new information. For example, collaboration happens often between classroom project work and art class, making for a more meaningful experience for the student. An exploratory, hands on approach to the many mediums of fine arts offers students the knowledge, creativity, and levarning skills to grow not only as artists, but problem solvers in today’s world. This same level of integration between "doing" and "knowing" occurs in other Lower School academic focus areas, like music, physical education and technology.

An example of this is a recent lower school project fueled by curiosity and powered by grit.

It started with a book.

"Who was Henry Ford?"

It turned into a three-month long labor of educational love.

What started out as a simple question, grew into a project that incorporated every third-grade subject at University Liggett School - art, math, science, technology, social studies, reading, English - and it pulled in a few unanticipated subjects - automotive design, fabrication, welding, sawing and drilling.

“As I was reading the book to the class I asked the question,‘What if we built a car?’" said third grade teacher Linda Brown. “The students all lit up and started coming up with ideas. I was the gatekeeper, or the foreman, but the students really took it and ran with it.”

She’s not kidding. This was an unplanned in-depth passion project, only supervised by the teachers, but completely fueled by the students’ ideas, collaboration and problem solving.

The students used research and critical thinking skills to understand how cars are constructed and to understand the history behind the automotive industry and Henry Ford’s impact on it. Together, they researched design, automation and coding principles and industrial materials. They reached out to the community to utilize recycled materials and to bring in an automotive engineer to share information about the reflection of light and parabolas and how those scientific concepts impact headlight design. And so much more. But utilizing this body of research and learning, they ultimately designed and created two cars, complete with working headlights, working windshield wipers and working tail lights. Check out this time lapse video showing the assembly line the day-of production (which consumed the entire lower school main hallway!).

The goal was to build the second car faster than the first, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the vehicle…and they did! The first car rolled off the assembly line at just over six minutes - the second just over four minutes. The students high-fived and jumped for joy. Mission accomplished with considerable learning by doing along the way.