Signature Programs

At Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, we pride ourselves on providing an individual experience for our students so that they may pursue as many avenues of interest as possible.

Please explore the many and wide-ranging Signature Programs offered here at CGPS. Our choices vary from athletic pursuits such as swimming and yoga, academic options including competitive math teams, Advanced Science Research and our elective program which offers hundreds of tailored curricular options to our Prep School students, to our community oriented efforts in service learning and philanthropy. The School offers something that we are confident will excite and inspire every child. 

Grammar School


Chess is an exciting game that students can enjoy and learn at their own pace. It is a mental exercise for logical thinking and problem-solving using strategy and planning. Chess develops character, patience, focus and the ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. In addition to the chess classes in kindergarten and first grade, students are offered three other opportunities to experience chess in the Grammar School:

Sunrise Chess is offered daily between 7:15 to 8:00 a.m. Students enjoy guided play and problem solving.
Morning Chess Dojo is continued enrichment and study for players who might compete or plan on traveling with the team to regional and national events. Interactive learning on the board occurs while sparring with ideas through discussions. 

After-School Chess program classes are curriculum based and group students based on their level of experience. Students can take classes that offer enrichment across all levels or classes that focus on tournament play.

Playing within the classroom with their peers helps with the fluency of movements and the deliberate exchanges of concepts, ideas and strategy. Everyone has opportunities to choose to participate in local, state or national team tournaments. CGPS chess encourages good sportsmanship and politeness, and inspires gracefulness in victory as well as defeat.



A signature CGPS initiative, POWER (an acronym that stands for Practice, Organize, Work, Enrich and Review) Hour is designed to support all Grammar School students, for no additional cost, in their academic work with access to their teachers in the classrooms after school. The program is designed to give students the opportunity to meet with their teachers and find enrichment or support in all subjects. Students can choose POWER Hour Study Hall, Book Club or music. On the recommendation of their teachers, they can also join in on Math or Reading POWER Hours.

POWER Hour runs Monday through Thursday until 4:00 pm. All Grammar School students may sign up for POWER Hour Study Hall at any time, including the day-of, for no fee and spend this time in the Library doing homework under the supervision of CGPS faculty. Any student may take advantage of this opportunity to be productive and tackle the night’s homework while also having access to teachers to answer any questions that may arise. For the brightest-eyed learners, POWER Hour has “Sunrise” sessions from Monday to Friday, starting at 7:15. In addition, Grammar School students can find enrichment in Sunrise Music and Sunrise Chess. 


The swim curriculum begins with the School’s youngest students. The program concentrates on PreK through second grade building a solid foundation in swimming and water safety in a 60-foot-long pool located on campus. Prekindergartners learn safety rules both in and around the pool, and are introduced  to a variety of basic water adjustment skills such as floating, bobbing and gliding. As the students get comfortable and progress, they are challenged with the intermediate skills of treading, underwater swimming, jumping into the deep end and the basics of front and back crawl. By kindergarten, students learn beginner breaststroke, elementary backstroke and the butterfly. First and second graders continue to improve their fundamental technique in all four competitive strokes while continually learning and following safety protocols in and around the pool. Third grade swim is a fitness-based program focusing on endurance and stamina in the water. Throughout the year, as they practice their skills, all students progress toward becoming confident swimmers who have mastered an essential life skill.  

Yoga, Dance & Drama

From PreK to the third grade, students in the CGPS Grammar School take time to educate their bodies and minds in Yoga/Mindfulness, Dance and Drama. They improve coordination, balance, strength and flexibility through Dance and Yoga/Mindfulness. Students also explore storytelling and self-expression in Drama. A balanced life is a hallmark of a CGPS curriculum, and these disciplines help Grammar School students with their focus and self-confidence in the classroom. In PreK and kindergarten, children learn the basics of body awareness and being present in Yoga/Mindfulness. They explore storytelling through dance in their “Music and Movement” curriculum. In first through third grades, students challenge themselves mentally and physically in both YogaMindfulness and Dance. These efforts promote self-control and resiliency in all areas of School life.


