We focus on the development of the whole child by nurturing the social/emotional, academic, and artistic interests of our learners.
The lower school years are a precious time. Our young learners develop skills, knowledge, and strategies to grow academically, creatively, and socially. Students build a strong academic foundation while also pursuing their unique interests as their identities develop along the path of becoming lifelong learners.
German School Brooklyn’s lower school academics are based on two main curricula: the German Curriculum from Thüringen and a Common Core aligned curriculum. This bilingual approach prioritizes full language immersion during the time when children are developmentally able to become entirely fluent in both English and German. Students also have plenty of opportunities to explore different subjects, interests, and creative pursuits. We take a whole child approach and ensure that each child is engaged, supported, and challenged starting in their youngest years at GSB.
Caring, skillful teachers and inquiry- and project- based learning strategies encourage class time to be dynamic and student led. We strive to spark our students’ inherent curiosity about the world, and give them the tools to learn by developing their abilities to think analytically and creatively, all the while encouraging learning to be joyful and fun.
We also believe in the importance of play. Socialization, problem solving, physical activity – the list could go on about the benefits of play. Knowing this, students have time to play each day, are able to use their break time to explore different activities. Students also go outside for recess each day.
Through it all, we pay close attention to the social/emotional growth of our students. Our young students are starting to discover who they are, what they are interested in, and how they’d like to express themselves. We expose students to many ways of living in the world and support their identity development throughout these formative years. We help our students develop the ability to communicate well with their friends, their teachers, and other people in their lives, to help them grow into responsible, intelligent, and caring citizens of the world.
Our German curriculum is based on the most modern German curriculum of Thuringia and includes the areas of reading, creative writing, spelling, grammar and oral expression.
In the area of reading, we motivate students to become independent readers from the beginning through read-alouds and action-oriented, hands-on engagement with stories and non-fiction texts. At the same time, we enable students to develop a secure knowledge of letters, letter sounds, and combining sounds to make words, thus acquiring the technical skills to decode the content of texts and promote the joy of reading. Through writing their own texts, students acquire their own theories of the rules of written language. We build on these theories by introducing spelling and grammar rules and expanding spelling vocabulary. In the area of oral expression, we create a variety of opportunities for conversation and teach students to narrate, discuss, argue, and present.
Our lower school reading program encourages students to become flexible, resilient readers. Students are exposed to a wide variety of genres including picture books, news articles, informational books, short stories, novels, plays, and poetry. Discussions and close readings of selected passages are used to enhance vocabulary development, comprehension skills, the development of opinions/conclusions based on evidence in the text. Explicit phonics instruction, especially in Grades K-3, is an important building block for our young readers as well.
Our writing program focuses on opinion/argument, informational, and narrative writing, which develops the ability to write both academically and creatively. Within our writing units, students go through the entire writing process: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing. Within this process, students develop their knowledge of grammar, sentence structure, writer’s voice, audience, and overall organization.
Our classroom libraries of leveled books and books of interest allow students to choose books that they want to read at the appropriate level for them. Lessons include individual, partner, small group, and whole class instruction.
Our Spanish program takes a conversational approach in Lower School. Students are exposed to the language through storytelling, songs, brief video selections, poems and games. They learn about places around the world, including different cultures that speak Spanish. Vocabulary and grammar expectations grow each year, and students practice not only conversing but also presenting projects in Spanish each year.
Our Social Studies curriculum includes the study of history, geography, economics, government and civics — really it is the study of humanity, the people and events that have collectively shaped our nation and our world, all tailored to the interests of our young learners. Topics of study include Family, Identity, Community, Occupations, and Geography, along with elements of United States and New York State History, including the study of Native Peoples and Colonization.
We strive to help students make sense of the world, encourage them to make connections between major ideas and their own lives, and help them see themselves as active members of a global community. In addition to learning content, we engage our students in historical thinking: raising questions, thinking critically, considering many perspectives and gathering evidence in support of interpretations.
MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCES
Math (German & English)
Our lower school curriculum follows an integrated approach to mathematics with a deeper focus on understanding mathematical concepts. It is based on the most modern German curriculum from Thuringia. The curriculum sets the foundation for the Upper School’s IB program even in a student’s youngest years.
Our curriculum specifies four subject areas derived from the content areas of geometry, arithmetic and quantities. Factual arithmetic plays a role in all of them.
Shape and change (developing spatial awareness, orientation in space and plane)
Numbers and operations (Developing ideas about numbers and operations, ordering numbers and operating with them)
Sizes and measurement (understanding the idea of measurement, developing ideas about quantities)
Data and chance (collecting, evaluating, and critically reflecting on data, developing a sense of probability)
General math skills we teach include problem solving, communicating, reasoning, modeling and representing. Students learn, among other concepts, how to:
Describe mathematical facts using technical language
Recognize, justify, and describe mathematical relationships
Extract and communicate relevant information from texts and visual representations
Represent, comment on, reflect on, and evaluate solution processes
Our science instruction seeks to lead students through investigations, asking questions and creating experiments to make sense of the world around them. Integrating literacy skills, such as reading and writing, as well as math, such as data collection and engineering, our science instruction is interdisciplinary, while also fostering critical and analytic thinking around each topic.
