- Why a K-8 School?
- How we Teach – the Socratic Method
- Curriculum Overview K-5
- Curriculum Overview 6-8
- Specialist Curriculum Overview
- Professional Development
- Field Studies/Outdoor Education
- Our Library Program
- Learning Specialist
- School Psychologist
- Extended Daycare Program and Clubs
- Community Service Program
SPECIALISTS CURRICULUM OVERVIEW
Kindergarten through Fourth Grade Art
Our program is designed to create a safe space in which students are encouraged to explore, create, experiment and learn.
Our objectives are:
• To nurture creativity
• To explore with a wide variety of media
• To teach basic skills and techniques
• To familiarize students with the language of art
• To evoke an appreciation of art
• To discuss fundamental concepts
• To develop individuality
• To acquaint students with the many movements and styles of art
• To integrate as often as possible with the classroom studies of the students
Throughout the year we focus on artists, techniques, and artistic traditions from around the world. We draw from many cultures with the intention of connecting to people through discovering our similarities and differences, learning new techniques, enriching our experience, and inspiring creative thought.
We follow a developmentally appropriate curriculum depending on the grade and interests of the students. We also use a spiral curriculum: each year we return to certain concepts and techniques, representing what we see through self-portraits, still life drawings, figure drawings, garden watercolors, and sculpture, to name a few. Throughout their years at BPC, students continue to deepen their understanding of key concepts by building upon their previous experiences.
Throughout the year we will explore some of the following:
Elements of design (line, form, value, texture, color, pattern, movement)
Collage and Decoupage
Still life studies
Portraits and Self Portraits
Artistic Movements (i.e. expressionism, cubism, etc.)
Individual Artists (Kahlo, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, etc.)
Fifth through Eighth Grade
The goal of the fifth grade and Upper School art program is to instill in students an appreciation of art, both as creators and as viewers. This is achieved through instruction in specific skills, introduction to a broad range of media and materials, and exposure to the art of different times and cultures.
Art class focuses on students creating artwork, improving technical skills, experimenting with different media, critiquing their work informally, and having the opportunity to show their work on an ongoing basis. Students also view the work of many artists and cultures throughout history, thus developing an understanding of what goes into the making of art, a greater understanding of how life and art connect, and a sense of their own creative process.
A main project for sixth graders is to study an artist of their choice, write a report on the artist, and make a piece of work in the style of that artist. The project culminates in an oral presentation to the class. The wealth of knowledge gained is built upon in seventh and eighth grades.
Students are required to keep sketchbooks as a place to express themselves and practice/plan projects, as well as to keep a record of art vocabulary. These become logs of the year’s work, and students can look back through them to see how their skills have improved over the year.
There will be occasional homework, for example, to watch a special show, make a few sketches, look up an artist online, or visit a museum exhibit.
Projects this year may include:
• Drawing: still life, self-portraits, landscapes, imaginary works
• Design: logos, posters, t-shirts, etc
• Painting: color mixing, watercolor, tempera, acrylic, sand painting
• Textiles: weaving, sewing
• Sculpture: wire, clay, paper mache, wood, junk
• Stone carving
Student work will be exhibited throughout the year in our gallery, located in the hallway of the theatre building. All grades display the spring semester’s artwork at the annual BPC Art Exhibit in late May/early June.
The gardening program is an extension of the science curriculum and plays a key role in providing a hands-on practical laboratory for many subjects in science as well as art, literature, and history. All students participate in the garden by planting and harvesting. They also turn and sift the compost, make signs, and learn how to propagate plants. The garden is mainly located behind the fourth and fifth grade classrooms.
All students have at least one hour of gardening per month in the “outdoor classroom.” Each class begins with students recording the date, weather, temperature, and rainfall in the class garden journal. The students have an opportunity to observe the ecosystems in the garden, and they learn to recognize the cycle of regeneration that exists in nature. The activities of each class are always dictated by the garden; we do what needs to be done depending on the season.
We have been working with the Botany on Your Plate curriculum since early 2001. The students are introduced to this curriculum in kindergarten and work with it throughout the grades. Students work in the classroom as well as the garden, investigating, identifying, and dissecting plants, and recording their observations in journals. By fifth grade, students have a deep understanding of the botany of the plants we eat on a daily basis.
Recycling and composting are also a part of the curriculum. Students are taught how to separate their trash into recyclable and compostable items, which they get to practice at lunch. The “four R’s” are always a part of the curriculum: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (composting).
Gardening continues in sixth through eighth grades in the garden on the Upper School campus. The classes are divided into four group activities: gardening, landscaping, cooking, and composting. Students now work in individual journals recording the date, weather, temperature, and rainfall. They now use the metric system of measurement. Writing and drawing are also part of their journal keeping, and this work is part of their overall science grade. Students use the same journal all three years, and, when they graduate, the journal is theirs to remind them of the important role they played in Black Pine Circle School’s outdoor environment.
