Elementary School Curriculum

Two students reading in the grass with the Rocky Mountains in the background
Sun Valley Community School's Elementary School curriculum equips students with a strong foundation in traditional areas of study such as science, math, and language arts; it also develops important 21st century skills like critical thinking, media fluency, creativity, communication, problem solving, and collaboration.

Language Arts

The Elementary School language arts program offers students daily opportunities to master the skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. We develop learners who not only use language as an essential tool, but who also find joy in the English language. Our students learn to read, write, and speak thoughtfully, and also to think critically and imaginatively. Teachers' strive to immerse students in language learning, and class activities are designed to review, reinforce, and solidify learned concepts. Our reading program accommodates a range of ability levels, needs, and interests and develops students who read independently for pleasure and information.

Teachers use a variety of techniques to teach reading, including phonics, word patterns, structural analysis, decoding skills, and vocabulary. In the early grades, the Making Meaning program helps develop comprehension by using great children’s literature as a basis for skill development. In the upper grades, novel studies in literature groups and independent reading help solidify comprehension, and the program Wordly Wise supplements vocabulary development.

Our writing program produces writers who communicate clearly in a number of different formats. Students write to express ideas and feelings, to convey information, and to describe experiences. Teachers focus both on the skills and processes of writing and teach students to draft, revise, edit, proofread, and publish. Teachers judiciously use a variety of techniques and programs to help students develop their writing and spelling skills, such as Lucy Calkins' Units of Study Writing, Words Their Way, Phono-graphix, and Explode the Code. In most classes, the majority of the language arts program is integrated with project work or literature in social studies.


The Elementary School math curriculum builds a strong foundation in mathematical thinking and number fluency and promotes a positive attitude towards math among students.

Teachers use the National Council of Teachers of Math Curriculum Focal Points as their guide to instruction at each grade level. Curriculum focal points are important mathematical topics for each grade level. Central to mathematics, these topics convey the knowledge and skills essential to educated citizens, and they provide the foundations for further mathematical learning. They are indispensable elements in developing problem solving, reasoning, and critical thinking skills—all important aspects of mathematics learning.

Along with the focal points, teachers use an excellent math program called Bridges. The Bridges curriculum develops students’ understanding of mathematical concepts, proficiency with key skills, and ability to solve complex and novel problems through direct instruction, structured investigation, and open exploration.

Social Studies

The social studies curriculum helps students explore, investigate, and understand the world around them. Social studies involve the broad themes of civics, economics, geography, US history, world history and culture. Students begin with self, family, and community in kindergarten and move beyond their own experiences to explore other times, places, and cultures in the older grades. Students are encouraged to share their ideas, listen to others, and develop a spirit of inquiry as they broaden their perspective.

Teachers use hands-on multi-media projects, class discussions, current events, investigations, field trips, and carefully chosen literature to develop units of study. Through the social studies curriculum, students become researchers and critical thinkers. We also encourage students to develop a global perspective by investigating the similarities and differences between people and places, looking at human needs and interdependence and examining environmental issues in our local area and around the globe.


World language instruction in the Elementary School focuses on exposure to Spanish language, culture, and cultural practices. Students gain multicultural awareness and develop an interest in and passion for language study while building a foundation for further language experiences. Students will expand their cognitive abilities through listening, speaking, reading, and writing activities in Spanish. They will have many opportunities to create their own projects, mini-plays, books, drawings, and other modes of expression based on the texts, recordings, songs, materials, games, and instruction that they have received.


Elementary students are inherently curious about the natural world. From planets to pollywogs, this journey called life presents us all with fascinating phenomenon, and intriguing questions.

Elementary science strives to encourage and develop the inborn sense of wonder that all children possess.

Students are introduced to science with a “hands-on” approach and learn basic principles of physical and life sciences through observation and investigation.

Key concepts covered through the Elementary School science curriculum include: the elements, Newton's laws of motion, flight, DNA, evolution, and symbiosis (to name just a few). Each topic is provided context and relevancy so that the intrinsic motivations of the students drive the learning process. There is an emphasis on science as a way of looking at our world; science as a detective story. It is important that students understand both what we know because of science, and how we have come to know it. Through understanding, we can better appreciate the complex cycles, and exquisite interconnectedness of all things.


The Elementary School art program strives to instill in students a love of and appreciation for artwork, to equip them with manipulative and expressive skills, and to develop their capacity for artistic expression. Students work with a wide range of materials and tools throughout their years in Elementary School. Their teacher encourages them to interpret assignments and projects in their own creative way, and to reflect on the artistic and creative process. In the Elementary School, we teach art through a combination of units designed to build specific skills (drawing, painting, construction, and printmaking) and themes which immerse students in a particular culture or genre.

Performing Arts

Elementary performing arts includes two main components: dance and drama. The program begins in kindergarten and focuses on creative exploration.

Drama instruction provides opportunities for students to mature and develop tools of the actor: the voice, the body, and the imagination. Older students focus on the fundamentals of theater, such as working on a stage, basic acting techniques and theater terminology. Students learn how to improve their focus, self-confidence, and social skills.

Dance instruction focuses on creative movement and promotes individual expression, imagination, and cooperation with the group. As students explore the power of moving, they find new ways to express themselves and interact with classmates in a positive and joyful environment. Older students experience choreography using the principles of Laban: Space, Shape, Effort and Time.


The music classroom is filled with a variety of instruments to stimulate young eyes and ears, including rhythm instruments, recorders, xylophones, boomwhackers, hand drums, congas, and bongos. These instruments are combined with children's books and the best of the Kodaly and Orff methods to create a curriculum that produces students who love to perform. Students present a winter performance and participate in other performances throughout the year, including Grandfriends' Day, Community Meetings, and Moving Up Ceremonies.

Physical Education

The physical education program provides children with opportunities to develop physical fitness and to build a foundation of movement. Skills are taught progressively so that each student will experience positive results. Participation, not competition, is a key in our physical education program. Children are taught the skills they will need to participate in many different sports and recreational activities throughout their lifetime. Developing a positive self-concept and the desire to engage in physical activities will contribute to a healthy lifestyle.


At Sun Valley Community School, we believe in proactively educating and supporting students on personal, social, and emotional fronts so they will be successful at school and beyond.

Wellness programming at the school includes lessons and hands-on activities focused on digital citizenship, health, mindfulness, and kindness and inclusivity, with the goal to:

  • Instill social norms through healthy choices (to live healthy emotional and physical lives);
  • Facilitate student identity formation and their role in a community;
  • Empower students toward appropriate and safe decision-making through information, skills, and strategies;
  • Provide students a common language surrounding these topics and conversations.

After-School Care

Sun Valley Community School offers After-School Care on campus for students in the ECC, kindergarten, and first grades from 2:30-5:30 p.m.

We are happy to partner with both the Wood River Community YMCA and the City of Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department’s After School Program at Atkinson Park to offer top-notch care and activity options for students in grades 2-5, off campus. We will provide transportation in school vehicles for students who sign up for these after-school programs.

A student and teacher work together in a classroom

A Tradition of Public Speaking

Wherever you find yourself on Community School's campus on a given day, chances are good that you will see and hear students developing skills to articulate their thoughts, share their passions, and advocate for their needs.

Opportunities for public speaking come early and often here. Beginning with circle time in the Early Childhood Center classroom and continuing through each division before culminating with the capstone Senior Project presentation in the Upper School, Community School students earn the confidence to share their story with an audience.

The poise and power of our students' presentations have become a hallmark of a Community School education.