Program FAQs, 3rd–5th Grade


What kind of students do well at Calhoun?

Calhoun serves a broad range of students representing a variety of temperaments, skill levels and passions, whose parents understand and value Calhoun's progressive philosophy.  We meet a variety of learning styles by offering multi-modal methods of instruction and individualized expectations for each child.  However, while we comply with the American Disabilities Act, we are not a school that is able to accommodate all learning disabilities.  Children requiring speech or physical therapy schedule their sessions outside of school hours.  Our program is not designed to support children requiring a SEIT or shadow teacher in the classroom.  Calhoun does not use the Orton-Gillingham or Wilson Reading System programs for reading instruction.

What is a typical day like in Lower School?

  • Arrival time on the second floor from 8 to 8:30 AM (Students have the option of a light Calhoun cafeteria breakfast between 7:30 and 8am.)
  • Meeting time at 8:30 AM
  • Three morning classes of 45 minutes each
  • Lunch and listening to stories read aloud by teachers
  • Three afternoon classes of 45 minutes each followed by 30 minutes of flexible time for activities such as grade-wide meetings, rehearsals, student choice time or extension of an in-class project  
  • Cluster time to have a snack and reconnect with the cluster teacher 

What subjects are taught?

Read about Calhoun's Lower School curriculum for 3rd-5th graders, which includes the following subject areas:

  • Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Social Studies
  • Science
  • Spanish
  • Music
  • Physical Education
  • Theater
  • Media Arts for 3rd and 4th grades
  • Computer for 5th grade
  • Life Skills for 3rd and 4th grades
  • Life and Study Skills for 5th grade
  • Library
  • Woodshop

Given the specialist model, is there an interdisciplinary curriculum?

Every subject is taught by a specialist, but all teachers meet frequently to coordinate projects that incorporate multiple disciplines.

For example, fourth graders raise brook trout for release into Black Rock Forest streams.  The project begins with the science curriculum but draws from other disciplines.  The trout have to be a minimum size for release.  Mathematical measurements take place in conjunction with the study of averages, mean and mode in mathematics. The tank must be kept at a constant temperature and pH, which requires additional measurements.  To learn more about the Hudson River—the eventual destination of the fish—each student chooses a river organism to study, makes a model of it in woodshop class and paints the model in art class.  Students write about their research which incorporates language arts

Go to Learning by Doing to see what interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum looks like!

Are trips part of the curriculum?

Third through fifth grade classes use the many parks, museums, art galleries and other resources to extend the in class learning.  Calhoun considers site-based learning and making connections with the world to be an important part of the curriculum.  Trips include community service, performance attendance and neighborhood studies.  In addition to day trips, the fourth and fifth graders take an overnight trip to Black Rock Forest. 

Is gross motor activity incorporated into the day?

Physical education occurs three of the six days in the six-day cycle. Outdoor playtime in the park occurs twice each cycle.

What are the advantages of the 3rd-5th grade open-floor plan?

The open design of our cluster spaces and the Lower School floor:

  • fosters a sense of community 
  • enables socialization between age levels such as fifth graders mentoring third graders
  • facilitates collaboration between teachers to support students’ curricular progress and social-emotional growth
  • enables teachers to observe their colleagues’ classes, learn from them, share ideas and develop interdisciplinary curriculum 
  • facilitates subject specific teacher meetings 
  • allows teachers to know and interact with all 3rd–5th grade students

What are homework expectations?

Reading each night for 15-20 minutes takes place 3rd–5th grades in one or a mix of three forms:

  1. Independent reading
  2. An adult reading to the child
  3. A student reading to an adult

In third grade, one homework task per six-day cycle is assigned, and in fourth grade, there are two homework assignments per six-day cycle.  Fifth graders have homework most days and take a study skills class to establish productive work habits.

How often are reports sent to parents?

Reports are sent to parents twice per year and include a narrative as well as checklist from each subject teacher.  Each report reflects a child’s cognitive, social/emotional and physical development.

What is a cluster and the role of the cluster teacher?

The cluster is a group of 10-14 students who spend their day and travel to classes together.  Students meet with their cluster teacher—one of a student’s subject teachers—to start and end the day.  A cluster group travels to different subject areas, each with its respective teacher so that students are exposed to multiple teaching styles and teachers are sharing their particular passions with all students within the grade.

What is a six-day cycle?

Calhoun plans a schedule over six days rather than a week to maximize the use of shared space and frequency of specialist activities. In addition, this rotation prevents students from missing the same classes repeatedly due to holidays and special events.

What are characteristics of Calhoun’s faculty?

