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Kindergarteners working with cardboard tubes at The Willows, a private school in Culver City

DK-2nd Curriculum

Kindergarteners in math at The Willows, a school in LA

Discovery, joy, collaboration, and community. Our Lower School students engage in hands-on activities designed to promote the love of learning and bring curriculum to life. Curiosity, wonder, and creativity are interwoven with skill development, social emotional growth, and critical inquiry as our youngest students spread their wings and soar in a safe, nurturing environment.

THE WILLOWS DK-2 students are creative, caring, and curious about the world and their place within it. They become empowered as learners and thinkers in these formative years as they grow and learn through the years in a balanced yet academically challenging, creative environment. We believe, and research supports, that both academic achievement and social emotional intelligence are essential components of a student’s education. So, our integrated program is designed to promote both the academic, creative, and social-emotional growth of our students.

Our DK-8 setting provides a distinct advantage that allows our youngest students to interact regularly with older role models as they learn to spread their wings, take risks and thrive in a safe, nurturing atmosphere.

Philosophy & Goals
The primary grades are a stimulating and active time filled with thrilling cognitive and social emotional growth. During these years, a deep sense of community is instilled within our students, as we nurture and support them to explore and share their innate gifts.

In DK-2nd grades, our main academic goal is to equip students with the foundational skills they need to be active, engaged, and successful learners. They formulate questions, develop strategies to find solutions, listen critically, communicate clearly, organize materials and ideas, work collaboratively, and seek assistance when needed.

We strongly believe that communication between parents and faculty supports student growth. We ensure that parents are aware of Lower School events and develop strong relationships with them.


Cross-curricular connections and flexibility are key components of a Willows’ education. Intersession, a one-week, inter-disciplinary, multi-age exploration of a single topic. Intersession provides an opportunity for the entire school to explore a thematic idea in-depth linking science, the arts, maker, technology, and  more in a unique experiential learning experience.


The purpose of assessment at The Willows is twofold: to determine whether individual students are developing and mastering grade level skills at an age appropriate pace, and to identify ways our curriculum can be refined or differentiated to best meet our students’ needs.

Rather than judging student progress only through standardized or traditional tests, teachers work closely with administrators to track student learning through a thoughtful combination of quantitative assessments such as short and long-answer tests, qualitative tools like personal reflections and written responses, project-based presentations, portfolios, classroom observations, and one-on-one oral and written evaluations.

The results of these comprehensive assessments are communicated to parents in a variety of ways. Parent-teacher conferences are held in November, March, and June, and written evaluations are sent home before the first and final conferences. Each evaluation is comprised of several descriptive narratives on core subjects as well as social-emotional observations.

Additionally, we believe that students play an important role in communicating information about their learning and growth. To this end, students lead yearly Exhibitions, where they have an opportunity to share projects with the school community, with an emphasis on process and making learning visible to others.

School-Wide Theme

Each school year since 2000-2001, our faculty and students come together across grade levels to explore a school-wide theme. Launched each fall, the annual theme is incorporated into curriculum through classroom projects, the arts, and athletics. The 2022-2023 school-wide theme was IMPACT.
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3rd Grade Art