Curriculum Highlights

Curriculum Highlights


Reading, Language Arts, and Literature

Bowman places great emphasis on language and literacy throughout the curriculum. Each day, students in all classes work on grammar, spelling, and handwriting. They read, write a daily journal, and do research projects. Our youngest students present the results of their research projects orally, while older students do so in writing for review by the teachers.

For the Junior Level, basic phonics are emphasized in early reading. In addition, students read aloud individually with a teacher, and teachers read literature to the children daily.

Lower and Upper Elementary students also read individually and with their teachers every day. These students prepare frequent book reports and read a variety of materials in association with their research projects. Students practice expository and creative writing, such as poetry and fiction.

In Middle School, the language and literature curriculum spans the continuum from creative expression to technical writing. The students’ work in this area includes the reading, critical analysis, and writing of a variety of literary forms such as novels, short stories, plays, poetry, folklore, personal and historical narratives, journalistic and formal reporting, creative fiction, and more. Through literature, Middle School students study the elements of style and are expected to achieve mastery in grammar, spelling, and mechanics in their own writing. Editing is developed as a key skill. Oral communication skills, which have their genesis in Lower and Upper Elementary reports and presentations, are expanded in Middle School to include formal debate, drama, and other oral exercises.

Student vocabulary development in Upper Elementary and Middle School is further enhanced through the continuing study of Latin.



At Bowman, mathematics is taught both individually to each student and in groups. The emphasis is on making math meaningful and consistent with the entire Bowman curriculum. Mathematics, general problem solving, and logical thinking are integrated into the daily life of the school.

As in all Bowman curricular areas, each student is able to progress in their mathematics study at a personal and comfortable rate. Word problems and creative activities, such as managing a budget, following the stock market, and manipulating sports statistics, are also used to allow the children to apply their mathematics knowledge to the world in ways that are meaningful to them.

Lower and Upper Elementary students practice and master the four basic operations of mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. They also learn the metric system, decimals, fractions, estimation, and measurements of time and volume. Geometry and pre-algebra concepts and applications are also introduced and incorporated into the curriculum.

Mathematics in the Middle School continues to be taught individually to all students. Math understanding is developed along a continuum from pre-algebra (which many students have already mastered in Upper Elementary) through algebra and solid geometry. More advanced students may progress to trigonometry and even calculus. At this advanced level, calculators and computers are available for student use.



Along with reading, language arts, and mathematics, science is central to the Bowman curriculum. Students discover the basic elements of how scientists work and how scientific research is developed.

Through hands-on and computer-based experiments, the children test, observe, and record data in botany, chemistry, earth sciences, physics, and zoology. They learn about the lives and achievements of actual scientists and are taught to use proper terminology to refer to the phenomena they are studying. Through annual camping experiences and other outdoor activities, students also acquire understandings of the environment and ecology.

When the setup for experiments is not too complicated, students can conduct lab experiments individually; for the more complicated lab assignments, they work together in small groups. Field trips, the annual school camping trip, internet research, and visits with working scientists all help make science come alive for Bowman students.

By the time Bowman students enter Middle School, they have developed a strong foundation in science and scientific inquiry in the earth, physical, and life sciences. Building on this foundation, students continue their discovery and hands-on lab work to deepen their knowledge and extend it to explore more complicated concepts and areas such as astronomy, chemistry, and human psychology.


World Languages

All students at Bowman participate in both Spanish and Mandarin lessons each week, working toward cultural awareness of differences between major Eastern and Western cultures and developing some basic conversational skills. Both languages are taught by native speakers and include participation in cultural experiences such as singing, dancing, arts and crafts, cooking, and celebrating traditional holidays. While students gain familiarity with the languages and cultures, it is not a language immersion program.

Children in the Upper Elementary and Middle School participate in weekly Latin instruction as well.



As an internationally aware program, inter-cultural activities are routinely woven into the fabric of the school’s daily life. Bowman students have rich opportunities to learn about the people of the world: their cultures, economies, histories, politics, and philosophies. They discuss current events every day and learn how to interpret those events in relation to other aspects of our world.

More formally, the children learn about each continent and a number of representative countries. Specific attention is paid to the United States and California. Working through the innovative “Keepers of Alexandria Program” developed at the University of Chicago, Middle School students also study culture, history, literature, science, and technology of the ancient world.


The Arts

The arts are an integral part of the Bowman program. Parents are often astounded to learn how the arts are woven into each day.

