The period of the primary grades (grades 1 – 5) is a pivotal time for educational, doctrinal, and simply human growth. The students at this age have been introduced to Jesus and the world around them and are now ready to dive in deeper. A huge developmental leap is made from Grade 1 to Grade 5, and it is important that children in this period are properly challenged, clearly instructed, and increasingly supported in the beautiful love for learning that is so natural to this age group.
Founded on Faith
During a student’s time in the primary grades, his participation in the school’s liturgical and sacramental life is greatly increased. Students in these grades are able to attend Mass twice a week, have weekly opportunities to go to the sacrament of Confession, and also are given occasions to lector, altar serve, and participate in the children’s choir. As a student matures, he moves from simply learning the motions of Mass, to fully participating in the liturgy and understanding its significance and importance in his daily life. In addition to the increased participation in the school’s liturgical life, students deepen their doctrinal understanding of the faith by daily studying from the Faith and Life series. The Word of God is also an integral part of the doctrinal formation at this stage, and by the end of 2nd grade, each student has received his own copy of the Bible, which he will use and study throughout his remaining years at St. Isaac’s. Besides the liturgical, sacramental, and doctrinal development during this time, all students have numerous opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, through monthly adoration, class retreats, pilgrimages, and similar activities.
Steeped in Learning
Catholic education is fully rounded by its excellence in academics. Students in the primary grades receive a deeper understanding of all subjects, thanks to the Catholic lens. Rather than narrowing each subject, the Catholic perspective allows the students to approach each subject with awe and true wonder. The marvels of science are studied, not simply as something to be memorized, but rather as an incredible gift from the Creator that are still not fully understood but can be explored in our science lab. Math, even at its simplest levels in the early primary grades, shows the order and predictability of the world, even as they approach more the complex topics of algebra. Discussions about literature and history are deepened by the students’ understanding of virtue, grace, and providence.
United in Community
Community is an important aspect of students’ development during this stage, especially as they are able to participate more fully in their local and school community. Each grade is assigned a “buddy classroom,” which gives older students the opportunity to set the example for younger students and to strengthen friendships within the school itself. Buddy classrooms get together for school liturgical events such as all-school Masses, service projects, and fun activities. Students also learn how to help the larger community by participating in an annual Adopt-a-Family program during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Classes are also encouraged to take the initiative and discover new ways to serve the community. Past initiatives have included a “penny war” fundraiser for Detroit schools, packing cans at a local food bank, helping out with the parish’s annual Lenten Fish Fry, and caroling for seniors, to only name a few. Every year new ideas and new ways to serve are discovered!
Thus it is through faith, academics, education in virtue, and community that our students grow in the primary grades.
Alive in Virtue
While in the primary grades, a child reaches the age of reason, and is thus ready for a deepened understanding of virtue. Students in the primary grades can be challenged to acknowledge the virtues of others, as well as to admit the virtues they possess or need to cultivate. While each grade uses the Education in Virtue program differently, every classroom has some visual representation that highlights students’ efforts in that process of personal growth– such as virtue ladders, virtue gardens, or virtue boards. Students continue to learn what a virtue “looks like” and “sounds like”, as well as Scriptural ties for virtue, and the saints’ examples of virtue. Teachers communicate students' growth in virtue to parents by using a “Christian Witness” certificate through the school communication system, and also share virtues that a child needs to cultivate through a “Disciple of Christ” report.