Grade Level Courses & Faculty

Philosophy

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  • Philosophy

    Every aspect of our Lower School is designed to complement the developmental strengths of young learners, giving form to their innate desire to explore and discover the world around them. Guided by their natural curiosity and sense of wonder, children learn the academic skills and habits to bring their questions to life, establishing the framework for a lifetime of learning and purposeful engagement.
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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. An essential piece of our curriculum, social and emotional learning helps students recognize the ways in which they can be good citizens, collaborators and contributors, while reinforcing values of acceptance, compassion and kindness.

Grade-Level Capstone Projects

The Lower School offers two capstone projects each year: our Early Childhood production of The Nutcracker and a Biome Museum for all Lower School grades. These projects bring together work from across subject areas and grade levels, with students taking on greater leadership each year.

The Nutcracker
All of our Early Childhood students appear in The Nutcracker each winter. Kindergarteners lead the project, writing and illustrating the story that will unfold on the stage and narrating the actual production. As part of their preparation, the kindergarteners read and hear different versions of The Nutcracker in class, learn the music and travel to see the ballet. After seeing different interpretations of the tale, the students create a book of their own, which stands nearly two feet high and is used during the performance. A rite of passage for our Kindergarten students, each year the class brings its unique personality and flair to the time-honored tradition.

Biome Museum
The annual Biome Museum marks the culmination of weeks of cross-curricular activities focused on a specific ecological environment, such as ocean, desert, and grassland. By bringing together their work in art, computers, library, music, research, science and world languages, students are challenged to think creatively about how to best present information through displays, drawings, maps, writing, voice and video. In addition, students learn to link and cross-reference information, creating iPad-guided tours of the museum and interspersing QR codes that link to resources for further learning throughout the exhibits.

Every child in the Lower School is involved; the older students tackle research and create large-scale interactive exhibits, and the younger students contribute specific project elements. When parents tour the museum, fourth-graders serve as docents, explaining the wealth of information included in the eye-catching displays.

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 3-D printer). While working in the Tinker Space, children build skills in collaborative problem-solving, critical thinking and innovation.
  • Serious About Play

    Research shows that for children to function at their best, they need to move and to be in physical contact with their surroundings. During their Lower School years, our students’ academic, physical and social development is greatly enhanced through physical education and through play, both creative and structured. In addition, teachers routinely incorporate outdoor lessons into their coursework, giving young learners opportunities for hands-on, experiential learning and for the chance to move around and be outdoors.

    Outdoor Play
    Our Lower School teachers understand the vital importance of play for young learners, and recess comprises an important part of the day. Students have a chance to be outside—on the playgrounds, fields and sports courts—and to engage in creative play. Recess also provides rich opportunities for collaboration, problemsolving and social and emotional learning. Our goal is to hold recess outdoors whenever possible, and Lower Schoolers keep boots, coats, hats and mittens at school for moderately cold, snowy and wet days.

    Physical Education
    Physical education classes are held daily for students in Early Childhood and four times each week for older students. Through structured activities and games, children develop fine- and gross-motor skills as well as balance and a sense of spatial relationships. In addition, group activities offer valuable lessons in collaboration and team work.

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  • Singapore Math

    From Preschool through the second year of Middle School, students take Singapore Math, a program that
    builds strong computational skills and fosters a deep understanding of mathematical concepts. Singapore Math provides a three-step approach in which mathematical concepts are represented through 1) concrete materials, 2) visual models, and 3) numeric and algebraic equations. As they progress through the program, students become increasingly comfortable working with abstract numbers and symbols. Because the program is sequential and focuses on mastery and in-depth understanding at every stage, students own their skills, eager to tackle new and more complex material independently.

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  • Individualized Reading Instruction

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

    In addition to our classroom teachers, who are trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading, the Lower School offers a dedicated full-time reading teacher who works with students in Kindergarten and first grade. In addition, a reading specialist is available to work with students who may benefit from further instruction in reading. Complementing classroom learning with one-to-one instruction benefits every student—from those just beginning to decode to our most avid readers. Students have room to grow, while still receiving the support they need to continue to develop as readers. In addition, library time and programs such as birthday books, reading buddies and weekly book bags help instill a culture of reading and a love of literature.

Lower and Middle School Director

Kyle Armstrong serves as the Director of Lower and Middle Schools. Armstrong joined Gill St. Bernard’s School as Middle School Director in 2014 and holds more than 20 years of experience working in independent schools. He most recently served as Associate Head for Academics at The Swain School in Allentown, Pa., where he previously also served as Middle School Director. Prior to this, Armstrong worked for six years as a teacher, coach and eighth grade team leader at the Flint Hill School in Oakton, Va.
 
Armstrong’s educational philosophy is defined by meaningful conversations with the entire school community along with openness to and free exchange of new ideas. Armstrong holds a Master of Education from Lesley College in Cambridge, Mass. and a bachelor’s degree in history from Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

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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. 
Gill St. Bernard’s is an independent, 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.