The Lower School (K-4)

The kindergarten through fifth-grade curriculum is based on an understanding of boys and how they best learn. Young boys have boundless energy and a natural tendency to explore and discover. They possess a thirst for knowledge and a desire to test out their understandings. Our goal in the lower school is to provide a program that invites and cultivates curiosity. We believe this is best achieved through an integrated theme­-based curriculum that is centered on boys, that is responsive to their interests and skills, and that supports a full range of learning and thinking styles.

What is a Theme?

A theme is a curriculum framework that is designed around broad concepts and essential understandings. Skills based on National Standards guide our approaches to content and instruction. A theme allows for the integration of subject areas that enriches children's learning by making it more natural, more connected, and more purposeful. At every grade level, the themes present the challenge of learning remarkable things and allow boys to take ownership of what they study. Boys learn by doing. In every classroom, boys are actively involved in constructing knowledge and developing academic skills. They learn to ask questions, make connections, collaborate, and problem solve. These are the very skills that students will need to be successful in the 21st century.
Themes tell a story—the story of Cleveland, the story of westward expansion, the story of the Ancient Egyptians, the story of whaling. Story is the fundamental instrument of thought. Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking are organized as stories. Themes have a way of engaging young learners in a story and sending them on a journey. In the lower school on any given day, you will see boys who are knights, pioneers, Native Americans, Egyptians, whalers, and Greek gods. The journey they embark upon is always an intellectual one, but it occurs within the context of creating an authentic experience in which knowledge takes on meaning.
We engage boys in actively exploring their worlds where research and connection are key. Themes come alive as boys experience learning opportunities outside of the classroom. These experiences offer boys an enhanced appreciation of their theme as well as an opportunity to internalize concepts and information gained in the classroom. Whether it's visiting the sites of Cleveland, recreating, living, and experiencing a day in the life of Lewis and Clark, hiking to a real Native American campsite, being captivated and witnessing the beauty of humpback whales, sleeping on an authentic whaling ship in Mystic Seaport, or going back in time in Williamsburg, boys are making connections between what they are studying and the world in which they live. It is the living of life and the journey of the boys' minds that provide the greatest context for learning, and that is what an integrated theme-based curriculum provides for the boys in the lower school.

Director of Lower School

List of 1 members.

  • Photo of Lisa Cummings

    Mrs. Lisa Cummings 


Thematic Curriculum: Fairy Tales

Shaker Heights Campus

20701 Brantley Road
Shaker Heights, Ohio 44122
Phone: 216-321-8260

Hunting Valley Campus

2785 SOM Center Road
Hunting Valley, Ohio 44022
GRADES 9 – 12
Phone: 216-831-2200
University School serves over 850 boys in Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 on two campuses in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. The School’s mission is to inspire boys of promise to become young men of character who lead and serve. Dedicated faculty, rigorous curriculum, and experiential programs foster intellectual, physical, creative, and moral excellence. University School is a diverse and inclusive community where each boy is known and loved. 
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