Curriculum: Standards and Beyond
Kindergarten Through 6th Grade Curriculum
At Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School we always strive to educate far beyond minimum standards and pride ourselves in educating our students in unique and broad-reaching ways. Our school curriculum is informed by the Common Core Standards and based around thematic instruction with age-appropriate projects, which is evident throughout the grades at Bellevue-Santa Fe. Students at Bellevue create and learn in a highly-academic, social environment that requires attention to self-regulation. From literature group selections to math activities and social studies simulations, class activities are often linked into a chosen theme. Academic standards are woven into the themes with cross-curricular awareness.
Our Kindergarten program strives to meet the needs of the broad variety of learners. We believe play is an important vehicle for the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children and endeavor to provide fun learning activities for young students. Each day, Kindergarteners move through a variety of learning exercises, which are tied to specific weekly themes that integrate the Common Core Standards. In the classroom, parents can be observed as supportive agents, assisting students to navigate educational activities planned by the teacher. Reading, writing, listening, math, art, music, movement and science are all frequently integrated into activities.
In an effort to prepare young people for their full day of school in first grade and beyond, we offer a graduated Kindergarten schedule. Currently, in the fall students attend from 8:30am –12:00pm. Following Winter Break, students are dismissed at 2:00 pm. After Spring Break, Kindergarteners participate in the full day, which ends at 3:00pm.
The main focus of First Grade is to build on the foundation of reading, writing, and math skills. There is a huge amount of growth that takes place in the first grade year, both academically and socially. First graders spend a lot of time practicing their academic skills, analytical abilities, communication, and body awareness while gaining independence!
Beginning in 2018-2019 school year, BSFCS will have two Kinder-1st Grade multi-grade classes. Kinder will attend half days (8:30-12:00) until Spring Break with First Graders staying full day (8:30-3:00). After Spring Break, Kinders will join their 1st Grade classmates in staying full day. This aligns with our model of multi-grade instructional design and increase our teachers’ abilities to differentiate learning opportunities for students.
Fourth and Fifth Grades focus on building independent skills to promote student growth. The Fourth Grade Cycle follows all Common Core Standards with an emphasis on California History. The Fifth Grade Cycle follows all Common Core Standards with an emphasis on United States History. Both cycles have adaptive Science Curriculum as well. The weekly work focuses on individualized Spelling Dictation, cross-curricular vocabulary, literature analysis, nonfiction reading comprehension, and Writer’s Workshop methodologies. Students experience mathematics in grade-level groups that transition between the forum teachers halfway through the year. Developed written pieces, projects, and simulations are incorporated to enhance student acquisition of standards during each curricular cycle.
In 6th grade, students are immersed in the year-long theme of Be The Change. This theme carries through all curricular areas. Students make connections to ancient civilizations, quality literature, written pieces, hands-on projects, presentations, science, and mathematics. Students are also actively involved in changing their community by designing and implementing Service Projects. We believe in the power of our sixth graders. They become participants in this curriculum, instead of observers, through simulations, role-playing, cooperative research, and other project-based activities.
Common Core Based Curriculum
Reading, writing, listening and speaking are the four major areas of language arts instruction at Bellevue-Santa Fe and all are integrated into instruction during the school day. Our commitment to authentic learning opportunities in all subject areas is evident in our focus on a literature-based reading program in the upper grades combined with a foundation of best practice reading instruction that provides the basics for younger students. Students enrich their vocabulary and comprehension as they read from award-winning books, while spelling and grammar instruction are integrated into writing instruction. In all grades, children are encouraged to incorporate sophisticated literary elements into their writing and to create written pieces that reflect the activities and culture of their classroom. Teachers often utilize the “Six Traits of Writing” to guide composition and empower students to create organized, descriptive written work. Bellevue-Santa Fe has also adopted the Houghton-Mifflin Language Arts program, and is piloting Benchmark Advantage in the lower grades for the 2016-2017 school year.
An in-depth understanding of basic math concepts and operations is critical to student success. Our adopted math program steers the instructional exposure to the Common Core Standards and supplemental opportunities enhance instruction. This begins in Kindergarten with the exploration of number concepts through activities such as surveys, observations, sorting, games, and tile math. These hands-on opportunities continue in the upper grades with investigations, real-life problems, and can include the supplemental use of curriculum from Marcy Cook, AIMS and other innovative resources. Math exercises are aligned with the Common Core Standards and have empowered our students to be successful in their standardized testing experiences. Bellevue-Santa Fe has adopted the Envision Mathematics program.
At Bellevue-Santa Fe, we are committed to the philosophy that children learn best by doing. Teachers provide learning opportunities for students to experience the social studies curriculum in a broad variety of activities. They become participants in this curriculum, instead of observers, through simulations, role-playing, cooperative research, and other project-based activities. Using the Common Core Standards as guides, teachers match learning opportunities to the needs of students at various levels. In Kindergarten, weekly themes drive the activities. In grades 1-6, many teachers utilize simulations to weave themes into the curriculum throughout the year. Students may participate in the recreation of an 1800’s schoolhouse, the California Gold Rush, Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, or the running of a small town during their years at Bellevue. Children at all grade levels use a variety of resources to create research reports, projects, and presentations on various topics. Bellevue-Santa Fe has adopted Macmillan-McGraw-Hill social studies curriculum.