Our teachers are joyful people with interests and passions of their own.  First and foremost, they love being with children and enjoy supporting their growth.  In addition, our teachers:

  • understand child development
  • are patient, nurturing and sensitive in their interactions with students
  • know how to spark a student’s interest
  • enjoy the high morale of the teaching floor, which is reflected by the high rate of retention 
  • reflect our desire to have men as well as women in teaching roles
  • through a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, reflect our desire to have different adult role models for students

What are the communication opportunities for parents?

  • Each year begins with a parent/student/teacher conference to articulate goals, initiate relationships and share practical information.
  • Students are delivered and picked-up on the second floor, allowing for exchanges between parents and teachers.
  • Teachers respond to voice messages and email.
  • A fall curriculum night educates parents about course content, the reasoning behind teaching strategies and the homework expectations.
  • Curriculum updates are posted to the grade pages on our website twice a month.
  • Parents receive bi-yearly comprehensive student reports with opportunities for parent-teacher conferences.

How can parents participate in the life of the school?

Parents can:

  • Accompany class field trips when needed
  • Be a cluster parent and help to communicate school activities and information to fellow parents
  • Attend Parents Association meetings and become involved in PA activities
  • Volunteer for a fundraising activity sponsored by the Development Office.

Are lunch and snacks provided during the school day?

Calhoun’s food program is designed to expose students to and foster an appreciation for a broad selection of well-prepared foods.  Students 3rd–5th grade eat lunch in our newly renovated Calhoun Commons. A healthy fruit snack is served at 2:30pm.  (See Eat Right Now)

Where are children dropped off and picked up by parents and caregivers?

Children are delivered and picked up in their classrooms on the second floor.  Fifth graders have the option of meeting a parent or caregiver in the lobby at dismissal.

Is early morning drop-off available?

Early drop-off is available, 7:30 AM, free of charge, every day of the school year.  A light breakfast is available for students beginning at 7:30 AM in the Calhoun Commons.

Is there an after school program?

Calhoun's After School Program (ASP) offers a wide range of choices for after-school activities during two terms, Sept.-Jan. and Jan.-June; all classes involve a fee that is determined by the frequency of meeting times plus any extra materials needed.  Snack is offered before classes begin, and, unless otherwise noted, classes end at 4:45pm with extended hours until 6pm available.  Cub Club provides daily or as-needed supervised care from 3 to 6pm and includes snack, a place to make new friends plus a variety of entertaining and educational activities. 

See ASP for general information; ASP81 Services for Cub Club and extended hours.

What are transportation options?

In 3rd through 5th grades, students who meet certain eligibility requirements and use public transportation to get to and from school may request Student MetroCards, offered by the Office of Pupil Transportation at no charge.  The MetroCards provide three trips per day on week days.  They do not operate on public school holidays and vacations.

Students may be eligible for free yellow bus service, also offered by the Office of Pupil Transportation.  The following criteria must be met:

  1. The student’s residence must be in the same borough as the school.
  2. The bus route must have at least eleven students.
  3. The bus must travel on a route that travels no more than five miles from its first stop, through all of the stops on the route, to the schools.

Does Calhoun have a nurse?

There is a full time nurse at 433 West End Avenue. Families are contacted when an injury requires attention beyond superficial care, when an injury has occurred that can be taken care of at school or to confirm parental agreement with a student’s request for medication. The school may administer medication with written instructions from the student’s physician, along with signed permission from a parent. The school is required by law to know if students are currently using prescription medication, inhalers or Epi-pens.  Additionally, the School requires that a Food Allergy Action Plan be submitted to Calhoun for students with severe or life-threatening allergies.  

Is Calhoun a nut-free school?

Calhoun educates parents about the school’s policy of no nuts. While we do our best to keep products with nut traces in them out of the school, we cannot make that guarantee. Students with severe allergies may carry an EpiPen with them as they travel from space to space within the school.  Additional allergies are communicated to the classroom teacher for safe handling.

Is Calhoun accessible for individuals with physical challenges?

Calhoun has two buildings: The main building at 433 West End Avenue, where 3rd–12th graders are housed, is equipped with a mechanical lift for entry and elevators to the nine floors. The Lower School building at West 74th Street, for 3’s–2nd graders, is not accessible. 

Contact Us

Robin Otton
Director of Lower School Admissions

Casey Nicklis
LS Admissions Manager
fax: 212-721-5247

Main Building 3rd - 12th Grades 433 West End Avenue New York, NY 10024 212.497.6500

Robert L. Beir Lower School Building 2.8 Years - 2nd Grade 160 West 74th Street New York, NY 10023 212.497.6550

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