SUBJECTS OF STUDY     First-Eighth Grade


Regular exposure to the world’s great stories offers the children a storehouse of impressions, feelings, ideas and perspectives.  Students are also encouraged to express their own imagination in stories, poems, paintings and other creations. As the children’s reading, writing and critical thinking skills deepen, grammar, spelling and the structure of language become more meaningful to them.  These new skills help the children to communicate more effectively.  Thus our students develop an appetite for literature and an appreciation for the power and beauty of language.  They learn that their writing, and the writing of others, helps them understand their young lives and their relationship to the world around them.

The children learn to read and write concurrently through the use of a balanced literacy approach.  The daily use of stories, books read by the classroom teacher, novels read at lunch and an afternoon period of quiet reading, allow for opportunities to bring classical and modern literature, myths, historical fiction, biographies and autobiographies to the students and expands their appreciation for the written and spoken word, as well as sparks conversations on topics across the subjects.

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Grammar lessons and the mechanics of writing and spelling are presented as often as possible in the context of authentic writing; our goal is for students to understand how the creative and skillful use of conventions can shape the meaning, fluidity and imagery of their texts.  Through mini-lessons, the peer-editing process, and studies of excerpts by familiar authors, students recognize and develop the qualities of clear, expressive writing.

Students engage in age appropriate writing projects that they share with others throughout the year.  Journals, class and school-wide newspapers, letters, interviews, essays, book reports, historical fiction, research projects, fiction, autobiographical texts and in-depth reports are some of the ways children explore the art of writing and expression.

Writing poetry begins with using our five senses and finding an emotion to connect to memories and to dreams.  At Blue Rock School, the children experiment with different forms: the ode, the sonnet, the villanelle, haiku, tanka, the ghazal, praise songs, and more.  Children are exposed to the work of poets from many countries. They find inspiration to define a concept, describe a scene, or explain an experience.  They are encouraged to use repetition, personification, simile and metaphor, assonance, alliteration, paradox, and symbol.  As they explore the music of language, students share their written work with the community through anthologies, community readings, and workshops with senior citizens.


Last Night (by Blue Rock student)


Last night the dogwood
In the backyard
Dreamed that it could walk.
It could walk fast and slow
And could even jump!
Last night the rock in the road
Dreamed it could jump
into cars
And scare people.
Last night the flower
had a nightmare.
It was being picked
And put up to a person’s nose.

Last night my pet fish
dreamed of home, home
In the river with trout.
Last night the moon
Stayed awake all night
Watching the stars.
Last night the lake dreamed
it could fly up and down.
Last night the little seed
Dreamed it was a big tall oak,
While the oak dreamed
it was still a seed.
Now for this night.

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Be careful, Life is so fragile
Don’t break it.
There is only one time you can live
Notice everything
Look at old beams of a barn
Or a simple bird flying across a meadow.
Go to the city
Look up at the large buildings
Or the natural large trees
That may be one hundred years old.
Live your life
That is all.

-by Olivia, Blue Rock Student


In mathematics, the children’s attraction to numbers, patterns, and structures provides the basis for their learning experiences.  The use of math manipulatives precedes and supports work with paper and pencil.  Age appropriate materials are used to gain a real understanding of the fundamentals of the mathematical process.  In addition to daily math periods, problem solving strategies and computation are introduced in the context of other activities in an organic way so that math is seen as part of life.  When the children study geometry, for instance, they find that it is linked to shape and form in nature and is the basis for many of the fine and practical arts.  Students learn to use their math skills to ask and answer questions across the curriculum. 

In the elementary grades teachers use programs that support students’ conceptual understanding of math concepts, such as the Japanese math program and the Investigations program.  Both of these methodologies encourage students to grasp concepts through a direct interaction with materials and partners, making the acquisition of mathematical understanding relate to tangible and meaningful problem-solving experiences. This strong number sense facilitates students’ mastery and provides them with a solid foundation, essential to increasingly complex algorithms and math work.