Our library program supports and promotes student reading and a lifelong love of books. All students will be exposed to literature through storytelling, book talks, and author readings. Books will be celebrated and introduced through a variety of methods. Students will cover a wide range of genres in fiction and non-fiction to help them discover the kinds of books they love to read. Author birthdays are celebrated every month, including reviews of the authors’ literature.
All students learn to be active users of the library. This includes how to use shelf markers, read spine labels, know library circulation procedures, understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction books, and become confident making independent reading selections. Book awards (Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, etc.) are discussed in detail. When required for class or homework, students will learn to conduct research in the library using the most appropriate tools, including encyclopedias (print and electronic), and other reference materials. Parts of a book (i.e., contents and index) are also examined. Students will learn to find books within our collection through the electronic catalog and these skills will enable them to locate information within any library.
The library also hosts all-school events to facilitate literacy on campus. These events include, but are not limited to, an all-school book swap, a Book Faire, participation in the California Young Reader Medal program, and book donations to needy communities.
Our library is an inviting place where reading and information literacy is honored. In addition to regular class visits to the library, students may choose to visit the library during lunchtime for private reading, extra story time, individual research assistance, or even just talking one-on-one with the librarians about a favorite book.
Black Pine Circle School values mathematics and teaches students the importance of mathematics in their daily lives. The essential point of this program is to help students make sense of mathematics and to teach them to use math as a tool for reasoning and problem solving. Throughout the school year, the core teachers and the math specialist collaborate on developing and teaching math units as well as providing support and challenges when needed.
Math problems are carefully crafted for students’ age and skill levels, and many of them come from children’s everyday lives. Students often work with a partner or in a small group setting, where they can explore problems and find solutions together. As a class, the students discuss alternative strategies and look for different solutions in an environment where it is safe to take risks. Problems are often “open-ended,” meaning that there may be more than one correct answer. The goal is to foster a deep conceptual understanding of essential mathematical ideas and strategies.
Numbers are abstract for young children. Using manipulatives such as pattern blocks, teddy bears, and scales helps young mathematicians achieve a better understanding of numbers and other mathematical concepts. As students get older, we replace concrete objects with models (e.g. drawings, graphs, tables, open number lines, and function machines). With the use of models and carefully chosen math puzzles and problems, students are introduced to some big algebraic ideas (e.g. variables, and functions) and the door to abstract mathematics begins to open for them. This is a big and important step for students in the Lower School.
Throughout the year, students work on different projects and explorations that link ideas and concepts from several strands of mathematics into an integrated whole. These projects are often integrated with art, technology, and science.
Music in the Classroom
Kindergarten through Third Grade
Music has always been an important aspect of Black Pine Circle School, where students experience the joy of listening to and creating music. It permeates the curriculum in many ways, especially through the study of various cultures. Students share their musical talents by participating in both the Winter Concert and the Spring Concert, in talent shows, and for the annual Generations Day assembly.
The primary objective of the kindergarten through third grade music classes is to create a fun and challenging atmosphere in which students receive a strong foundation in basic musical concepts through participation, listening, and cooperation. Incorporating elements from both the Kodály and Orff teaching methods, students in these grades will all be participating in singing, rhythm, movement, and the use of instruments. Singing games, chants, body movement, and percussion help to develop a sense of rhythm and coordination. Such ideas as melody, harmony, pitch identification, and beginning musical notation are all introduced as early as the kindergarten year, and are developed more thoroughly by the third grade.
Beginning in early October, all classes will spend one class period per week learning folk dancing. For the kindergarten class, this will begin with basic dance steps and ideas such as forming a circle, moving together and following the music. For the first through third grades, the focus is on using circle dances, line dances and, for third grade, beginning square dance.
Fourth and Fifth Grades
In the fourth and fifth grades, students continue to sing, play, move, listen, and create, continuing to build a sequenced set of musical skills. More emphasis is placed on reading and writing standard music notation, using both Kodály and Orff pedagogies, in order to increase their fluency with recognizing notes on the staff, rhythmic values, and Italian terms.
Proper vocal production is developed through body awareness and singing in unison, in canon, with descants, ostinati, and in parts. Students prepare choral repertoire, which often also includes instrument playing and movement, to perform at the Winter and Spring Concerts, and they may also share their music at other events such as Generations Day. Students in third through fifth grades also have the opportunity to join the voluntary Lower School Chorus, which meets Mondays at lunch, to prepare songs for fun and performance.
Studying the recorder gives fourth and fifth grade students another practical application for the reading, breathing, and phrasing skills we work on during singing. Emphasis is placed on learning recorder fingerings, developing the ability to sight-read notes, playing with accurate articulation, and using rehearsal time well, which includes disciplined home practice.
