Welcome to Lower School

Grades 1 - 4

The Lower School classrooms are vibrant and loving places of learning. We believe that students learn best when they are empowered and feel ownership in their classrooms.

Your child's story continues in our Lower School, the part of the school that is home to Lower Elementary (Grades 1 and 2) and Middle Elementary (Grades 3 and 4).

inline-lower-school.jpgLower School is a time filled with the excitement of having new teachers, studying new subject areas, going off-campus for field trips, performing in student assemblies, experimenting with various educational technologies, exploring big concepts in IB units of inquiry and making new friendships.

The Lower School classrooms are vibrant and loving places of learning. Students care about what they learn, they have a voice in their classrooms, posing questions of interest to them and bringing their individual strengths to the process. Through inquiry and exploration, the program engages students in their learning while continuing to build their fundamental skills in all subject areas. We believe that students learn best when they're empowered and feel ownership in their classrooms. This translates into a joy of and a passion for learning that explains why Whitby students love coming to school.

Lower School Highlights

  • In Lower Elementary (Grades 1 and 2) your child will gain from learning in multi-age classrooms where the younger children benefit from having role models and the older children benefit from having opportunities to model behavior and develop empathy.
  • Two fully-trained teachers per classroom with no more than 20 students means more differentiation in the teaching and learning, more support for the students, more collaboration between teachers and double the perspective.
  • Six IB Units of Inquiry across the school year means expanded opportunities for inquiry, critical thinking, and transdisciplinary learning as students make real and relevant connections across various subject areas.
  • Single subjects in music, art, PE and theater provide opportunities for transdisciplinary learning while also preparing students for the transition to upper school.
  • Our curriculum is concept-driven which allows learning to be transferrable to new situations – not locked in time and place.
  • Our use of various educational technologies in the classroom enhances teaching and learning.
  • Through assessments at the beginning, middle and end of units, students are empowered to take the lead in their learning.
  • Student-led Parent-Teacher conferences provide your child an opportunity to show how they know themselves as a learner as they take you through their successes and challenges.
  • Digital portfolios are another example of how we teach students to take ownership of their learning as they document examples of their work throughout the school year using SeeSaw.
  • Spanish is taught four days a week, allowing students to be immersed in a second language and providing them opportunities to explore different aspects of Hispanic culture.
  • Your child's experience in Lower School will culminate in the PYP Exhibition, a collaborative project that allows students to take action on topics that they are passionate about.

Where the rubber meets the road:
Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences
Where the rubber meets the road:
Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences

If you've spent some time on our website, you might be thinking that student-centered learning sounds great – but what does it look like in real life? We're sure your doubts will evaporate the moment you see your child talking about their learning journey in our Student-led Parent-Teacher conferences.

Not only do our students attend Parent-Teacher conferences, they drive the conversation from start to finish summarizing their strengths and challenges as a learner and sharing their inspiration and success stories.

It will warm your heart, blow your mind – or maybe even both. Either way, you'll need to see this in action to believe it.



The way we plan and structure our curriculum in Lower School is why our students love to learn.  Our approach and practice is founded in the belief that students learn best when they can see connections to big ideas, they can come to their own conclusions, they can construct meaning through inquiry and they are allowed to take risks.

We take this belief and create six conceptually based IB Units of Inquiry to provide opportunities for students to contextualize their learning, to make connections to other ideas and to inquire into the world around them.  Students develop knowledge and understanding of big ideas, underpinned by traditional subjects like math, reading, writing, social studies and science. Instead of teaching traditional subject areas in isolation they are tied to bigger concepts making them more meaningful for the students.


IB Unit of Inquiry: How the World Works IB Unit of Inquiry: How the World Works

You may be wondering how an IB Unit of Inquiry is used to contextualize learning. You can see a great example of how big concepts can be explored and leveraged across traditional subjects in our How the World Works unit.

During this unit, our Lower School students explore different forms of finite and renewable energy. They:

  • Consider applications to daily living, financial and environmental costs, as well as the transformation or conservation that may result from existing or future technologies.
  • Develop knowledge and understanding of interpreting and analyzing data, applying their mathematical skills.
  • Read, discuss and interpret non-fictional text to clarify main ideas and supporting detail.
  • Write articles and opinion pieces, considering audience and purpose. 
  • Gain scientific knowledge and understanding about forms of energy, how it can be transferred and converted.
  • Consider the local and global context while researching issues of conservation.

