Philosophy

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  • Philosophy

    We provide an elementary education that brings together outstanding academics, social and emotional learning and the simple joys of exploration and discovery to help children become enthusiastic lifelong learners who are articulate, confident and self-directed.
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Social-Emotional Learning

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  • Character Education/Social Emotional Learning

    Research indicates that social and emotional learning helps students thrive in school and throughout their lives. The safe and joyful learning environment in our Lower School—and indeed throughout the Gill St. Bernard's community—enables students to achieve their highest levels of academic success. Social and emotional learning comprise an essential part of our curriculum, as children learn to be good citizens, collaborators and contributors. 

Grade-Level Capstone Projects

In Lower School, each grade completes an annual capstone project, which brings together work from several different subject areas. From the Early Childhood production of The Nutcracker to the fourth-grade Brainiac Museum, capstones represent a rite of passage for our young learners. The students embrace the opportunity to make these traditions their own, bringing their personal interpretations to the well-known and much-anticipated projects. For example, each year the Kindergarten takes the lead in the production of The Nutcracker, creating and narrating the story that unfolds on stage. The kindergarteners read and hear different versions of the story in class, learn the music and travel to see the ballet. After seeing some of the ways the tale can be interpreted, the children re-envision the story in their own words, working with the teachers to write and illustrate a book. The book stands nearly two feet high and is used by the kindergarten narrators during the performance.

"With each retelling, you see some of the class’s unique humor and personality come through. They have been in the production before, but as kindergartners they take ownership of it. That pride of ownership also inspires the younger children, who look forward to kindergarten when they will inherit The Nutcracker. – Jill Fedon

Interdisciplinary Work

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  • Tinker Space

    A dedicated space for building, creating and exploring, the tinker space is used by every child in the Lower School. This flexible space combines manufacturing equipment (including building blocks, doodle pens, Legos, and cutting and gluing tools) with technology (such as computer programming software, iPads and a 3D printer). While working in the Tinker Space, children build skills in collaborative problem solving, critical thinking and innovation.
  • Annual Biome Museum

    The annual biome museum is the culmination of months of cross-curricular work focusing on a specific ecological environment, such as oceans, deserts and grasslands. Every child in the Lower School is involved, with the older children taking on more of the research and interactive exhibits and the younger children creating specific elements for the biome. Beyond the eye-catching bulletin boards and life-size creations, there are layers of information that represent collaboration among classes in art, computers, library, music, science and world languages. Throughout the exhibit, QR codes, iPads and Lower School docents help visitors understand the richness of each display. 

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  • Singapore Math

    From preschool through the first year of Middle School, students learn Singapore Math. The program focuses on developing deep conceptual understanding, flexible problem solving skills and strong computational skills. Lessons take students through a three-step learning process, beginning with concrete materials, moving to visual models and culminating with numerical and algebraic representations. Singapore Math gives every student the numerical fluency and grounding essential for lifelong success in math.

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  • Individualized Reading Instruction

    From the books we love to our favorite place to curl up with a good story, the experience of reading is individual and highly personal. Lower School teachers at Gill St. Bernard's understand that learning to read should be just as personal.

    In addition to our classroom teachers, all of whom are trained in the Orton–Gillingham approach to reading, the Lower School offers a dedicated reading teacher as well as specialists to enrich and support each child's unique reading journey. Complementing classroom learning with one-to-one instruction benefits every child—from those just beginning to decode to our most accelerated and avid readers. In addition, our approach ensures that progress is continual and fluid as students continue to develop and grow as readers during these formative years.

    Creating a strong foundation in reading is essential for continued academic success. Our students leave the Lower School as strong, fluent and independent readers. 

Lower School Director

Honor Taft brings to GSB her remarkable dedication to children and her passion for early childhood and elementary education. She has twenty years of experience in independent schools and holds a master's degree in educational leadership from Columbia University Teachers College and a master's degree in education from the Bank Street College of Education. Prior to joining GSB, Taft served as assistant head of school for the Caedmon School in New York City, an independent school that comprises early childhood through grade five. Taft has served as a faculty member on the NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) Leadership Institute and as a mentor for the NYSAIS (New York State Association of Independent Schools) Emerging Leaders Institute. Taft's two children also attend GSB's Lower School.

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  • Our Faculty

    Capitalizing on the natural curiosity, energy and enthusiasm of young children, our teachers create a learning environment that inspires wonder and encourages inquiry. Within our small classes, teachers are able to work with students individually, helping them grow in areas of strength, as well as in areas that may need more development. Our teachers fill each day with rich and challenging learning experiences that provide a strong academic foundation while helping children develop creativity, resilience, self-assurance and the capacity for taking intellectual risks. 

Meet the Lower School Faculty & Staff

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 vigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.