The STEAM program is an essential part of the Grammar School curriculum, creating cross-curricular opportunities at all grade levels. While students learn math in their classrooms, science and engineering in the science labs, art in the studios, and technology in the technology labs, the MakerSpace is where these subject areas coalesce into STEAM. Children build, tinker, code and craft as they consider and solve problems big and small. Students are challenged to find what inspires them to create and innovate, and teachers are prepared to help them learn the content and skills necessary to make their ideas a reality.

STEAM projects can include analog, digital and augmented reality options, helping inspiration take hold in young builders, coders and makers. Students use the cutting-edge technology found in the MakerSpace — including 3D printers, laser cutters, Makey Makeys and Chromebooks to run Scratch and the VR program CoSpaces — to enhance their understanding of other subject areas. For example, third graders might create interactive board games using the laser cutter, the 3D printer and Makey Makeys to share their knowledge of social studies. In fourth grade, a math unit challenges students to design and budget an aquarium complex. Students integrate STEAM as they build analog or digital models of their plans, or even a combination of the two.

Middle School

STEAM and Technology

As part of the STEAM initiative in the Middle School, students create art projects that reinforce the curriculum in various subject areas. Teachers work collaboratively to provide students with a well-rounded, fully-immersive academic and creative experience. The Middle School STEAM program picks up where the Grammar School leaves off, building upon the skills and content students are taught in the lower grades.

In fifth grade, students enhance their engineering skills as they engage in various project-based learning units including egg-drop and bridge building challenges. They develop their coding skills by using Scratch during an invention project in which they create a wide variety of end-products that showcase their personal interests. In sixth grade, they build upon this coding work through an interdisciplinary robotics unit tying science content together with engineering, coding and problem-solving skills. Students engage in various other project-based units in which they learn about bioengineering, 3D printing and modeling, creating and coding virtual reality spaces and video editing. The STEAM program culminates in seventh grade with two major projects in which students showcase their engineering skills by creating full-sized boats out of recyclable materials and pinhole cameras respectively. In addition to building upon and applying real-world mathematics and science skills during both projects, students learn how to create websites using HTML, edit photographs using various programs, create 3D models on SketchUp and create elaborate virtual reality environments.

Throughout their time in the Middle School, students engage in a variety of STEAM-centered technology projects. Focus is on hands-on learning to teach coding, engineering, design thinking, making functional machines and the importance of cooperation and teamwork. Topics within the Middle School technology curriculum for all ages also include digital citizenship, using the Internet for research and the Google suite of tools. The Middle School technology curriculum furthers students’ knowledge and understanding of how technology is used for research, creativity, production and organization. The diverse curriculum allows each student to build confidence while using a wide range of current tools. We develop critical thinking skills through coding, robotics and circuits, 3D printing and engineering. Students become responsible and competent digital citizens able to navigate the technology in the world and think through problems logically.

Current Issues Research Seminar (CIRS)

In CIRS, students investigate a current issue of their choice. Some past topics of CIRS have included: bullying, depression, sports injuries, fast food, allergies and ADHD. Students learn important skills such as: taking notes from books, videos and articles, creating an outline, interviewing techniques and conducting surveys. Students write two research papers during the school year. The sixth grade participates in a current issues fair in late May. In addition, one of the CIRS periods each cycle is used to read and discuss current events, such as immigration, elections, the Supreme Court and North Korea. One of the most exciting and fun components of the class is interviewing an expert in the field they are researching or someone close to the issue (i.e. a former addict or family member). Students concentrate on how to ask relevant questions in order to get the best response.

Current International Issues (CII)

Current International Issues is a seventh grade course designed to introduce students to international issues that profoundly impact our lives while imparting core skill sets that will serve as building blocks for future academic success. It is more important than ever before for students to engage in meaningful debate, to be able to objectively consider facts, and to learn and grow as a result of connecting and communicating with one another in a positive and constructive manner. Issues covered in class include the North Korean nuclear crisis, climate change, the global refugee crisis, the emerging role of China on the world stage, the European Union and Brexit, global poverty and resource scarcity, the reemerging rivalry between the United States and Russia, Venezuela’s economic and political challenges, the conflict between the United States and Iran, Pakistan and India's conflict over the Kashmir region, Hong Kong and Taiwan’s quest for greater autonomy and challenges facing the African Continent (civil wars, disease, poverty, malnutrition).


