7380 Girard Avenue, La Jolla

Gillispie School / Our Programs / Specialty Classes

Specialty Classes

Gillispie Specialty Classes are integrated in the daily curriculum

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

• Hand printing self-designed tesselations during an integrated math/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. This is accomplished by:

• Development of manual skills

• Use of various techniques and tools that are developmentally appropriate for the age level and abilities of the child

• Looking and learning about art, artists, and artistic styles

• Projects emphasizing the elements of good design, color, shape, line, value, and texture

• Emphasis on process, not product of making art

• Allowing the child to make choices and experiment with various mediums

• Verbal discussion of creative problems and solutions

• Appreciation of classmates’ work and differing perspectives

• Demonstration of technique where applicable

• Positive encouragement and guidance

Students in Kindergarten through Grade 6 have regularly scheduled art classes in the elementary art studio, 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 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 on multimedia and video projects in addition to word-processing, spreadsheet, and drawing applications. Keyboarding practice and digital citizenship are focuses 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 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. Instrumental exposure begins in second grade with recorder, continues with violin in third grade, ukulele in fourth grade, keyboard in fifth grade, and percussion in sixth grade.


Physical Education

The Gillispie PE 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 & Sustainability 

Gillispie’s science performance goals are grouped at all grade levels from Grade 2 to Grade 6 into the following: Life Science, Physical Science, Earth Science, Investigation, and Experimentation.  The investigation of a specific continent at each grade level will shape aspects of the curriculum, as will current events, the children’s interests, and an ongoing commitment to Gillispie’s belief in promoting sustainability. Every student also benefits from the gardening, composting, and ‘Makerspace’ elements of our program. Gillispie’s Science Bungalow, a historic 1905 beach bungalow, is surrounded by extensive gardens and outside areas for a variety of science pursuits, as well as a Makerspace dedicated to designing and building things using traditional and new materials and technologies. Our Makerspace is currently outfitted with a woodworking shed, 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.