Greene Hill is deeply committed to arts education. Throughout each school day, students have opportunities to represent their ideas visually, creatively expressing their learning in both two dimensional and three dimensional projects. In addition to frequent classroom art-based work, all students participate in regular visual arts instruction. Students have hands-on experiences with a variety of media such as wood, wire, clay, paint, and paper, exploring them in an open-ended fashion in the younger grades and learning more specific techniques as they get older.
Our youngest students work on developing basic art skills through units in drawing, collage, painting, and sculpture, with an emphasis on exploration and experimentation with materials. Young students also learn to talk about art through sharing each other’s work, as well as viewing and discussing works by a variety of artists. As students get older, they focus on work with new materials and using familiar materials in new ways. They also develop visual language through viewing and discussing a range of art work, and through sharing and reflecting on each other’s work as well as by visiting museums. Our oldest students learn graphic design skills, help design our school yearbook, and have support in building a portfolio should they be interested in attending an arts-focused high school.
The focus of music at Greene Hill is group music-making: learning to sing and play songs from various traditions, to accompany music and movement, to improvise words, rhythms and melodies, developing social skills as well as technical and creative skills. Each year, students learn new skills and repertoire, and contribute their hopes, dreams, and questions to their own emergent curriculum which they incorporate with greater complexity and flexibility within an ensemble setting.
In the early childhood years, the love and appreciation for music is introduced through the basic foundations. Students have the opportunity to explore it through singing, movement, listening and the playing of age-appropriate instruments. Material and activities include, but are in no way limited to, group singing, basic ear training, rhythm pedagogy, creative and choreographed movement, listening and responding to instruments and each others’ voices, and music found in literature.
As students get older, music class expands on the elements of music learned in previous years, with an emphasis on melody, rhythm, and form. They develop their music-making abilities through echo-singing, pitch matching, and non-pitched (percussion) instrument playing. They learn about musical opposites (fast/slow, high/low, long/short), dynamics (loud/soft) and play musical games to develop skill and confidence in music-making. Students often demonstrate some of this work at a Winter (or Mid-Winter) Share, featuring dance and music collaborations. In the spring there is often an All-School Musical where older students take on greater responsibilities including instrumental and vocal performance, as well as writing and arranging the production’s songs, and younger students perform in ensemble roles. Students also have opportunities to develop an appreciation for music through attending musical performances at local cultural organizations.
In Lower School students may develop class skits or role play with their classroom teacher as part of curricular work, most notably to make personal connections to historical events or more abstract concepts, such as the 9s role plays in which they embody the United States legislative branch ratifying student-proposed bills. Students’ natural interest in drama and theater also tends to appear in Open Work and WOWs, as they write their own plays or even full-length feature films. In Middle School Drama class, students may learn improvisational games or develop a personal monologue. Additionally, students may connect their reading of Shakespeare in Humanities class to enacting parts of the play with guidance from a partner organization such as Irondale Theater Ensemble. Field trips also often include trips to see performances at Brooklyn Academy of Music, New Victory Theater, and Irondale.
Movement and Physical Education
Greene Hill’s Physical Education program is designed with the changing developmental needs of children in mind, as well as beliefs in the value of regular physical activity and cooperative work. All students participate in physical education classes, though the nature of the classes changes as students move through school. Our youngest students have Movement classes that explore the elements of creative dance and basic game structure, as well as introduce yoga poses and practice that continue throughout their years at school. Children experiment with shape, quality, speed, and energy through dance. Gross and fine motor development is encouraged through running, jumping, galloping, skipping, as well as throwing, catching, kicking, and dribbling. Spatial awareness, bodily coordination and control, musicality, self-expression, and social cooperation are practiced through a variety of creative movement activities and group challenges such as relay races, obstacle courses, and collaborative games. Students learn to work together in space, navigating their own bodies safely while working with partners and in small groups.
As students get older, Movement expands from the basic elements of dance and sports to include the concepts of movement phrases, choreography, folk dance, and performance, as well as traditional yoga practice and the more complicated game structures involved in soccer, volleyball, basketball, kickball, and games of the children’s own invention. Students begin thinking critically about how games work and how to participate in them in a way that feels safe, fun, inclusive, and challenging. These games increase endurance, strength, and more advanced ball skills. Upper grade students continue to learn how to navigate their own bodies safely through space while working energetically and rigorously. They practice managing their social-emotional responses to game play and cooperation.
In PE class in the 8s, 9s, and 10s, students begin to learn specific sports skills while also continuing to play collaborative and community-building games. By Middle School, students have PE classes each week that focus on a variety of sports including soccer, volleyball, running, and basketball, and also have the opportunity to play on school teams in a small independent school league. Our sports program focuses on teamwork and good sportsmanship and allows students of all abilities to participate actively as a way to learn new skills, collaborate with peers and develop physical fitness.
Greene Hill is equipped with laptop carts and tablets that are shared by our older students and used purposefully to support meaningful student work and the development of technology skills. At Greene Hill students learn that, while computing devices are important tools for research and communication, they are also tools for creativity, design, and bringing ideas to fruition. By engaging in self-initiated projects and open-ended experimentation, children learn how to solve problems in innovative ways. Educational applications of technology are taught explicitly as students begin using our school Google domain as part of their academic studies in the upper grades, and become skilled at utilizing technology for Open Work and other projects. Digital media and citizenship guidelines and skills are taught as students become more independent with technology use. Greene Hill students are encouraged to see the situations in which computing and digital technology are useful tools, and also to continue to consider and seek out other means to communicate and share their ideas and what they have learned. End of unit projects often include digital slides, typed papers and audiovisual presentations, as well as hand-designed and drawn posters and 3D models.