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Lower School

In Lower School, we strive to fan the flames of our students’ innate desire to learn. With joy, wonder and excitement, our girls run to school each morning, eager to experience new ideas and try new things to develop and strengthen their humanity and intellect. Their curiosity and the realization of their roles within the Brearley community are supported in all we do by a foundation of our five core values: honesty, respect, responsibility, courage and kindness. 

In a warm and supportive environment, our girls learn to take risks, stretch their imaginations and expand their boundaries. Students are guided throughout their journey by a caring, experienced faculty who understand how they feel, think and learn. We encourage their natural instinct to question and challenge, cultivating the start of a lifelong joy in exploration and the acquisition of knowledge.

Our girls learn to take risks, stretch their imaginations and expand their boundaries.
Maria-Anna Zimmermann
Maria-Anna ZimmermannHead of Lower School

Small School,
Big Program

Just because our students are small doesn’t mean they don’t possess mighty intellects. In these formative early years, we challenge students to stretch their minds, develop a love of language and take on new obstacles with gusto. A kindergarten visit to a city green market inspires multimodal work on sustainability and healthy eating, while all students in Class III receive their own instruments for the first time as part of our robust music program. Class IV students perform plays in Mandarin as part of our annual Lunar New Year celebration, and in their Measure, Cut and Code class, they delve into the intersection of art, technology and science through interactive projects in our Idea Kitchen.

A School Within
a School

Located on three contiguous floors of our newest building, the Lower School is both a physical and emotional haven for our youngest students. The spiral staircase connects our classrooms and creates a warm, inviting space for our students to experience their community coming to life. While kindergarteners spend most of the day in their homerooms, venturing out primarily for gym and the library, older students traverse the building as their independence and responsibility grows. The Lower School also meets once a cycle in the Performance Hall for assemblies and performances, such as homeroom plays, concerts and holiday celebrations. 

Building Character, Building Community

With the guidance of our faculty, our students begin their journey to becoming strong, kind, confident women who respect one another and are committed to improving the world around them. Our community is diverse and inclusive, where all our students, including the youngest, are taught to regulate emotions, promote empathy and make others feel valued. This social and emotional learning is a critical component of our Lower School curriculum.

Kindergarten Curriculum

Language Arts

Phonemic awareness, phonics and sight word reading; reading aloud from several genres; listening and reading comprehension through discussion; D’Nealian handwriting; self-expression through creative writing.

Social Studies

An exploration of identity through self, family, classroom community and school community; the impact of changemakers; introduction and application of Brearley’s core values.

Work and Play

Time to play, learn, explore and experience; block building, board games, puzzles and self-initiated projects. 

Health Education

Identifying body parts; keeping our bodies healthy and safe; different kinds of families.

Art

An exploration of many media through work in two and three dimensions; development of strong fine-motor skills.

Physical Education

Exploration of locomotor patterns, movement pathways, kinesthetic awareness and basic sport skills through classes in physical education, dance and FunFit.

Mathematics

Sorting and classifying; shapes and solids; nonstandard measurement; number bonds and relationships; addition; subtraction; numbers to 100; time to the hour; recognizing coins.

Science

A yearlong exploration of scientific method as it pertains to the three disciplines of biology, physics and chemistry; characteristics of leaves; behavior, anatomical structure and ecology of selected insects; the process of composting; study of motion and forces, using marbles; sinking and floating; dissolving and evaporating; explorations of chemistry.

Respect and Responsibility

Character development; social and emotional learning; friendship and resolving conflicts through discussions; team-building activities; art projects and dramatic role-playing. 

Library

Listening to stories; learning how to care for books; the parts of the library; an exploration of the author and illustrator Jan Thomas; how to check out  a book. 

Music

Experiencing musical contrast including high and low, loud and soft, slow and fast, up and down, and beat and rhythm through singing, moving and playing instruments. 

Class I Curriculum

Language Arts

Phonemic awareness, phonics and sight word reading; nonfiction and fiction, plays and poetry for guided reading; listening and reading comprehension; spelling; D’Nealian handwriting; creative writing. 

Mathematics

Number bonds and relationships; place value with numbers to 100; two-digit addition and subtraction; shape attributes; ordinal numbers; nonstandard measurement; grouping and sharing; halves and fourths; time to the half hour; coin combinations. 

Science

Comparative study of human and animal teeth; behavior, anatomical structure and ecology of mollusks; states of matter; the solar system; bird anatomy and identification; soil chemistry and environmental justice.

