James River Day School

Skip to main content
Please Create A Marquee

Our Curriculum

Our Curriculum Guide

THIS PAGE IS CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Please check back in a few weeks to see the complete curriculum guide.
Developed by our faculty, our curriculum is thoughtfully developed and reviewed in an ongoing way. Our world is not static, and neither is what we teach. We keep abreast of current knowledge, techniques, and technologies in order to best prepare our students for their next steps. We seek to give each student what he or she needs to become the best scholar possible. We use this curriculum and modern teaching methods to enable each student to be a person with an active, agile mind, willing to question and to seek solutions.

The Philosophy Behind Our Curriculum

Reading and Language Arts
We seek to foster a love of reading and an appreciation of the English language. Our students learn to read closely and thoughtfully, with strong comprehension. Our students study decoding systematically and study words and vocabulary in depth. We incorporate direct instruction in the fundamentals of English grammar into the practice of writing. We teach traits of writing: ideas, voice, organization, support, sentence fluency, word choice, and mechanics. Nonfiction writing instruction emphasizes paragraph unity and using evidence to support a thesis. In grades 5-8, students take both a literature course and a grammar and composition course. Our graduates are fluent and adept readers and writers. We demand the development of strong listening and speaking skills, providing regular opportunities for public presentations, thereby instilling poise and confidence in each child.
Through the use of hands-on projects that model real-world situations, we strive to give students a challenging, enriching, and relevant math experience. From cooperative learning groups in Kindergarten to project teams in later years, collaboration and process are emphasized. Our mathematics program balances computation and concept. Our math standards ensure mastery of basic computation, mathematical vocabulary, and problem-solving skills at each grade. We place an emphasis on thinking mathematically as we strive to develop an understanding of fractions, decimals, ratios, and percents, which are essential to success in higher-level math courses. We offer the opportunity for students with aptitude and motivation to accelerate, and qualified students are able to take Algebra II in the 8th grade. All of our students study Algebra before graduation.
Nowhere is our celebration of wonder and curiosity more evident than in our science program. Through hands-on research and exploration, our students learn science by doing science. Our science lab, greenhouse, and outdoor classroom facilitate instruction, supported by current technology for demonstration, data collection, and research. Our students build, apply, and link concepts and themes related to physical, earth, life, and environmental sciences, using a cross-curricular approach incorporating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics). Throughout this investigative process, students incorporate a working scientific vocabulary and practice essential science skills.
Essential Science Skills
1. Guided & Student-Generated Inquiry:  
  • ask questions
  • conduct background research
  • generate hypotheses
  • use equipment and materials
  • follow procedures
  • record observations
  • collect and interpret data
  • draw conclusions
  • conduct error analysis
  • suggest improvements
  • plan next steps
2. Critical Thinking and Curiosity:
  • analysis
  • compare and contrast
  • synthesis
  • explanation
  • application
3. Collaboration
4. Technology Use
5. Measurement
6. Calculating and Graphing
7. Note-taking and Technical Drawing
8. Reading Scientific Literature and Writing about Science
History and Social Studies
Our mission is to create scholars, leaders, and citizens. The history and social studies curriculum prepares our students to be responsible and respectful citizens who have a scholarly appreciation for cultural and social history, geography, and research. We promote global understanding, while providing students with a foundation in Western civilization. Civics and geopolitical studies courses in seventh grade balance the study of American government with the in-depth exploration of politically sensitive global regions.
Physical Education
The mission of the Physical Education department is to provide a safe, positive, and challenging educational program to empower every student to make healthy choices and to sustain regular, lifelong participation in a variety of active pursuits. The James River Day School Physical Education program is designed to inspire a lifelong love of physical activity for wellness, self-expression, social interaction, challenge, and joy. We employ a whole-child approach, teaching beyond just the physical domain, but the cognitive and affective as well. In grades K-4 students engage in foundational activities to develop a broad range of motor skills and movement patterns. In grades 5-8 students participate in team sport, recreational, fitness, and cooperative leadership activities. This balanced approach to the curriculum ensures that all students participate in activities which suit their learning style, interests, and abilities. Health is also incorporated in grades 5-8, ensuring that students graduate with a strong grasp of the relevant issues in the areas of nutrition, substance abuse, fitness, and human sexuality education.
Visual Arts
James River Day School’s visual arts curriculum encourages each student to find their own personal artistic point of view. Through a variety of art activities we cultivate students’ creativity, originality, and imagination. The curriculum approach gives students a background knowledge of all media, principles, elements, and history of art. Students learn specific techniques to increase proficiency in making art and learn artistic relevance regardless of what path they pursue in life.
Performing Arts
James River Day School Music Department is proud to offer choral, instrumental, and theatrical programs designed to instill a lifelong love and appreciation of the arts through a wealth of experiences both as a performer and audience member. A progression of core musical concepts is taught in elementary school, developed in middle school, and supported through eighth grade with Middle School Band and Choir. Strings are introduced in third grade and offered through eighth grade with Orchestra. The theater department advances public speaking, acting, and performance skills with musical plays and productions offered K-8. Students are given ample opportunities to perform and perfect their talents during the school year and with extracurricular activities such as after-school chorus (grades 3-4), as well as private instruction.
World Languages
Students begin studying a second language, either French or Spanish, in Kindergarten, and continue that study until graduation. Eighth graders take French I or Spanish I, earning high school credit. Students with aptitude and motivation may accelerate and take Spanish II in the eighth grade. French and Spanish instruction seeks to create oral proficiency first, followed by the ability to read and write the target language. Cross-curricular, cultural projects help students appreciate the diversity of world languages and the importance of learning about other cultures.
As scholars, leaders, and citizens for the 21st century, students will analyze, utilize, curate, and create digital content wisely and ethically  across academic disciplines. Current technology applications are incorporated into all of our classrooms and areas of study, as appropriate. Kindergarten and first grade have access to iPads while each 2nd through 4th grader has access to Chromebooks and iPads for use in the classroom. In grades 5-8, students use their own devices with Chromebooks being the recommended devices. The technology curriculum encompasses six fundamental areas of instruction including: coding, content creation, content analysis, file management, keyboarding, internet safety, and digital citizenship.
Essential Technology Content Areas
Within these six fundamental content areas, we focus on different skills as they are developmentally appropriate.
  1. File Management - creating, opening and saving documents, creating folders, moving files and documents, local storage versus web-based, uploading and downloading, network geography
  2. Keyboarding - Type using the home row keys with thumbs on the spacebar, sitting up straight with feet flat on the floor, not looking at hands and memorizing the keyboard.
  3. Content Creation - Word processing, spreadsheets, slide presentations, video creation and editing
  4. Content Analysis - keyword searches, website validity, creative credit, fair use and copyright, citing sources, recognizing altered photos
  5. Internet Safety and Digital Citizenship - various topics including privacy and security, creating secure passwords, cyberbullying, online etiquette, posting pictures
  6. Coding - Starting in the second grade students are introduced to the concept of coding using visual blocks that must be snapped together in a specific sequence to give the desired result (a zombie walking through a maze or an angry bird getting to the green pig). In third and fourth grade, students use the program Scratch, which offers a huge inventory of blocks and manipulatives to create their own stories, games, and animations. By middle school, students are introduced to Javascript and HTML coding through Khan Academy culminating in a 7th grade project where students code their own webpage.