7380 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Gillispie School / Our Programs / Specialty Classes

Specialty Classes

Gillispie Specialty Classes are integrated into the daily curriculum

Gillispie students benefit from a well-rounded education by learning creatively and collaboratively in specialty classes: art, science & design, music, media literacy, Spanish, and P.E. A peek inside the specialty classrooms finds children:

• Hand printing self-designed tesselations during an integrated science & design/art unit

• Building and racing hybrid solar/battery-powered cars

• Learning to read music as they discover the facets of the recorder or violin

• Exploring mindfully-selected iPad apps to supplement mathematical inquiry

• Teaching their peers to conjugate irregular Spanish verbs through the performance of unique, self-penned songs

• Visiting our library to browse titles, enjoy reading aloud, and check out books

• Bounding through obstacle courses, enjoying dance in a variety of styles, and being motivated by the values of teamwork and good sportsmanship

More on our Speciality Classes



In art class, children are given an opportunity to express themselves in two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual ways. 

Students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 have regularly scheduled art classes in the elementary art bungalow, while Preschool and Prekindergarten students take part in wide-ranging artistic activities throughout their day in both classrooms and the Early Childhood Atelier.

media literacy

Media Literacy 

Media literacy helps students become competent, critical, and literate in all media forms. Since reading is the core of both academic and personal competencies, media literacy classes include time in the library to develop students’ love of literature and foster their social-emotional development. The program also enables students to develop the research skills they will need in an information-rich world. Students work to use digital and print media to learn about the world and to demonstrate their learning. Digital citizenship and safety are emphasized throughout the program.



Gillispie’s music program provides the opportunity for every child to explore the world of music through singing, playing instruments, composing, listening, and moving to music. Activities are designed to help each child develop musical skills, as well as know and appreciate many different types of music. All students, Preschool through Grade 6, take music classes. Students start with unpitched percussion and singing in Early Childhood. Instrumental exposure begins in Kindergarten with reading music notation and single-note pitched percussion. First-grade students work with xylophones which incorporate an octave (8) of notes. Second through fourth-grade classes learn to play the recorder, the violin, and ukulele. Fifth graders begin music composition and production using applications like Soundtrap and Garageband. In sixth-grade, students learn how to play the keyboard and work on rhythmic drumming notation.


Physical Education

The Gillispie P.E. program is designed to introduce, develop, and master physical skills at age-appropriate levels. In the Early Childhood classes, we introduce five essential skills: kicking, throwing, catching, dribbling, and striking. These skills are developed in Kindergarten through Grade 2 and are introduced into games and activities. Students in Grades 3 through 6 work toward mastering skills and their application to sports and organized activities. All children work on improving strength, flexibility, and endurance. Social skills, team building, and healthy lifestyle choices are key components of the program.


science and design

Science & Design

Gillispie’s science & design program gives Kindergarten to Grade 6 students hands-on experiences across Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth Science as well as focusing on principles of investigation, experimentation, and design. At each grade level, current events, the children’s interests, and an ongoing commitment to Gillispie’s belief in the Design Thinking approach will shape aspects of the curriculum. Every student also benefits from a ‘maker’ focused approach which encourages them to use their hands to fabricate models, expressions, solutions, or experimental elements for much of the content they cover. Besides common prototyping materials and tools like cardboard, scissors, and tape, students have access to our innovative Maker Space, complete with a 3D printer, 3D scanners, vacuum forming press, sewing/embroidery machine, vinyl cutter, laser cutter, soldering station, and an array of hand tools.



Throughout the elementary years at Gillispie, Spanish is taught and reinforced with activities like singing, playing games, making flashcards, and practicing dialogue. Exposure to the art, music, food, and histories of notable Spanish-speaking countries around the world is also part of the curriculum. From Kindergarten to Grade 3 children are introduced to a wide variety of vocabulary words and simple sentences. Students learn the alphabet and numbers, friendly greetings, and frequently used words. In Grades 4 through 6, the curriculum extends the skills and knowledge the children have acquired in the primary grades. Lessons include sentence structure and grammar, and correct pronunciation skills receive greater emphasis.

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