Academics & Curriculum

UE studentsOverview

The Upper Elementary (UE) Program is designed to meet the unique developmental needs of students in grades 4-6. Bridging the transition from elementary to middle school, we focus on helping students develop independence and ownership as leaders of their own learning, while cultivating a culture of CREW where students strive to be Courageous, Responsible, Empathetic, and Well-Balanced. 

Students at UE have two core teachers, one for humanities (addressing skills in English Language Arts and social studies) and one for STEM (math and science). This structure allows for a gradual progression toward the middle-school setting, where they will need to navigate several classes and teachers in a day. Students also participate in a rich array of encore courses in art, computer science, music, and physical education.

Finally, our advisory program is situated at the center of our social-emotional curriculum. Through this program students engage in community building and social-emotional learning activities aimed at fostering their development of CREW values.

Curriculum Components


Upper Elementary students participate in a rich humanities curriculum, which combines rigorous work toward grade-level English Language Arts standards with deep, culturally relevant study of history. Using the Expeditionary Learning curriculum, students in each grade complete three to four units of study that foster exploration and composition of both fiction and nonfiction texts in connection with historical eras and events. 

In 4th grade, students begin with an introductory unit where students build essential skills as readers, writers, and historians. This unit is followed by a poetry unit, with the novel Love That Dog by Sharon Creech; a unit on the American Revolution with the play Divided Loyalties by Gare Thompson; and a unit on Women’s Suffrage and the 19th Amendment, with the novel The Hope Chest, by Karen Schwabach. 

5th graders begin the year with a study of human rights, connecting the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the novel Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Their next unit, focusing on athlete leaders of social change, centers on the non-fiction text about Jackie Robinson called Promises to Keep by Sharon Robinson. They close the year with a unit on the impact of natural disasters, with the novel text Eight Days: A Story of Haiti by Edwidge Danticat that tells the story of a child who survives the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

The 6th grade curriculum begins with a unit on the experience of Native Americans in the US, through study of the novel Two Roads, by Joseph Bruchac. Students then explore the mythologies of different world cultures through a unit centered on the novel Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Finally, students read the young reader’s edition of Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly, in their closing unit on the remarkable accomplishments of African-American women in space science. 


The Upper Elementary Campus utilizes Illustrative Math, a rich, problem-based curriculum that fosters students’ development of standards-aligned math concepts and practices. In math class, students explore a variety of strategies that cultivate both conceptual and procedural understanding, and apply those strategies by collaborating with peers to solve authentic, real-world problems that require them to think critically and defend their reasoning. 

4th graders start the year with factors and multiples, before moving into a deep study of fractions, decimals and place value, measurement, multiplication and division, and finally geometry. 

In 5th grade students build on their geometry learning with a unit on volume, followed by fractions, multiplication and division, operations with decimals and fractions, and finally an exploration of the coordinate plane. 

In 6th grade, students also begin with geometry in a unit on area and surface area, then study ratios, percents, fraction and decimal operations, expressions and equations with variables, rational numbers, and end with an introduction to statistics. 


Students in grades 4 - 6 work together to become scientists through the Amplify Science curriculum. In science class, students study natural phenomena through a combination of real-life demonstrations, hands-on experiments, and online simulations. Amplify Science also helps students to develop non-fiction literacy skills through reading and writing about science. 

Encore Classes 

Students in grades 4-6 participate in four specials, or “Encore,” classes: Art, Computer Science, Music, and Physical Education (PE). 

The UE art program is designed to expose students to various media and to use artistic techniques to express themselves and learn about other people and the world. Through art students explore aspects of their individual identities, create collaborative pieces, and use art to make statements about the world. 

In computer science, students build on the concepts introduced in earlier grades, developing their knowledge and skills in problem solving, computational thinking and coding.  Students learn to integrate coding concepts into products they have designed, creating games, animations and using robotics to solve problems. Students learn how they can use Computer Science to collaborate and solve problems in their communities.

In music, students are introduced to rhythm, melody, tone, songwriting, notation, and melody through singing, experimenting with instruments (including percussion, ukulele, and keyboard), and exploring different genres of music throughout history. 

During physical education classes, students engage in movement, exercise, and activities that provide the opportunity to explore themselves and at the same time interact with others. Students also get a chance to recognize individual differences and how to establish group relationships through play.

Advisory and CREW

At the Upper Elementary, CREW means more than a group of people working toward the same goal. It stands for the values and qualities that we strive to cultivate in everyone from students to teachers to leaders in our community. We work on these skills throughout the day, giving special attention and time for them during morning advisory meetings. 

The C stands for Courageous. We show courage by taking on positive challenges, doing what’s right, even when it’s hard and no one is looking, and setting high goals. 

R is for Responsible, which means reflecting on the causes and effects of our actions,  taking steps to make sure we understand and meet expectations, and caring for the wellbeing of our community, shared spaces, and materials. 

Next, we are Empathetic when we work productively and respectfully with others, even when we disagree with their ideas; use active listening to learn what others need and provide support without expecting anything in return; and offer genuine apologies and repair when our actions harm others. 

Finally, W stands for Well-Balanced. To show balance, we strive to be aware of our emotions and match our reactions to the size of a problem, recognize that we all have ways we can grow, work to understand and address our own strengths and needs, and feel good about ourselves.