In the middle school our emphasis continues to be on a deep conceptual understanding while introducing students to Pre-Algebra and Algebra I.  Our small class sizes allow students the individualized attention that fosters proficiency and confidence.  Our teachers implement the CPM (College Preparatory Math) program, which helps students break problems into smaller parts, recognize patterns, organize their work and collaborate in teams when conducting math investigations.  Students gain independence in their ability to reason mathematically and apply problem-solving strategies to everyday situations. 

At Blue Rock School, we encourage the student’s innate curiosity about the phenomena around them and provide an exciting introduction to the world of science. Children naturally explore their environment and questions emerge spontaneously as the students experience their surroundings.  As students discover patterns and relationships in nature, classes discuss the underlying laws and principles of scientific phenomena and engage in hands-on investigations. In our studies of science and the natural world, reasoning, experimentation and the scientific method are part of every grade’s curriculum.

Our students are encouraged to observe and investigate.  Hands-on work with animals, plants, rocks, sand, and water provide material to nourish both a sense of wonder and understanding of basic scientific inquiry.  Children explore their questions, develop hypotheses, and practice observation, investigative techniques, classification of data, experimentation, and discussion of outcomes. Their learning process is supported by thorough discussions, debates, research, written presentations and school science fairs. 

Our five-acre campus provides a rich setting for investigations, observation and the pursuits of our budding naturalists. Our woods, garden and raised beds are outdoor classrooms leading to studies that span all aspects of our science and social studies curriculum. The food chain, soil, compost, photosynthesis, insects, pollination and pollinators, invasive species, medicinal plants, wild edibles, historical practices in food preservation and the production of natural dyes are all part of our science and sustainability curriculum.

Our Science and Nature Curriculum follows a spiral with each grade taking on a particular focus which repeats and is explored in greater detail and complexity as students mature. This spiral provides a strong curricular scaffold and allows for multi-grade collaborations between younger and older students as they study similar topics in more depth.

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Life Science: emphasis on plants, animals, and humans – their form and structures, habitats, anatomy, systems, relationships, and interrelationships.  Students develop an awareness of what is known and an appreciation for what remains a mystery.  Work in the school garden provides an outdoor classroom for the study of plant and insect life cycles, botany and food science. Kindergarten, Third grade and Sixth grade

Physical Science: examines Newton’s Laws of Motion – forces and movement on Earth and throughout the universe. Students create simple machines, kinetic sculptures and Rube Goldberg Machines to study these laws. Students are introduced to the properties of matter through the Periodic Table of Elements and explore physical and chemical changes and how chemical reactions work according to the Law of Conservation of Energy. First grade, Fourth grade and Seventh grade

Earth Science: Through hands-on projects and experiments we explore the properties of water related to weather and atmosphere as well as water’s power and its use as an energy source.  Children are introduced to our planet Earth; its geology, tectonic movement, volcanoes and various landforms. We study our solar system with an emphasis on the importance of the sun.  Astronomy is brought through work on the constellations and star gazing at night round a campfire in our woods. Geology is examined on a local level, studying rock formations and locations such as Hook Mountain and the Hudson River. Second grade, Fifth grade and Eighth grade

Science in the Middle School

Language Arts | Poetry | Mathematics | Science and the Natural World | Science in the Middle School | History, Social Studies and Geography | Spanish | Social Learning | Play And Physical Development | Music | Art | Drama

A Gourmet recipe for Spring

First mix one handful of laughing children with a cup of green grass and blossoms. A tablespoon of robin’s eggs in nests will add just the right touch. 1 ¼ cup of dew. Sprinkle a pinch of meadows with wildflowers and knee high grass.
Put in some bright blue sky.
Sprinkle a few clouds across it and mix thoroughly.
Pour the batter into a pan and bake for 15 minutes
And there you have the perfect spring.

poem by Jessica, Blue Rock Student


From sixth through eighth grade, the scientific method is explored in a deeper way, with work in groups and as individuals. The curriculum delves into the different branches of science and is divided into three or four thematic blocks each year. These blocks include: Physical Sciences, such as Chemistry and Physics; Life Sciences, such as Genetics and Anatomy; and Earth Science, such as Geology and Environmental Science. Blue Rock incorporates the New York State Science Core Curriculum and the interdisciplinary methods of STEM, coupling rigorous academics with real-world science ideas and issues. The use of the scientific method is central in all our work. Students hone their skills of observation, data collection, analysis and exploration of findings, followed by interpretation of results. Each science block is project based and includes scientific reading, writing, discussions using the Socratic Method, and experimentation throughout, culminating in hands-on projects, science fairs, and exposés to creatively illustrate what the students have learned. Projects are often shared with parents or other students in lower grades.

