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Elementary School

Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 5

 

 

 

 

 

Tradition and Excellence since 1956

Founded in 1956 by international education pioneer M. Crist Fleming, TASIS The American School in Switzerland is the oldest American college-preparatory boarding school in Europe and is world-renowned for its ability to develop global citizens through education, travel, and service.

The TASIS Elementary School, which now serves students in grades Pre-Kindergarten (starting at age 3) through 5, opened its doors as the first English- language elementary school in Ticino in the fall of 2005 and has remained the region’s premier independent school ever since. Since its inception, the Elementary School has grown from 43 students to a vibrant international community of 180 children representing 30 nationalities and speaking more than 20 languages as a mother tongue.

Nestled on the Collina d’Oro (“Hill of Gold”) in Montagnola, a small village overlooking Lugano, TASIS’s beautiful campus is surrounded by the Swiss mountains above and Lake Lugano below. The Elementary School comprises five classroom buildings, two science laboratories, two dining halls and two playgrounds, and students enjoy access to all that the main TASIS campus has to offer, including two gymnasiums and a large theater.

Students in Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and first grade spend most of their time at the Early Childhood Center known as Al Focolare, which has its own kitchen facilities, playground space, art room, and library.

Who We Are

“In the TASIS Elementary School, we believe in taking the best parts of the American pedagogy—strong relationships between teachers and students, the need to differentiate instruction in order to engage each and every student, an unwavering belief in student potential, and an emphasis on critical thinking—and combining them with a cumulative, content-rich curriculum designed to ensure that all students establish a deep foundation of knowledge that sets them up for success in future years. We invite you to learn more about our curriculum and our approach.”

Mr. Timothy Fitzgerald, Lower School Head

Tradition and Excellence Since 1956

Our Curriculum

To thrive in the 21st century, one cannot be a critical thinker without first developing a strong foundation of knowledge. In the TASIS Elementary School, we build this foundation by following the outstanding Core Knowledge Curriculum SeriesTM, a coherent, cumulative, and content-specific core curriculum grounded in shared knowledge of language arts, history, geography, visual arts, music, mathematics, and science.

The academic program as a whole, which is discussed in greater detail later in the catalog, has been thoughtfully developed to ensure that all students emerge with an excellent grounding and preparation for the academically rigorous upper-school curricula TASIS employs—most notably the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program® and the Advanced Placement (AP) program.

 

 

Core Knowledge: An Overview

The Core Knowledge Curriculum SeriesT—an excellent sequential, content-rich curriculum that also serves as the backbone of academic programs at TASIS Elementary Schools in England, Portugal, and Puerto Rico—provides all children an equal opportunity to learn essential academic knowledge and skills. It is based on a conception presented by Prof. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. in his well-known books Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, The New First Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them, and The Knowledge Deficit. 

The curriculum was practically developed by Prof. Hirsch’s Core Knowledge Foundation—an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan educational foundation founded in 1986—and is now used with great success by hundreds of schools in the United States and abroad. Its positive learning outcomes are well-established by research and have been widely praised and documented in numerous studies.

Learn more

We offer an inside look at a typical Monday for a third-grade student in the TASIS Elementary School.

A Day With Grade 3

Positive Feedback

TASIS parents are pleased to see how enthusiastic their children are about learning as the curriculum unfolds. No matter what level of ability students start with, they experience a sense of achievement as knowledge and skills are mastered.

“Our children grew more confident, more assertive, and more aware of the world surrounding them. They came out of the Elementary School with a unique ownership of what they studied and the ability to apply it in their everyday lives, be it applying math to real life problems or walking into a church and recognizing architectural features.”

The curriculum helps children become familiar with the traditions and knowledge commonly shared by educated citizens in a society, enabling them to develop cultural literacy in a way that is systematic while still leaving room for creativity. Teachers are free to teach the subject matter as creatively as they like, but the content is specified and builds from year to year. This approach prevents the gaps and repetition that frequently occur in curricula that are not coordinated across grade levels or within different classrooms at the same grade level.

