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Our Elementary classes consist of the Grasshopper Kindergarten class (10 students), the Stargazer 1st/2nd grade class (10 1st graders and 10 2nd graders), the Centaur 3rd/4th grade class (10 3rd graders and 10 4th graders), and the Badger 5th/6th grade class (10 5th graders and 10 6th graders). The Elementary classes start at 8:25am (arrival as early at 8:10am) and go until 3:00, with optional aftercare, after school enrichment classes and music lessons until 5:30pm.

The elementary curriculum at Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences is designed to support a cooperative learning environment that is sensitive to the individual strengths, interests, needs and learning styles of students. The classroom is a community in which everyone works together to create a caring, safe environment where all of the students learn from one another, develop respect for each other, and an acceptance of individual differences. Our goal is to help each child develop a sense of responsibility toward each other, the environment, and for their local and global community.


Our curriculum is organized clearly and structured logically within and between subjects and from grade to grade. It gradually becomes more complex and difficult in terms of skills, concepts, and objectives. We seek to stimulate intellectual curiosity and critical thinking in each of our students. As an expeditionary learning school, we strive to have students operate as mathematicians, scientists, historians, readers, and writers.

Read on for a summary of our academic subjects and specials classes, or download a pdf version of our Elementary Curriculum Guide for a more comprehensive view of academics through the elementary years.



The elementary program stresses the acquisition of mathematical power – the ability to use, explain, and justify mathematical reasoning. Students study the number system and the relationship of numbers and operations in that system. The curriculum enables children to make and investigate mathematical conjectures, then develop and evaluate arguments and proofs. Encouraged to use various types of reasoning and methods, children develop flexible and resourceful problem-solving skills and the importance of being able to communicate their strategies to others. The curriculum throughout the Elementary School emphasizes critical thinking, cooperative learning, conceptual and computational competence and confidence.

From the earliest grades, students interpret data and graphs, learn the characteristics and relationships of geometric objects, and begin to understand and predict change in the world. In addition to learning mathematical processes, we want the students to enjoy math and to realize that making a mistake is all part of the learning process. When they graduate from Santa Fe School for the Arts & Sciences, our goal is that each student be successful at asking questions, reasoning, understanding the meaning of what they are doing, and through reinforcement, to be fluent with their computations.


The goal of our literacy/language arts program is to develop engaged readers and writers who can acquire and evaluate information, enjoy the written word, and express themselves with creativity, clarity, and eloquence. The relationship between reading and writing is emphasized, and the developmental nature of each is honored at every stage.Picture books, big books, leveled readers, nonfiction books, and poetry are used to teach the basic skills of reading and comprehension. As students become fluent readers, age-appropriate novels and literature are used to further develop comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Communicating through writing is valued throughout the Elementary years. Students are introduced to the structures and expectations of writing. Writing offers children a marvelous opportunity to communicate personal experiences and thoughts. They learn to write clearly and logically, and as they become more adept at using language, they focus on the acquisition of spelling, grammar, and editing skills. Throughout the Elementary program, children are immersed in different forms of writing such as personal narrative, memoir, poetry, nonfiction, essays, and reports.

Handwriting Without Tears is the writing program used by all elementary students to develop strong handwriting skills and habits. Cursive writing is taught in third grade; and students continue to develop their cursive skills through sixth grade. Fourth through sixth grade students use the Wordly Wise vocabulary program.


Social studies and science form the basis for the overarching theme of inquiry for in-depth studies, also known as learning expeditions. Unlike a thematic unit, learning expeditions occur over six weeks or longer, and are driven by guiding questions and big ideas. Additionally, expeditions integrate skills and instruction across the content areas. Research skills, reading, writing, and public speaking are common components. Mathematics is applied wherever authentic connections can be made. The arts are often integrated into the synthesis of information and final products.The expedition becomes a highly focused, real world application that motivates children in their further studies across the curriculum.

Each expedition is geared to the developmental level and the interests of the children in each classroom. Learning expeditions engage students’ curiosity and motivate them to seek answers outside the classroom. Fieldwork and research allows students to act and think like scientists, mathematicians, social scientists, data analysts -real world people with important work.



