Brooklyn Heights Montessori School is a diverse community committed to educational excellence, serving students in preschool through grade 8.

VAPA: Lower Elementary

Visual and Performing Arts: Building the Foundation
Lower Elementary students participate in Visual Arts, Drama, Dance, and Music once each per week.

Visual Arts
The Lower Elementary Visual Arts program is designed to familiarize students in the fundamental components of art making by introducing them to the elements of art; line, shape, form, space, color, and texture. In addition, they learn the proper usage and care of art materials. Art classes give students the opportunity to explore a wide range of materials ranging from graphite pencils and opaque markers to polymer paint and plaster gauze. An array of instructive projects and self-guided work is employed to foster ingenuity as students learn how to apply imaginative thinking to problem solving and develop a greater understanding of the entire creative process.

Through projects varying from mask making, acetate overlays, mono-prints, mixed-media sculpture, drawing, and painting, students explore fundamental art theory and establish a solid basis for future artistic exploration. They learn the ideas and vocabulary appropriate for each endeavor, such as color theory, historical context, and medium-specific technique, and also develop the language and ability to discuss their work. The joy of creation is celebrated, with the emphasis placed on the process of creating art.


In Lower Elementary Dance students are introduced to the components of dance making: Body, Space, Time, Energy, and Relationship. They explore these concepts through activities that engage their bodies, imaginations, and intellect. Often the activities are connected to the Lower Elementary cultural curriculum; these activities can be abstract, narrative, or historical. Our goal is to prepare the dancer to have a sense of body awareness in space, access their strength and flexibility, use a variety of dynamics movements, recall and repeat movements, and respond appropriately to music and verbal cues.

Students create, respond to, and perform their own choreography as well as traditional folk dances and improvisations. Improvisation builds problem-solving skills and strengthens self-expression. Students are introduced to the language of dance and taught how to discuss and reflect on their work thoughtfully. Students build their teamwork skills by working collaboratively and develop confidence through working independently. Process and creativity are nurtured in class with an emphasis on self-expression.

The Lower Elementary Drama program introduces students to drama through games that explore observation, listening, teamwork, concentration, imagination, the senses, and relaxation. Students discuss the skills involved with each game. The first graders strengthen these skills by working on small group exercises using pantomime and charades to explore storytelling and performance. The second and third graders begin in-depth work of pantomimes as well as work on developing skills to work collaboratively.

Students develop a strong musical foundation by engaging in group activities such as playing singing games, writing compositions, and rehearsing and performing instrumental and vocal pieces for our community. Rhythm is central to making music with others successfully so students are given many opportunities to step, clap, sing, and play instruments to a steady beat. Ear training and singing in pitch are addressed through regularly singing Solfège on a major scale accompanied by the Montessori bells and by learning a wide variety of songs from many musical traditions. As students develop their musical skills as an ensemble, they have many opportunities to work on being patient, supportive, willing to compromise, and to communicate clearly in order to have successful collaborations.

VAPA: Upper Elementary and Middle School

The Visual and Performing Arts program has two main components:

  • Core visual and performing arts classes (Grades 5 and 6)
  • Selective visual and performing classes (Grades 6, 7 and 8)

Core VAPA Classes

Core visual and performing arts classes in Grades 4 and 5 include art, dance, drama, and music, which meet once each per week.


Using the skills acquired in Lower Elementary art, Upper Elementary students pursue long term projects. Several of these are inspired by their academic curriculum and require more involvement in planning and development on their part. As with Lower Elementary, a wide range of art materials are available for their use. The joy of creation through the process of making art is celebrated in the visual art classes at BHMS.


Students in Grades 4 and 5 develop upon the foundations from Lower Elementary Dance to deepen their studies. Students are given longer assignments that require collaboration and use of choreographic devices. Students engage in a deeper critical response dialogue and complete peer and self-evaluations.


Upper Elementary drama builds on the skills developed in Lower Elementary drama. In addition, students explore the fundamentals of acting technique, short form improvisation, the devising of original work and acting in two-person scenes from famous plays.


Building on the skills acquired in Lower Elementary Music, students in Grades 4 and 5 will further develop their skills in ear training. The classes focus on learning to read melodic notation by playing and reading music for the recorder. Students will begin to understand time signature through lessons on conducting. They will learn music that is related to their cultural studies and a popular song of their choosing. At the end of the trimester, they will have an opportunity to sing as a chorus with accompaniment of recorder and percussion instruments at a music share assembly.

