Lower School

Discover Duchesne’s Lower School, where girls explore the world around them. We nurture their hearts, stimulate their minds, and envelop the girls in a compassionate community.

Watch a video about the Lower School experience:

Lower School Academic Overview

Pre-K 3

Our Pre-K 3 program touches on a variety of topics that allow children to learn by hands-on experiences. Social and emotional development are crucial elements for flourishing in our program. These skills allow children to develop positive relationships with others. The language arts and math programs provide children the opportunity to become actively engaged in their lessons and learn the fundamental skills. Science and social studies are integrated into the curriculum and taught in a real-world context. We also emphasize the importance of fine and gross motor skills through the balance of play and academics.

Pre-K 4

The Duchesne Pre-K 4 program begins the girls’ learning experience by building the foundational skills— reading, mathematics and science, social studies, problem solving, and social growth— with fun, engaging, and integrated units that are designed to make important, real world connections. Technology enhances the Pre-K 4 classrooms. The girls visit the computer lab as well as use iPads and the SMART Board to expand their learning opportunities. These tools will be a vital part of their years to come at Duchesne.


The Duchesne kindergarten program provides an environment in which each student is encouraged to explore and discover her individual, dynamic learning style while applying her knowledge and meeting her own best expectation of herself. Some of the interrelated, cross-curricular activities include: awareness of phonics, syllables, word count, rhyming, beginning/middle/ending sounds, sound spelling, decoding/comprehension strategies, and D’Nealian penmanship. Girls also learn sight and high-frequency words and begin developing expressive, written language. Our math program includes seeing the pattern and interrelationship of numbers, problem solving, computation, estimation, place value, building concepts of graphs, measurement, using the calendar, and symmetry. Science units include the study of wood, trees, weather, the five senses, and healthful eating habits. Social Studies topics include maps, communities, and a cultural study of China.

First Grade

First grade is a transition year from early education to elementary education. The curriculum becomes more independent and self-directed. Everyday routines reinforce the skills and responsibilities the girls will carry throughout their education. They become independent readers and apply their reading skills throughout all areas of the curriculum. The girls begin to see themselves as published authors. The first-grade math curriculum expands to include money, place value, and number recognition.

Second Grade

Second graders continue to develop their reading skills as they learn to read more complex words as well as read longer, more complex texts in a variety of genres such as fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. They also strengthen their reading comprehension skills as they discuss what they read and use them for developing and presenting other ideas. Second graders refine and expand their writing and grow as writers as they begin to create more detailed and longer texts. Technology is an important part of second grade; students begin to integrate it across the curriculum. Second graders practice their addition and subtraction skills and also work toward solving problems mentally. In class, students practice math with concrete, visible objects— math tools and manipulatives, including blocks, tiles, and different shapes. In addition, the girls begin to learn concepts that lay the foundation for multiplication, and they continue to gain a deeper understanding of math concepts.

Third Grade

Third grade requires a learning leap. It is a transition toward being more independent, emphasizing responsibility for the students’ own learning and actions. The girls use applied mathematics and technology within the classroom frequently and effectively. Now established readers and writers, the students explore more challenging material and topics, such as the Elizabethan Era and the American Revolution. Through the Lucy Calkins writing program, each girl discovers her own writing voice, adding unique, creative touches and exploring several writing genres.

Fourth Grade

The fourth-grade curriculum prepares the students for Middle School. It provides a strong foundation in the basic skills of learning and encourages students to become competent, independent, and creative thinkers. Students are expected to be active participants in the learning process, learning on their own through inquiry, discovery, and exploration of their world. Study skills and student responsibility are emphasized. Our departmentalized curriculum focuses on listening attentively, time management, test-taking skills, maintaining accurate homework assignments, and being organized. The faculty focuses on all aspects of the girl’s development: intellectual, spiritual, social, emotional, and physical.

Lower School Enrichment Classes


The Duchesne Lower School art program fosters an appreciation of the fine arts at all grade levels. Each student expresses ideas through activities that enable each student to express ideas through art making at an appropriate developmental level. The girls learn the elements and principles of art using a variety of media and processes. Discussion and viewing art cultivates an understanding of art history and culture. Art activities are vertically aligned with core subjects to enrich teaching and offer a holistic approach to learning.


The French language is an important part of the cultural heritage of Sacred Heart schools. The Lower School French program focuses on communication and aims to present the language in real-world contexts, and class is conducted in French. French instruction begins in Pre-K 3. At the Pre-K 4 and kindergarten levels, the focus is on learning and practicing the language orally through games, songs, drills, and coloring. In first through fourth grade, students begin reading and writing in French while continuing to build on their oral communication skills. French history and culture are part of the third- and fourth-grade curriculum.


The Sister Lamy Lower School Library provides a collection of print and electronic resources to meet our students' academic and recreational needs. Students learn how to use the library through a hands-on, curriculum-driven approach. We wish to foster a love of books and reading and produce lifelong readers. We also want students to use the library confidently and efficiently so they become information literate.


Our music program seeks to foster an appreciation and love for music in each child. Students learn music through sequential instruction that integrates Kodaly, Orff, and Dalcroze-type movement as core methods of instruction. Through a vocal approach, the girls learn the concepts of expressive qualities, timbre, duration, pitch, form, texture, and style. Performance is an outgrowth of the curriculum.

Physical Education

The physical education curriculum has been developed to help each student build a solid foundation in motor skills and physical fitness. PE activities are designed to promote gross motor skill development, body awareness, and coordination. Students learn to use their bodies more efficiently and knowledgeably through a wide variety of fundamental and sports-related movement skills. Good sportsmanship and team spirit are important components of the program.


The technology program develops a sense of computer literacy in each student. Students perform various computer operations, experience new technologies, and learn to use that knowledge in a responsible and independent manner. The use of technology is integrated in other subject areas of the curriculum.

Computers and iPads in the Classroom

Students will use the computers and iPads to:

  • Reinforce skills in other subject areas
  • Practice keyboarding
  • Learn new programs
  • Research information
  • Create projects through word processing and other programs
  • Explore new ideas

Computer Lab

Students will go to the computer lab to:

  • Increase computer literacy
  • Learn proper keyboarding techniques
  • Learn word processing and other programs used in classroom-generated projects
  • Learn to use the Internet correctly and safely
  • Learn to create multimedia projects
  • Explore coding and robotics

Lower School Office

Ginger Montalbano
Head of Lower School

Jen Lahad
Assistant to Head of Lower School

Marybeth Dineen
Learning Specialist

Jeanine Seward