Elementary and Middle School Academics

Elementary Explorations

Explorations invites Exploris K-5 students to choose from a variety of enrichment activities beyond their typical classroom lessons and projects. Students attend Explorations once per week for two hours for 2-5 grades and two 1 hour sessions for K/1. Students select new classes, called Modules, every six weeks. Modules may include a service component, a chance to learn a new skill, the opportunity to build on an interest, or a new insight about our community.

Explorations is community-led. During the 2016-2017 school year Explorations had over 50 classes led by 100+ volunteers giving over a zillion volunteer hours. This program is not possible without the generous gift of time and energy from the talented volunteers in our community.

Please email Christina Franklin or Jamie Butler for more information

Kindergarten / First Grade

Kindergarten and first grades are the beginning steps in a child’s educational journey. We begin each school day with a morning meeting where students have a sense of belonging and practice the interpersonal skills including paying attention, listening, expression, cooperative interaction, and feedback.

Students are immersed in purposeful learning to meet the foundational skills in reading, writing, and math. Students will be engaged in multiple expeditions throughout the year. Our expeditions are units of study focused on forces of motion, plants and animals, patterns in nature, and community. Our expeditions are framed around guiding questions that solve a problem or fulfill a need for our community. Our work includes collaboration with field experts and many of the local museums near our campus.

Second / Third Grade

Second and third grades are all about making the transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” This is accomplished through whole-group integrated reading units, small group guided reading (for foundational skills), and leveled word study. Math groups are leveled according to grade and ability.

Our learning expeditions are interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on second and third grade science and social studies standards, including but not limited to: The Human Body, Economics, North Carolina History and Geography, Weather, Animal Life Cycles, and Famous Americans. We integrate language arts and math into the expeditions, extending themes throughout an entire unit of study.

Examples of our first year service learning opportunities are: creating safety bags for each classroom in our new school, creating a flip book of exercise options to use on the playground, and creating a free online walking tour of Raleigh businesses via Google Maps. We plan to extend our service learning into the local and global communities in the coming years.

Fourth / Fifth Grade

Fourth and Fifth grade are culminating years for an elementary child. They are encouraged to continue to develop their independence as a learner and to advocate for themselves. Students are asked repeatedly to be role models for the younger grades and stars of stewardship for the school.

Our studies connect the child to the history of North Carolina, it’s peoples, movement and economy. This knowledge base is broadened with study of the country. Students explore the human body and how the needs of the body relate to their every day lives. They study their local environment through in depth ecosystem analysis as well as a deep look into the global climate and how that relates back to their local weather. Students also connect to the world around them through a very real study of how things move through force and motion.

6th Grade

Sixth grade is a pivotal transition in a young adolescent’s life! As we introduce 6th graders to the systems and methods that make EMS unique we also take great care in empowering our students to become independent learners in control of their time, work, and personal academic goals.

Our theme studies include energy transfer, astronomy, the lithosphere, plant structure, and photosynthesis. We study essential topics with a lens that includes history, geography, and economics.  Our work includes collaborations with NC Museum of Natural Sciences, NEUSE RIVERKEEPER Foundation,  North Carolina Wildlife Commission, and local elementary schools.

7th Grade

Seventh grade expeditions reflect current global issues. They relate lessons on government, genetics, manufacturing, trade, energy, forces in motion, international relations, and the power of change-makers to create cultural shifts. Guest speakers from local businesses, universities, and community organizers interact with students as they grapple with issues around the globe and in their backyard. Seventh grade students bridge the gap between abstract ideals and current realities.

To stay in the loop and see some of our work visit our class blog at

8th Grade

Eighth grade is the culmination of The Exploris School experience. Building on the elementary and middle school programs, eighth grade teachers create a rich curriculum that prepares students to confidently make the transition to high school.

Topics of study:

Learning in the eighth grade continues to be focused around interdisciplinary expeditions.  A few of the major expeditions include:

  • Students examining natural and manmade systems of water, including access to and scarcity of freshwater locally, nationally, and globally.

  • Students exploring the continued need around the world for the protection of Human Rights by learning about the history of rights and the shaping of our nation as a democracy.

  • Students investigating the geologic history of the Earth and life on Earth as well as the role that human beings play in shaping our environment.

As a capstone to our learning, each 8th grade class participates in a five day wilderness experience with the North Carolina Outward Bound School. In addition to being a great adventure, the Outward Bound course allows students to reflect on the strengths gained in middle school as well as solidify their relationships with their peers as they look towards expanding their horizons in high school and beyond.

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