St. Mary's Elementary School

Curricular Programs


The music program at St. Mary’s School is comprised of an Orff approach in the primary grades and an instrumental approach in the intermediate grades.

The Orff program follows a sequence of learning experiences beginning with speech patterns, rhythmic movement, and simple tunes. Use of glockenspiels, xylophones, and various percussion instruments is widely used in the primary grades.

Students in intermediate grades graduate to instrumental skills (recorder, ukulele, band instruments) and note-reading skills. Singing skills are integrated into the program at all levels.

We are proud to offer a curricular band program in grades 5, 6 and 7. Students receive 60 minutes of band instruction per week and perform at least twice during the school year. Clinics with professional musicians are provided to our beginning students. The grade 7 band will participate in the Notre Dame Elementary Schools Band Festival as well as a band clinic at St. Thomas More Collegiate. Instruments include flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone and percussion.

At St. Mary's we endeavor to expose our students to as many musically cultural and historical experiences as possible. To this end, some of our students annually attend the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Elementary School Concerts at the Orpheum Theatre and other performing groups such as The Vancouver Opera in The Schools and Green Thumb Theatre visit our school each year to provide all our students with the opportunity to experience the arts.

Our goal is that, upon graduation, our students will have acquired sufficient skills in music to continue on their chosen instruments, contribute to their high school choral programs and to have gained an appreciation for all genres of music.

Physical Education

St. Mary’s offers Physical Education classes, instructed by a Physical Education Specialist to all students 3 times per week in 30-minute sessions. “Daily Physical Activity” or DPA sessions are taught by classroom teachers on the other 2 days, thus students need to be prepared for physical activity every day.

The primary objective of the Physical Education program is to develop students’ physical literacy. By establishing the competence and confidence to participate in a broad range of physical activities, students have a strong beginning to a healthy, physically active lifestyle.

Essential physical skills of balance, coordination, stamina, speed, strength, agility, and flexibility are at the core of all units of study. Programming is designed to optimize the development of these skills as the child enters the phases of growth most conducive to training in that element. Programming directives and guidelines are sourced from the BC Physical and Health Education curriculum, the Provincial Ministry of Sport (ViaSport), and Health Canada, through the Long-Term Athletic Development Model.

In acquiring physical literacy, students explore a variety of team and individual sports, fitness opportunities, creative movement, and wellness exercises. Outdoor activities are coordinated with classroom teachers and may include snowshoeing, ice skating, stand-up paddling, hiking, and other opportunities in the Lower Mainland. Students in Grades 2-4 participate in the Red Cross “Swim in School” program.

Throughout the Physical Education program, children are guided towards experiencing, understanding, and responding to the growth, development, and biomechanics of their changing bodies. Athletes are encouraged to appreciate the simple but profound joy of being healthy and able to be physically active. In St. Mary’s Physical Education, an authentic ethos is fostered for respect for life and the human body.


St. Mary’s Physical Education includes the Red Cross "Swim in Schools" program in Grades 2-4. The program is typically 6 sessions. Students are grouped within their class according to their swimming background. Beginners gain the skills essential for survival in water, while advanced students work on improving techniques in various swimming strokes and even life-saving skills. Beyond crucial survival skills, students will have the foundations to open them to a world of water-based opportunities from artistic pursuits like synchronized swimming and diving, to team pursuits such as water polo and competitive racing clubs, or recreational opportunities like snorkeling, canoeing, stand-up paddling, windsurfing, or kite-boarding. Whichever directions students’ interests take them, they will have the foundation to be aquatically active for life!


The French program at St. Mary’s is offered to students in all grades and is taught by a certified teacher of the Accelerated Integrated Method, or AIM. The teaching practice, using gestures for each word spoken, follows what is known as the Communicative-Experiential Approach. The focus of student learning is acquisition of purposeful language to perform practical, real-life skills. Communication in French (listening, speaking, reading, viewing, and writing) is the focus, and is used as a vehicle to explore the richness of culture, tradition, and the arts- through story writing, drama, music, and technology.

Follow this link to access some of the basic French Resources

Learning Resource Centre

The Learning Resource Team consists of 5 teachers who work on an individual or small group basis with students requiring more direct focus on skill development in various areas of the curriculum. This support is provided through referral and is either done in pull out or in-class format.

There is also a Special Education Coordinator who works collaboratively with the classroom teachers, Learning Resource Team, Educational Assistants (EAs) and parents to facilitate identification, development and implementation of appropriate learning goals for students with exceptionalities. Support services required outside of school are also part of this collaborative process.

All students receiving support from the Learning Resource Centre have an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P.) that guides staff in working towards planned goals and objectives. The Learning Resource Centre supports all grades from Kindergarten to Grade 7.

STEAM Education

St. Mary's has launched a STEAM Education program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts,  and Math). A specialist teacher works collaboratively with K-7 students and teachers with  Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies curriculum, also known as ADST. This curriculum builds  on students' natural curiosity, inventiveness, and desire to create and work in practical ways. 

Each aspect of ADST has a natural development. Design is born from curiosity, followed by  testing and experimentation and then developing into identified needs. Skills follow a routine  that we often recognize in sports: initial play, practice, and then the acquisition of specific skills.  Technology focuses on the tools that extend human capabilities that then become task specific  which eventually can become more intricate or complex.

The Book Nook

Students at St. Mary’s visit the Book Nook on a weekly basis and are able to sign out books using their student accounts. The Book Nook system used is the L4U program to aid in maintaining the catalogue. The school principal and a teacher oversee the library program. A team of dedicated parent volunteers assists with helping access books, storytelling with the primary grades, class research, and catalogue organization. Classes participate in various activities offered by the Book Nook, including author studies, writing contests, trivia, and author visits to promote literacy in the school. There is also an annual Book Fair held every year, in which all proceeds are given back to the Book Nook.