Selective VAPA Classes
Selective classes are offered to students in Grades 6, 7 and 8, and allow students an opportunity to pursue a particular artistic area in-depth during an intensive period of time: four times a week for one trimester. The culmination of the selective classes is a presentation to the community of the work the students have done throughout the trimester. Below is a sample of classes we are offering.

Visual Arts:


Students will explore the hand building process of ceramics to create both functional and sculptural works. Some of the techniques will include pinch pots, coil-building, slab construction, and using plaster molds. Students will also have the opportunity to explore wheel-throwing on one of the potter’s wheels during the trimester. From the wedging of the clay to the final glazing of a piece, this class will cover the technical aspects of ceramics with an emphasis on developing ideas, design, and form.

Drawing and Painting

Drawing and Painting will follow a traditional trajectory. Starting with a series of studies of selected subject matter, students will focus on proportion, volume, texture, light, and shade. The class will progress to composition, color theory, painting techniques and historical references including Northern European Genre Painting and 20th Century Mexican Muralists. Final projects will be selected from easel paintings that will be combined and scaled up to medium sized outdoor wall paintings.


Students will explore light-based image making through many aspects of photography and time-based media: shooting with digital and film cameras, working in the darkroom, utilizing Adobe Creative Suite (including Photoshop, and InDesign), projection imagery, and video work. As a class, students are engaged in group discussions on history and current events in photography, utilizing the elements of design as it relates to photography, as well as class critiques of works produced throughout each trimester.

Performing Arts:

Choral Band

In Choral Band, students select and perform songs from different genres with original arrangements for instrument and voice. Supporting a small group of vocalists, students have the opportunity to play an array of percussion instruments including drum set, conga, surdo, and maraca, or pitched instruments including electric guitar, electric bass guitar, keyboards, xylophone, and recorder. Choral Band is particularly special because students can change roles for different songs and play instruments with which they have had no previous experience. Students support each other to learn parts, give important critiques of rehearsals to make improvements, and perform their songs at the end of the trimester.


This beginning level choreography course introduces students to both the exploration of the choreographic process and the basic choreographic devices. Emphasis is placed on the intention of creating meaning through the use of time, space, energy/force, and weight. Students will learn through researching choreographers of the Twentieth and Twenty-first century, structured improvisations, choreographic tasks, observation and reflection, class discussions, and the completion of a final piece to be presented at the end of the term.

Jazz and Hip-Hop Dance

Students will spend equal portions of the trimester exploring and emulating characteristics of jazz and hip-hop dance through research and practice. They will develop the skills to execute jazz and hip-hop dance techniques and build their performance skills. The class is highly physical, and emphasis will be placed on endurance, physical discipline, and self-expression. A final performance will demonstrate the skills developed in this class.

In Percussion and Instrument Making class, students learn to play as an ensemble while being exposed to the history and physical attributes of various instruments. Small hand instruments are created based on the information they acquire and the artistic and musical preferences they develop. From time to time, experts in specific instruments visit to lead workshops, including demonstrations and lessons.


Students feel the beat through their feet while they learn the basic footwork and rhythm of freestyle tap. They learn choreography, improvise, and create tap dances of their own. Students also investigate the roots of tap dance in America - its birthplace. No experience is needed as students and teacher will be creating rhythms together. Student work will culminate in a final performance.

Theatre Production
This class gives students the opportunity to participate in fully mounted theatrical productions. Students and teacher collaborate to choose roles that inspire and challenge, from acting to assistant directing to stage managing, sound, costume, and set design. The students then proceed to the challenging and exciting work of making a play, which is performed for the school community at the end of the trimester.

Shakespeare Collaboration
Middle School students undertake a yearlong study exploring the magical world of one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces and then bring it to life in a full theatrical production in the spring. The work begins in September as all students read the play and examine the text historically in their Language Arts classes. All students meet with the MS Theater teacher once a week to work on the technical aspects of the play and develop the theatrical language necessary to negotiate the text.

Midway through the year, MS students are assigned either to the set design team or the acting ensemble, and the set design students switch to meeting with the art teacher once a week to learn about stage design and technique, and eventually develop and produce the set and design for the play.

In Trimester III, Middle School shifts into full production mode as students prepare for their two performances in May. It is in this trimester that UE students who have a demonstrated interest in and passion for drama, may request to join the production. They are assigned smaller parts but are no less dedicated. In past years Middle School students have performed The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Comedy of Errors, The Winter’s Tale, Henry V, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, and The Tempest.