The middle school continues the spiraling curriculum of earlier years and utilizes our school gardens and grounds, as well as incorporating field trips and environmental studies throughout the Hudson River Valley and NYC into our scientific studies.

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In social studies, themes based on the lives, legends, and contributions of different people and cultures, create numerous opportunities to expand the children’s awareness of the larger world around them.  History and geography come alive through field trips, hikes, model building, and mapmaking, all of which results in much more than the memorization of dates and facts.  Students at Blue Rock School encounter a range of ways to engage and connect with aspects of their own heritage and with that of other peoples.

Classes are exposed to literature from various historical periods.  By studying a different continent or country yearly, students become familiar with social customs, geography, and important aspects of diverse world cultures.   Through stories, workshops, and hands-on activities, students develop an appreciation for indigenous and early cultures worldwide and the native people of the United States.  Local and US history, as well as the heritages of our own families are explored through projects and activities. By participating in individual and group research, field trips, historical fiction and non-fiction, and the use of primary sources such as journals and newspaper articles, our students develop the ability to compare and contrast world events.  They develop timelines and discern historical continuums while making connections to their own experiences and family histories.  Students also gain an appreciation for different ways of marking time.


In the upper grades, the children’s interests are pursued as they research important historical events and study the contribution of significant historical figures.  As their research unfolds, they engage in written, oral and dramatized presentations, and they share projects incorporating their discoveries.

Students develop the ability to relate historical events of interest and understand larger catalysts that impacted particular time periods, e.g., Ancient Civilizations, the Roman Empire, Colonial times, the Great Depression, the U.S. Civil and Revolutionary Wars, the World Wars, as well as pioneer experiences, slavery, world explorations and world religions.  Students research and conduct in-depth studies, as well as see connections and patterns between local, regional, national and world history.

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In the middle school the students engage in an interdisciplinary study of history and its turning points using primary documents, art, literature and music. They develop the ability to “think like a historian” and in addition to research projects, they write essays and create pertinent creative projects like writing their own civil rights songs or journaling from the perspective of a historical figure.

Starting in the sixth grade students study the Republic of Rome to explore representation in government, equality and having a voice.  Middle school students examine the role of gender in government and society in ancient and current times. The issue of race and social justice is explored through literature, in novels such as Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals and I am Malala by Malala Yousafzal. Themes of social justice are also explored through current events, with guest speakers and in classroom discussions on inclusion, prejudice and bias.

Our study of Spanish is part of a larger effort to instill an appreciation for the world and its many peoples and customs.  Through weekly Spanish classes, children gain an understanding of new sounds, words and rhythms, and the rich experience inherent in learning a second language.  The Day of the Dead, Cinco de Mayo, and like  celebrations throughout the year serve as spring boards for more exposure and whole-school participation.

Our Spanish teaching method, while uniquely adapted to each individual class, is more in line with what are known as the TPR (Total Physical Response) method and a Comprehensible Input approach of language study.  These methods are deemed highly effective and foster the acquisition of language through concrete, whole body and experiential learning, thus emphasizing activities such as singing, movement, stories, games, cooking, and role playing.  Grammar is introduced in context with cultural studies, topics of interest, and particular units such as family, numbers, time, food, money, and travel.   Children are exposed to stories that help them to expand their vocabulary and to engage in different dialogue situations. 

As our students enter the fourth grade they have Spanish class twice a week.  In middle school students are divided into leveled groups and more emphasis is placed on the structural aspects of Spanish and its grammatical constructs.  Students develop projects such as calendars and dictionaries, and engage in more complex dialogue.  In the upper grades, students are assigned Spanish homework and complete tasks that reinforce specific skills brought up in class. 

