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Lower School

Theodore Corvino P '94, '97, '02

Director of the Lower School
Assistant Headmaster
First appointed to the Lower School faculty in 1974, and named Director in 2000, Mr. Corvino has long epitomized the philosophy of the Short Hills campus: inspiring in children a lifelong commitment to learning, self-discovery, and social responsibility, and promoting excellence in all facets of school life.

From Kindergarten through Grade 5, Lower School students lay the important foundation of their educational future. Here, in an academic framework focused on STEAM principles and cross-disciplinary study, children learn and discuss principles of honorable behavior, celebrate diversity, practice teamwork, and find their independence.


Lower School: From Kindergarten through Grade 5, Lower School students lay the important foundation of their educational future. Here, in an academic framework focused on critical thinking and cross-disciplinary study, children learn and discuss principles of honorable behavior, practice teamwork, and develop their independence. Whether in the science lab, drama or art studio, playground, or playing fields—and guided by a desire to impart a love of lifelong learning—we teach our students to embrace the principles of honorable behavior, celebrate diversity, and collaborate. We complement these academic and life lessons with community service activities that begin in Kindergarten, exposing children to the value of helping others through a variety of age-appropriate, hands-on activities.

As students mature, we encourage them to take increasing responsibility for their education to promote initiative, self-discovery, self-reliance, and independence through study skills, organization, and attention to process.

Because we recognize the importance of parental involvement in a child's overall educational experience, we not only offer formal bi-annual parent/teacher conferences, but also encourage faculty and administrators to build informed, productive relationships with parents. 


Lifelong curiosity is nurtured by making learning an exciting and engaging process. For our Lower School students, that’s precisely our goal.

We offer traditional coursework in language arts, mathematics, science, Spanish, and social studies, supplemented by activities—both inside and outside the classroom—that emphasize experiential learning. Every minute of the day is looked upon as an opportunity for new understanding and growth. Art, music, and drama classes provide outlets for student creativity and self-expression. Technology and library classes impart foundations in research and literary skills. And newly modernized STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) classrooms offer valuable opportunities for interdisciplinary study, furthering creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving among students.

Daily physical education classes and plenty of outdoor time on our recently redesigned playground give students the chance to play, interact, and learn valuable lessons in teamwork, sportsmanship, and leadership.

Year after year, our Lower School students experience a seamless transition to the Middle School on the Basking Ridge Campus. Why? Our fourth- and fifth-grade departmentalized curriculum meticulously readies students for the class schedules and intellectual and organizational challenges that await them in the Middle School. Additionally, two cornerstone courses, “Decisions" and "Study Skills," expose them to the problem-solving, note taking, and learning strategies they’ll need for Middle School level coursework. Filled with happy memories, our fifth-graders depart for the Middle School furnished with the building blocks they need to be successful in their new learning environment, in a nurturing community they know well.


Curriculum Overview

Reading, Writing, and Language Arts

The goal of our balanced literacy program is to develop engaged, independent readers and writers who can acquire and evaluate information and express ideas with clarity and eloquence. The program emphasizes the relationship between reading and writing and the developmental nature of each. In the primary grades, students learn the connection between real experiences and the written form.

Social Studies

The social studies program includes the study of human relationships, both past and present, and draws its subject matter from geography, history, anthropology, economics, political science, and social psychology. As the program is developed through the grades, the child is made aware of the larger world. The social studies program is based upon the assumption that a democratic society depends upon sensitive and responsive citizens who can make rational decisions consistent with basic democratic values. The classroom provides the environment in which students can inquire into and evaluate questions which deal with social behavior through a wide variety of historical and social events.


The elementary program fosters the acquisition of mathematical power - the ability to use, explain and justify mathematics. Students navigate the number system by counting, comparing, sequencing, combining, separating and partitioning numbers in many different ways. This exploration leads them to fluency and accuracy in arithmetic basics, with a depth of understanding of underlying concepts that will direct them toward success in higher mathematics. Elementary students are encouraged to develop flexible problem solving skills by exploring a variety of strategies, and to communicate their reasoning and methods to others. They also learn to represent quantities and solution strategies using pictures or diagrams, words, numerals, symbols and concrete materials such as counters, pattern blocks, tiles, coins and interlocking cubes. Creating and exploring multiple mathematical representations in this way leads students to evaluate their own mathematical conjectures, and construct meaningful and individualized understanding, rather than focus on a series of teacher-directed solution algorithms. Collaborating with peers enhances every child’s learning experience, as students share and blend a range of reasoning methods from concrete manipulative models to elegant mental strategies. The curriculum reflects the standards established by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


Science is the exploration of the universe for the purpose of seeking orderly, testable explanations of objects and events. The Pingry School elementary science program offers a balance of hands-on experiences and science content. Each year, students study topics in three major areas: life science, earth science, and physical science. The processes of observation, investigation, collection of relevant data, discussion and confirmation of findings, and experimentation are emphasized throughout the program.


Students in the Lower School are provided with opportunities to explore, experience, and understand various forms of technology as a tool to develop critical thinking skills. With every child having access to either an iPad or Chromebook, technology is an integral part of their everyday academic experience.

World Language

The ability to communicate in more than one language has long been recognized as a tool for enhancing student achievement. Beginning in the early school years, it is critical for today’s children to develop communicative and linguistic proficiency in English and other languages in order to understand and appreciate the cultural diversity of our rapidly developing global community. Spanish is the base foreign language at the Short Hills Campus.


The Short Hills Drama Program aims to develop creative, collaborative, and critical thinking skills through dramatic exercises designed to help students in all facets of their natural development: emotional, intellectual, physical, vocal, and social.

Visual Arts

The Lower School art program is designed for young students to discover, explore, and expand their artistic identities. Art lessons are child-centered and have multiple entry points for students with varying ranges of experience and skill. The program focuses on skill development, synthesizes process and product, and encourages risk-taking and self-expression. Art allows students to make connections with their studies, notice patterns, blend content, and create ways to solve problems. The program aims to broaden and deepen students’ artistic knowledge and ability while they experience the joy and meaning found in the process of being a creative, artistic individual.


The Lower School's approach to music education is similar to teaching students a world language that is unfamiliar to them. Rather than teaching about music, students learn to become musical and speak the language of music. Leading to performance as an integration of skills learned, students are exposed to music in a variety of ways, including singing, playing musical instruments (woodwind, brass, strings, percussion, recorders, Orff, and other classroom instruments), performing, movement, reading notation, composing, improvising, music technology, and other concepts.

Physical Education

The Physical Education program follows a carefully defined curriculum that encourages greater understanding of the importance of promoting wholesome physical development. The program is designed to meet the needs of the individual child and to create positive experiences that will enhance the child’s ability to develop his or her body to the fullest. At the same time, it provides the child with the tools necessary to make healthy decisions about exercise and future athletic and recreational activities. All students receive equal opportunities to reach their potential and are encouraged to progress at individual rates. Our primary goal is to provide maximum opportunity for children to enjoy physical activity and thus realize that it is a desirable and worthwhile endeavor, one they will want to continue throughout their lives.


Children today are growing up in a complex society characterized by uncertainty and rapid change. The issues our youth confront daily make health education an integral part of a balanced and comprehensive school program.


Helping new students adjust successfully to Pingry is the emphasis in all grades.

Lower school student smiling