Bellevue-Santa Fe’s Science curriculum is a prime example of our school’s emphasis on project-based learning—and its success in provoking a child’s sense of wonder and natural curiosity. Students spend time each week exploring science through discovery and inquiry with our dedicated Science teacher, Christian Strauli. During Science classes, hands-on experiments and exploration help our students to develop critical problem-solving skills and foster a passion for the natural world. Utilizing the scientific method, students investigate subjects ranging from genetics and biology to earth science, physics, and all other areas of the Common Core Standards for Science. In addition to weekly lab activities, students may read, research, and write about these topics in accordance with cross-curricular instruction.
Physical Education and Challenges Outdoors Changes Kids:
Students at Bellevue-Santa Fe benefit from an established Physical Education Program with a certificated instructor, Jen Jarvis, two times per week. Our program, PEACOCK (Physical Education And Challenges Outdoors Changes Kids), is designed to empower students to be healthy individuals and to enjoy physical activity. Students participate in strength and skill-building activities along with traditional organized games.
Each morning at Bellevue-Santa Fe begins with an all-school assembly. This is an opportunity for our students and teachers to gather as a community before the day begins. Each assembly program is hosted by a staff member and differ accordingly: Monday may be a “reader’s theater” presentation by the 1st grade class, Tuesday might bring a visit from the Cal Poly Soccer team, Wednesday could be the Kindergarten’s theater presentation of “The Grumpy Bug,” Thursday might hold a special appearance by a children’s book author, and Friday might tie the week up with “cool kid tricks” by the 6th grade class. Our all-school assembly gives students a daily opportunity to become comfortable with speaking before a group and performing before an audience. These 21st Century skills that will prove invaluable long after they graduate. In addition, special assemblies featuring musicians, artists, performers and other educational programs are held throughout the year with the help of of VAPA Committee. Past assemblies have brought storyteller and musician Bill Harley, author and illustrator Ashley Wolff, a pro-cycling team, and even former Chicago Bull Horace Grant.
Ag-Grow (aka Garden):
All students come to the garden once a week in our Ag-Grow program which is headed by Christian Strauli. Students work hard to grow food that they subsequently eat with relish. Students also perform garden chores like raking leaves, turning compost, planting seeds, and transplanting starts. In addition to the hard work of running the garden, students learn about the ecology of the outside area and the importance of balance in the ecosystem. Depending on their grade level, students may learn about the ways honey bees communicate, how red wiggler worms compost our food scraps, or the life cycle of the painted lady butterfly. Finally, students learn simple recipes to prepare delicious, wholesome, and healthy food from what they grow in the garden.
In 2007, Bellevue-Santa Fe introduced its highly successful Electives Program. This program gives students the opportunity to explore extracurricular subjects. Taught by faculty, parents, and members of the community, these courses provide hands-on experience and expose students to new areas of study. Electives courses have included: Cooking/Baking, Animals, Ceramics, Architecture, Journalism, Gardening, Jewelry Making, Yoga, Mixed Media, Dance, Cosmetology, Drama, Spanish, Miniatures, Yearbook, Reading and Writing, Astronomy, Puzzles, Mandarin Chinese, and Inventions. Because Electives are taught in multi-age groups, these classes give children a chance to meet and form friendships with students of other grade levels, further strengthening our community as a whole.
Field Trips at Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter are integrated into the fields of study throughout the grade levels. Students in Kindergarten through sixth grade explore resources in our state that support Common Core Standards and the project-based curriculum. Day trips have included visits to the local apple farmer, fire station, historic schoolhouse, Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, Santa Barbara Zoo, Hearst Castle, and shows at the Performing Arts Center in San Luis Obispo. Upper grade students participate in outdoor school experiences that enrich the curriculum and build individual and team skills. Fourth and fifth graders attend Coloma Outdoor School for a during the 4th Grade Cycle and Camp Ocean Pines during the 5th Grade Cycle. Students have also participated in Walk Through the American Revolution (in-school field trip) during the 5th Grade Cycle. Sixth graders participate in the Catalina Island Marine Institute program for five days in the spring each year.
Imagine examining a 65 million-year-old dinosaur bone, holding a live leopard gecko, or even touching a piece of meteorite from outer space. These are the kinds of things students have the opportunity to do at Bellevue Santa-Fe’s SciTechatorium. Open during scheduled recess and lunch times, this on-campus museum offers kids a wide variety of unique science-based learning experiences. Developed through a partnership between UNOCAL and Chick Fedel, the original curator of the museum, our SciTech gives students access to everything from dinosaur bones to live tarantulas and snakes, “green screen” video technology, physics experiments, and much more. In 6th grade, Bellevue students are eligible to become docents in the museum and lead tour groups of students from all over the county. Volunteers from the parent community staff the SciTech during lunch and break times throughout the week so that students have the opportunity to explore science and test theories whenever the desire strikes. To learn more, visit the SciTech website: http://www.scitechatorium.org