During their final year of Lower School, University School of Milwaukee 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.
Our 4th grade faculty work as a team to ensure that students continue to push their boundaries and work outside their comfort zones as they evolve into more curious and confident learners. The teachers also bring all 4th grade students together regularly for team-building activities, guest speakers, and many other special learning experiences. USM is a literature-rich environment, and time is also taken each day to model fluent and expressive reading to our 4th graders, reading quality chapter books aloud and asking engaging questions and prompting class discussions.
As the final grade level in Lower School, USM’s 4th grade includes a unique capstone experience, the Tower Project. As one of the only capstone experiences of its kind in the entire country for this age level, the Tower Project is a year-long opportunity for children to work on a project of personal passion, in a culmination of math, literacy, science, and social studies learning from their earlier learning at USM. With the help of teachers and mentors, students research, organize, collaborate, create, and present their projects and action components to the wider USM community toward the end of the school year.
The 4th grade curriculum in USM’s Lower School combines core subjects taught by grade-level teachers with many additional classes taught by specialist instructors.
Subject-area outcomes are an important part of how our curriculum is developed and how our students are evaluated. The following lists, broken out by subject area, provide some examples of student outcomes for the end of the 4th grade year.
The final year in USM’s Lower School is a special one, and there is an abundance of unique events for 4th grade students, including several exciting off-campus field trips to enhance their learning. One such trip is the Milwaukee Past and Present Tour, when children visit landmarks throughout Milwaukee—such as the Grohmann Museum and Jewish Museum Milwaukee, the Pabst Mansion, St. Josaphat’s Basilica, and the Milwaukee RiverWalk—that show the rich influence of the city’s many immigrant groups. Another trip includes a day spent at the Pine View Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. Students also spend a full day at the Civil War Museum in Kenosha, which focuses on Wisconsin’s role during that time period. These and other activities provide an in-depth study of Wisconsin, which prepares children for one of the highlights of 4th grade, a fantastic overnight trip to key sites in the central and southwestern parts of the state, including the state capital in Madison.
Many guest speakers, such as judges and elected representatives, scientists and researchers, and authors and artists, visit with our students and help bring the curriculum to life. Our 4th graders also showcase their own talents toward the end of the year in both a chorus concert (along with all Lower School orchestra students) and also a dance recital with original student-led choreography. All 4th grade students also take part in a unique art docent project exhibition, and of course also all take part in the final Tower Project capstone exhibition. The year—and their time in Lower School—wraps up in June with a special moving-up ceremony, where soon-to-be-Middle School students each share their fondest memories of their time in USM’s Lower School.