Beginning in the spring of fourth grade, students are introduced to the Middle School through tours and meetings with the fifth grade CORE teachers. During this time, students have the opportunity to ask questions about fifth grade, the curriculum and opportunities they will have throughout their Middle School experience. In the beginning weeks of their fifth grade year, students travel with their class and teacher to gradually learn how to navigate their new building, as well as the procedures and routines in their schedule. After a month, students transition to traveling independently to their classes. The CORE program creates a central place for students to come back to throughout their day. To begin their day, students attend homeroom in their CORE classroom. CORE teachers are also responsible for language arts and social studies instruction, which are taught over three forty-minute periods. Language arts instruction includes the analysis of fiction, the discussion of literary elements, the development of vocabulary and frequent writing about literature. While written instruction focuses mostly on expository and formal essay instruction, poetry, personal narratives and creative pieces are also practiced. The social studies curriculum focuses on American history through the implementation of the three branches of the United States government. A central focus of this curriculum is to provide the multiple lenses, perspectives, contributions and voices of those varied individuals who contributed to the events that built our nation.

Band, Chorus & Orchestra

The Band, Chorus and Orchestra initiative is in addition to the comprehensive general music program that prepares students for the Prep School music program, where students can join a wide variety of ensembles. Every student in Middle School receives substantive and creative music-making experiences through general music and BCO. Students can choose chorus, band or orchestra—or chorus and band or orchestra. Band and orchestra each meet twice a cycle, with one period reserved for full orchestra or band practice, and the other for small group or even individual instrument instruction. Chorus meets once a cycle. Including general music classes, a student in the Middle School could receive music education all six cycle days.

Fifth Grade Wax Museum

During our Annual Fifth Grade Wax Museum event, students portray an important figure that has significantly contributed to American history. After completing a biographical research report about a historical figure of choice, students create and memorize a short script that they recite while dressed in the traditional costume representing the celebrated character. By pushing an imitation button, the students come alive as they reenact the life and significant achievements of America’s notable contributors.


Enrichment Modules are offered to Middle School students for two periods during the 6-day cycle. Modules are offered for students who do not participate in Band, Chorus or Orchestra. Different Module topics are offered for each grade and the offerings change each year. MECA Mini helps students explore their identity through conversations surrounding race, ethnicity and gender. Another choice is Letter Writing, where students learn the basics in how to format a personal or business letter, addressing an envelope and what to say in a thank you note. In the Creative Writing Module, students write with total freedom apart from grades and requirements. Generative prompts inspire their imaginations as they experiment with fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Students learn the basics about dig sites and techniques that archeologists use to study the past in the Archeology Module. Technology-based Modules include 3D Modeling and Printing, and Building Computers. There are also Modules on Mindfulness, Critical Listening and Catching Your Breath, a quiet period where students can receive help with any subject and assignment and are encouraged to bring writing work.

Math Team & Competitive Math

The Middle School has a thriving extracurricular math program, with over 60 students participating in in-house and nation-wide math competitions. On the Math Team, students apply classroom skills to unique problem-solving challenges in a low-stress environment. Competitions Math Team members enter include the AMC 8 (American Mathematics Competition),  a 25-question, 40-minute multiple choice examination in Middle School mathematics designed to promote the development of problem-solving skills. The AMC 8 provides an opportunity for Middle School students to develop positive attitudes towards analytical thinking and mathematics that can assist in future careers. Female students can enter GAIM (Girl’s Adventures in Math), a team-based math competition for girls in grades 3-8. The competition presents some of the most challenging and innovative math problems to students in this age group, contextualized in a comic book containing the stories of pioneering women from history. Another competition is the MathCounts Competition Series, a national program that provides students in grades 6-8 the opportunity to compete in live, in-person contests against and alongside their peers. Finally, the Math Olympiad and The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing's Problem of the Week round out the extracurricular math offerings in the Middle School.