Throughout the year, students will collaborate with one another, identify problems, and create possible solutions through hands-on study. These concrete experiences lead students into new ways of thinking and deepen their understanding of science concepts.
Each grade level works through the three branches of science–physical, earth, and life sciences–throughout the year with thematic units. In each unit, teachers approach the specific branch with projects and investigations to create meaningful experiences with each topic.
THE ARTS & MOVEMENT
Our lower school art program encourages students to be imaginative and creative while also learning the skills of an artist. Students are challenged to develop endurance in the making process, to become critical thinkers, to appreciate various forms of art, and understand art as a process of exploration and discovery.
Our young artists explore skills, concepts, motivation and intuition in art making in various mediums such as print making, drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, and applied design. Through each medium, students learn how to express their personal ideas and use basic elements and principles of visual art. At the same time, students develop essential habits of mind that can positively impact their learning in the classrooms. Through child-centered teaching, students expand their creativity, self-confidence, and self-expression.
The music curriculum focuses on exposure to a wide repertoire of songs from various cultures, languages and styles. Students listen to and analyze music from different genres and learn about many instruments as well as musical elements, such as dynamics, form, and tempo. Students acquire a range of vocal skills, including solfege, posture and breathing. Additionally, students perform, read and write their own rhythms and melodies, and play a variety of instruments over the years. We also integrate ample opportunity for students to compose and improvise, and explore their own approach to music making..
The Lower School dance program focuses on building students’ knowledge of creative dance concepts (2nd & 3rd grades), Jazz Technique (4th grade) and Hip-Hop (5th grade). There is an emphasis on guided improvisations, collaboration and problem solving through building choreographies together to perform. The students have the opportunity to perform twice per year during GSB’s Project Week performances where the academic curriculum is tied into the dance making process. Yoga is woven into the course of study with a special focus on meditation, asanas (postures) and inversions in the months of September and June.
Our Physical Education curriculum highlights body awareness, coordination and teamwork. Students are introduced to new movement patterns and techniques in our running, yoga, gymnastics and fitness units.
Team building and hand-eye-coordination get a boost during our soccer and sport games units. Games such as Team Handball and Brennball encourage the students’ game comprehension and strategy.
Above all, our main ingredients are fun and giving one’s best effort!
Physical education is taught both indoors and outdoors, depending on the season and weather.
Field Trips and Community Walks
Lower school curriculum includes a variety of field trips and community walks to use our dynamic neighborhood/city as a classroom, build community, and explore new places and ideas.
Throughout the school year, each grade will go on at least 4 field trips, which could include:
Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
New York Aquarium
Museum of Math
National Geographic Encounter
Statue of Liberty/Liberty Island
A visit to a farm
Other teacher + class selected trips
School events are a joyful way to build community and foster students’ diverse interests. These include, among others:
Winter project week and performance
Spring project week and performance
Summer art exhibition and dance performance
Book buddy days with classes in other grades
Annual Kindness Initiative
Young children enter their first year of school with a broad range of skill sets, developmental needs, and prior knowledge. The Kindergarten curriculum at GSB allows students to grow at their own pace while offering engaging and challenging learning experiences which also support their social-emotional needs.
Approach to Academics
The major subjects in Kindergarten are German, English, and Math. Within their German and English lessons, students will learn to play with the components of language that ultimately support their literacy development. This includes activities that teach rhyming, syllabication, letter names, letter sounds, and blending sounds to begin reading and writing words. In both languages, students engage in read-alouds which allow them to explore various genres of literature including fiction, non-fiction, fairy tales, and poetry. Math class, which is offered in German, offers students hands-on activities that support their comprehension of numbers and quantities and offers them insight into addition, subtraction, shapes, patterns, and measurement.
Projects, Movement, and Play
In the afternoons, Kindergarten students engage in project-based learning, which integrates the subjects of Social Studies, Science, Ethics, Art, and Music. During this “Project Hour”, students explore various topics in-depth and develop their inquiry, exploration, and creative skills. Kindergarten students also have one hour of Physical Education a week, in addition to their daily park time.
Alongside the academic program, Kindergarten teachers at GSB place a major focus on social-emotional development and learning through play. Students are allowed ample time for play throughout the day where they develop a variety of social skills such as navigating being a part of a group, how to build friendships, how to stand up for their rights and needs, and to identify their own feelings as well as identifying the rights, needs, and feelings of others.