Respect and Responsibility

The uniqueness of each individual; how to engage in conversations that help to identify problems; practice in generating positive solutions; developing an understanding of one’s own emotions as well as those of others. 

Library

Listening to stories, picture books and folktales; collaborative research on transportation.

Music

Introduction to rhythmic and melodic notation. Songs sung during the year are collected in a music book that grows through the Lower School years.

Creative Writing

Writing in response to various prompts and with the inspiration of literature; elaborating with pertinent details and sequencing of events; elementary editing of sentence mechanics and spelling.

Social Studies

A yearlong study of the five boroughs of New York City with attention to transportation, geography and cultures.

Mandarin

Poems, songs and games designed for a playful introduction to oral communication in Mandarin.

Health Education

How to be a good friend; identifying body parts; understanding that all living things may have the capacity to reproduce; what it means to be a family. 

Art

Introduction to the tools, techniques, materials and practices of the art studio. Students learn the basic concepts associated with the making of art through a variety of imagination-based projects, including a sequential journey of a simple dot as it becomes a line and travels through two-dimensional space.

Physical Education and Dance

Locomotor patterns, functional movement exercises, individual sport skill practice; study of Isadora Duncan and a collaboration with science on dances inspired by nature.

Class II Curriculum

Language Arts

Phonics, fluency and reading multisyllabic words; story structure and nonfiction reading strategies; listening and reading comprehension including inferential and analytical skills; writing sentences and simple paragraphs; spelling patterns in longer words; grammar and punctuation; handwriting.

Mathematics

Place value with numbers to 1,000; multidigit addition and subtraction; standard measurement; multiplication and division; adding and subtracting quantities of money; introduction to fractions; time to the nearest minute; picture and bar graphs; shapes and solids.

Science

Study of rocks and geological change; the biology and ecology of the earthworm; properties of magnets; mineral identification; exploration of plants; chemical and physical properties of common household powders. Students design their own experiments. 

Respect and Responsibility

Activities to promote empathy, reduce stereotyped thinking, learn about the relationship between thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and practice being assertive and kind.

Technology

Reinforcement of digital citizenship and iPad proficiencies; introduction to Google Classroom; computer graphics and animation; coding using Kodable and code.org; robotics and programming using Ozobots; computational thinking and offline programming concepts. 

Music

Mastery of the pentatonic scale through playing, singing and moving. Rhythmic reading increases in difficulty. Introduction to singing in canons and partner songs. 

Writing

Descriptive, expository, procedural and narrative forms of writing. Students develop their writing through studying exemplary texts in each of these areas. The study of sentence structure, idea development and rereading; editing and revision skills; parts of speech; joined italics.

Social Studies

The effect of geography on one’s life and one’s role as a member of various civic, cultural and personal communities; examining primary sources; the Lenape of Mannahatta, an Indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands; the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.

Mandarin

Study of simple Chinese characters and pinyin, the phonetic system for Mandarin. Students learn to form simple sentences through the study of animals, parts of the human body, clothing, food and hobbies. 

Library

Further building of skills and exploration of reading for pleasure; understanding story elements; Indigenous authors; collaborative research about innovators using print and electronic sources. 

Art

Exploration of visual complexity through the depiction of overlapping shapes. Subject matter emphasizes imagination while learning about the world of art.

Physical Education and Dance

Functional movement exercises and fitness, basic gymnastics routines, sport skill practice with partners and in dynamic games; in dance, an introduction to ballet with lessons on Misty Copeland, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, and in the second semester, a study of modern and jazz dance.

Class III Curriculum

Language Arts

Multisyllabic words and fluency; story structure and nonfiction reading strategies; listening and reading comprehension including inferential and analytical skills; writing of simple and expanded paragraphs; advanced spelling patterns; grammar and punctuation. 

Social Studies

Identity and community; United States geography; the United States government; the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. 

Science

Designing and constructing bridges using newspaper; sustainable architectural design; water filtration and chemical testing; study of the human body; behavior and anatomical structure of crayfish. 

Library

Introduction to the library online catalog and Dewey Decimal System; reading aloud of stories or chapter books; pleasure reading; research skills. 

Art

Projects inspired by different artistic traditions involving preliminary study of materials, planning and revisions, and spontaneous creative choices. 

Woodworking

Development of spatial and mechanical skills through the use of basic tools and practices of a wood shop; building a small functional object. 

Physical Education and Dance

Functional movement exercises and fitness; introduction to basic sport concepts and rules; modified game play. In dance, social dances from around the world; seeing a performance of a modern dance company; visual arts-inspired projects based on Kandinsky and Bearden.

