The Brearley Lower School cultivates five core values: honesty, kindness, respect, responsibility and courage. Character development, problem solving and the expression of ideas, along with the acquisition of skills across a variety of domains, are the primary focus of the Lower School. Full of energy, enthusiasm, and curiosity, Brearley’s K–IV students inspire their peers and their teachers to learn and think in interesting and varied ways. The School encourages integrity and dignity in its youngest students, as well as an awareness and mindfullness that they exist not only as individuals but as members of a community of eager learners.
There are many opportunities for responsibility and independence in the Lower School. At first, they may act as messengers or visit other classrooms at snack time; later on, as they become more adept at individual decision making, they take on the responsibility of trips to the gym, music rooms, or cafeteria on more distant floors sometimes on their own. While the homeroom is the center of the girls’ academic and social lives, they congregate once during a rotation in Assemblies to share songs, plays and recitations and to welcome guest speakers on topics such as the history of jazz, children’s literature, and science-related topics.
The development of character forms a substantial part of the Lower School curriculum through formal lessons in social and emotional learning as well as during the informal interactions during the school day. Children learn how to express and manage themselves as they explore the notion of cooperation, respect, and community responsibility. In addition to service projects and the beehive of daily life in every homeroom, studying literature and drama helps girls to think beyond themselves. In all Lower School classes, conversations about relationships arise from reading and other activities. With teachers as guides, Lower School students establish the social and academic skills that will support their learning and growth throughout a lifetime of education.
Classes run in fifty-minute blocks in a six-day rotating schedule. There is a mid-morning snack, a lunch period and a time for recess. At the beginning and end of each day, a transitional period allows girls to begin and end the fast pace of a kaleidoscopic day to a more serene one, taking stock at they organize themselves, listen to announcements, do morning work, or finish up projects begun earlier in the day. While the majority of the girls’ studies take place in the classrooms, teachers take advantage of the rich tapestry of experiences that New York City as a background provides. The students travel by foot, train, bus, ferry, and tram to reach destinations in and among the five boroughs to explore such sights as Ellis Island, Union Square Greenmarket, Wykoff Farmhouse, or to see a performance at Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
Families are expected to read aloud with their children daily from Kindergarten on, and girls are expected to read to themselves daily once they have developed the skills to do so. In addition to reading for pleasure, formal homework assignments begin in Class II and the demands increase incrementally as the students make their way through the Lower School.