Discovery Lab

Calhoun's Lower School Discovery Lab engages students in kindergarten through second grade in a wide and rich variety of stimulating hands-on projects which integrate the STEAM disciplines --Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.

Activities and materials used in our Discovery Lab are designed to spark curiosity, creative problem-solving and experimentation while teaching basic scientific principles and standard procedures.

Students' confidence and comfort levels increase as they become more familiar with a variety of methods to tackle tasks. Students in the Discovery Lab respond to challenges by devising strategies, making and documenting observations, and incorporating prior experiences and knowledge.

Activities are designed to pique curiosity, challenge preconceptions and elicit action.  Students work independently and collaboratively to develop scientific skills as they ask questions, make predictions and share collected data to formulate conclusions.  

Calhoun's progressive approach to scientific inquiry and project-based STEAM activities continues into the Lower School's 3rd-5th grades as well as into Middle School and Upper School. Also see "Learning by Doing."


Early in the year, the focus is on Simple Machines. Exercises center around ramps, screws, pulleys, wheels, axles, levers and wedges.  As students become familiar with the objects, the work increases in complexity.

By the middle of the year, the study turns to Chemical Reactions.  The children create dough and putty, and work with appropriate powders and chemicals to witness the changes that occur when they are combined. A favorite project is the building of volcanoes. Children are astonished when they erupt in lava (in a color of their choosing!). The unit also includes projects involving the properties of solids, liquids and gases.  


The year concludes with a revisit to machines, with the children designing more intricate and functional models.

First Grade 

First graders begin the year with a unit on Recycling.  The children look at materials that can and should be reused while observing how recycling is practiced in our homes, the school and in the wider community surrounding Calhoun. In an excursion around the neighborhood, students learned to make tally marks on their self-constructed clipboards, to count the number of garbage, plastic and paper recycling containers. A trip to a recycling center helped the children understand what happens to the glass, paper, plastic, metal and textiles that are being recycled. Final projects include making and using our own paper.

The second unit is a study on Homes.  Students observe local building sites and discuss the materials necessary to construct apartment buildings. Components of the study include identifying the personnel involved in these endeavors (architects, engineers, machine operators), plus the equipment and machines crucial to the completion of these projects.

The final study focuses on Farming and Food.  Students investigate questions such as: Where does food originate? What do plants need to grow? How does modern technology help farmers? How is food packaged and transported?  In conjuction with their research, students learn how to grow and care for a variety of plants.

Second Grade

For the first unit, students examine numerous examples of Rocks and Minerals, learning to identify and classify rocks based on their properties.  They further their knowledge through a scavenger hunt at the American Museum of Natural History's Hall of Gems, and culminate the study by creating individual rock crystals.

Other topics throughout the year include Magnetism, Weather, Electricity, Engineering and Astronomy.  



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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