Writing

Parts of speech; sentence types, complete sentences and sentence expansion strategies; quick outlines; paragraph writing (expository, narrative, argumentative and persuasive) 

Mathematics

Place value with numbers to 10,000; rounding; multidigit addition and subtraction, multidigit multiplication and division; scaled picture and bar graphs; fraction concepts and equivalency; standard measurement; angles and shapes; area and perimeter; elapsed time; adding and subtracting money. 

Mandarin

Continued practice in character recognition and writing of simple characters; sentence composition; continued exploration of Chinese culture through the celebration of various holidays. 

Respect and Responsibility

Students learn to recognize positive changes in themselves and others, to reduce stereotyped thinking to engage more prosocially, to identify important qualities in friendships, and to practice handling social conflicts. 

Technology

Reinforcement of Google Classroom proficiency; introduction to Chromebooks and touch typing; digital citizenship poster project; simple machine robotics using Lego Spike kits; coding and computational thinking using code.org and Scratch. 

Music

One period of vocal music and one period of ensemble study per cycle in either a stringed musical instrument or soprano recorder and Orff instruments. 

Class IV Curriculum

English

Consolidation and synthesis of skills in receptive and expressive language; emphasis on reading with fluency and prosody, identifying relevant themes, making inferences, sequencing and supporting main events and ideas using textual evidence; a study of Greek and Latin roots deepens and expands vocabulary and reinforces previously learned spelling patterns. 

Mathematics

Place value with numbers to 1,000,000; rounding and estimation; multidigit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; multiples and factors; fractions and fraction operations; line graphs and line plots; standard measurement with fractions; area and perimeter; decimals and decimal operations; angles, lines shapes and solids. 

Science

Investigation of acids, bases and pH; examination of sustainable energy; exploration of the structure, growth, uses and prevention of mold, including student-designed experiments; behavior and anatomical structure of snakes; independent, student-led experiments culminating in a Lower School Science Fair. 

Library

Further study of the Dewey Decimal System; collaborative research on reptiles with the Science Department; using appeal terms to identify qualities of a book; developing a deeper understanding of personal reading interests. 

Health Education

Changes in puberty: physical, reproductive, social and emotional. 

Music

Continued vocal and instrumental study of strings or the alto recorder and Orff; English handbells for performance at Winter and Last Day Assemblies. 

Physical Education and Dance

Functional movement exercises and fitness; application of skill, strategy and sportsmanship in game play; student developed dance performance.

Writing

Expository writing, grammar, parts of speech, sentence structure and expanded paragraphs; strategies for planning, writing and editing.

Social Studies

Yearlong study of immigration and migration in the United States. Students consider the pushes and pulls of migration, the enrichment of culture through the contributions of migrant communities and issues of social justice. Comparison of Ellis Island and Angel Island and experiences of the detained immigrants; development of research skills and ability to organize information through a presentation on indigenous tribes. 

Mandarin

Continued speaking, writing and listening with a focus on consolidation of previously learned materials. Students perform a short play in Mandarin.

Respect and Responsibility

Changing friendships and positive ways for navigating social conflict; leadership; growth mindset; positive self-image. 

Technology

Reinforcement of touch typing skills; continued instruction of digital citizenship, privacy and passwords; introduction to Google productivity tools (Drive and Docs); coding and computational thinking with Snap; robotics project with Microbits.

Art

Students rotate through the following three courses, each of which takes place over ten weeks: 

MEASURE/CUT/CODE: drawing designs with compass and straightedge, then writing simple computer programs that transform the designs into three-dimensional prints. Designs are inspired by the history of practical geometry with examples drawn from ancient Egypt and Greece and from Islamic pattern making. The course meets in the Idea Kitchen, the innovation hub for project-based learning in 590. 

PHOTOSHOP: creating, editing and manipulating images to produce digital  artworks using graphics editing software. 

PRINTMAKING: introduction to printmaking techniques, including stencil, paper intaglio and relief. 

Beyond the Classroom

Brearley Libraries

The Lower School Library is a friendly, inviting space for storytelling time, classes with librarians and browsing for books to take home.

Explore our libraries

Arts

The visual and performing arts play an integral role in the curriculum and life of Brearley students.

Dance
Drama
Music
Visual Arts

Afterschool Activities

Beaver Den is the after-school program for Lower School students Classes K-IV.

Read more about Beaver Den

Service Learning

Service begins in the Lower School, with a sequence of projects and trips intended to develop a sense of agency and responsibility to society in our students.

See how we serve