7380 Girard Ave

La Jolla, California


Posted on Apr 12, 2017

Settling Gillispia – A 3-Day Project

What if we had the opportunity to build a community from scratch? What style of government would we choose to have? What would our houses and vehicles look like? Would we change anything about how we use resources? Are there mistakes we have made on this planet that we should be sure not to repeat? These are among the questions our K-6 students wrestled with throughout the 3-day project completed recently. 

Gillispie faculty led students through a simulation based on the possibility of someday being able to explore and settle an Earth-like planet in another solar system. After being introduced to the real discovery of such planets by NASA’s Kepler telescope, students were asked to consider what we would need to do to set up a successful community on Gillispia, a fictional planet with attributes very similar to Earth. Through a combination of cross-grade-level group work and single-session activities, all students engaged in stimulating discussion, creative design, collaborative planning, critical problem solving, and cooperative presentations. The blend of hands-on and brains-on activities gave all of our students an opportunity to shine and to apply the skills and content knowledge they have been developing throughout the year. 

A wide variety of products were produced over the three days including maps, murals, models, essays, brochures, dioramas, audio recordings, and video news reports. Many of these are currently on display in the conference room, while some are still being completed by students excited by the chance to continue improving their work.

Though we may not yet have the means, or possibly the desire, to actually travel light years away to settle a new planet, the Gillispie community relished the opportunity to think through the possibilities and to discuss what such an adventure could be like.

Jon Bluestein

Assistant Head of School & Dean of Students
Posted on Dec 16, 2015

Let There Be Peace On Earth

In separate conversations with colleagues and parents regarding recent events abroad and close to home, individuals have found it difficult to process the suffering of others and their own feelings of vulnerability. With the prospect of traveling with young children to the Midwest for the holidays, one parent noted, “The tension that comes along with a long plane ride and dividing time between our two families seems trivial with so much hurt by others.” So true. The following lyrics, as performed last Saturday by 30 of our elementary children at the UTC’s Westfield Plaza, resonated with the audience. They sang Kevin Ross’ “This Is My Wish,” and the words, coming from young voices, brought us up short: This is my wish That peace will find its way to every boy and girl Fill the air with joyful noise Ring the bells and raise your voice Let there be peace on earth Let there be peace on earth I reflect upon the toddler’s sincere declaration “You poked my heart!” and his classmate who eventually stepped in. In dealing with hurts or slights, whether imagined or real, and whether delivered purposefully or unintentionally, it is our ability to respond with kindness, equanimity, and understanding (though maybe not total agreement) that helps us make sense of the world and speaks to our humanity. As our tempers or frustrations may flare, “Let there be peace on earth,” in our hearts and homes. Alison Fleming Head of School
Posted on Oct 12, 2015

Enjoy this Upcoming Parent Education Event!

Here at Gillispie, we are excited to announce our involvement in the Village Talks Consortium, a non-profit organization of local schools and centers that have come together to share new research for the betterment of our teaching, parenting, and, ultimately our children. This group’s activity is focused on bringing to San Diego a series of speakers consisting of foremost experts, researchers, and authors in the field of education and child psychology.

As a member of this consortium, we will share event hosting duties with other member schools and help to get the word out about these valuable community learning experiences. Please read on for details of this fall’s event and be sure to check the Village Talks website for information on all of the upcoming events for the 2015-16 school year.

Jon Bluestein

Assistant Head of School & Dean of Students

Village Talks Consortium will be hosting a presentation by Dr. Wendy Mogel on Tuesday, October 20 at the Unity Center of San Diego.

Dr. Wendy Mogel is a clinical psychologist, parenting expert, international keynote speaker, and New York Times best-selling author of The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Her mission is the protection and promotion of self-reliance, resilience, accountability, and exuberance in children. The Unity Center of San Diego is located at 8999 Activity Rd, San Diego, CA 92126. A social period will begin at 6:30 p.m. and Dr. Mogel’s presentation will start at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $30 each or 2 for $50. All proceeds will benefit the San Diego Rescue Mission, which serves to educate children from homeless families. Tickets will only be available in advance online, and more information is available at www.villagetalks.com.
Posted on Sep 10, 2015

New Teachers at Gillispie!

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As we introduce a new year, I introduce new teachers at The Gillispie School. When you see them, please offer them a warm welcome to our family.

Fabiola Amaral has joined Kimberly Abrams in Prekindergarten Willow Room. In addition to holding her Teacher’s Permit and Early Childhood Credential, Fabi has two Bachelors Degrees, one from California State, San Marcos in Human Development and the other in Languages from Ibero Americana de Sao Paulo, Brazil. She has worked for over 15 years in both private and public school settings, and has been a one-to-one advocate.

