Our School » How We Learn

How We Learn

Our mission is to inspire our 21st Century learners to achieve their highest academic, social, emotional, intellectual and physical potential potential, becoming problem solvers, critical thinkers, risk-takers, designers, collaborators, and innovators, while developing into contributing, empathetic citizens and leaders who are responsible of their world and care about equity and justice, both locally and worldwide.

Academic Curriculum

Reading, writing and math are aligned to the California Common Core Standards (CCSS), which are the end of the year grade expectations for each student. Teachers use a wide variety of teaching materials and curriculum to teach these standards and personalize learning. K-5 teachers district-wide use Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study to teach Reading and Writing Workshop and Phonics Workshop in K-2nd.  Words Their Way is used in 3rd classrooms as word study to assist in spelling, phonics, and vocabulary.  Math in Focus, is taught in K-5 classrooms and Counting Collections is taught in TK-1st grade classrooms.

Art Education

Art in Action, supported by the Heather PTA, is provided to all TK-4 students, along with art lessons and activities by each classroom teacher.


Student assessments are both formative, informing instruction, and summative. Each assessment is "one slice of the pie" that we use to monitor student progress. Assessments include:
  • ongoing classroom observations and curriculum assessments
  • TCRWP Running Records and F&P Benchmark Assessment Systems to assess and inform students’ instructional reading levels
  • DIBELS, to help indicate levels of intervention needed in order to be a reader by third grade,
  • SCSD Writing Assessment on Opinion Writing
  • Math in Focus Benchmark Assessments
  • CAASPP/SBAC, statewide testing of English language arts and mathematics starting in third grade
  • ELPAC to assess the English proficiency of all bilingual students

    Classroom Configurations

    Heather values collaboration amongst teachers and all teachers collaborate in their teaching on many levels, whether they teach in a single grade classroom, a multiage classroom, or a collaborative teaching suite.

    Multiage classrooms are built by design. Multiage classrooms currently consist of K/1st. Students are expected to “loop” with their teacher for two years. Parents can indicate a preference for a multiage classroom. Read more here.
Collaborative Learning Suites
A collaborative learning suite is a classroom consisting of two classrooms with a large opening between the two rooms with two teachers collaboratively teaching a shared double roster of children. Heather is not currently offering a collaborative learning suite.
In addition to multiage, we have single-grade classrooms TK-3. Due to enrollment numbers we also may have combination classes, which are developed due to enrollment numbers.

Time reading books and being read to by older readers or peers is the main expectation for out of classroom learning. We recognize and encourage family time, play time, and down time as being important for all children, particularly for our young school-age children. Many classrooms provide At Home Learning menus and connect learning at home activities back to the classroom through At Home Learning Showcases. 

5 C’s and Habit of Mind for 21st Century Learners

The 5Cs consisting of Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Citizenship and Ownership are a the cornerstone of our students learning and are taught and assessed throughout the school year. Read more here.

Project Based Learning (PBL)

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. By 2016, all teachers will be trained in the project-based learning (PBL) model of instruction. Learn more here.

Making and Designing

At this time, in lieu of a separate MakerSpace at Heather, many classroom teachers provide students exploration in making, designing and tinkering in the classroom. Design is built into many PBL projects. Our outside PlayPod provides an outdoor area of creativity, building and play. Read more here.


Music for Minors is a sequential, in-school music education program that is delivered in alignment with the California Content Standards for Music. SCSD has partnered with Music for Minors to provide music instruction in elementary schools as well as choir classes at both middle schools.

Music for Minors provides a weekly program for kindergarten through 3rd grade students, offering a variety of hands-on experiences through participation in singing, movement, theory, dance, musical games, and through the use of rhythm instruments and the recorder. The mission of Music for Minors is to nurture love and literacy of music through instruction, participation, and performances — enhancing academic education with musical arts. This program is made possible with the support of the San Carlos Education Foundation. Learn more here.

Legarza Sports provides physical education (PE) programs at San Carlos School District elementary schools. Additional Legarza coaches provide small group time in classrooms by taking half the class outside or in the MUR for enrichment activities, including PlayPod time, and additional SEL, health, and STEM activities. They also provide after school sports through SMARTE enrichment programs.

Legarza’s PE program is based on California State Standards for PE-CDE and is overseen by a credentialed instructor. The curriculum follows the Mastery Orientation Teaching Model, which celebrates effort as much as achievement. The program provides differentiated instruction for grade clusters and individualized student needs. At Heather, every class is taught 90-minutes of P.E. and follows the 4 Units Curriculum:
  • Unit 1 – Body Movement and Control
  • Unit 2 – Throwing and Catching
  • Unit 3 – Kicking and Footwork
  • Unit 4 – Recess Games
Our younger students in preschool, TK, and kindergarten also participate in Motor Room to support the development of gross motor skills. Learn more about the SCSD Legarza PE Program.
The physical education program is funded in part by the San Carlos Education Foundation (SCEF).
Science and STEM
K-5 students are taught science with the STEMscope science curriculum, aligned to the NGSS science standards. Teachers use the digital curriculum which is brought to life through exploratory hands-on kits that promote inquiry and excitement as students engage in real-world science connections.  

We strive to integrate STEM into our classrooms and through after-school activities. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. Heather students participate in STEM activities using Engineering is Elementary, (EIE), connecting engineering design process and math, as well as computer science activities involving coding and robotics. See 2nd graders programming Bee-Bots.
Student Leadership and Community Service

In 2015, we conducted a school-wide PBL with the driving question: “How can we, as a school community, develop a school-wide culture of student leadership and service at Heather School?” (which continues to be very relevant) As a result, we now have students from kindergarten through 3rd grade taking on leadership roles in our school community and beyond. Third-grade student leaders lead us in the Welcome Wednesday Morning Assembly. All classrooms take on school leadership roles, including designing and coordinating monthly spirit days. Classes of every grade level take on the responsibility of coordinating a variety of service projects from pajama drives for foster children and collections for Samaritan House to delivering May flowers to neighbors, Valentines for Vets, and our local heroes,  and Relay Recess for the American Cancer Society.

Support Programs

Heather School provides instructional support programs for meeting the needs of all children.

Student are placed in programs based on individual need as determined by the Student Study Team (SST) and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. We deliver programs including academic specialized instruction (SAI) small group learning centers, resource specialist program (RSP), speech and language, adaptive physical education (APE), occupational therapy (OT), and other designated instructional services, including RTI literacy support services, OT and speech. Learn more about Heather support programs here.