In fifth grade, students enhance their critical thinking skills and their understanding of different types of music. They spend more time listening to masterworks from the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, and they learn to identify the instruments of the orchestra, both aurally and visually. Our work culminates in an annual trip to hear the San Francisco Symphony in concert.
Kindergarten through Third Grade Strings Program &
Fourth through Eighth Grade Orchestra and Band
Instrumental instruction for kindergarten through fifth grade, beyond the classroom music program, is an optional program with an extra fee. Students may join group lessons in violin or cello in kindergarten and first grade, ensemble instruction for our Junior Orchestra (second and third grade) or Advanced Orchestra & Beginning Band (starting at fourth grade). Students perform for assemblies, concerts, and special events throughout the year. Musical selections range from classical for orchestra to jazz and rock for band. In addition, independent instruction for a variety of instruments, including piano and guitar, can be arranged after school with various teachers.
The strings program for kindergarten through third grade is a pull-out program on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons during independent activity time in students’ regular classrooms. The kindergarten and first grade program is open to beginners. The Junior Orchestra is for second and third graders and is open to students who have had Beginning Strings in kindergarten and first grade, or who have had private lessons. Band and the Advanced Orchestra meet before or after school and are open to students of all levels third grade and up who have had some playing experience.
The fundamentals of instrumental music start in kindergarten. Learning to play an instrument is, in the beginning years, primarily a physical discipline. Kindergarteners learn the basics of caring for their instruments, correct posture and position, a few rhythmic fundamentals, songs using all four open strings, and beginning principles of practicing. By the end of the year they have learned more complicated songs using one or two left hand fingers. First graders improve upon general playing skills learning different rhythms, bow strokes, and fingerings on all four strings. Second graders focus on note reading, intonation, and rhythmic accuracy. Depending on skill levels, we may add Beginning Ensemble playing. In third grade, we emphasize chamber music playing and the expressive aspects of music making (i.e., dynamics, phrasing, pacing, and moods).
Children will progress faster, enjoy playing their instrument more, feel more confident and enthusiastic, learn discipline, and enter into the world of music making more quickly with regular practice. It is more effective for a child to practice once a day for 5 or 10 minutes than once a week for 30 or 40 minutes. As your child gets older, he or she may be able to increase daily practice (10-15 minutes for first grade, 15-20 minutes for second and third graders). Parent involvement is necessary in the beginning and may be needed up to third grade. The key to successful practice at this stage is a lot of repetition of the exercises and songs, with a neutral focus on maintaining the basics of good physical form. Of equal importance is helping children remember both the instrument and music for each rehearsal period.
Students enrolled in the instrumental music program perform in two all-school music concerts per year. There are other opportunities for students to perform in a solo concert and an ensemble night. Students who are not enrolled in BPC’s instrumental music program may also participate in those concerts.
Physical Education (P.E.)
Physical education in the Lower School at Black Pine Circle School encompasses three main objectives:
• Cognitive learning: games and activities that involve thinking, problem solving, creativity and brainstorming
• Affective learning: team work and social-psychological interaction
• Psychomotor coordination: through practice, students will develop balance and hand-eye coordination and integrate motor learning skills.
Kindergarten and first grade students will participate in activities that help develop large motor skills through running, jumping, skipping, catching, etc. They will gain finer large motor coordination as they learn to handle the ball, kick the ball, use targets for concentration, and participate in other activities designed for this purpose. All activities will increase hand-eye coordination, balance, and large and small muscle development.
In second grade, students are introduced to different sports. Games and activities that lead up to team sports are introduced for affective learning, which is the beginning of team work. Students will develop greater confidence in their own abilities and appreciate the contributions and efforts of others as they learn good sportsmanship and fair play.
Third grade builds on second grade activities with further emphasis on fitness activities. Warm-up and cool-down exercises are incorporated into class time.
In fourth and fifth grades, we emphasize the refinement of techniques, such as the proper way to bat a softball, dribble and pass a soccer ball, and use a hockey stick. The game of volleyball is also introduced. Cognitive, affective, and psychomotor learning skills are discussed and emphasized. These students will also learn middle school-level activities, as we focus on some basic gymnastics and self-defense wrestling skills.
In addition to using basic sports equipment, children work through obstacle courses, climb on our climbing structure, play bowling games, use the play structure for pull-ups, and use other equipment like hula hoops, jump ropes, a large parachute, seated scooters, hockey equipment, and mats for tumbling.
It is one of our main goals in physical education that students learn to love physical activity and develop a lifelong appreciation of sport for health, enjoyment, and longevity.
Touch it, draw it, build it, grow it, watch it, push it, mix it, make it fly as high as you can, and do it one more time! Sensory exploration of the physical world is at the heart of science learning in Black Pine Circle’s Lower School, while important science process skills are carefully integrated into each lesson and scaffolded across grade levels.
