Lower School Program Overview

Young children are naturally enthusiastic and curious. Our approach to learning in the Lower School begins with meeting children where they are and allowing them to develop at their own pace, by nurturing their sense of inquiry, joy and confidence. We want children to love to come to school, so our goal is to inspire a love of learning from the very beginning.

Calhoun is an intellectually stimulating environment because of the wide diversity of children and adults in our classrooms. Our teachers bring their own passions and expertise to their classes, and in our warm, joyful environment, children and adults work closely with each other, sharing excitement for whatever they are learning together. Young children need flexibility, safety and routine, and Calhoun’s Lower School teachers create the nurturing space that allows children to be actively engaged in the learning process.

In Calhoun’s Lower School, children have the freedom to grow at a developmentally appropriate pace into their own unique characters. In doing so, Calhoun students develop strong skills, social confidence, intelligence, motivation and a positive attitude about school and their own education.

We invite you to explore examples of what progressive education looks like, and how students and alumni answer the question, Why Calhoun? 

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Program Details

School Hours, Drop-off, Dismissal

Half-Day 3's  8:45am - 12:00pm
Full Day 3's 8:45am – 2:30pm
4's 8:45am – 2:30pm
 K and 1st grade 8:30am - 2:45pm

 2nd-5th grade

8:30am - 3:00pm


There is 8am drop-off care available for Lower School Students at 74th Street, and 7:30am drop-off care 81st Street, free of charge. (At 81st Street, continental breakfast is available, also free of charge).

Drop-in Care & Extended Day Options

For a fee, Drop-in Care is available on an as-needed basis for all Calhoun students, M-F throughout the year.  The service is provided by Calhoun's After School Program at 74th Street and 81st Street.

Extended Day services provide supervised care until 6pm after ASP classes end at 4:30 (3's-2nd) and 4:45pm (2nd-5th grade).  Second graders may take ASP classes from either Calhoun location.

For complete information, go to:
LS74 ASP (3's-2nd)
ASP 81st (2nd-5th)

"Clusters" & Classrooms

To promote an intimate relationship between the child and his/her teacher, each child is a member of a small group called a cluster. Clusters, 3's-2nd grade, are made up of 10–15 children, with one head teacher and one assistant or shared assistant. In some early childhood classrooms, two clusters share one room.  In 3rd-5th grade, the cluster of 10-15 students moves to different subject areas as a group and begins and ends the day with the cluster advisor, the subject teacher who is the main contact person and overseer for each child in his/her cluster.

Each child has a cubby space for personal belongings, and each cluster has its own meeting space. Children immediately learn to navigate their “personal space,” their own “cluster space” and the “community space.”

Calhoun's pre-school classrooms provide a broad range of activities and are equipped with a wealth of materials that are arranged in distinct learning centers, including painting, block building, dramatic play, arts and crafts, small construction materials, games and puzzles, water play and books. During activity periods, children are free to move from one area to another and to use the materials available within that space. This helps children develop both self-direction and an awareness of personal responsibility.

Cluster Advisory System

Calhoun encourages the relationship between students and teachers by formally assigning each student a "cluster teacher" or "cluster advisor." In the Lower School's clusters of 2 years 8 months through second grade students, the advisor is the child's head teacher. In the third through fifth grades, the advisor is one of the student's main subject teachers.

The Head or Cluster teacher in the Lower School has an ongoing relationship and awareness of each student through classroom activities and through regular meetings with that child's parents and other teachers.

Prior to the opening of the school year in September, every parent and student, from threes through twelfth grade, is invited to meet individually with his/her cluster teacher/advisor to discuss the upcoming year, personal goals or concerns. Parents and parents with students in the case of older students have individual conferences with the advisor at least twice during the year (at report writing time) and more frequently if requested by the school, student or parents.

The Cluster Advisor is the liaison between the student, the parents, and the school. Parents are encouraged to stay in touch with their child's teacher/cluster advisor, by e-mail, phone or by stopping in at drop-off or pick-up times.

Assessing Student Progress

Assessment at Calhoun is not an end goal. It is part of the deep relationship between students and teachers. Our teachers observe Lower School students as they explore, discover, create, imagine, build, solve problems, relate to peers and demonstrate their learning. These observations form the basis of their assessments. Teachers can then use this continual process of assessing to create personalized experiences tailored to the next learning need of each child.

Our assessment model is ongoing, formative and engages our students. Our goal is to structure an ongoing dialogue about each student's process and learning goals that centers around the working relationship between student and teacher and that includes the student's family at the appropriate developmental junctures.

Students from the youngest grades up through senior year regularly engage in self-assessments facilitated by their classroom teachers or cluster advisor. The goal of self-assessment is for the student to critically reflect on his/her learning process and be an active participant in setting the next set of academic or extra-curricular goals and the strategies for reaching those goals.

Reports & Conferences

Calhoun encourages a partnership between parents, students and teachers. Every school year includes at least three personal conferences, the first of which takes place before the school year begins. Families and teachers continue to communicate by telephone, email or in person throughout the year.

Comprehensive narrative assessments are sent to families twice a year, which provide detailed descriptions of the child's cognitive, social and emotional growth.  Reports for kindergarten-5th grade students include tables defining developmental levels in key areas.  Families receive a vivid and clear understanding of how their children are learning.

Community Service Learning

Making children aware of basic human needs and respect for their family, friends and teachers is extended to the community at large through a variety of Lower School and all-school activities. Students learn the value of community responsibility and involvement through special projects initiated throughout the school year. Harvest Festival is an annual community event that involves the entire school’s student body. In the past, students and families have been encouraged to collect school supplies and books for children in Africa, and art kits and supplies for Hurricane Katrina victims. Upper and Middle School students join the Lower School children to work together on the projects in cross-divisional "families."

Individual grades select their own community service projects, as well. As part of the second grade’s interdisciplinary social studies/science curriculum, students have raised money to save whales and protect wolves. Third graders have sponsored bake sales to raise funds for a charity of their choosing. In a joint project, first and fourth graders have worked together to support a local food pantry.

Third, fourth and fifth graders can explore community service more thoroughly through an elective community service program offered through special courses. Interaction between children across Calhoun’s school divisions continues throughout the year, in a variety of social and educational contexts--including such Calhoun traditions as Harvest Festival and Earth Day. Similarly, community service activities are initiated – and encouraged – by teachers, students and parents.

Read more about Community Service and some of the Lower School's seminal projects--including Cooper's Troopers.

After School Program (ASP)

Calhoun’s After School Program (ASP) offers a wide range of choices for after-school activities for Calhoun students, 3's through 8th grade. The classes, which involve an additional fee, are offered during two terms, Sept.-Jan. and Jan.-June.  Unless otherwise noted, classes end at 4:30 (3's-2nd grades) or 4:45pm (2nd-5th grades) with extended hours until 6pm available. Second graders may choose ASP programs from either Calhoun location.

For class descriptions and program details, see:
LS74 ASP, 3's-2nd
LS81 ASP, 2nd-8th 

After School Music offers private and ensemble lessons for children from 2nd-12th grades.

Lower School Director

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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