Our participatory classes keep students interested in the study of language. As they enter more extensive foreign language study in high school, they tend to do so with a positive disposition toward the language of their choice.

BRS often provides various language classes after school, Mandarin and French for example, for interested families. 


At Blue Rock School we value the emotional and social development of our students and we dedicate time and energy to maintaining a harmonious and respectful climate within each class and in the school as a whole. The teachers engage in ongoing discussions regarding their students’ wellbeing and implement strategies and approaches to help students learn the skills needed to collaborate, communicate, play and learn together.  Likewise, as a whole staff we practice active listening, direct communication, empathy and collaborative problem solving. We believe that the adults are models for the students and our individual commitment to personal growth has a direct impact on the tenor of the school and the positive energy of our community. 

Because our students participate in such an array of activities and classes together, (going from recess to math, to music and to drama, then to writing and then gym, etc.), they gain an awareness and respect for each classmate’s areas of strength and struggle. This appreciation for one another, coupled with the positive reinforcement the staff provides (emphasizing that each person has the need for different tools and has different gifts and challenges), creates a climate of trust, understanding and friendship throughout the school.  There are daily opportunities for students to strengthen their bonds with one another, such as when they help each other work on a fort, design science projects, work as math partners, create a class play, or climb trees together.


In the natural event that children disagree and differences of opinion or approach arise, teachers and students engage in age- appropriate conflict resolution skills so that each party can share their thoughts and feelings respectfully.  Communication skills and social learning are addressed regularly, both explicitly and implicitly through group building activities, stories, games and projects. We help students grow in their understanding that conflict and its resolution are an important part of coexistence. Our diverse ways of being and responding to life enhances our community, so that rather than flee or react angrily when we disagree, we can actually use those moments as opportunities to deepen our understanding, enrich our experience, and grow in our ability to listen and share different perspectives.


Play And Physical Development

Language Arts | Poetry | Mathematics | Science and the Natural World | Science in the Middle School | History, Social Studies and Geography | Spanish | Social Learning | Play And Physical Development | Music | Art | Drama

Becoming a Wolf

I run and slip
falling behind my pack
I roll down a slope
into an icy brook
I struggle
I’m out
I bound up the slope
I run to catch up with my pack
They caught the prey
I feast on veniso.
I smell something
I’m off

-poem by Shay, Blue Rock Student


Becoming a Stallion

I can kick
And I can run
About fifty miles an hour
I eat grass
I am free in the wild.

-poem by Dylan, Blue Rock Student


Children understand many personal, social and academic lessons through their play.  At Blue Rock School, the students’ play is the catalyst for many rich investigations and discoveries that inform our classroom curriculum.  Students are allowed the time to navigate both the social and creative aspects of fantasy play, as well as the more concrete dynamics of organized games.

We believe that an alert and responsive body is essential to engage in our daily activities in an integrated manner.  For this reason, we encourage both fine and gross motor activities throughout the day.  Whether it be shaping letters in cornmeal, practicing handwriting, knitting and crocheting, or cutting and working with clay or dough, children’s fine motor skills are enhanced regularly.  Through climbing trees, swinging, building intricate forts, running, dancing and playing ball games, students become increasingly confident in their bodies’ ability to move freely.

In the classroom, play takes the form of math and language games using dice, blocks, cards, manipulatives, and other materials that reinforce skills and concepts.  The ability to listen, share, compromise and cooperate with peers and those that are younger and older or somehow different than us, are essential life skills.  Our students have multiple opportunities to practice and gain confidence in these areas of social learning as they collaborate and interact throughout the day, and in every subject.

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Sports activities, both structured and unstructured, provide rich opportunities for extending physical capabilities and developing confidence in movement and coordination, stamina, cooperation,  team work and good sportsmanship.  Students have weekly gym classes where they play cooperative games and team sports such as soccer, basketball, kickball, volleyball, dodge ball and wiffle ball, both on campus and at a local sports field.  Students also work on developing the skills to accept and appropriately articulate their feelings resulting from the challenges and exhilaration inherent in physical activity, personal performance and group play.