Because teachers are guided by a detailed outline of content knowledge and skills to be taught at each grade level, they are free to focus on teaching—providing appropriate support and guidance while ensuring that all students are challenged and actively engaged. The high expectations they set for their students are reflected in the challenging content they use as the backbone for their lessons.

Each teacher also works closely with a dedicated Literacy Coordinator to develop a classroom library that supports the content taught. The ever-expanding classroom libraries are filled with supplemental teaching materials, read-aloud books, and books students can select for independent reading.

An overview of the major topics covered each year:

Kindergarten

Geography
Five Senses
Plants
Animals & Needs
Native Americans
Seasons & Weather
Early Exploration
Taking Care of Earth
Presidents
Magnetism

Grade 1

Geography
Body Systems
Early World Civilizations
Early American Civilizations
Modern Mexico
Astronomy
The Earth
Living Things & Environments
Early Exploration
Colonies to Independence
Early Exploration of West
Electricity Matter

Grade 2

Geography
Early Asian Civilizations
Modern Japan
Ancient Greece
The Constitution
War of 1812
Cycles in Nature
Westward Expansion
Insects
The Civil War
Digestive & Excretory Systems
Immigration & Citizenship
Fighting for Cause Magnetism Simple Machines

Grade 3

Geography
Classification of Animals
Muscular, Skeletal, & Nervous Systems
Ancient Rome
Light & Optics
Sound
The Vikings
Astronomy
The Earliest Americans
Early Exploration
The Thirteen Colonies
Ecology

Grade 4

Geography
Circulatory & Respiratory Systems
The Middle Ages
Chemistry
Electricity
Spread of Islam
Early/Medieval African Kingdoms
China Dynasties Geology
The American Revolution
Early Presidents & Politics
Constitutional Government
Metereology Reformers

Grade 5

Geography
Classification of Living Things
Early American Civilizations
European Exploration
Cells
Plant Structures
The Renaissance & Reformation
England Golden Age
Life Cycles
Endocrine & Reproductive Systems
Early Russia
Feudal Japan
Chemistry
Westward Expansion
The Civil War Native Americans

Positive Feedback

“Our children grew more confident, more assertive, and more aware of the world surrounding them. They came out of the Elementary School with a unique ownership of what they studied and the ability to apply it in their everyday lives, be it applying math to real life problems or walking into a church and recognizing architectural features.”

Core Knowledge is a guide to content from grade to grade, designed to encourage steady academic growth and progress as children build their knowledge base, improve their English-language fluency, and develop the skills essential for responsible citizenship from year to year. This cumulative building of knowledge helps ensure that children enter each new grade ready to learn.

The curriculum is organized to build and deepen students’ knowledge grade by grade, and to make cross-curricular connections across subjects. For example, fifth graders studying the Renaissance can confidently build on their prior learning about ancient Greece and Rome (grades 2 and 3) and the Middle Ages (grade 4) while also connecting their historical studies to topics in visual arts, where they study masterworks by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and others.

Studying topics together in the same grade can build a sense of community in much the same way that common knowledge can bind the larger society together. A distinguished scholar of international renown, Prof. Hirsch believes that a diverse society has a special need for commonly shared background knowledge and, further, that everybody has a right to share this civilized res publica—not just a select few. Students come to understand the shared dimensions of knowledge, how subjects relate to one another and build cumulatively over time, and how history influences contemporary events. They can command the necessary vocabulary to comprehend the complex subjects that lie ahead and the increasingly complex world around them. Though initially oriented to Anglophone culture, students come to share a larger civilizing culture exploring the best that has been thought, said, invented, and discovered in the world—the classic “liberal arts” ideal.

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Learn more about Core Knowledge

A Deeper Look

While the Core Knowledge Curriculum Series™ serves as the backbone and philosophical underpinning of our Elementary School’s academic program, it is enriched by the world-renowned Singapore Math program, English as an Additional Language support for those who need it, and a robust co-curricular program that includes Visual Arts, Music, and Physical Education. Specific aspects of our academic program are explored below.

