The Lower School music program is designed to be a sequential learning curriculum, while providing opportunity for students who join the program later to successfully matriculate through peer tutoring and review. In Kindergarten, students begin to discover music through exploration and creation. The Kodaly hand signs are used in first grade to explore melody and contour. African drums are used in second grade as a means of studying rhythm. In third grade, students learn to play the recorder to be introduced to the world of instrumental music. Fourth grade is the year when students explore the world of vocal music. Fifth grade is the year of synthesis for all music taught in the Lower School. Students also learn to play the ukulele in fifth grade. The music world is full of opportunities for all people, whether they are performers or audience members, musicologists or composers, vocalists or instrumentalists. The Lower School music curriculum strives to give all diverse musical personalities a place to connect, explore, discover, and thrive.
The Middle School music program is a component of the Middle School Outdoor Education and Arts (OEA) program. Depending on the trimester, a student may find topics ranging from string, woodwind, and brass instruments to vocal, choral, jazz, and rock ensembles, to recorded music and composition. Music theory and history is always present. Middle School music is a period of transition from the foundation of our Lower School music program to the more refined specialization found in high school, college and beyond. Middle School music has the purpose of maintaining a student’s enthusiasm for music, while helping children refine their passion for specific musical disciplines.
The mission of the K-8 Visual Arts curriculum is to provide a diverse range of opportunities for students to develop their unique artistic potential. By establishing a sequential arts program, students are gradually empowered to develop technical and conceptual skills for critical thinking, risk taking, decision-making, and problem solving. Simultaneously, students enhance their self-esteem, self-management, self-motivation, and eventually become more responsible and compassionate citizens of a global society. Students engage in purposeful and authentic art projects making personal choices and working with others to create community-based art. Ultimately, students develop appreciation for visual art of all kinds, its important role in our culture, its history, and its contemporary forms.
Because one balances the other, visual art learning and instruction focus on both the quality of the student’s process and the quality of the final product. The ultimate goal is to make the visual arts an enriching and fulfilling experience for every student while generating an ongoing appetite and appreciation for artistic meaning in their lives. The Visual Arts curriculum provides students with the opportunity to make art using a variety of mediums, to think creatively and analytically, and to communicate their ideas in visual form.
The Lower School visual arts program provides students with developmental art experience with using a wide range of two and three-dimensional art mediums and techniques such as painting, drawing, sculpting, printmaking, and ceramics. While students begin to consciously use the art elements of line, shape/form, color, value (light and dark), texture, and space they also learn about the lives and work of important artists and the art of other cultures. Art projects are often integrated thematically with the core curriculum. In addition, students begin to develop skill in observational drawing, make personal choices, and are encouraged to be creative. Showing respect for one another’s work and being persistent in completing each project are emphasized throughout the program. Finally, the students’ artwork is exhibited throughout the school during the year and also in a school-wide Spring Art Show.
The Middle School visual arts program is a component of the Middle School Outdoor Education and Arts (OEA) program. Students are given the opportunity to deepen their exploration of the elements of art. They refine the use of line, shape, color, value, form, texture and space in their work. Students work both two and three-dimensionally as they create with a variety of mediums. They learn about the lives and work of important artists and the art of other cultures throughout different periods in art history. Students are encouraged to not just reflect on the finished product, but also on the process. When possible, field trips are used to enhance the in-class curriculum so that students are taught to appreciate art in its many forms. Student work is displayed throughout the school during the year and at the school-wide Art Show in the spring.
The Lower School drama program provides an excellent opportunity for students to express themselves in creative ways, to learn how to work together as a “team,” and to build self-confidence. During drama class, Lower School students become familiar with many aspects of theater production including: acting, character development, staging, singing, dancing, operating sound equipment, painting scenery, assisting in the creation of costumes, memorizing lines, and performing before a live audience. Students who choose an acting emphasis memorize their lines and prepare to perform by developing their character, while students who choose a technical emphasis learn skills that range from prop construction to operating sound equipment. Regardless of the emphasis, the goal is for students to gain an appreciation for the intricacies of stage production and the importance of each role. Often, the selected shows are integrated thematically with the core curriculum. Each show is produced for an audience of students, faculty, and parents.
The Middle School theater program is a component of the Middle School Outdoor Education and Arts (OEA) program. Students are provided with the opportunity to deepen their exploration of acting and singing through movement and song. During the school year, there are three different types of theater classes offered: a Shakespearean production, one act plays, and a musical theater production. Each class varies slightly to give students various opportunities to learn about different aspects of the performing arts. Theater classes focus on the fundamental acting skills of movement, character development, healthy vocal projection, dialogue interpretation, memorization, and positive stage presence. Acting games are used to increase distinctive theatrical attributes such as physical and facial expression, dramatic timing, creating a sense of reality, developing ideas and moods, and individual expression. Improvisations, pantomimes, monologues, and short scenes are used to give students the opportunity to practice these growing skills. In singing productions, students learn about good posture, breathing, and vocalization techniques for healthy singing. Simple dance choreography is added to songs and musical pieces to enhance the performing experience. At the end of each trimester, the actors give a public performance of their work.
Middle School Outdoor Education
The purpose of the Outdoor Education program is for students to gain a sense of place and purpose relative to the natural world. This essential attribute is developed through wilderness study and experience focused on environmental stewardship and outdoor leadership. Outdoor Education class will introduce students to a broad variety of ways to find purpose and meaning in their life through their connections to outdoor places. Students gain an understanding of the natural world, its systems and its beauty, and our individual and collective potential to effect positive change as environmental stewards and outdoor leaders. With intention, this program contributes to student growth in all twelve of the Essential Attributes. These connections are formed through the studies of geography, ecology, history, art, literature, climatology, geology, hydrology, and more. Activities will include scientific labs, journals, and field studies; reflective journaling, drawing, and painting; response to readings, artwork, and environmental controversy; as well as group and individual problem-solving skills and outdoor adventure skills practice. As students progress through middle school, they gradually take more control over their own outdoor studies, encouraged and directed to ask deeper questions that teachers may not have answers for, and to which they can discover and generate unique responses through research, reflection, and inference. Outgoing eighth graders will exhibit an understanding of place and purpose in the natural world by completing a project of their choosing that demonstrates growth in these skills (research, reflection, inference).
Outdoor Education & Arts (OEA)
The Middle School Outdoor Education and Arts (OEA) block is time dedicated to visual arts (painting and drawing, printmaking, ceramics and photography), performing arts (theater, music, and speech and debate), and Outdoor Education (emphasis on environmental stewardship and outdoor leadership). The performing art classes culminate each trimester with a live performance (a Shakespearean production, one act plays, and musical theater), the Outdoor Education classes take a multi-night backpacking trip each trimester, and all students contribute to the annual McGillis Art Show through work created in the visual arts classes. Students rotate through each of the three programs annually during their middle school experience with the focus placed on exposing students to a variety of artistic and outdoor opportunities.