Specialist classes

To provide a rich and balanced education, students in Grades 1-4 visit specialist teachers in technology, music, art, physical education, Spanish and the library throughout each week. In addition, classes participate in an environmental education program.


Integration of technology into the classroom curricula is central to the Lower School program. A variety of software and Internet sites are used to reinforce classroom work. The Lower School has approximately 190 computers for teacher and student use. The computer lab includes 23 networked Intel iMacs, a scanner, two laser printers and several digital cameras. Each grade has access to a set of laptops for classroom use and special subject teachers have a laptop lab which is shared among teachers for student projects. Along with networked teacher laptops, each classroom has a data projector and document camera to enable teachers to use technology as an integral aspect of their instructional practice. Digital cameras are used extensively to document student progress. 

Kindergarten teachers sign up to use the computer lab to complete projects related to the topics they are studying. In Grades 1-4, students visit the lab regularly. They develop word-processing skills, use a variety of software applications, and learn how to save documents to the network. Students use the World Wide Web to research information related to topics they are studying. Teachers create links to selected sites for student use, and the faculty carefully monitors student use of the Internet. In Grades 3-4, students also spend a portion of their class time using the keyboarding program, UltraKey, to improve touch-typing speed and accuracy. The Lower School technology coordinator oversees and coordinates class projects and instruction. Teachers and the coordinator collaborate to plan curriculum projects together.


Regular "computer weeks" allow students to engage in projects, refine skills and maintain momentum in their learning about the use of technology. 

Program highlights

  • writing letters

  • create charts and graphs

  • Kid Pix self-portrait

  • Ocean Exploration Project: vocabulary, fact file

  • intro to Timeliner

  • bird fact file

  • iPhoto geometry book

  • intro to Word editing

  • intro to Ultra Key keyboarding

  • regular access to AlphaSmarts, simple text processors

  • standard word processing: formatting, adding photos or WordArt to their writing

  • intro to internet research

  • PowerPoint

  • water unit: research, fact file

  • Victorian unit: web research, mapping, PowerPoint

  • intro to Alpha Neos

  • geography of the UK

  • internet research

  • safety on the internet

  • practice ERBs

  • PowerPoint

  • iPhoto slideshows


Music in the Lower School is an experiential program for children at all levels of musical ability and provides an array of singing, playing, listening, creating and moving activities. The focus is on active participation, personal enjoyment and creative expression, while encouraging an understanding of the place of music in world culture. Each grade presents a musical performance  during the year and dates can be found on the Performing Arts calendar.

Students play Orff instruments, including xylophones, glockenspiels as well as a variety of other percussion instruments. In addition to working as a whole class, students work in small groups, with partners and individually. In Grade 3, students learn the recorder and in Grade 4 they learn the ukulele as part of their lessons in the second semester. Students learn to read and write music starting in Grade 1 using both conventional notation and more creative ideas to build an understanding of how written music works.

Singing is an important part of the program, and basic technique is covered in every grade level using a variety of songs. Movement and Dance is integrated into Music lessons. 


K1 and K2: Two 30 min music classes per week
Grades 1-2: Two 30 min music classes per week
Grade 3-4: Three 40 min music classes every two weeks

Program objectives

Students will be able to Perform, Create and Respond to music through singing as well as through playing a variety of tuned and untuned percussion instruments. Students will develop their understanding of beat, rhythm, pitch, timbre, notation, form and dynamics through singing, playing, moving, listening and creating. 

Program highlights

  • Perform in the Grade 4 Musical

  • Create short melodies and compositions both individually and in small groups

  • Listen to a variety of music from different genres and cultures

  • Learn about notation

  • Play in class ensembles using percussion instruments such as xylophones, bass bars and djembes

  • Sing songs from all over the world

  • Move and dance to music, learning folk dances and other specific choreography as well as creating their own short routines

Visual arts

In addition to art activities integrated into the curricula, students in Grades 1-4 attend regular art classes. Through the exploration of line, shape, texture, and color, children come to see the relationship between art and nature as they work from observation, in addition to incorporating topics from the classroom curriculum and working from imagination and memory. Projects each year incorporate drawing, collage, printmaking, sculpture, and painting, while encouraging students to use a variety of concepts and media. Children's work is displayed throughout the year in the public areas of the School.

The students' graphic potential and the richness and complexity of their imagery vary with the stages of their physical, mental, physiological and sociological development. Children express best what is familiar and significant. Their artwork is a reflection of what they respond to in their environment and what their attitudes, values and feelings are about life. As children continue to grow and mature, they gradually become more aware of the detail and pattern around them, which is then reflected in their artwork. They analyze the works of various artists, and explore the concept of aesthetics and its effects on the human condition.


Grades 1-4: One lesson per week. 