The Whole Child

Core academic instruction is complemented by a strong co-curricular program that includes instruction in Visual Arts, Music, and Physical Education. Students meet regularly with highly trained specialist teachers, who collaborate with core-subject teachers to provide an integrated curriculum that supports the Core Knowledge sequence.

Al Focolare: The Early Childhood Center

The TASIS Early Childhood Program (ages 3–7, grades Pre-Kindergarten through 1) approaches learning through hands-on exploration and play. Aiming to create lifelong learners, we encourage our young students to use their natural curiosity to investigate and discover the world with advancing independence in high-quality learning environments. Children work individually and collaboratively on foundational skills in mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, music, movement, and dramatic play. All interrelated aspects of a child’s growth—development of coordination, social and emotional skills, and visual and performing arts—are considered in order to establish a solid and well-rounded basis for learning. 

Al Focolare, our Early Childhood Center, comprises six classrooms with dedicated spaces for art, science, library, and physical education. Our playground is a well-cared-for environment filled with nature’s beauty and variety—a place that supports imaginative, social, and gross motor play. Students are served multiple-course, family-style meals for lunch each day and are encouraged to learn to make their own healthy choices and use proper table manners.

A Head Start

“We want to make sure that when all students start Kindergarten, they are ready to succeed. We can better ensure success by working on fine and gross motor skills, social and emotional development, and independence and responsibility in Pre-Kindergarten starting at age three. In addition, young children are naturally drawn to manipulating and examining objects around them, and our mathematically rich environment builds upon their curiosity and desire to explore.”

Mr. Timothy Fitzgerald, Lower School Head

Pre-Kindergarten Program 
Our Pre-Kindergarten program begins at age three (children must turn three before September 1 and be toilet-trained) and consists of two levels: Pre-K 3 and Pre-K 4. These full-day programs are designed to help young children improve their language skills and integrate socially before moving on to Kindergarten. The curriculum for Pre-K 4 classes directly follows the Core Knowledge Preschool Sequence™ in all subject areas and includes weekly visits to our Early Childhood Science Laboratory, whereas the Pre-K 3 program is thematic-based, addressing topics such as colors, shapes, seasons, friendship, the five senses, the alphabet, transportation, holidays, nutrition, habitats, and weather. Children in both levels cover music, art, physical education, and library units with specialist teachers. 

Our Approach

Great Teachers Make Great Schools

With a diverse student body representing roughly 30 nationalities each year, we are a true global community and consider it paramount to hire outstanding teachers who are well-versed in international schools, multilingual education, and early-childhood education.

More than 75 percent of the Elementary School Faculty holds advanced degrees. Faculty members speak more than a dozen languages, and both native English and Italian speakers work together to set students on a path toward becoming bilingual before they proceed to the Middle School, where being very strong in both languages will help them reach their full academic potential. 

Our teachers work hard to form a personal connection with each student, strive to create a nurturing atmosphere in the classroom, and believe deeply in student potential.

Teacher Spotlight

“I enjoy teaching at the Elementary School level because the students give you unconditional love, and it is exciting for me, as a teacher, to see the excitement surrounding that moment when they understand a new concept. They get very emotional, and it is like a light bulb went on.”

Ms. Natasha Koltypin, grade 1 teacher

“I want my students to know that they can try anything, be anything, and do anything. When we come to those bumps in the road, we can figure out what works best for them. Continuing to encourage them, creating that belief in themselves, and stretching them to reach their best abilities sets a good foundation to keep them intrinsically motivated to learn.”

Ms. Sarah Maas Bearden, grade 4 teacher

Differentiated Instruction

Children at the TASIS Elementary School come from all over the globe, with vastly differing abilities in math and reading in English. Our teachers therefore differentiate instruction in both reading and math within each grade level. Each student’s progress is constantly monitored, and adjustments are made as needed.

Small-group and individualized reading instruction is provided on a daily basis, and students have specific, ongoing assessments to determine placement in the appropriate reading group as our instructors focus on the five pillars of reading development: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. 

