Art at The San Francisco School is valued as one of the languages of children.

Art is both serious and joyful. We care about process as much as the finished product. The walls of the halls and classrooms are full of student work. What might you see? Cloth birds hanging from branches, self-portraits revealing sensitive and personal stories of Seventh Graders, and Preschool autumn reflection paintings alongside Sixth Grade painted abstractions.

The revolving school gallery reveals a commitment to cultivating craft and concept from Preschool through Middle School. In Preschool students create pinch pots, in Third Grade they sculpt bird bells, and in Eighth Grade they hand-build sophisticated art nouveau pottery. Skills are put to the test - ceramic pots have to hold water; stitching on a stuffed toy needs to hold the stuffing inside; wood sculptures must balance and hold together. Problem solving is real-life and the results are concrete.  

  • Learn more about our Art curriculum: or View all grades »

    Preschool & Kindergarten

    • Kindergarten Art

      Beginning in Kindergarten, the students are formally introduced to art with an art specialist. In art class the students work on a new project in a new medium during each session. Here, they add to and build on the skills taught in the preschool classroom, explore a variety of mediums and involve all their senses in a creative and imaginative way. Art class time often begins with a story for inspiration.

      Major projects often include:

      • clay african guinea fowl
      • coil pots
      • picasso inspired self portraits
      • skeleton artwork honoring Dia de los Muertos

    1st Grade Art

    • A stuffy doll sewn by a First Grade student.


      First graders explore many materials and techniques, some familiar and some new. Prompts for projects are simple and concrete, like houses, faces and animals. Sometimes the activities relate to classroom studies, like Prehistoric Life.

      Children practice skills like cutting with scissors, mixing colors, gluing things together, arranging shapes and manipulating line. The responses are as varied as the students and there’s always room for creativity and personal expression.


      A year in First Grade Art might include:

      • Weaving with 2 pieces of painted paper
      • Making a dancing figure with movable parts
      • Sculpting a ceramic dinosaur
      • Sewing a stuffy


    2nd Grade Art

    • Second graders study line, shape, color and texture.


      Second graders begin a formal study of many aspects of art making.

      • The art elements: line, shape, color, value and texture in multiple compositions
      • Basic geometric shapes to define something like a bird, then move on to outline and contour to “breathe life” into it
      • Arranging objects in space - using the height on the picture plane, overlap and size to convey how close or far away an object is

      Another large unit of study is weaving - on a circular loom and/or a box. They practice patterning and learn to recognize when there’s a break in a pattern.


    3rd Grade Art

    • Third graders create creatures embellished with dots in the style of art from Oaxaca, Mexico.


      Third graders, comfortable with their skills and full of enthusiasm, tackle most art assignments with fearless gusto. Third graders like to do art their way - lots of loose interpretation of assignments as the teacher takes note of the children’s creativity heading off in all directions. Sometimes Third graders take a hard look at the real world and delight in representing it. 


      Major projects often include:

      • Fabric birds perched on sticks
      • A ceramic vase and flowers
      • A creature embellished with dot patterns to emulate those from Oaxaca, Mexico
      • Skeletons for Day of the Dead made from recycled toothbrushes

    4th Grade Art

    • A print from a plate created by a Fourth Grade student.


      Fourth Grade art is full of complex problem solving. Can you achieve successful color combinations on four different prints of a clothing design? How do you make a creature out of wood so that it balances on a surface? Using clay slabs, can you make a sculpture that has compelling forms and doesn’t fall apart? Fourth graders greet these challenges with enthusiasm and ingenuity and stretch out into projects that last a while.


      Fourth grade projects might include:

      • Designing and sewing a doll
      • Creating a printing plate of an outfit and making 4 different prints of it
      • Building a creature out of scrap wood
      • Sculpting a ceramic container embellished with a face

    5th Grade Art

    • Fifth Graders are at a unique time in their development, which is an important aspect of their art curriculum.  They are able to handle more complex thinking, specifically for concrete tasks. In addition, this year is often marked by a developmental proclivity for increased social engagement that is collaborative and group oriented. To support these developmental markers, the arts curriculum focuses on concrete subject matter aimed towards developing mastery of skill. In the second half of the year students work collaboratively on building structures through a Design Thinking unit. 

      Major Units of Study

      • Contour, gesture and value study drawings of shoes
      • Shoe ceramic sculpture
      • Architectural block print of chairs
      • Woodworking
      • Acrylic thematic paintings
      • One point perspective drawing
      • Set and prop construction for school plays

    6th Grade Art

    • At the beginning of the three-year Middle School art program, Sixth Grade students focus on concrete skill building in drawing, painting and ceramic sculpture. The foundational skills during this year are revisited, practiced, and deepened during the following Seventh and Eighth Grade years. Students attend art class once per week for 90 minute sessions throughout all three years of the program. The Sixth Grade arts curriculum integrates closely with the humanities curriculum. Projects are designed for creative exploration, skill building, and reflective learning about both self and the cultures they are studying.

      Major Units of Study

      • Thematic acrylic painting
      • Self portraiture
      • Two point perspective drawings
      • Ceramic slab building
      • Ceramic sculpture
      • Charcoal drawing
      • Interdisciplinary Asian arts studies
      • Book cover design

    7th Grade Art

    • Seventh Grade art continues to build on skills introduced in Sixth Grade art. The curriculum aligns with studies in humanities and introduces more abstract and complex approaches to creative expression. Students study the Renaissance and are introduced to significant artists and genres that arose during this time. Then, students apply significant art techniques and thinking that emerged during that time to their contemporary work.

      Major Units of Study

      • Thematic acrylic painting
      • Symbolic self portraits
      • Atmospheric perspective landscape paintings
      • Nature drawing and printmaking
      • Ceramic hand built vessels
      • Still life
      • Interdisciplinary humanities Islamic art

    8th Grade Art

    • The Eighth Grade year, SFS’s final year of regular and rigorous attention and application in the arts, culminates with students who head off to high school as more self aware, culturally literate and creatively confident young adults. The year begins with a focus on individual work that is inspired by the American Arts and Crafts Movement. During the second half of the year, there is a movement towards group projects as students work on various projects related to their drama performance, trip to Nicaragua and graduation. In addition, a Design Thinking Unit, done jointly with the Science Department, supports students in moving from individual creative projects to team-based creative collaboration.

      Major Units of Study

      • Arts and Crafts-inspired ceramic vessels
      • Thematic acrylic paintings
      • Printmaking
      • Self portraits
      • Roller coasters
      • Still life studies
      • Papier-mache sculptures
  • Latest Updates:

    • Opening Painting Project 2022: The Artist’s Hand

      Preschool to 8th Grade students explore their creativity through an SFS tradition

    • One Touch of Nature

      Middle School students portrayed the beauty of northern California’s Butte County region in paintings of its natural world, then created a calendar to raise money for victims of the Camp Fire.