Libby Grogan is teaming with Laurie Buttaro in Kindergarten, Room 19. For 15 years, she has taught both Prekindergarten and Kindergarten, more recently at St. John’s Episcopal School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California and at Avalon Elementary School in Pittsburgh.  She has her California Credential and earned her Bachelors Degree from Westminster College. Her daughter Mckynzie is a new Prekindergartner at Gillispie.

Teaching in the Magnolia Room with our youngest students as well as assisting in indoor and outdoor learning for our Early Childhood program is Natalie Hair. With three years of teaching experience, Natalie has worked with preschoolers and second graders. In addition to holding dual certification in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education, she received her Bachelors of Science in Early Childhood Education from College of Charleston in South Carolina.

Jamie Knudsen joins Gillispie as a Grade 1 teacher. She received both her Masters Degree in Early Childhood and Bachelors Degree in Human Development, Family Studies, and Early Childhood from the University of Utah. With over ten years of teaching Kindergarten and first grade students, Jamie most recently taught at Jefferson Academy, an International Baccalaureate elementary school in San Diego.

Associate Teacher Ashley Ratelle partners Spring Swaney in Grade 2. Ashley received her Masters Degree in Teaching and Multiple Subject Credential from University of San Diego and a Bachelors Degree in Art History from San Diego State University. Her field study and work experience have included teaching at High Tech Elementary North County in San Marcos and at La Jolla Country Day School.

Gillispie is very fortunate to have added such a dedicated, talented, and experienced group of teachers!

Alison Fleming

Head of School

Posted on Sep 01, 2015

Gillispie Cares

When students come back to school, it is always such a joy to see how they have grown and developed over the summer. We are very excited to show all of you how Gillispie has developed over the summer as well! With wonderful new teachers, reconfigured spaces, and fresh learning materials, the campus is ready for another fantastic year of laughter and learning.
One change we would like to highlight is our updated Gillispie Values. The Values, which are such an integral part of our school culture, have received a bit of a facelift with the addition of a fifth value: compassion. With Gillispie’s long-standing tradition of community service and generosity, the addition of this value to our core belief system was natural. 
Above is an example of the new posters that are around the campus and in every classroom. As you can see our values create the acronym ICARE. It is important for us to work together with the students to create a community in which we all care about ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Please join us in using the language you see here to help your children learn and embody what it means to be an honest, empathetic, positive, respectful, and hard-working person.
Alison Fleming and Jon Bluestein Head of School and Assistant Head of School
Posted on May 06, 2015

Gillispie Families Walked for a Cause


Earlier this month, some of our Gillispie families and staff participated in Project Concern International’s Walk for Water. It was a beautiful morning at Mission Bay Park as hundreds of walkers joined together to support the locally-based non-profit dedicated to preventing disease, improving community health, and promoting sustainable development.

To simulate that many families around the world must walk distances to obtain water, individuals, including our Gillispie students, carried buckets of water as they walked.

When asked why they felt the event was important a few responses included:

“It is important because millions of people in Africa have to walk six-nine miles to get water. It was fun because you could carry buckets of water on your head or in your hand. I liked doing it because you could feel what it was like to have to walk for water.”

– Grade 4 Student

“It is important because it was for people who had no water and had to walk miles to get it. Also because we could sort of understand what it would be like to have to do that.”

-Grade 2 Student

“It was awesome to carry the water!”

– Kindergarten Student

It was a wonderful way to bring our community together to serve an important cause!

Alison Fleming

Head of School
Posted on Apr 20, 2015

Scholastic Book Fair at Gillispie

clifford-book-fairPlease join us in celebrating the wonderful world of books!

On Sunday, May 3, The Gillispie School will host its own Scholastic Book Fair in the School’s Music Room (access from the Girard parking lot) at 7380 Girard Avenue (across from the Open Aire Market.)

The book fair will be open to the public from 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m., and we invite you stop by and check out our titles!

From picture books to novels, from reading aloud to curling up in the corner with a good book, students enjoy travels to the unknown through the power of words.

A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go towards the growth of our classroom libraries.

For more information, contact 858-459-3773.
Posted on Apr 13, 2015

Surfing into Summer at Gillispie!

It’s hard to believe that summer is just around the corner. Fortunately, Gillispie is hosting another fantastic line-up of summer classes that are sure to keep your kids engaged and active. Whether your child likes to perform on stage, challenge opponents in chess, get a workout with a game of basketball, or create artistic masterpieces out of clay, there is something exciting and fun to do during the summer at Gillispie.

Sessions taught by our beloved Gillispie staff members include:

Kinder Adventure with Mrs. Laurie Buttaro

Summer Fun with Mrs. Erica Hurley

Theater, Improv, and Playwriting with Ms. Bryn Fillers

“Think Eye” Art and Sculpture with Ms. Susan Walters

Greek Mythology with Mrs. Heidi Long

Sports Camp with Coach Ed Whelan

If you are looking for something fresh and exciting, check out some of the new class offerings we have available this summer (check the summer brochure for more specific class details.)