Students in need of greater challenge are accommodated in a number of ways. Teachers stretch advanced readers by assigning them more difficult titles for independent reading, for example, while in Math a teacher may choose to provide instruction to the full class for 10–15 minutes before breaking the group into different stations designed to serve each student appropriately. Pull-in teachers join the classroom to help the homeroom teacher meet the needs of each learner, and students who continue to demonstrate the need for greater challenge are provided with more demanding assignments.

Small Classes

The average Elementary School homeroom currently has just 14 students. Small class sizes allow our teachers to more effectively track their students’ development and gain a better understanding of their strengths and passions.

Responsive Classroom

Our faculty has adopted the Responsive Classroom approach, a teaching method that helps students strengthen both academic and social-emotional skills, builds a collaborative community of learners, and delivers content in a manner that is interesting to students. Professional development in the Responsive Classroom approach has helped teachers improve their discipline practices, train students to be responsible for their own behavior, and prepare teaching spaces and lesson plans that help the class achieve its goals.

Some in the teaching profession view discipline as something separate from instruction—something that a teacher must impose on her class so that she can teach in peace. At the TASIS Elementary School, we have a different approach: here, discipline is an important learning activity. We believe that some of the most important lessons children learn at school take place on the playground as well as in the classroom. Our approach to discipline is instructive rather than punitive.

Whether a child is struggling with his multiplication tables or trying to learn how to behave well, the teacher’s job remains unchanged. It is not to punish, but rather to instruct and to increase virtue.

Teacher Spotlight

“There are two parts to my job: education and instruction. Instruction consists of teaching academics while education is, in my opinion, the most interesting part and certainly what I love the most. I like to describe educating as working on the soil. You need to work on the soil a lot and take good care of it until it is ready for you to put the seed in. If you put in enough effort and have patience, then as soon as you spread the seed, it quickly starts growing and will grow beautifully; more importantly, it will have strong roots. The children need to be taken good care of, and the learning comes when and if they are emotionally ready.”

Ms. Cecilia Origoni, grade 3 Italian teacher

Technology in the Classroom

We use technology to enhance traditional teaching methods, not replace them. Our technology-rich environment, which is designed to support our youngest learners in their classrooms and meet diverse learning and language needs, provides ample opportunities for students to use modern tools to learn, create, and collaborate. All students in grades K–5 have access to iPads as they learn a multitude of content and skills that help prepare them for success in the Middle School, including the following:

  • responsibly using apps and the internet to find information and images
  • writing with word processor and graphic organizer applications
  • practicing arithmetic, spelling, and grammar
  • creating and delivering informational presentations
  • creating and editing videos and other forms of multimedia
  • developing digital citizenship skills
  • using translators and dictionaries
  • sending email communication (in grades 4–5)

All Elementary School teachers are provided a Mac laptop and an iPad. Teachers work together to share ideas and design lessons that integrate technology in age-appropriate ways. They also collaborate with our Learning Technologies Coordinator in one-on-one sessions, team meetings, and in-class lessons.

Teacher Spotlight

“In order to thrive in this world, learners of all ages must be able to create, communicate, and learn with computers. The iPad’s ability to transform into a book, camera, translator, recording studio, dictionary, word processor, sketchpad, encyclopedia, and communicator—along with its portability, familiarity, and ease of use—makes it a great computing tool for our Elementary School students. ”

Mr. Tim Venchus, Learning Technologies Coordinator

After-School Program

We believe that the education of a child should not stop at 15:30 and therefore offer an expansive After-School Program that promotes an active, wholesome lifestyle and encourages students to discover new interests. The program builds upon the fine work done during regular school hours by offering students activities in athletics, performing and visual arts, modern languages, and more. All activities take place in a pleasant and supportive environment and allow children to cultivate their talents while creating new friendships and building self-confidence.

