Grade by Grade Program Descriptions 

First & Second Grades

Local destinations include local wild patches such as Miller Grove, Old Mill Park & Boyle Park and the school garden. Attention is paid to the changes experienced by these places through the seasons. Free and directed observation, activities, and games support themes and content in nature stories read after returning from the outdoor experience. Light discussion and free drawing based on the stories supports the content of the experience.  

Third Grade

Regular hands-on work in the school garden emphasizing the magical gift of agriculture, the importance of soil, water, air, nutrients, and sun takes center stage this year. Visits to local vegetable farms, fruit orchards, beef and dairy ranches, sheep farms, farmers markets, and aquaculture operations where the children learn about the lives of the people who steward these operations and where they can help with planting, harvesting, and other farm chores, are critical to the children's grasping the connection between humans and the earth. The children experience a diversity of operations ranging in character from the school garden to community gardens, from urban farms to family-owned farms, and from conventional to organic and biodynamic. Working with basketry and textile artists, building small and large scale projects, visiting construction sites and working with building materials is also part of the third-grade experience. Native American stories are told to show continuity of experience.

Fourth Grade

Explorations of local fauna and the ecosystems in which they play a unique role is at the heart of the fourth-grade students' NEST experiences. Mt. Tamalpais, the Pacific coast, and the hundreds of trails in between provide the perfect outdoor classroom. The San Francisco Bay Area is also rich in environmental organizations and facilities that support zoology studies such as wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoos, and natural history museums. Local geography is integral to ecosystem studies with mapping expeditions of classroom, school, neighborhood, creeks, town, and beyond on the agenda. Local history is also very much a part of the students explorations of their place, requiring trips to former Miwok settlements, the landing places of European explorers, preserved missions, former Mexican ranchos, dairy ranches and the immigration station at Angel Island. An ongoing creekside restoration project in collaboration with local organization Mill Valley Streamkeepers at Miller Grove near the school is also a component of the fourth-grade students' work.

Fifth Grade

The ecosystem explorations of the prior year extend into fifth grade as the students focus on producers this year with an extensive look at plant life. Outings in the extensive natural spaces surrounding Greenwood allow students to study local plant communities, and trips to botanical gardens support these studies. Related activities include operation of a native plant nursery on behalf of Mill Valley Streamkeepers, growing plants in our own school garden and creekside restoration projects that began in January 2012. Trips to museums to experience Asian, Egyptian, and Greek historical objects and to places of commerce to experience the economic connection between the students' place and that of more distant peoples also make up a portion of the fifth-grade experience.

Sixth Grade

Investigations into acoustics, optics, and astronomy are undertaken through attending workshops given at local museums and planetariums. Homework includes successive night sky drawings. Applied geometry is found by visiting labyrinths. Geology is studied in the field, where outcrops tell the story of the formation of coastal California through subducting plates and the fault movement of today.  Pillow lava basalts and radiolarian chert, some metamorphosed to jasper, and all covered with a layer of sandstone graywacke, itself sometimes found metamorphosed to greenstone are examined. Serpentine is found locally and requires examination where it is found among the hilltops. A continuation of the study of energy flow and matter cycles takes place in the garden with more specific work with biodynamic farming methods and in-depth studies of symbiotic relationships in nature such as mutualistic pollinator partnerships. An extensive multi-year project to establish a sanctuary for honeybees began in 2011 entailing a study of bees, hives, beekeeping, bee-friendly plants and related topics.

Seventh Grade

Our firm understanding of ecosystems allows us to begin to explore the impact of humans upon them. Classroom discussions of the Age of Discovery turns to a modern-day look at resource use. Prior years' explorations in hands-on farming, ranching, and building lead to an examination of the effects of large-scale agriculture, forestry, grazing, fishing, mining, development, and other land uses. Inorganic chemistry topics are experienced in place, with controlled burns and experimentation with fire starting materials as examples of combustion and ocean acidification as an example of changing pH values. Care for one's self is explored through examination of food quality and air quality, among other content, and making remedies from locally-found healing plants is a supportive experience. Becoming familiar with particular scientists and environmental leaders is part of our work. A community service or action project bringing ecological thinking or a manifestation of it to campus makes up an important part of the seventh-grade year.

Eighth Grade

A further exploration of ecology occurs this year with the study of meteorology, which combined with prior studies, leads to an investigation of climate change, population growth, energy consumption, pollution and the synergistic effects of all of these on biodiversity. We acknowledge the earth as a closed system and look for applied science solutions in technology, and also in biomimicry and conservation. Visits to a landfill, sewage treatment plant, organic farm, fishing operation, solar and wind energy generation site, and other relevant places support this work. Ample time to continue to nourish our interconnections with nature is spent in natural places looking more deeply at the effect of the seasons, and in the changes in pigmentation of fall leaves to the quality of the winter's accrued rainwater in the creeks. Successive observations about the weather and cloud forms are recorded. Kitchen chemistry explorations into canning, pickling, and cheese making are appropriate experiences this year. Once again, a community service or action project which remedies a practice inconsistent with ecological thinking is a critical part of the eighth-grade year.