At Aspen Country Day School, Fifth Grade is part of Lower School; we believe this model is the most developmentally appropriate structure for this age. Fifth Graders start their day in a homeroom with either the humanities teacher or the science/math teacher, then switch between those classrooms throughout the day. They are on the lower level of the Castle Creek building, with the sounds of the river and easy access to the plaza for spirited games of foursquare after lunch.
In Fifth Grade, children experience both depth and breadth in their studies, often discovering new subject matter that ignites their passion for learning. Perhaps it’s a great novel that turns a student on to a particular genre of literature, a water sampling project in science class that leads to an interest in biology, or a skit in Spanish class that prompts a love of performance. Fifth Graders take a wider lens on the world of possibilities that is opening to them, and caring teachers help them prepare for the Middle School years ahead.
Fifth Graders begin the school year reading the book Danny, Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. They become active readers, engaging with the text by annotating connections, questions, inferences, and importance. Students practice supporting their ideas as they write about their reading. They used details from the text to summarize, identify themes, and determine the author’s intention. Fifth Graders also learn the storyline arc of the text, which they will apply to their own narrative writing throughout the year. Historical fiction literature is utilized to highlight the perspective of Native Americans before the arrival of Columbus with the book Morning Girl by Michael Dorris. Students study this text to identify figurative language and practice inferring skills. This text also corresponded with our Social Studies unit as students learn about indigenous life and culture.
Students craft expository paragraphs about nonfiction texts and support their ideas with evidence from the reading. They refine their writing skills to use a logical flow of introduction, examples, extensions, transitions and a conclusion. They apply this format to their writing responses in Reading and Social Studies. This structure provides a strong organizational foundation for longer essays throughout year. Weekly assignments in vocabulary, spelling, and grammar are also implemented in class and evaluated with a weekly quiz.
The spring semester challenges readers and writers with varying genres of literature. Historical fiction literature is utilized to highlight the perspective of refugees in the novel, Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai. Class discourse challenges readers to demonstrate their understanding of the text and defend their stance citing evidence from the novel or passage. Fifth Graders also recount a significant event by writing a personal narrative. The writers develop the setting and plot throughout their story, focusing on the heart of their story. They use a blend of description, action, dialogue, thinking, and figurative language.
Fifth Graders continue to reinforce mathematical understanding and develop their ability to think more abstractly about mathematical concepts. Instructional time focuses on three critical areas: (1) developing fluency with addition and subtraction of fractions, and developing understanding of the multiplication of fractions and of division of fractions in limited cases (unit fractions divided by whole numbers and whole numbers divided by unit fractions); (2) extending division to 2-digit divisors, integrating decimal fractions into the place value system and developing understanding of operations with decimals to hundredths, and developing fluency with whole number and decimal operations; and (3) developing understanding of volume.
From the Fifth Grade course description, 2020-21 report cards, math:
The big ideas covered in Fifth Grade Math are decimals, fractions, and volume. We investigate each of these concepts from varying perspectives so students gain a deeper understanding of these connected themes from daily life. During fall semester we practiced rounding and estimating decimals, used decimals with all the operations, recognized decimals in everyday situations, and created and analyzed graphs. Students have collected data from mountain biking and running experiments to perform statistical analysis. We used a motion detector to create distance-time graphs, where the slope of the line gives the speed of the motion. In collaboration with science class, we worked with decimal calculations on biking trail maps. Children collected data using mostly metric measurements because converting between these units offers an accessible entry point to practice decimal place value. To become familiar with decimals, percentages, and money, each student invested an imaginary $100,000 into different stocks, using an app called “Stock Market Game.” Woven throughout every ACDS math class, we continuously hone our practices as mathematicians: persevering, reasoning, constructing arguments, modeling, using tools, attending to precision, looking for structure, and looking for patterns.
Second semester of Fifth Grade Math consisted of learning and applying many new concepts. As we entered our winter ski season, we took the opportunity to study some of the mathematical characteristics of snow. We collected samples of fresh snow from campus and calculated the volume in different units. Then we allowed it to melt and measured the volume of the water, giving us all the information we needed to calculate the fraction, decimal, and percent water composition of the snow. Students looked for patterns in the different amounts of snow collected and the corresponding amounts of residual water.