General Objectives and Content
At BPC, we strive for a science curriculum that helps students expand their natural sense of curiosity and wonder and engages them in contemporary scientific practices. At each grade level, we use a combination of content-specific lessons and cross-cutting concepts to build and reinforce important science skills. Content is taught primarily through age-appropriate, hands-on investigation, and it often supports cross-curricular learning with other subject areas. Skills introduced at each grade level are reinforced and built upon in subsequent years.
Kindergarten units may include: human biology (sensory, skeletal and digestive systems), properties and changes in matter (solids, liquids, and gasses), magnets, natural and manmade substances, weather, insect biology, ecology, and comparison of flowering plants, fungi and ferns. In kindergarten we focus on skills like observing & communicating, comparing, predicting, and using computational thinking.
First grade units may include: composition of the Earth, leaves, animal adaptations for survival in Antarctica, mirrors, reflections and symmetry, insect diversity, seeds, rainforest plants, fish. In first grade we focus on skills like measuring and making & using models.
Second grade units include: physical forces, pushes and pulls, the solar system, properties of liquids, plants and their uses, characteristics of living things, tools of science, comparisons of animal and plant life cycles, insect behavior, and farm animals. In second grade, we focus on skills like classifying and asking questions.
Third grade units may include: physical forces (gravity, friction and air resistance), simple machines, vision, phases of the moon, the ecology of decomposition and mummification, and the connections between light, color, and heat. In third grade, we focus on skills like constructing explanations and obtaining, evaluating, and interpreting data.
Fourth grade units may include: rocks and minerals, the rock cycle, atoms, electricity, food webs and ecological relationships, and where our food comes from. In fourth grade, we focus on analyzing and interpreting data.
Fifth grade units may include: the nature of science and experimental design, BPC Science Fair projects, water conservation, and San Francisco Bay watershed ecology. In fifth grade, we focus on planning and carrying out science investigations.
Progression of Skills
We focus on the following science skills at each grade level:
|Data work||Data work||Data work|
|Kindergarten||1st Grade||2nd Grade||3rd Grade||4th Grade||5th Grade|
The goals of the Lower School Spanish program are to expose our students to the Spanish language and to encourage exploration of Hispanic cultures. The primary method of instruction used to promote language acquisition in our classes is Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS). This method is based on providing comprehensible input, consisting of various listening and reading activities that are repetitive and can be easily understood by every learner. In the early grades, students build confidence with listening comprehension, then beginning in third, fourth and fifth grades students are given more opportunities to foster reading, speaking and writing skills. Cultural activities from Spain, Mexico, and many Latin American countries are also a focus, bringing a global awareness to the classroom and reflecting the school’s commitment to the appreciation of different cultures from around the world.
Kindergarten through First Grade
During the first two years, the Spanish specialist collaborates with the classroom teachers to integrate elements of the Spanish language and Hispanic culture into their classroom studies. Stories, songs, and games are common activities used to introduce basic greetings, sounds, colors, and numbers, and to gain understanding of holidays and traditions that are important within Spanish-speaking countries.
Second Through Fifth Grades
In second, third, fourth and fifth grades, students participate in weekly lessons led by the Spanish specialist. Total Physical Response (TPR) activities, storytelling, story-asking, personalized questions, and skits are used, in combination with songs, games, and art-projects, to develop their skills. Each year more of the class time is conducted in Spanish. Students’ skills are assessed and their knowledge is applied by showing understanding of the key structures from class and by telling and writing stories completely in Spanish
Common areas of focus throughout all grades:
• Greetings and introductions
• Numbers 1-1000 and telling time
• Days of the week and months of the year
• Vocabulary such as food, animals, feelings, family, body parts, weather, school, clothing, and household objects
• The alphabet and letter sounds
• Common verbs and commands
• Interrogative words
• Gender agreement
• Personal and possessive pronouns
• Latin American geography and maps
• Cultural events: Independence Days, Días de los Muertos, Las Posadas, Los Tres Reyes Magos, Cinco de Mayo, and Cesar Chavez Day
Reports & Conferences
There are two written reports each year, one for each semester. The student’s head teacher will include a summary of the material covered during the term, a paragraph that describes the student’s achievement and progress, and suggestions on how to help the student improve in area where improvement is needed. In addition, most specialists write a one-page report that summarizes the term’s curriculum, and the child’s progress is conveyed through both a rubric of desired skills and behaviors and a short written evaluation.
There are also two half-hour conferences each year during which parent(s) meet with their child’s classroom teacher. This will be an opportunity for both teacher and parent(s) to express the successes, concerns and needs of the child. The conferences will focus on both the academic and social accomplishments of the child. Recommendations may include additional support from home, an observation from either the learning specialist or the school psychologist, and tutoring assistance for remedial work or outside testing, if needed. Teachers are also available via phone or email for any concerns parents may have.