Students are introduced to a composer each month and are often surrounded by classical music playing softly in the classroom as a background for daily activities. The children all participate in music appreciation and learn singing (including sight singing), reading notation, and composition. In the visual arts, students learn basic art principles, participate in art appreciation with an “artist of the month,” and have an opportunity to practice art principles through studio experiences. The children write, produce, and perform their own plays and puppet shows.

Our visiting artist program brings professional performing artists directly into the classroom, providing students the opportunity to interact with musicians, actors, and dancers at close range. The performers are often chosen to complement the cultures being studied at the time, and all programs provide for participation by the students. Many of our artists return through the years, in week-long residencies or performances at regular intervals, and develop ongoing partnerships with the classes as the children grow and mature. There is an atmosphere of mutual sharing and interest, and both the performers and the students look forward to these times together. The visiting artist program has included:

  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival Troupe
  • San Francisco Opera
  • Mary Knysh, internationally recognized Orff education and Music for People co-director (residency)
  • David Darling, Grammy-nominated cellist and co-founder of Music for People (residency)
  • Arthur Hall, internationally recognized drum facilitation leader
  • The Children of Uganda Tour of Light
  • Shira Kammen, medieval and folk fiddler, and her groups, Breton band Trouz Bras, and Celtic duo Kammen and Swann
  • Cheryl Ann Fulton, the foremost performer of historical harps and Welsh triple harp
  • Ensemble Alcatraz, medieval music of Spain and Portugal
  • Balkan choir, Kitka
  • Klezmer trio, Davka
  • Mevlevi Foundation music director, Latif Bolat, classical and fold music of Turkey
  • Kim Knight of The Painting Experience, now known as Point Zero (residency)
  • David Kelly, juggler extraordinaire
  • Harper Tasche, Scandinavian music
  • Verlene Schermer, jazz and popular music
  • Betsy Rose, American folk singing tradition
  • Peter Maund, world percussion
  • Jyoti Rout, classical dance of India
  • Amanda, flamenco music and dance
  • Mary Ellen Donald, Middle Easter percussion
  • Cameron Tummel, all-school drum circles
  • Stephen Kent, didjeridoo and aboriginal Australian music


Physical Education

The Bowman P.E. program is a compilation of the California state standards, the Presidential Fitness program, and our own developmentally-based program. Students learn cooperative games and good sportsmanship in the process of daily exercise and outdoor activities. They improve their coordination and movement through many team sports and activities.



Bowman is committed to integrating technology into the curriculum and making it accessible to students. The students have access to a wide variety of tools that support the school’s curriculum, including a video camera to film their productions, projects, and experiments, plus microscopes, telescopes, barometers, and other equipment for scientific experimentation. Our classrooms have state-of-the-art technology with computers and internet access that students can use daily as key tools in research, information management, and communication.

Starting with proper use of the keyboard, students soon expand their skills to research a botany or geography topic, take a “virtual field trip” to the Louvre, or seek a more in-depth understanding of current events on the internet. Children can communicate with students in other schools.


Outside the Classroom

Not all Bowman learning occurs in the classroom. An important part of the Bowman experience is the enrichment that comes through field trips and the school’s Outdoor Education Program.

Field trips have been as varied as whale watching on the Monterey Bay, theater excursions, concerts, bird watching, lunch in China Town, or visits to art galleries and science museums.

Once a year, the students also plan, organize, and participate in a camping trip where they learn a variety of outdoor and environmental concepts and skills. For many students, the camping trip is a highlight of the school year.


Student Evaluations

Teachers at Bowman use the authentic assessment method for evaluating student performance on their assignments. These assessments and observations are then aggregated through time to determine student progress and set future goals in each subject. Detailed observation and record keeping are at the heart of the Bowman evaluation methodology.

In the Middle School, teachers work with each student weekly to develop individual learning contracts for the week. Individual goals and plans are set on Monday, and progress is assessed on Friday.

The information collected from assessment and observation activities is summarized and communicated to parents via student conferences that are scheduled three times per year (in October, March, and June). The purpose of the conference is to provide information about each student’s growth in academic areas as well as other aspects of the child’s development. One of the unique features of a Bowman conference is that the student leads the conference discussion. Parents and teachers can also request additional conferences, should the need arise, at other times in the year.

Formal student evaluations, in the form of standardized testing, are part of the student evaluation process. This testing is important to:

  • Assess the school’s overall performance in meeting its academic goals
  • Assess the child’s overall performance in meeting their academic goals
  • Assure parents of their children’s progress at the school

Bowman also uses written feedback to communicate student progress at school. Written feedback is received twice annually, in December and August.