We also continued our study of fractions operations, leading us to the skills of multiplying and dividing fraction values, as well as finding a least common multiple. This enabled us to find a common denominator and find a greatest common factor to simplify a fraction. Long division with decimals and equivalent fractions concepts connected our understanding of converting decimals to fractions and percents and vice versa.
Our largest project, The Restaurant Project, meaningfully integrated Math, Science, and Technology. In collaborative groups of 1 to 4, students combined their assets from 6 months of trading in the Stock Market Game and invested in a property on our virtual “Restaurant Row” in Minecraft Edu. Groups designed and built their restaurant, paid for building materials, thoughtfully created a menu complete with prices, and kept track of all expenses on a budgeting spreadsheet. As a bonus, working with monetary values gave us experience with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals.
Fifth Grade Science students do an in-depth study of natural resources and spearhead the school’s recycling program throughout the year. They also learn to read and use topographic maps. They study our local landforms to develop their understanding of resource use, with a particular attention to the important Western issues of water and streambeds. Highlights of Fifth Grade Science include a deep dive into nutrition and weather, and an investigation of mechanical advantage through a study of levers and pulleys.
From the Fifth Grade course description, 2020-21 report cards, science:
In Fifth Grade Science, students have engaged in a variety of hands-on activities. We started off the year with an “Earth Awareness and Reducing your Impact” unit focusing on waste management, including composting. Fifth Graders educated themselves on reducing, reusing, and recycling. As part of this unit we learned where our trash, recycling, and compost end up. Next, we transitioned into a landforms unit. Students gained map-reading skills through the use of local and national topographic maps. Students also used measurement and landforms to draw, to scale, their own map of the network of trails on the hillside behind our ACDS campus. Fifth Grade students took a field trip to two different locations along the Roaring Fork River, comparing the geomorphological characteristics between the two sites. We also integrated the learning about landforms with the concept of watershed in a cross-curricular project with Technology class. Students were put into small teams to work on tackling the problem of plastic pollution in watersheds and oceans. Students also conducted monthly water sampling events of Castle Creek water quality; the data from these samples is submitted to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. We concluded the semester with each student researching one of the World Climate Types, creating a Google Slides deck, then presenting it to the class.
Second semester of Fifth Grade science included lots of opportunities for project-based learning. In January and February we did a deep dive into the winter ski season, and studied weather, climate types, clouds, storms, and forecasting. We experienced these concepts first-hand outside on our campus, or on a Ski Day. Each student chose a climate type and presented to the class the how, what, and where of their type. Then, in small groups, students created learning activities and 3D models for their assigned topic of weather: cloud formation, weather forecasting, weather maps, storms, and weather fronts.
After the weather theme, we moved into the food and nutrition unit. We learned about each of the nutrients that are provided in foods, and performed the following laboratory tests on food samples to determine the content of each: protein test, starch test, fat test, sugar test, and acid test. Students also reflected on their own eating habits and compared their patterns to the general requirements of someone their age. The recommended diets, servings, and food groups were obtained from the USDA program, ChooseMyPlate.
The final Restaurant Project groups created a menu that included a variety of nutrients, Calorie amounts, and tastes. Each group created their “Signature Dish”, and many brought a sample of that in to share with classmates, providing the nutritional value of the meal.
Through class discussions, their Social Studies Alive: America’s Past textbook, a variety of nonfiction sources, and class activities, student-researchers track historical themes ranging from early human migration patterns to the study of indigenous culture in North America. Fifth Graders learn to highlight information and transfer their knowledge to their notebooks to practice effective note taking. In an effort to foster geographic literacy, students study political maps and explore cartography.
In the spring, student-researchers study the cause and effect of historical events. Students investigate Explorers, Colonial America, and The Transatlantic Slave Trade. In an effort to foster critical thinking and engaged citizenship, Fifth Graders select, summarize, and present a current event. Along with practicing their speaking and writing skills, they also craft a visually appealing slide show highlighting the importance of their article. To culminate their understanding of current affairs and geographic literacy, students research a country, craft a well-written essay, and design a poster representing their country’s physical features, economy, culture, history, and current events. Monthly assessments of their geographic literacy are also given to the students to correspond with Aspen Country Day School’s Geography Bee.