In the winter the lower grades engage in an indoor class that emphasizes balance, tumbling, coordination and juggling skills.  Folk and international dances are introduced in the upper grades to strengthen students’ sense of rhythm, pattern and sequence while working collaboratively on choreography.  Our dance curriculum also provides a deeper understanding of cultural diversity and the many ways that human beings around the world use movement to celebrate life.  


Music at Blue Rock School begins with using students’ natural, spontaneous response to music as a catalyst for developing children into players, singers and lovers of music. The movements and gestures that children make when they respond to sound and stimulus are then brought to their conscious awareness and crafted into more focused responses. We can indeed see what the children are hearing.  


This method of observing the children and designing exercises that pick up on their natural musicianship is known as Dalcroze and it underpins the entire music program from kindergarten through eighth grade. Every musical challenge is approached from a standpoint of using the body as the main interpreter of music and it is through increasingly sophisticated exercises, always incorporating movement and rhythm, that the children progress through the grade levels of ear training, sight singing, improvisation and notation.

There is a strong emphasis throughout the program on singing, which is the instrument we all share as part of the body, and the repertoire of folksongs from around the world grows each year as we use the annual theme to explore different regions and traditions. The children are trained with classical technique and perform different genres with confidence and skill. Along with folk music, we visit rich contemporary styles and classical compositions.

The children learn to accompany each other's theater performances using the beautiful xylophones and percussion instruments developed for the classroom by composer Carl Orff, and a favorite activity is to compose music for these events as a class.


Beginning in the third grade, the children learn soprano recorder while continuing to build their skills as singers and movers, now with singing games and folk dances. The upper years bring opportunities to add alto and tenor recorders and develop into an ensemble, and the choir for grades fifth through eighth  further refines the ability to read music, make music in a group and garner the independence required to perform 3 and 4-part music. There are also opportunities to incorporate the instruments some students study outside of school in our plays, musicals, spring concerts and Winter Solstice performance, thus recognizing their individual musical journeys within the context of the extensive musical experiences at school.


Language Arts | Poetry | Mathematics | Science and the Natural World | Science in the Middle School | History, Social Studies and Geography | Spanish | Social Learning | Play And Physical Development | Music | Art | Drama


I have a brush in my hand,
My grasp is on all the brush.
I dip it in red paint, ruby red paint.
I make a flying bird
Over my head.
It swoops to get a worm in my garden.

-poem by Maris, Blue Rock Student

The visual arts program is rooted in Blue Rock School’s educational philosophy of hands-on learning, student-centered inquiry, and the development of mind, body and feeling.

Our Art studio is an environment in which students experiment, problem-solve, pose questions, explore concepts and master technical skills.  Through hands-on projects, field trips and group discussion, students learn that visual art has the power to communicate ideas and feelings, invigorate our senses and reorient our perceptions of the world.

In Art, students express themselves through a wide range of materials and approaches.

These include drawing (ink, pencil, charcoal, pastel), painting (watercolor, tempera, acrylic and oil), sculpture (wire, found objects, plaster and soap stone), ceramics, printmaking, fiber arts (silk-painting and batik, weaving, embroidery, soft-sculpture), paper and doll-making, and book-binding.

In ceramics, students create functional and sculptural objects using mostly hand-building techniques and the occasional use of an electric wheel.  We have a state of the art kiln, which allows students to finish their projects with a variety of beautiful glazes.

The yearly theme is explored through studio projects and in conjunction with the Solstice performance and spring plays. Students in all the grades work on the visual components of their performances, including the creation of masks, costumes, sets, props and puppets.

Art in the Lower grades


The art program in the lower grades encourages students to use their life experiences, how they understand the world, and their imaginations as subject matter for their art.

Working with paint, pencil, pastels, clay and other sculptural materials, students learn how to use art media to express a thought, a feeling or an idea.  A project that explores color may yield a painting of a stormy sky, or mermaids in an underwater world.