Recent offerings include Robotics, Cooking Club, Bug Club, Creative Writing and Drama Club, German, Homework Club, Art and Emotions, Horseback Riding, Yoga and Games, Rock Climbing, AC Milan Soccer, Mini-Basketball, Mini-Volleyball, Baseball, Choir, Dance and Choreography, Dance for Joy (Ballet), Tip Tap, Speech and Drama, and ES Musical. 

The two drama options—Speech and Drama and ES Musical—in many ways serve as an extension of the Elementary School’s exemplary arts program. Speech and Drama concentrates on skill-building, creativity, collaboration, and confidence in performance and is offered each fall while ES Musical is offered each spring and culminates with multiple performances of a musical theater production in the state-of-the-art Palmer Cultural Center.

Teacher Spotlight

“My philosophy is to embrace the diversity of the classroom in order to allow for differing ideas to collide and new knowledge to be cultivated. I also believe we need to allow students to make mistakes. I aim to set up a classroom that is more of a laboratory as opposed to a place where people feel they need to be perfect. I think you have to foster an environment of creativity, and this starts with ensuring the students are open to taking risks.”

Mr. Matthew Frazier-Smith, Elementary School Theater Director

Service Learning

Our dynamic Service Learning program instills compassion in students and builds awareness for important local and global issues. Students work on different service projects at each grade level. Their level of involvement grows each year, with the ultimate goal of building a foundation for success in the High School’s pioneering Global Service Program.

Recent projects have included running a donation drive for a local toy hospital, learning about microloans and putting them into action, tracking food waste on campus and learning how to compost, working with a local association for the blind, and teaming up with a charity that brightens the lives of terminally ill children by sending cards and letters.

Through the pioneering Opsahl Global Service Program, our High School students serve the local community and have the opportunity to go on life-changing trips to destinations across the world, including Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, and Zambia.

Parent Involvement

As parents, you are strongly encouraged to be involved in your child’s education and to be in regular dialogue with your child’s teachers. Weekly bulletins help keep you informed about your child’s classes and upcoming school events, and you will have the opportunity to attend regular Parent Coffees hosted by the Elementary School Head.

You are also invited to join the excellent TASIS Parent Association, which is committed to building a strong community by fostering a spirit of inclusion and cooperation; promoting open communication between parents, teachers, and administrators; connecting the community through social events to make all families feel welcome; and enhancing the school environment through fundraising activities.

Your interest in what your child is learning and your support in developing good study habits at home are crucial for the successful education of your child. Our curriculum is a contract—and an invitation.

Parent Comments

“The Elementary School Faculty has often impressed me with its ability to understand each child and support him or her in a positive collaboration with the family. The faculty has always been engaged and proactive.”

“The strength in the program comes from the strength of the staff. The teachers are experienced, dedicated, and kind, and provide an environment for intellectual exploration and emotional safety. Everyone is approachable and responsive, which makes the journey of educating your child feel more like a partnership, or consortium.”

Join the TASIS Family

TASIS has decades of experience in the education of young people aged 3 to 19 in Switzerland, England, Puerto Rico, and Portugal.

Defined by tradition and excellence since 1956, TASIS Switzerland offers academic programs for day students in grades Pre-Kindergarten (beginning at age three) to Postgraduate (13th year) and for boarding students in grades six to Postgraduate, serving approximately 715 students from 60 nations each year. High School students can choose from individual Advanced Placement (AP) courses or pursue the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, providing access to outstanding universities around the world. 

TASIS England covers Pre-Kindergarten through grade 12 in Surrey, England; TASIS Dorado is a thriving

Pre-Kindergarten to grade 12 school in Dorado, Puerto Rico; and TASIS Portugal opened in Sintra, Portugal, as a Pre-Kindergarten through grade 6 school in September 2020—with plans to add more grades in the coming years. All but TASIS Portugal also offer robust summer programs.

For more information about programs offered during both the academic year and the summer at all TASIS locations, please visit www.tasis.com.

To learn more about the TASIS Elementary School or to schedule a visit, contact the Admissions Office at admissions@tasis.ch or +41 91 960 5151.

Contact Admissions