Program highlights

  • introduction to the elements line, shape, color, and texture

  • create a collaborative piece as a class

  • explore the subject of animals in art, from observation, photographs, and memory

  • learn fundamental drawing, painting, and collage techniques

  • experiment with mixed media

  • create a narrative illustration inspired by children's literature read in class

  • explore abstraction and learn about expressing emotions through art

  • discover life drawing and create a clay sculpture based on the human figure

  • discuss functionality in art and design an imaginary vehicle sculpture

  • welcome a visiting textile artist and create a handmade felt piece

  • continue the study of abstraction, and use poetry as inspiration for an original artwork

  • develop greater familiarity with descriptive terms in art

  • create a gargoyle sculpture in tandem with the classroom study of London architecture

  • discover historical art movements and contemporary artists through study of Artists of the Month

  • experiment with photography and learn how to create a portrait painting from a photograph

  • increase their fluency with visual vocabulary through slide discussions and self-assessment

  • create an optical illusion

  • make a clay tablet based on mythology from their classroom study of ancient cultures

  • study Cubism and develop a cubist still life in mixed media

  • create an animal mask based on tribal mask traditions

  • work as a group to design and paint an outdoor mural

  • expand on their own independent art interests through work in their sketchbooks

Physical education

Young children need regular opportunities for vigorous physical activity to promote healthy growth and develop their health related fitness level for lifelong wellness. A major goal of the physical education program is to promote the enjoyment of physical activities and challenges and cultivate habitual patterns of a physically active life. In Grades 1-4, students begin to develop the necessary knowledge, skills, concepts, and experiences in health-related and skill-related fitness and begin to understand the importance of physical activity in relation to the performance and health of their own bodies. The goals of physical education continue throughout the Lower School program, but the activities, apparatus and range of choices becomes more challenging and sophisticated.


Grades 1-4: Three lessons per week

Program highlights

  • emphasis on "play," exploration, discovery and experimentation in a safe, appropriate environment

  • locomotor skills such as running, skipping, galloping and jumping

  • use gymnastic equipment to develop upper body strength, balancing techniques, traversing skills, climbing ability and confidence

  • emphasis on working in groups and following directions

  • introduction to basic skills of soccer, basketball, floor hockey, tennis and lacrosse, Frisbee, and dance

  • gymnastics: strength, flexibility and balance

  • intro to the cardiovascular system, muscle groups

  • develop large muscle skills, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination

  • work on basic skills in basketball, kickball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, Nerf ball tennis, cricket and hockey

  • throwing, hitting, kicking, catching

  • use gymnastics and the jungle gym equipment in order to develop upper body strength and body-space awareness

  • work with partners and small groups in pyramid activities

  • focus on team games with specific rules, appropriate behavior and social interaction

  • the apparatus and range of activities becomes more challenging and sophisticated

  • fun, fitness, vigorous physical activity and full participation are key factors

  • running for speed and endurance coupled with stop-start, direction change and zigzag running to improve game playing mobility.

  • develop strength through callisthenics: jumping jacks, sit-ups, push-ups, squat-thrusts

  • stretching exercises to increase mobility

  • informal games are included for skill-practice and exercise


At the Kindergarten level Spanish and experiences are integrated with creative arts and morning meetings. Students in Grades 1-4 are taught Spanish and attend classes each week and lessons are also integrated with other specialist courses occasionally. The emphasis is on oral language and building an appreciation for another language and culture. The language is introduced in a natural way, through rhymes, songs, games, puzzles, books, maps, projects and various activities. Students are introduced to beginning skills in reading and writing in Spanish as they progress through the Lower School.


Grades 1-2: Two lessons per week
Grades 3-4: One lesson per week

Program highlights

  • activity based

  • focus is on listening and speaking skills

  • in addition to listening and speaking, students are introduced to the written word

  • books are included in lessons for reading practice

  • taught in the classroom and integrated with PE and music classes: total physical response activities, rhymes, songs and puzzles

  • FLEX (foreign language exposure program) brings together language and culture

  • vocabulary introduced: numbers, colors, greetings, weather, days of the week, months and seasons, classroom vocabulary, important verbs, the family, feelings, celebrations, parts of the house, parts of the body, animals, food, clothing and travel, numbers 1-100


The Lower School Library is a resource of more than 15,000 books. The goal of the library program is to foster a love of literature and learning, to provide quality resources that support the needs and interests of our community, and to help the students, teachers and parents become more effective users of ideas and information. As students move through the Lower School, they develop more independence in the use of the library. Students are encouraged to visit often to select books of individual interest and for study of class topics.

The librarian collaborates with the classroom teacher to provide experience for children to use their skills purposefully. For example, in Grade 3, specific lessons on the biography section support classroom projects. Regularly scheduled library sessions inform children about the organization of the library and how to use it. Library usage is expanded as students learn specific skills such as being able to compile a simple bibliography and learn the location of different categories of books. Students also use the online catalog and practice basic search strategies. Students receive ongoing help as they expand their understanding of the wealth of resources the library has to offer. Success, ease and pleasure with library experience are ensured by a continued review of previously learned skills and the introduction of new skills.


K1-Grade 4: Weekly

Program objectives

  • distinguish between fiction and nonfiction

  • understand arrangement of books in library

  • learn about authors and illustrators

  • enjoy books read aloud

  • learn to select books at "just right" level

  • increase understanding of the arrangement of library collection

  • learn the parts of a book (cover, spine, title page, dedication)

  • reinforce reading strategies taught in the classroom (questioning, visualization, making connections, predicting, checking for understanding)

  • introduce the Dewey decimal system

  • understand the organization of fiction

  • learn about biographies

  • learn how to use the encyclopedia

  • learn to use organizational features of nonfiction texts such as a table of contents, index, glossary

  • learn to frame questions that guide research

  • learn to compile a bibliography

  • use the on-line catalog

  • practice basic research skills

  • guidance in the use of CD-ROM references

  • practice keyword searches

  • learn to choose appropriate resources to answer research needs

  • use electronic databases and other computer resources

  • reinforce Dewey decimal system

  • occasionally, Grade 4 students use the Mellon Library