The students are also involved in Readers are Leaders, a competition focused on reading. Teams of intermediate students read a variety of novels and practice answering trivia questions based on their content. In the spring our top team competes against other CISVA schools.

Second Step: A Program for Academic and Social Success

St. Mary’s School implements the Second Step Program throughout grades K to 7. This social and emotional learning program is a universal, classroom-based program designed to increase students’ school success, build positive peer relationships, and decrease problem behaviours by promoting social-emotional competence and self-regulation. While participating in this program students develop skills that strengthen their ability to learn, have empathy, manage their emotions and behaviours and solve problems.

To build a more comprehensive bullying prevention program, St. Mary’s has implemented additional curriculum for grades 1-5 with the Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit. This unit builds on the fundamentals learned and practiced in the Second Step program. Staff and students learn how to recognize, respond to and report bullying. This program also works on empowering the “bystanders” so they can help stop bullying.

Research tells us that students with strong social and emotional skills do better academically and socially. This is important to us here at St. Mary’s because teaching the whole child in an environment that is safe, caring and welcoming is ingrained in our mission as a Catholic school.

More information about our Second Step Program can be found on their website.

Words Their Way

The program “Words Their Way” helps learners become aware of and construct knowledge about the relationships among print words, spoken language, and meaning. After being assessed by their classroom teachers, students are assigned groups based on skill level. Weekly students receive a collection of words and categorize them into groups. Throughout the week students complete activities based on the words. At the end of the week, students are assessed on their ability to spell the words.

Hip Hop Week

Every year, St. Mary’s welcomes One Vibe Entertainment to run Hip Hop Week. Students experience the process of choreographing dance steps to tell a story or give a message. They then learn steps, memorize and refine movement, and rehearse to perform for an audience at the end of the week. Mark your calendars for Friday afternoon of Hip Hop week to see the final performances and celebrate dance!

Below are the links to our 2022 Hip Hop performances for Kindergarten to Grade 7!

SAINTS Before & After School Club

The SAINTS Before & After School Club is an optional program designed to offer students extra support with homework, literacy and math. This program also incorporates enrichment activities, such as physical activity and art. In addition to structured activities, there is plenty of time to have fun and spend time with friends from all grade levels. Students have access to computers, books, games, the gym and playground. For schedule, rates and how to register, see SAINTS Before & After School Club.

Field Trips

Field trips related to curriculum studies are an integral component to “real world” learning. They allow students to experience lessons they have learned in class or provide an important experiential scaffolding upon which lessons can be built upon. Many times, classes attend field trips away from the school, and sometimes, outside resources are brought into the school to complement lessons. Field trips are educational, memorable and fun!

Cheakamus Overnight Indigenous Cultural Program


Grade Fours have the opportunity to attend the overnight cultural program at the Cheakamus  Education Centre in Squamish. This program is an in-depth indigenous program that provides a  wide-range of hands-on learning experiences. It is guided by indigenous interpreters. Students will be immersed in traditional Coast Salish practices, situated in and around an authentic  longhouse and surrounding ecological reserve. This overnight indigenous cultural program is  based on three major ideas that underlie the activities at the longhouse: Respect, Sharing, and  Seasonality.

Nature Explorer Walks

The Grade 1 students go on exciting Nature Explorer Walks all over the Lower Mainland at least once a month. The students learn about nature, ecology, conservation, natural vs. man made landforms, identifying urban wildlife and local plants, identifying parts of a community, and many other activities. The students travel to Deer Lake Park, Fraser Foreshore Park, Central Park, The Bloedel Conservatory and Queen Elizabeth Park, Aldor Acres Pumpkin Patch, Eagle Acres Dairy farm, Van Dusen Gardens, one of the beautiful beaches for a seashore study as well as our local community green spaces. Each year the sites vary a bit, but the students always enjoy a very enriching Nature Explorer Walk experience.

Nordic Adventure: Cross-country Skiing

Grade six students will receive skiing lessons to develop skill and proper technique while exposing them to the natural beauty of Cypress Mountain.

Victoria Field Trip

In Grade Five the students participate in an away trip to Victoria where they have the opportunity to visit the BC Legislature, sit in the public gallery to hear debates and tour the Royal BC Museum. The purpose of this day-long trip is to help students understand that Canadian institutions and government reflect the challenge of our regional diversity. Travelling on the BC Ferries provides the students with the chance to appreciate British Columbia’s natural beauty and wealth of resources.

Salmonids In the Classroom

The Kindergarten and Grade 4 students take part in a long standing tradition of the Salmonids in the Classroom Program to teach the students the importance of the connection of the land and resources in which they live. The students maintain a nursery of salmon eggs in which we hatch coho salmon and release the fry in Stanley Park. This program lends itself to several field trips which include the Capilano Fish Hatchery, the Salmon release in Stanley Park, and the Seymour Fish Hatchery.

Grade 7 Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education is an excellent opportunity for the Grade Seven students at St. Mary’s. Students enjoy several days and nights near Squamish participating in several ecological and team-building activities. Outdoor Education brings the classroom to life and reinforces the Ecosystem unit students are learning in Science. Every day is packed with field studies, recreation activities, chores, and free time. This field trip is a highlight of the Grade Seven year!

Curricular Programs

St. Mary's Photo


St. Mary's Photo


St. Mary's Photo


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