Beyond Academics:
Educating the Whole Child


Students take action on their learning both in school and at home. The solar tubes in our recent four-classroom addition are a testament to the learning in Grade 4.

Explore our Students' 2015 Exhibition Journey


"The arts are not mere diversions from the important business of education; they are essential resources."

Elliot W Eisner, “The Role of the Arts in Cognition and Curriculum” (2001)

Visual arts, music and theater are all integral to learning at Whitby. They are a powerful mode of communication through which students explore and develop a much deeper understanding of self expression and perspective. Each one of these programs ignite opportunities for discussions on trust, respect, point of view, conflict and camaraderie.

Visual Arts program

Creative skills, verbal and nonverbal expression, empathy and aesthetic appreciation are all developed through our Visual Arts program. Students are encouraged to draw on their imagination, providing them with opportunities to communicate distinctive forms of meaning, develop their technical skills, take creative risks, solve problems and visualize consequences.

Music curriculum

Our Music curriculum is designed to help students develop an understanding and appreciation of music, as well as acquire the practical skills needed, to cultivate a life-long source of enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Students learn music composition basics through various games, folk dances and rhythmic activities.

Individualized music lessons are also available through Whitby's Cocurricular Program.

Theater Program

The art of "walking in another's shoes" is a cornerstone of Whitby's Middle Elementary Theater Program. It transports students, builds their self-confidence, tears down inhibitions, channels experience into communication and enhances articulation.

By analyzing character histories, relationships and objectives, students begin to identify and establish different perspectives on both historical and current issues. Through text analysis, students begin to uncover the role of fairness and justice in different global contexts. And through improvisation, students work together to find solutions to problems.


Physical Education

Students learn about movement and through movement in our Lower School Physical Education (PE) program. Our approach to PE helps stimulate children to grow – physically, socially, personally and emotionally. Skills are developed through a wide variety of physical activities, designed to ensure maximum participation by all.

PE is embraced as an opportunity to stimulate cooperation, teamwork, decision-making and problem solving. Our creative "adventure challenges" require groups to work together collaboratively in order to solve problems and accomplish a common goal. In "movement composition" students broaden their understanding of how physical activity can be used for the development of basic motor skills as well as how movement can be used to communicate feelings, emotions and ideas. In "games" students also learn to recognize the challenges presented by games, the importance of rules, and how they define the nature of a game. "Individual pursuits" and "health-related fitness" balance our PE curriculum with the development of basic motor skills and recognizing and appreciating the value of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


Your child will begin using a variety of educational hardware and software technologies in the Lower School to enhance their learning, support them in the inquiry process and to develop their conceptual understanding.  Lower School students are all assigned Chromebooks for the entire school year to practice typing skills with Keyboarding Without Tears, reinforce key math concepts in ALEKS, create presentations in Google Docs, read eBooks with Follet and to learn coding in Scratch.

Students also have opportunities to use other educational technologies to extend their learning such as iPads, Cubelets, KIBO Robots and OSMO. We have adopted a flexible learning model that encourages collaboration and team teaching between the classroom teachers, the Librarian/Media Literacy Specialist and the members of the IT department in an effort to identify technologies that can be used to enhance, engage and support student learning.


Your child can continue their learning after the normal school day ends by enrolling in one of our fee-based enrichment and co-curricular program classes called WECCP (pronounced we-chip). The goal of the WECCP program is the same as during the academic day—to meet the spectrum of whole child development—cognitively, socially, emotionally and physically, focusing on the traits identified in the learner profile.

Students participate in a variety of school activities where children can learn from both Whitby teachers and highly skilled and experienced external instructors. As a student-centered school, Whitby encourages students to join and participate in a variety of activities where children can learn, explore new interests and make friends beyond the school day. Our activities are aimed at providing enriching experiences that build on individual interests and extend learning beyond the classroom, while supporting families who want an extension to the academic day.


Here's just a sampling of the exciting courses we offer through our WECCP Program:
  • Chess
  • Filmmaking and Animation
  • LEGO Robotics
  • Kung Fu Leaders
  • Rocketry
  • Yoga
  • Architecture
  • Minecraft
  • Chinese
  • Tennis

Browse the Cocurricular Brochure


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