Service Learning and Philanthropy

Middle School students participate in meaningful service-learning activities. The goal is to develop social awareness through direct and indirect service learning. Middle Schoolers deliver meals to the elderly with CityMeals and visit Goddard Riverside to speak to Goddard’s Director about what services the Center provides and who it serves, and then spend time at the Center’s elderly home and day care center. Students run bake sales and donate the money raised to carefully selected organizations. The Middle School also invites guest speakers from charitable organizations, including: the Fresh Air Fund, Ready, Willing and Able (The Doe Fund), Make A Wish, The Foundling Hospital, International Rescue Committee, Pencils of Promise, CITTA, Safe Horizons, Special Olympics, ABC (Association to Benefit Children) and the New York Center for Law and Justice.

Prep School


A hallmark of Columbia Prep is the value placed on individual students and their interests. Beginning in the ninth grade, the curriculum offers many electives in art, music, theater, dance, technology and physical education. As the students progress through high school, they are given increasing autonomy to choose their courses and, by the time they reach their junior and senior years, they are creating their entire academic programs in all subjects — English, history, math, science, world language and all other elective courses. Harnessing and building upon their passions within the context of the courses results in interested, successful and independent graduates who are ready for the next educational step in their lives. The elective system allows for flexibility in course offerings, so no two academic years are identical. Every discipline at the Prep School offers elective courses. They can be taken in addition to required courses in a department, after those course requirements have been met. The electives reflect student and teacher interests and are beloved among the student body. Elective offerings at CGPS are vast and change semester to semester.


  • New York Literature
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Magical Realism
  • Creative Nonfiction
  • From Utopia to Dystopia: The Search for Idealism
  • London in Literature
  • Mythology
  • Shakespearean Tragedy
  • Modern Family  
  • Ink On Your Fingers: An Appreciation of Journalism
  • Literary Journeys
  • Nineteenth Century American Literature
  • Introduction to Dramatic Writing
  • The Novella
  • Princesses, Monsters and the Madwoman in the Attic
  • The Iliad and War Literature
  • Jewish Literature
  • American Literature Today
  • From Slapstick to Satire

History & Social

  • The Pacific War
  • Consumer Culture
  • Genocide in the XX and XXI Centuries
  • Modern Latin American History
  • America and the Vietnam War
  • The Politics of Food
  • History of New York City
  • Economics
  • Japan Through Film 1949-2011
  • Conquest: The Portuguese, Dutch and English Empires in the East Indies and the Orient
  • Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in America
  • A Brief History of World Religions 
  • Renaissance: Birth of the Modern World


  • Number Theory and Pattern Recognition
  • Seminar in Advanced Mathematics
  • Geometric Applications and Statistical Analysis
  • Advanced Topics in Geometry
  • Computer Mathematics


  • Honors Physics I and II
  • Engineering Physics
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Forensics
  • Microbiology
  • Astronomy
  • Advanced Science Research

World Language

  • French Literature
  • French IV and V
  • Spanish IV and V
  • Spanish Conversation
  • Latin IV
  • Japanese IV and V
  • Chinese IV, V and VI


  • Web Design I, II
  • Computer Science I, II
  • Modeling and Printing I, II
  • Graphic Design
  • Graphic Design for Social Change
  • Podcasting
  • Desktop Publishing
  • Modern Computing and Technology
  • Digital Video
  • Coding and Robotics 


  • Theory I, II
  • Theory III, IV
  • Advanced Music Theory
  • Logic I: Music Composition and Production
  • Logic II
  • Concert Chorale
  • Women's Chamber Choir
  • Music History
  • Advanced Music History
  • Music History Seminar
  • From Showboat to Sondheim: The History of the American Musical Theater
  • Bop and Beyond
  • Jazz Improv
  • Musica Da Camera: Chamber Groups


