JUNIORS – Second and Third Grade

Year 1: Change & Continuity

Humanities, Science, Design

Juniors explore the concept of change and continuity through studies of the Earth's geologic history, its weather systems, and human measurement of time. Students learn about the minerals, rocks, and soil that make up the Earth and study how the face of our planet—in particular our home region—has changed over time. Students also learn what makes the weather, what causes the atmospheric changes that we experience, and how we can predict those changes. They carefully measure and log this data at our Arbor weather station, as well as tracking the stream flow of our creek across the seasons. Juniors also explore the concept of time by learning about and constructing simple clocks and calendars.

  • Geology: geologic history, the rock cycle, earth science, mapping 
  • Electricity & Magnetism
  • Weather: clouds, the water cycle, wind, temperature, storms
  • Time: clocks & calendars
  • Independent Projects

Science and design overlap constantly under these themes. Juniors use the well log from our campus well to create a scale representation of the soil layers beneath our feet, tall enough to unfurl down the side of their two-story building. Another collaborative effort is a meteorology mural. Children also work to design and build a variety of time-keeping devices, studying simple machines to understand the mechanics of weight-driven clocks and trouble-shoot their models.

Year 2: Communities

Humanities, Science, Design

In this year of culture and geography, Juniors study North America, with a particular focus on the Northwest. We begin with a look at the emergence of our continent and the prehistoric animals that inhabited it. Students learn about the first Americans' migration from Asia and the development of distinct Native American cultures. The arrival of Europeans, westward expansion, and the settlement of the Northwest allows us to discuss migration in terms of the "push" and "pull" factors that cause communities to disperse and form anew elsewhere. Juniors delve into the history of Portland and explore concepts of engineering through a close look at the city's bridges. 

  • North America: physical geography & paleontology 
  • First Americans: the Kalapuya & other North American tribes
  • Colonization & Human Migrations
  • Westward Expansion: Lewis & Clark, the Oregon Trail 
  • Early Settlement of Portland 
  • Portland Bridges

We open the year by collaborating on a large, three-dimensional map of the continent's topography. Other major projects include the excavation of an archaeological test pit and the design and construction of model bridges, which we test for weight-bearing capacity.


Junior students are ready to explore a math landscape of big ideas, complex real-world problems, strategies, and models. They come to us with a solid background in number relationships and have had experience with addition and subtraction. The thematic curriculum invites work with large numbers and even negative numbers, as we investigate very cold temperatures and compare distances above and below the earth's surface. Multiplication, division, and an increasingly thorough understanding of place value allow for rich explorations. The acquisition of knowledge and mastery of these new concepts is not linear. We work to help each student take up developmentally appropriate tools—number lines, tables, symbols, etc.—to represent her math thinking as she learns to organize and solve problems. The greater complexity of the work in the Junior classroom requires greater skill in recording ideas and strategies, and in learning to look over the work with an eye to reasonableness, accuracy, and completeness.

  • Number & Operations: building, extending, & predicting simple number & growth patterns; solving for unknowns with addition/subtraction; understanding place value beyond three digits; estimating; functions; multiplication & division facts; zero, identity, & distributive properties; factors
  • Geometry:  identifying, describing, comparing, classifying, & measuring shapes using vocabulary of angles & sides, perimeter & area; fractions of rectilinear and circular shapes; using concrete & pictorial modeling to represent & predict reflections, rotations, & translations; using coordinates to describe motion from one point to another; measuring angles
  • Measurement & Data: linear, weight, volumetric, & temporal measurements; calculating the difference in lengths of objects; telling time on analog clocks; comparing coin values; understanding relationships between units of scale; graphical representations of data


By the Junior years, most students are reading and writing with growing fluency and thorough understanding. While good stories are the heart and soul of the reading curriculum, non-fiction reading is also a constant—many students are drawn to this genre to satisfy their own curiosity, but class studies increasingly require reading for research, too. Juniors love the drama of inhabiting a character from history or science, so we turn to role-playing to advance our studies on many occasions. Students are usually willing and able to harness the facts they have learned in the service of journal entries from the Corps of Discovery, advertisements for goods and services in a pioneer town, and biographical sketches of distinguished Americans. We give them abundant opportunities to learn by listening to books read aloud, too. Conversations about the text help students learn to navigate the framework of central topics and supporting ideas. Juniors are typically eager to apply knowledge of plot and character development gleaned from favorite stories to ambitious writing of their own, which furthers their practice at the technical side of the craft.