Lower School

Serious About Play

It has been more than a decade since Sir Ken Robinson shared the story of Gillian Lynne in what has become the most-watched TED talk of all time. At the age of six or seven, Gillian struggled in school. She was considered disruptive, was frequently called into the principal's office, and was the topic of many parent-teacher conversations. In despair, Gillian's mother brought her daughter to the family doctor. As he spoke to the mother, he watched young Gillian move about the waiting room. His advice to the family was simple: enroll Gillian in dance school.

Gillian went on to become a highly sought-after dancer and choreographer, perhaps best known for her choreography of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. For her, the transition from "Wriggle Bottom" to star student was simple—she needed to move in order to think.
Since Robinson's talk, evidence has continued to pile up that children need to move—all children, not just would-be dancers. To function at their best, children need to interact, to connect with the world in a hands-on way and to
develop fine and gross motor skills and balance. Pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom, who has been featured in the Washington Post, NPR, and The Huffington Post, says, "In order for children to learn, they need to pay attention.In order to pay attention, we need to let them move." In fact, Hanscom's research suggests that the rise in diagnoses of ADHD over the past decade-plus correlates directly with "the amount of time kids are forced to sit while they are in school." Further, a 2016 story in The Atlantic, "The New Preschool is Crushing Our Kids," indicates that too much time spent doing desk work at a very young age may appear to benefit children in the short term, but by second or third grade, those same children fall behind their peers and are less able to make abstract connections and maintain focus.
Our Lower School teachers understand that play is serious business. All of our young learners have opportunities for structured and unstructured play, and time outdoors is built into every day. Our students keep boots, hats, coats, and mittens at school; they love to go out on snowy and muddy days when other schools might curtail outdoor time.

In addition, frequent classroom visits to the GSB garden, the greenhouse, or Home Winds campus are part and parcel of the Lower School curriculum. Our teachers thoughtfully build place-based learning and movement into their coursework. Children move, they explore, they interact, and they make connections—with the teachers, with one another, and with the material. As a result, they love learning.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.