True literature study in French or Spanish begins in Fifth Grade, when children also develop their ability to write sentences and paragraphs in the language. They complete projects to expand their knowledge of grammar, culture, and dialogues. They read quality literature and are expected to understand it well enough to discuss its meaning in English. Students become more familiar with present-tense verbs and are introduced to irregular verbs.
Fifth Graders are deepening their skills and abilities for greater creative expression. They put all the performance stages, the materials of the art room, and musical and technology tools to good use, particularly in creating and illustrating their presentations for academic classes. Shows like the Lower School Shakespeare Festival (below, Julius Caesar) and schoolwide traditions such as Halloween and Blue Green Days bring out the Fifth Graders’ interest in costuming and performing.
Fifth Graders spend time solidifying their skills in two-dimensional artmaking. They explore printmaking and shape and contrast in a project involving the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. They study color theory, line, and shape, improving their ability to draw from observation and use oil pastels. They mix colors and explore value in a larger-scale painting project. Students build props and make costumes for the All-School Play.
From the 2020-21 report cards:
Fifth Graders used music technology and recording as a means to explore a variety of contemporary musical concepts. In a series of long-term projects, they explored song arrangement, production techniques, and approaches to mixing and music engineering. They learned the fundamentals of modern multi-track recording using a full-featured, cloud-based digital audio workstation where they collaborated with their classmates and teacher. Students also learned about music theory and piano fundamentals as they created their own instrumental covers of songs from the ground up.
In this, the final year that students perform in the Lower School Shakespeare Festival, the Fifth Graders tackle something ambitious: Julius Caesar. This complex play, with its themes of political intrigue, morality, and loyalty, sparks many fascinating discussions among the students. The performance is a capstone to the Lower School Drama program. Students also engage in a variety of activities and games to improve focus and concentration. They learn about improvisation and help create their scene for the big spring play at the Wheeler Opera House.
Outdoor & Physical Education
Looking for the Fifth Grade? You’ll likely find them outside, no matter the weather. Teachers in this team take seriously the Aspen Country Day School culture of outdoor learning, and when the pond ice freezes over at the Maroon Bells in early winter, left, they gather the class for a geology lesson about landforms in the Elk Range — and a little skating — on one of the West’s most spectacular wilderness lakes.
Fifth Grade students continue to refine skills in traditional team sports: volleyball, basketball, soccer, ultimate frisbee, handball, and hockey, with a focus on development of strategy and fair play. Fifth Graders range over our campus on mountain bikes and telemark skis as they prepare for their outdoor education trips. The school ski afternoons are a highlight for Fifth Graders, as they may have the option to ski at Highlands.
Fifth Grade students spend three days in Fruita, Colorado refining their mountain biking skills on more advanced trails. Students continue to develop their camping skills and their comfort in the outdoors. They also embark on a challenging hut trip to a backcountry hut, Vance’s Cabin. Students ski in along the trail with their own backpacks, and many help pull the sled with the group’s gear. They develop their map reading and route-finding skills while ski touring, and they practice building winter snow shelters. On this trip, they participate in their first nighttime ski.
Work hard, play hard — that could easily be the motto of the Aspen Country Day Fifth Graders. They are well on their way to becoming Middle Schoolers, but still happily anchored in the Lower School community. Recess is a favorite time for expending their considerable energy and enjoying their many friendships. Photo, left, by aspiring photographer Lily Rose S. from her Fifth Grade year.
Projects & traditions
Leadership is a major theme of the Fifth Grade year. The students take seriously their job as role models for the Lower School, and they throw themselves enthusiastically into their various projects, including the recycling program. They are developing more independence in their academic responsibilities and learning more about how to advocate for themselves with teachers and peers.
Fifth Graders have weekly wellness time with the Middle School Counselor to prepare for the transition to Middle School and explore the school-wide monthly themes, which range from “Integrity” (March) to “Patience” (January). They bring these large concepts down to earth in daily life at school, learning ever more about being responsible and respectful members of the school community and the world beyond Castle Creek.