Lower School | K-4 » Lower School | K-4

Lower School | K-4

TES Lower School (K-5)
Elementary years are particularly important ones in children's schooling, a tine when they are learning new skills and knowledge rapidly. TES’s mission is to embrace the natural curiosity of children in our Lower School and empower them to become innovative problem solvers and community builders. There are many unique ways that TES positions itself to ensure each child’s success, academically and emotionally.

Rigorous Curriculum through Project Based Learning 

The elementary school years are a critical time for young learners to not only gain fundamental concepts and mechanics, but to also develop critical thinking skills and social skills that will set the stage for a lifetime of success. Project based learning in the elementary school grades is an excellent approach for engaging young students in relevant learning that is deep and long-lasting, and inspires for them a life-long love of learning and personal connection to their academic experience.

TES follows the NC Standard Course of Study. By covering this required content via our project-based learning approach, lower school students engage more deeply with concepts while building important social skills, helping to ensure long-term retention of concepts as well as a love of learning. Within this context, TES lower school also utilizes several researched-based curriculums and methods.

  • TES K-5 classes utilize the Investigations math curriculum. The TES approach with math is hands-on and includes use of learning games, discussions, math manipulatives, and written work.
  • TES strives to build a life-long love of reading. Reading is taught via an approach that includes phonics, guided reading groups, and integrated writing. 
  • With a focus on STEM at TES, hands-on science occurs every day. Students conduct experiments and interactive labs regularly.
  • Social studies is integrated throughout the day, woven into projects, reading, and writing. 

Community Building

TES prioritizes the creation of a safe, positive and caring school community, while maintaining a continued emphasis on academic rigor. One of the many ways TES ensures a welcoming, encouraging and engaging climate across the school is through the schoolwide implementation of Responsive Classroom. Each member of the TES faculty and staff are trained in this evidence-based approach to teaching and discipline that focuses on engaging academics, positive community, effective classroom management, and developmental awareness.

Staff and students alike encompass compassion, respect, and enthusiasm as we hone our strengths, talents, and confidence in order to achieve high standards, build character, and foster a culture of innovation. 

Student Led Conferences

At TES, students play an integral part in their own learning. TES thus implements student led conferences  at all grade levels, K-8. A student-led conference is a meeting with a student, their family, and teacher during which the student shares their portfolio of work and discusses progress. The student facilitates the meeting from start to finish, allowing the student to participate in the goal setting around their learning and showcasing the work they are proud of. This process, from preparing for their conference to leading it,  builds students’ sense of responsibility and accountability for their own learning, creates an authentic purpose for good organizational and communication skills, and helps to hone their understanding of what it means to meet learning targets. Ultimately, student-led conferences help children become further invested in their own learning.

Recess, Movement, & Outdoor Instruction

Research consistently highlights the importance of recess and movement for students, particularly those elementary-aged. It not only serves as a necessary break from the work in the classroom, but it also provides cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits.

Kindergarteners have two protected 30-minute recesses per day.  All other grades have one protected 30-minute recess period each day. During this time, students engage in critical free-play outside on the TES playground and sports areas, or at nearby Gold Park.  Additionally, teachers provide Movement Breaks throughout their instruction. (These are brief intervals that enable all students to move their bodies and help teachers to engage learners in physical ways.) 

Many of TES’s daily activities also involve additional time outdoors, whether for STEM instruction, walking field trips, or a trek to the public library. The school’s close proximity to Gold Park, the River Walk, Eno River, and Occoneechee Mountain allow for ample opportunities to connect with the outdoors as part of instruction.   


Students in K-4 participate in specials each week, including art, music, and more.