Better Basketball with Coach Kamal Assaf

Creative Builders I, II, and III by Club Xcite

Publish My Book! with author Lisa Monaco Gonzalez

Jr. Detectives by Club Xcite

Intro. to Latin with Amy Skillicorn

Woodworking with Suzie Pirtle and Michael Sim

and many more!!!

Our one and two-week classes will run from June 15-August 7. Elementary classes are open to both Gillispie and non-Gillispie students, so be sure to invite all of your friends and family to join us this summer as well!

This Friday, April 10, is the last day for all registrants to receive the special 10% early bird discount, and space is limited in many of our class offerings.

We look forward to a fun-filled summer with you and your family.

Linda Davis

Summer Session Director
Posted on Apr 06, 2015

An Inquiry into the Plight of the Sea Lion in San Diego


In recent weeks, the children in Prekindergarten Room 6 have been discussing the injured and sick sea lions they have seen on the beaches of La Jolla. The children wondered why this was happening. They had heard on the news that it was connected to the lack of fish available for the sea lions to eat. As part of our discussion, the children asked many questions:

“Are sea lions washing up on the beach hungry? If so, then why?”

“Is the ocean polluted? If the ocean is polluted can scientists clean it with filters like they do with our drinking water?”

“Are there no more fish for the sea lions to eat?”

During Morning Exploration, the children created drawings in their journals of sea lions, illustrating their theories on ways we may be able to help. They also used clay to tell stories about what they had seen. Sketch descriptions:

Elle: My seal is sad because he doesn’t have any food. He is on the beach and only had one fish.

Simon: Here I am under water with a ziplock bag catching fish. I want the seal to smell the fish I caught in my bag and he follow me. I will feed him when I get to shore.

Laird: I want to go on my surf board and take the seals with me. When I get to the beach, I will feed them a bucket of fish that I bought from the store.

Mia: I cannot swim too well. I haven’t had lessons in a long time. Also, I do not know how to fish. But I can go to the store with my mom and buy some fish. Good tasty fish. Then I will drop the fish in the water on a boat to the hungry seals. I will also leave some on the beach in case they are too tired to swim far away.

Kaia: Here I am in the water and I am trying to get the daddy seal to the baby seal with a bag of fish.

The teachers invited researchers Michael Tift of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a Sea World team member who works directly with the rescued sea lions, to visit the classroom. Mr. Tift explained that the temperature of the ocean is rising. Because of this, the fish and squid that the sea lions eat dive really deep to get to cooler water. The sea lions cannot always dive that deep, so they have to spend more time looking for food. The class learned that most of the stranded sea lions are very young pups. Because the mothers are having a difficult time finding food, some of them are not able to return to feed their pups. The researchers addressed the children’s questions about the sea lion situation, and discussed other marine mammals and their research on ocean life in La Jolla. The researchers also dressed a student as a sea lion in order to explain anatomy, adaptions, and basic natural history.

The children asked if pollution is affecting the ocean and shared ideas about what might be done, such as fitering water that drains into the ocean or using chemicals to treat ocean water. Mr. Tift thought there were some very good ideas. He explained that the ocean will take care of itself if it is left alone, but because people pollute it, the ocean gets sick. If the ocean gets sick, the animals will often get sick as well.

Lynn Babiarz Prekindergarten Teacher
Posted on Mar 27, 2015

The Challenges of Design

The Challenges of Design

I received this letter from Brindan Byrne, furniture designer, and Michael Sim, master wood craftsman, highlighting their recent experience on campus.

Dear Alison,

The Gillispie School Design Challenge preliminary feedback session that Michael Sim and I participated in on March 11, was a positive and stimulating experience for these “old hands” in the custom furniture world. It is heartwarming to see how excited the students get when they make a connection with three-dimensional design.

From the far-reaching Gecko chair with sun hood to the very do-able, practical stackable benches, being able to see elementary students explore design and develop ideas is inspiring. With extensive material research and handcrafted model work, the pride in the students’ efforts was palpable, making Michael and me proud.

Learning to understand basic building principles, material limitations, and design concepts is great training for the future consumers, designers, scientists and artists these children will become. The task of improving an existing design is a challenge all designers face, so being given this chance in elementary school is amazing.

What a wonderful learning opportunity Chip Edwards has created with this Design Challenge. We look forward to seeing what the next month holds as the young designers adjust and re-design to get ready for the April 22 Design Fair.

All Best,

Brindan Byrne

P.S. My students at the Design Institute of San Diego (seniors in college) all wished they had gone to Gillispie when I told them about my day on the panel!

Alison Fleming Head of School The Challenges of Design
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