Ethical Culture



The art program at Ethical Culture includes drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, sculpture, printmaking and photography. We focus on exploration and experimentation with materials and tools, and stress process over product. Students develop their problem-solving skills and learn to trust their artistic vision and abilities.

Students are exposed to a wide range of artists from many cultures, times and traditions. By sharing and discussing these works of art students learn to respect differences in expression, and each other’s opinions. They also learn that they too are a community of artists, each possessing an individual point of view and unique ability to express themselves.


Music at Ethical Culture is woven into the curriculum, and advances in appropriate complexity from year to year. Pre-Kindergartners and kindergartners learn that their first instrument is their voice and begin the first stages of healthy vocal development. In the early elementary years studies expand their musical vocabulary and more pitches and rhythms are introduced. By third grade, the emphasis is on understanding notations and students are able to sustain their own parts in rhythm bands. Recorders are the instrument of choice for fourth graders who learn to read music from the written score. They are able to translate the written page to both their instrument and their singing voice. A full-scale musical production is a highlight of the fourth grade year. In fifth grade students learn to sing in two and three parts, adding the musical element of harmony to those already mastered: melody and rhythm. An optional instrumental program is available for fourth and fifth graders.


The science curriculum at Ethical Culture exposes students to botany, biology, physics, chemistry, and earth science through developmentally appropriate hands-on activities. Children build upon their experience of the natural world through the early elementary years, using lab work where appropriate to support their learning in all the grades. A plant sale in first grade marries our school’s ethical framework with that year’s study of Central Park, as the proceeds are donated to the Park.

Social Studies Workshop

The Social Studies Workshop has been a part of the Ethical Culture School since its founding. Designed to provide children with an opportunity to develop confidence with tools and solving construction problems, the Workshop is an embodiment of the progressive educational tenet of learning by doing. The hands-on curriculum includes specific projects related to classroom social studies, math and science, as well as traditional woodworking. Through four years of diverse projects - that encourage both cooperative work and individual expression - students develop creative problem solving skills and begin to understand the design process.


In the Spanish language program at Ethical Culture, students speak, see, touch, write, taste, and feel in the language. Whether running into the classroom to ask for a Band‐Aid (in Spanish, of course), making the most of the city by touring a local market in a Hispanic neighborhood, or creating books for children in Guatemala as part of a service project, our students embrace Spanish language and culture with full hearts and much laughter. Spanish instruction begins in pre-kindergarten and continues through elementary school.

Physical Education/Movement

The physical education/movement programming for PreK through second grade at Ethical Culture is founded on movement education and exploration. Students are taught about spatial awareness and interacting with peers with an emphasis on games, rhythms, and locomotor/movement concepts. In third through fifth grade, the curriculum explores personal fitness, sports, and games. In each unit, game rules are introduced with a focus on sportsmanship, teamwork, skill development, and strategy. Non-traditional physical education units such as yoga, juggling, cup-stacking, and circus art keep young minds and bodies active and engaged and demonstrate to students that they can experience movement and stay fit in a variety of ways.

At Ethical Culture, we help students understand multiple perspectives, see the world beyond the self, develop creativity and imagination, and foster habits of the heart such as justice, fairness, and empathy. We combine high-quality academics with respect for all people and points of view, and emphasize critical thinking in all areas.

School is a continuous journey for our students and teachers and we plan each grade’s work around an essential question that is the core of what we want children to have learned by the end of each school year. Grounded in respect for the whole child, our approach allows teachers to honor each child’s learning style as well as who each child is individually, socially, emotionally and culturally.

Students arrive in our classrooms with their own skills and abilities, and we are charged with extending, enriching and enhancing what they bring. We meet the developmental level of each child and are devoted to inspiring them to become lifelong learners. Academic excellence is evidenced in the daily expectation that children do their best and take responsibility for their own work. We help our students develop goals that acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and give them encouragement to compensate for the latter while building on the former.