  • Ceramics
  • Mixed Media Sculpture
  • Painting and Drawing
  • Photography
  • Film & Video
  • Art History I, II
  • Design: Theory and Practice
  • Ceramics I, II, III (Sculpture, Wheel Throwing)
  • Advanced Projects in Ceramics
  • Metalsmithing and Jewelry I, II, III
  • Advanced Projects in Metal
  • Painting and Drawing I, II, III
  • Advanced Painting and Drawing Portfolio Development
  • Advanced Projects in Painting and Drawing
  • Black & White Photography
  • Intermediate Black and White Photography
  • Advanced Projects in Black and White Photography.
  • Digital Photography 
  • Smartphone Photography
  • Art Through Technology
  • Art Through Collage
  • Stop-Motion Animation
  • Film and Video I, II, III
  • Advanced Projects in Film and Video
  • Mosaic Workshop

Theater & Dance

  • Acting and Directing Studio
  • Theater History
  • Devising 
  • Production Workshop
  • Acting Studio: Improvisation
  • Senior Play Project
  • Movement for the Actor
  • Costume and Make-Up Studio 
  • Intro to Technical Theater
  • Advanced Technical Theater
  • Dance Composition
  • Modern Dance I, II

Physical Education

  • Flag Football
  • Badminton
  • Project Fitness and Wellness
  • Yoga
  • Vinyasa Yoga
  • Racquet Sports
  • Floor Hockey
  • Recreational Games

Dean System

Every class at the Prep School is assigned a Dean at the beginning of eighth grade. This Dean will accompany the group of students all the way to their graduation. The Dean oversees each student's academic, social and emotional life and frequently interacts with the students (through private, group and class meetings), their teachers, counselors and parents. They are instrumental in their students' well-being. The Deans organize grade-level meetings with teachers and counselors, visit classes and clubs, attend school functions and meet with the Director twice a cycle to keep them up to date. This is considered one of the most meaningful programs at the School.

Eighth and Ninth Grade Shakespeare Performances

The English Department offers a particularly vibrant exploration of Shakespearean drama to the eighth and ninth grades. Along with traditional close readings of poetic language, students also engage in lively analysis of performance, viewing and discussing films and often leaving their seats to recite and perform lines themselves. Then, in an exciting culminating project, students develop their own scene interpretations, choose costumes and props, learn Shakespeare’s lines, and prepare to direct and act in front of the entire grade in our Underground Theater. In the week before the event, professional actors join the classroom to work with each group and help students bring their characters and scenes to life. These performances are a highlight of the spring term and offer alternative paths for students to connect with the plays.


The Prep School Math Department celebrates π Day every March 14 with its annual Pi-athlon. In lieu of their regular math classes for two days, students are placed in multi-grade teams to compete in a variety of events (Problem Solving, Tangrams, SET, π Recitation and Logic Puzzles). Each year, the event encourages friendly competition and learning between students of different ages, and the winning team gets to choose the charity to which proceeds from Student Government's π Day Bake sale are donated.

Student Travel

Student trips are an integral part of the Prep School curriculum. Each year, groups of students travel to and compete in Model Congress and Model UN tournaments. Students participating in the Tufts University Seminar spend four days at Tufts University for the April conference organized by the University. For international travel, the School has partnered with the Amigos program, which offers summer immersion programs in Latin America.

Advanced Science Research (ASR)

ASR is a student-centered research program that encourages individual and group scientific inquiry beginning sophomore year. ASR is one of the most exciting curriculum initiatives that a secondary school can offer. ASR provides high school students with the structure and support they need to explore original research at a very high level in a topic of their own interest. This serious pursuit of new knowledge provides students with a deep experience of independence, industry and collaboration. ASR offers students the chance to complete original research projects on a topic of their choice in the areas of physical science (chemistry, physics, engineering, earth and space sciences), life science (biology, medicine and health, environmental science), mathematics and computers, or social science (psychology, anthropology). This is a challenging course designed to inculcate a strong foundation in personal responsibility, self-­reliance, creative problem solving and advanced interpersonal communication skills.