Elementary at Kildonan

If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach them the way they learn.
—Ignacio Estrada

The elementary program is intellectually engaging and project-based. Since the Orton-Gillingham approach is interwoven into classroom teaching, we focus on each child’s strengths and challenges, and guide them to develop skills. Classroom work is consistent with language training tutorials, and we are in close communication with tutors to support specific learning requirements such as presenting information visually, supporting students through the writing process, and using assistive technology.

We look for opportunities to integrate disciplines such as art with literature or science. Our project-based approach includes activities such as students using technology to learn and present historical information, building roller coasters or bridges to explore forces in science class, and writing dialogue for scenes in a play.

We emphasize providing students with experiences to develop speaking skills and to articulate ideas through discussion groups and student projects. We explicitly focus on cooperation and respecting the class community as we work together. Projects are carefully designed so that each child can work at their individual skill level and to encourage intellectual and social growth.

Elementary Program

The elementary student’s daily routine includes academic subjects as well as art, music, Spanish, and horseback riding. The curriculum is consistent with the content objectives and skills of the IB Middle Years Program (grades 6-10). Since the core of our approach is to be diagnostic and responsive to the needs of each of our students, we are continually evaluating and developing our program.

We evaluate students through their work in projects, articulation of ideas during discussions, and their ability to problem-solve and search for information. We also design more formal assessments for academic subjects.

All of these ways of evaluating give us a window into each child’s learning so we can find new ways to explore concepts, information, and to individualize our teaching to support each student.


Kildonan’s Language Training Department provides individualized 1:1 Orton-Gillingham language skills tutoring for the remediation of dyslexia and other language-based learning differences. Everything about the student’s tutoring, from the multi-sensory, structured teaching approach to the materials used and structured study environment derives from what we know about the needs of the dyslexic learner.

When an elementary student enrolls at Kildonan, they are, often for the first time, being taught in a way that will work for them. Their lessons only include elements which have been explicitly taught, thereby ensuring and building upon success—an emotionally sound experience. While skill development is central to the tutoring process, the 1:1 experience also gives rise to a deep appreciation of the strengths and gifts associated with dyslexia and a growing ability to self-advocate on the part of the student.


The elementary mathematics course introduces young learners to the Numicon approach from Oxford Press. Numicon is a multi-sensory approach to teaching mathematics based on a proven pedagogy that raises achievement across all ability levels and sustains it over time. The concepts are divided into the following categories: numbers, patterning, calculating, geometry, measurement, and statistics.

The activities allow students to:

  • Develop fluency by using a visual, practical base to develop conceptual understanding and fluent recall.
  • Help children to reason mathematically through the use of concrete objects and spoken language to explain and justify.
  • Develop children into confident problem-solvers.

Foundations of Mathematics 1:

For students in grades 4-6, this course introduces an integrated approach to mathematics. Using Oxford University Press, FM-1 is a multi-sensory, concept-based approach to teaching mathematics. The course covers numbers, fractions, integers and operations, and introduces students to algebraic concepts and expressions, variables, geometry, statistics and data. Students will also use graphs and calculating measures to describe trends in data.


Literature for our elementary students is often closely connected to Art as well as other areas of the curriculum such as Science or Social Studies. Each student receives 1:1 instruction for reading skills, comprehension, spelling and grammar during their Language Tutorials each day.

Our Literature classes focus on fiction and nonfiction selections, such as novels, stories and poetry, being read aloud. We engage students at their intellectual level and guide them to become more secure with increasingly complex language and vocabulary. Students reflect on story elements such as characters, setting and plot.

Reading aloud leads to writing projects such as stories and writing autobiographies. Using the writing process, elementary students collaborate as a class to perform a play each year for the wider school community and parents. Students brainstorm together, compose dialogue for scenes or create alternative endings for our plays.


The elementary Science curriculum follows the regional state standards as well as the Next Generation Science Standards formulated by the National Research Council. Kildonan is proud to offer a program with a constructivist approach to science for every student.

Students experience the adventure of discovering science through inquiry and project-based activities. The addition of technology brings content to life. The activities allow students to:

  • Experience multiple sciences and engineering disciplines.
  • Relate concepts to student interests and life experiences or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge.
  • Cover concepts over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

The elementary 2-5 Social Studies curriculum follows the New York State Social Studies Learning Standards, the National Geography Standards, and the National Council for Social Studies Standards.

Our Social Studies instruction and assessment incorporates methods of inquiry, involves discussion and decision making, and provides opportunities for citizen involvement. Our program provides students with an opportunity to learn about the social, geographic, economic, and historical characteristics of the world’s peoples and cultures, helps students to understand and apply the concept of historic chronology, and explores how different world communities meet their basic needs and wants.

The objectives for students are:

  • Gathering, interpreting and using evidence.
  • Chronological reasoning considering cause and effect.
  • Comparison and contextualization.
  • Geographic reasoning.
  • Exploring economics and economic systems.
  • Civic participation.

It is important to prepare children to grow in a society that is more complex, more global, and more multilingual than ever.

The 2-5th graders are given a brief introduction to both American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish. The ASL and Spanish teachers use a variety of teaching methodologies, materials, and technologies in order to meet young language learners where they are and help them develop vocabulary and language acquisition skills at their own pace.

Students experience language in concrete and truly meaningful ways through activities such as performing commands, playing games, singing songs, producing skits, or dancing. Vocabulary is integrated in a natural and spontaneous way within the activities, projects and language games.


The elementary Art program is designed to connect to other subjects such as Science or Literature, and also to stand alone to explore and develop skills and experience with materials.

We explore:

  • Color mixing using watercolors
  • Drawing skills
  • Two-dimensional design with collage
  • Painting ceramic tiles
  • Sculpting

We use a variety of materials ranging from: charcoal, pastels, acrylics, fabric, wire, bamboo and paper mache.

In addition to Visual Arts, a major focus of our program is Performing Arts in which we create materials and rehearse for our plays and puppet performances.


Music class introduces students to a wide variety of music in an effort to open up each student’s mind to the many styles of music that exist throughout the world. Students learn basic rhythms and/or strumming techniques as a way to prepare them to play songs. In class, we incorporate recording technology and use a wide variety of multimedia devices to create music.


The Equestrian Program has been a part of the daily life at Kildonan since the School’s founding. Research shows that balance sports like horseback riding stimulate connections between the right and left hemispheres of the brain, which is important for dyslexics to enhance their language skills.

Elementary students ride daily, within the academic day during fair weather.

Horseback riding helps our students build confidence, knowledge, courage, and provides a sense of accomplishment and pride that shows in our students.


Modified Sports and Recreation/Activity Block are options available to elementary students. After the academic day, elementary students spend a few minutes relaxing and eating a snack before beginning the after school programing. Students in these grades participate in a variety of activities ranging from organized soccer drills and scrimmages to more informal games of tag and kickball. Students also take short hikes on the trails around campus or have time for free play on the playground equipment.

Students in grade 5 participate with the older students on sports teams or recreational sports. To see what sports Kildonan offers, click on Athletic Options.

Young male student in green shirt practices a lacrosse catch. Green lawn at the Kildonan School.