How to Grow a Great-Hearted K-5 Scholar

Great Hearts Academies October 5, 2022

Archway students

Great Hearts emphasizes that for students to become great-hearted leaders they must share in a knowledge that is rooted in the humanities, sciences, and fine arts. Great Hearts is founded on certain pillars that orient the efforts of students and teachers alike as they cultivate their minds and hearts in the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

Curriculum for our lower schools (Kindergarten through 5th grade, and sometimes referred to as “Archway”) consists of English, History and Geography, Math, Science, Foreign Language, Fine Arts, and Athletics.  We believe that true education is a matter of development over time and within a stable community. At Great Hearts we give our students individualized attention, but always within a common, one-track curriculum.

Let’s explore some of the components of our curriculum at our lower schools in this brief overview:

    Great Hearts uses the Spalding Method for lower schools specifically to teach phonics, spelling, and writing.  Reading, literature, vocabulary, grammar, and composition is primarily taught through fine literature.  Fine literature is the highest expression of language, and the ability to read and delight in it is the capstone of education in language.Great Hearts Chief Academic Officer Jake Tawney expressed the importance of fine literature in the curriculum.  “Literature forms the moral imagination of the student. It teaches the student what it means to be human and how to act virtuously in the world… at the lower schools, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobeand Charlotte’s Web are spectacular.”
    The goal is to have an educated knowledge of the people, societies, places, governments, arts, religions that have shaped Western Civilization.  History lessons in the lower schools create a framework for deeper study in the upper level history courses.  From Kindergarten to 5th grade, each year focuses on a major civilization as well as a section of American history.
    Students study Singapore mathematics where the primary goal in grades K-5 is to become familiar with basic numbers and shapes and the way that they act together. As philosophical realists, we believe that truth can be encountered and known, and that students at early ages learn best by examining what is close to them. For this reason, mathematics in the lower grades is taught with heavy reliance on manipulatives: physical representations of numbers. When students learn to count, they will count actual objects. Through a deliberate program of using these manipulatives, students begin their journey towards abstraction. They move from the physical, concrete objects, towards a pictorial representation of the objects, and finally on towards the abstract symbols and algorithms for operating on these symbols. We do this not only to aide their understanding, but also to emphasize that mathematics is grounded in the real.
    Our younger scholars are taught to be attentive, knowledgeable observers of the natural world and of natural phenomena. We also outfit them with an array of basic knowledge of the workings of life, the ecosystem, the earth, and the cosmos, from deep space to the atom.
    Education in language requires education in at least one foreign language. The study of one language yields insights into others. A complete education in the Western tradition requires the study of Latin.  Spanish and French are also offered as modern foreign languages at some academies.  Instruction in the modern foreign languages is entirely immersive.
    At Great Hearts, we teach the ‘classical’ fine arts. They are classical because they have been a continuous part of the Western high art tradition for more than 2000 years: art (painting/drawing/sculpting), music, drama, and poetry.There is a progression of study in fine arts, but this progression should not be misunderstood as getting more conceptually difficult or tedious from grade to grade. The foundational concepts discovered are repeated over and over, perhaps framed within different modes, but essentially nothing changes. What changes from grade to grade are a student’s ability, a more careful sense of observation, and a greater articulation of purpose.
    While our upper schools focus on competitive sports, our lower schools’ physical education consists of traditional and non-traditional sport activities that encourage teamwork (trust/tolerance), leadership (courage/confidence), focus (perseverance), and building concrete habits. Students are to be taught proper form for running, throwing, catching, and the basic moves in the main sports. Instructors strive to create a positive environment in which all scholars feel comfortable to try their best, take risks, and strive for excellence.

To quote directly from The Philosophical Pillars of Great Hearts, “Liberal education consists of cognitive, emotional, and moral education—thinking deeply, loving noble things, and living well together. We believe, with Plato, that the highest goal of education is to become good, intellectually and morally.”

Learn more about all the curriculum offered at Great Hearts here:

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