Spanish students work on listening, speaking, reading and writing skills through learning how to talk about themselves and studying the lives and traditions of people from different Spanish-speaking communities. The course is designed to inspire students to learn a second language by using a cultural approach: music, food, dance and art. The class is taught primarily in Spanish, providing constant exposure to the sounds of the language and continual practice in listening and understanding.

3rd-6th Grade American Sign Language

ASL is an integral part of the early childhood curriculum as children are learning to communicate and express themselves in many different ways. Then, beginning in 3rd grade, students focus on this language during weekly ASL classes. In the ASL curriculum, students learn to understand that ASL is not a written nor an auditory language, but rather a visual language. Students are expected to turn their voices off for much of the lesson and experience the language with visual cues. The purpose of that expectation is to provide students the opportunity to improve their receptive and express language skills. Educational games and hand-on activities are often played in the classroom. This is an excellent tool for receptive and expressive skills.

Santa Fe is fortunate to have the New Mexico School for the Deaf as a part of our community, and ASL is deeply rooted in the deaf community and culture. Studying ASL promotes better awareness of and sensitivity to the deaf and hard of hearing community. In their ASL classes, Arts & Sciences students will develop a strong appreciation for deaf culture.


Artistic appreciation and expression is an integral part of the development of creative thinking. Children are encouraged to discover and develop their talents and to gain an appreciation for their own artistic expression and the artistic expression of others. Some of these art experiences are individual, and some are group-oriented. The goals behind a group art project are cooperation, appreciation, and a shared vision. A variety of two and three-dimensional media are explored throughout the elementary art program: painting, drawing, sculpture, collage, animation.


Physical Education reinforces the EL school culture of respect, responsibility, and achievement. Physical activity and outdoor time are woven into the daily schedule.

The Elementary Physical Education Program supports the physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development of students. In addition to learning games and sport techniques, an emphasis is placed on playing cooperatively and incorporating the school’s character traits when playing more competitive games in the older elementary grades. A broad range of activities are part of the PE curriculum to broaden every student’s appreciation of physical wellness and to give them a range of kinesthetic experiences.

Kindergarten, first and second graders participate in activities that stress cooperation and gross motor development. Skills such as balance, rhythm, eye-hand coordination, and spatial awareness are part of PE activities.

Third through sixth grade students continue to develop their gross motor skills, while an emphasis is placed on cooperation, team-building, and eventually healthy competition. Good sportsmanship is a hallmark of all PE activities.


The Drama Program aims to develop creative, collaborative, and critical thinking skills through dramatic exercises designed to help students in all facets of their natural development: emotional, intellectual, physical, vocal, and social. Group performance projects and process dramas challenge all students to consider how a character’s world affects his or her perspective, feelings, and actions. Classes work on productions that are developmentally appropriate, and often student driven.

Our Music Program takes place during our after school enrichment classes. We offer individual and group lessons in piano, guitar, cello, voice, ukulele, drumming, and other instruments. Music instructors come to our campus after school to work with students, and students often perform at our all school Coffeehouses.


Assessment yields information that allows teachers to create curriculum that is challenging, age appropriate and responds to the particular students in each class. It is a vehicle for students to demonstrate understanding of skills, concepts and ideas.

Learning is not static and assessment at Arts & Sciences is on-going and multiple means of developmentally appropriate assessments are used, such as formal and informal observations, dialogue with students, documentation of particular skills and concepts, projects, written work, tests and quizzes.
As each grade moves students towards more autonomy and independence, students are encouraged and taught to lead their own learning and demonstrate knowledge to a variety of audiences. Student-led portfolio presentations, Wintercomes presentations, Expedition Museums, Science Symposiums, and publishing work in journals and newspaper are hallmarks of the Arts & Sciences experience.

Student-centered assessment also yields data that is used to evaluate student growth, grade level skills and concepts. This data is presented to families at parent/teacher conferences, and in written reports. 

Portfolios are a central academic tradition at Arts & Sciences for all students, from age three all the way through to the 8th grade.  Each portfolio includes student reflections on their learning, documentation of skills and concepts through products and projects, and culminates in a student-led portfolio presentation at the end of the academic year.