In grades kindergarten through second the children come to fully understand the characteristics of a variety of art materials through experimentation and process-oriented projects that are open-ended and playful. They are invited to touch, explore, experiment and transform.

In grades third and fourth, students develop their critical thinking skills and learn techniques for achieving greater refinement of details and forms. Formal techniques such as contour drawing and basic perspective are introduced and empower the children’s ability to represent what they see in the world around them and in their imaginations.

Art in the Upper grades


In grades fifth through eighth the art projects strike a balance between freedom and structure, as well as increase the student’s understanding of different art materials, styles and methods. Students are encouraged to take risks with their work, while following guidelines and instructions and to develop craftsmanship alongside creativity.

Art foundation techniques, such as perspective, color theory, shading, and composition are introduced and deepened each year. Students continue to work from observation and their imaginations, refining their abilities to articulate ideas in visual form.

Drawing from life and observation of the natural world is introduced in the early grades and expanded in the upper grades. Representation genres such as still life, portraiture, landscape and figure drawing are explored in a variety of two and three-dimensional media.

Non-representational art (abstraction) from a variety of cultures is studied and appreciated alongside realism.

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Students continue to work from their imaginations and learn to articulate a conceptual idea in visual form.

The curriculum for each academic year has certain touchstones and also allows for emergent interests to be pursued.  For instance, linear perspective is introduced in fifth grade, Impressionist oil painting is studied in the sixth grade and portrait drawing is examined in the seventh grade and eighth grade.

Interdisciplinary Projects


Collaboration between the Art teachers and Head teachers occurs throughout the year and leads to deep and rich understanding of various subjects.

Past interdisciplinary projects include: automatas that explored the mechanics of simple machines, corn husk dolls made from the planting and harvesting of corn in garden science, marionettes to accompany a Spanish language story in Spanish class, Greek vases and the study of Ancient Greece, illustration and book-binding of original short stories, studying symbiosis in science and art, and creating collages based on the autobiography of Frederick Douglas.

Theater holds an important place at Blue Rock School and as an ensemble-based and social art form it is thoroughly enjoyed by the student body.  Our program exposes children to exercises and activities that develop their collaborative skills and individual ability to be, and perform, in front of others. The training these young actors receive allows them to develop confidence while having fun, and to witness each other’s efforts and growth as they also learn to be a respectful and supportive audience.  Through improvisation, scene study, theater games, clown work and physical theater exercises students learn to use their voices, bodies and imaginations to express the plots of stories, folk tales, world myths, plays, literature, musical theater and contemporary themes.

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Students at Blue Rock School engage in weekly drama instruction starting in first grade until they graduate from the eighth grade. The students, including the kindergarten, perform in a whole-school Winter Solstice Celebration with music and theater, as well as individual class plays and larger multi-grade play productions every spring. The drama teacher collaborates with the music and art teachers, and students help to create all aspects of the productions. Students are engaged in the improvisation and creative problem solving that leads to the final script. In the upper grades they are expected to memorize lines and participate in the creation of choreography, and assist with the stage management of props and scene changes. Students participate in costume, mask, puppet, and scenery making, as well as perform and sing music for other children’s plays or their own. Over the past several years the school has put on adaptations and full length productions including:

  • Sundiata (original African story the Lion King was based on)

  • The Odyssey

  • The Hobbit

  • The Monkey King (Chinese epic)

  • The King of Ireland’s Son

  • A compilation of the OZ stories by Frank L. Baum

  • The Popl Vuh (Mayan epic)

  • Persephone (Greek Myth)

  • Conference of the Birds (Persian poem)

  • The Tempest (Shakespeare)

  • The King Stag (Commedia dell’Arte)

  • Peter Pan

  • The 1001 Arabian Nights

  • Alice in Wonderland

Students have presented several original productions that included various themes such as mystery, circus and clown, workers’ rights, fantasy, Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, World Explorers and Indigenous People. Drama lends itself to the study of different perspectives through tales of many lands and students have interpreted stories from all over the world and from the diverse communities that make up the United States.