Lower School is full of so many wonderful first “big-kid” moments for University School of Milwaukee students. They are challenged and encouraged to think independently, investigate and voice their observations, and listen thoughtfully to classmates’ ideas.
Our teachers guide them through amazing leaps in learning with a common set of objectives. As children improve their reading, writing, and math skills in the classroom, they also work with specialist teachers in art, science, dance, world languages, music, and more. These are the years when children really begin to find themselves and push their limits, and each child knows there is an entire community of adults to lean on when they need a bit of help.
The Lower School curriculum at USM focuses on building the foundation for lifelong academic and social development, with an academic program that sets high standards. Active and engaged learning takes place not only in recently renovated classrooms that support innovative teaching methods, but all around our campus, as children begin to further explore the world around them.
Small class sizes in our spacious Lower School classrooms allow for the optimal use of state-of-the-art technology while still accommodating special areas such as reading corners and learning-interest centers to allow children to work independently or in small groups. Around the Lower School, specialist classrooms such as a dedicated Lower School science lab, dance studio, music rooms, and other spaces allow for in-depth learning and experiences in these areas, while other areas in the school, including multiple makerspaces, a full theatre, multiple gyms, and engaging outdoor classroom and play areas support innovative teaching methods for our faculty and provide limitless opportunities for students to explore and collaborate.
However, it is our Lower School teachers who bring amazing learning experiences alive for these children and make such a difference in their lives, and the individualized attention they provide their students during these elementary-school age years are critically important. Our teachers encourage every child to become a creative thinker and problem solver while working to build the foundation for their lifelong academic and social development.
Our kids gained a foundation here that set them up for success. But to some degree, it turned out to be foundational for us, too. When we moved here we didn't know anyone, but when our oldest son first enrolled at USM it was our opportunity to build a connection with the school community and Milwaukee.
Each day at USM, Lower School students add skills that prepare them for opportunities that await them outside the walls of the school. The Portrait of a USM Graduate ensures that each child is provided the talents necessary to be successful members of our community. From understanding technology to developing their artistic flair, we are able to ignite the passion for excellence within each child.
At USM, kindergarten is a transitional year, when students move up from the Preschool grades and more focus in placed on academic preparation, while still valuing the very important role of learning through play in the student experience. More emphasis is placed on free choice for children as they work on their problem-solving skills through peer interactions.
USM's 1st grade students continue their journey in the Lower School by developing their independent reading and writing skills and math number sense. Our 1st graders and their teachers also grow as a community while learning about other communities and various life experiences around the world as they “travel” the globe and learn about life in Costa Rica, Ghana, and Japan.
In 2nd grade at USM, children begin to see themselves as independent learners. Our 2nd graders start to work on their own more often, and for longer periods of time, in classes, and will have individual desks for the first time at USM. They also transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” as more chapter and non-fiction books are introduced. Students also focus on one world language (French or Spanish) for an entire school year starting in 2nd grade.
At USM, our 3rd graders begin to fully embody the characteristics of our Portrait of a USM Graduate, as learners, leaders, and citizens. In addition to their academic program taking another leap forward, children continue to make strong connections with their classmates and teachers to further develop their strong sense of community. Extensive community service learning and work is also introduced in 3rd grade, as students learn the importance of being a USM citizen who helps others, including their kindergarten “buddies.”
During their final year of Lower School, USM 4th graders begin to further explore their roles as leaders, not only in their classrooms, but also in the school. The homework load also increases, as teachers prepare children for the additional academic rigors of 5th grade and Middle School. Their confidence and posterity grow throughout 4th grade as they work on presentation and public speaking skills that will be important for their end-of-year Tower Project capstone presentations.
On behalf of our faculty and administrative team, I want to thank you for exploring University School of Milwaukee for your child's elementary school experience. Once you have learned all that you can from these pages, I would invite you and your family to visit our campus and classrooms for a conversation and a tour, to see for yourself what makes a USM education so special. When you're ready for the next step, just click on one of the buttons below. I look forward to meeting you.
Head of Preschool and Lower School