Upper Elementary Program

GRADES 4th-6th:
Ages 9-12

  • 12:1 Student Teacher Ratio
  • Maximum Class Size of 20 Students
  • Focus on Small Groups and Cohort Style Learning 

The transition from Lower Elementary is a time of great change for Upper Elementary students as they transition from the concrete world of their earlier years to entering the world of abstract thinking. The upper elementary child is naturally inquisitive, creative, and social. This is also the age where a child develops a growing sense of morality and justice. Ongoing interaction with their peers, teachers and environment is an essential part of the way children of this age learn and come to define themselves as individuals. For this reason, many of the learning activities are initiated by the students themselves working in small groups, following their interests that may have been piqued in teacher initiated lessons.  

The upper elementary program is highly integrated throughout the cultural curriculum - science, history, geography and the arts - and builds on the terrific base of information the students have gained in the lower elementary classroom. History provides the students perspective on human interaction and a sense of time and place. Science activities encourage the development of logical thinking and an understanding, appreciation for and exploration of our environment. In these studies we are able to begin to see how the environment has been a determining factor in the development of peoples through time and the interconnectedness of how human interaction has and continues to shape our world. Physics, chemistry and geology lessons integrate naturally with many aspects of early civilization studies. For instance when studying Egypt and Greece we also learn about the development of simple machines. Economic geography is explored when learning about causes of many of the clashes of cultures throughout the history curriculum. Latitude and longitude lessons as well as learning about global wind patterns are integrated with lessons on the Age of Exploration. 

The following is an overview of the Whole Earth Upper Elementary curriculum. By no means is it meant to be exhaustive though it should serve to give you an idea of the wide range of learning opportunities that are available to our students.


Number Sense Develop speed and dexterity in multi-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division moving to performing all operations abstractly.
Number Theory Divisibility, prime numbers, least common multiples, greatest common factors, exponents, squaring and square roots.
Fractions Equivalence, comparing and ordering, all four operations with like and unlike denominators, cross-canceling, conversion from fraction to decimal to percent.
Geometry Solidification of 2-D plane figures introduced in 6-9, measurement of angles, perimeter, and area. Graphing in all four quadrants, congruence and similarity, tessellations. 
Measurement Standard and metric, introduction to time/rate/distance, introduction to conversion between unit measures. 
Problem Solving Strategies Logic and reasoning, multi-step problem solving...
Pre-Algebra Introduction to variables, ratio and proportion, percent, positive/negative integers.

Language Arts

Variety of Styles Narrative, persuasive, expository, descriptive, summary, paraphrasing, poetry, reports, essays
Six Traits Model See handout
Writing Cycles Ideas, rough draft, revising, editing, final draft
Writing Styles Development of both verbal and written expressive vocabulary, development of passion in their writing
Writing Cursive writing and detailed penmanship


In Grades 1-3 students are learning to read. In Grades 4-6 students are reading to learn.
Reading for Content Following interest, research, pleasure etc
Variety of Genres Non-fiction, fantasy, biography, poetry, historical fiction, research
Novel Based Reading Typically award winning children's literature
Comprehension Development of critical thinking skills in follow-up work such as prediction, character analysis, identifying major themes, comparisons etc


Continuation of 1st - 3rd grade grammar box work if not yet completed.
Ability to identify elements in a sentence.
Understanding of the function of parts of speech in language – identifying parts of speech in passages from literature...
Comparison of authors’ styles of writing by grammar used,
Sentence analysis -- subject, predicate, direct object, etc...


Leveled spelling program...
Rules of syllabication, dictionary use, pronunciation guides, thesaurus...
Homographs, homophones, antonyms, synonyms, etc...
Vocabulary enrichment activities throughout the curriculum – Ex: Latin/Greek roots in geometry and science activities...

Cultural Studies 

History and Geography

Year One Beginnings of human civilization through the end of Roman Empire and further as time and interests allows. Exploration of how and why events occurred. Example: Why did early civilizations grow near major rivers? What advantages/disadvantages might that bring? 
Year Two New World History – The Americas before and after the coming of the Europeans through the colonization of North America, the Revolutionary War and Civil War.
Integrated Political & Geographic Studies Economic geography, biomes, winds and currents, weather, latitude and longitude, map skills, the atmosphere, etc...  Independent on-going work: Continent studies, studies of a country, research projects.
6th Year Project The Island Project – an imaginary island project where each student creates the evolution of an island from geological formation to human habitation to development of a civilization and society. This is the culminating activity that integrates all areas of the curriculum and is a year long project. Alternative 6th year projects may include individual researches on a 20th century conflict of their choice.


Geology Layers of the earth, the rock cycle, earth processes, etc...
Biology Cell structure of plants and animals, plant processes and parts, zoology...
6th Year Project Systems of the human body  (“The Great River” )
Physics Inertia, gravity, simple machines, magnetism, buoyancy, light, “laws of the universe.”
Chemistry Atomic structure, periodic table of elements, compounds and bonding.
Environmental Studies We are looking forward to the start of our special projects with UW Bothell on geothermal and solar energy.


Touch-typing/Keyboarding skills...
Word processing, introduction to Excel and PowerPoint...
Internet research strategies and etiquette...
Computer science- overview of the parts of a computer and their function + hands on computer building/rebuilding activities each year.


Technology iPad tablets are used for supplemental curriculum in various subject areas...
Foreign Languages Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian...
Art Weekly, professional art instruction in small groups and ongoing integrated class projects...
Music & Drama Music theory, dramatic arts, voice training, instruments, etc...
Physical Education Formal instruction one hour per week at YMCA – games, rock climbing, soccer, basketball, community building challenges. Yoga one time per week (as staff is available.)
Practical Life Cooking, mentoring, classroom care and management, gardening, crafts, etc...


Peer assistance including helping others with their work, opportunities to give lessons to classmates, buddy reading with lower elementary students.
Service projects – stream mitigation, delivery of NW Harvest, working in the garden...
Building social awareness and empathy through engaging in positive interaction with peers, staff, and community. Positive problem solving.