PCA’s Lower School program of academics, extracurricular activities, arts, and athletics is focused on making learning meaningful for the students and preparing them for a life of service. At each level of instruction, care is taken to teach material in developmentally appropriate ways, recognizing the student’s cognitive, personal, and spiritual stage of development as well as the individual’s learning style.
Based on a classical philosophy that begins with the grammar phase of learning, the student, in his or her first years of school, gains the basic skills for learning. As mastery evolves and learning capacity grows, students develop the tools of critical thinking, questioning, problem-solving, innovation and application of learning. In keeping with the stages of spiritual development, the young learner moves from understanding the love of Christ, to knowing how to use the Bible, to using Bible study as a personal discipline, to living in such a way that Christ-likeness is reflected as a witness to the world.
In the primary level (grades K-2), there is a focus on the skills of reading, writing, and math that form the framework for all future learning; at the elementary level (grades 3-5), the training revolves around strategies for gaining and organizing knowledge; at the junior high level (grades 6-8), the students are taught to synthesize their factual knowledge and develop good oral and written presentations of their logic.
Self-regulation skills of goal setting, self-monitoring, reflection, and revision are introduced to the elementary learner and the growth of these skills is supported throughout the junior high program. The School’s culture emphasizes the need for students to work to their potential, to seek help when needed, and to strive for excellence.
PCA uses NWEA testing to measure students against performance level standards. PCA consistently has 90 to 95 percent of students at “proficient” or “proficient with distinction” categories. Both resource and enrichment opportunities exist for students who require such services and student needs are monitored closely.
The Lower School academic program is supported by a full complement of co-curricular activities through music and art, theatre, athletics, academic competition (spelling bee, geography bee, speech competition, math team, etc.) and social activities.
- Before and After Care. PCA provides before- and after-care through the Kaleidoscope program.
- Community Service. At each grade level, PCA has goals in community service beginning at the school level, then the local area, region, and finally international opportunities.
- DC Trip. Grade 8 students complete their study of contemporary history with a trip to Washington, D.C.
- Enrichment and Electives. At every grade level, PCA provides opportunities for students to explore areas of interest, future goals and particular gifts. Other classes provide opportunity for students to focus on a relative weakness, using interventions and strategies to improve in a selected area. For many PCA students, the learning continues after school in the Kaleidoscope program. This program provides additional classes in the arts, problem solving, athletics, curriculum enrichment, life skills and study skills. Offerings include cooking classes, karate, music and art lessons, science workshops, homework help, and more.
- Math Clusters. To better meet student learning needs, in grades 4 through 8, students learn math in clusters of students who need a similar pace of learning at a similar skill level. Clusters include students of multiple ages who enjoy working in a challenging, but not overwhelming environment.
- Music. Students are introduced to music in kindergarten through grade 2, learning to sing pitch, beat rhythms and “read” music. In grade 3, students experience playing instruments through an introduction to the violin. Following in grades 4 through 8, students select a performance opportunity that they would like to pursue, looking at options in band, orchestra, voice, and an elective, that rotates through guitar, percussion, and keyboard.
- Student-to-Student Learning. Beginning in the fourth grade, students are paired up with younger students to serve as Reading and Math Buddies and Shepherds for arrival and dismissal. The older students learn about leadership and compassion, and they introduce these to their buddies during the time they spend together each week reading, interacting and making lasting friendships.
- Student Council. PCA offers students in grades 6 through 8 the opportunity to participate in a service-oriented student council program that combines elements of project management, community service, and representational government.