Elementary School

Elementary School at STEM is where innate curiosity and STEM infused learning meet

On this page you’ll find all the information you need to learn more about what Elementary School is like at STEM. In addition to finding out more about the curriculum we offer, you will find the latest news on what is happening.

Elementary News


We Innovate Early

Our unique K-12 model encourages innovation from an early age, laying the foundation for a lifetime of discovery.

At the STEM School Highlands Ranch Elementary School we focus on providing a rigorous and relevant core education that taps into the innate curiosity of each student while integrating essential STEM skills and concepts within literacy, mathematics, social studies and science.

Our classrooms come alive with relevant, problem-based learning where 21st Century Skills are embedded through the use of technology, critical thinking, and collaboration to engage the heads, hearts and hands of students in authentic and real world issues. All elementary students will participate in specials classes that include art, music, physical education, technology, engineering, and world language.

Character development is key as we nurture and develop responsible and respectful elementary students.

All curricular decisions begin with the alignment to the Colorado Academic Standards (CDE, 2010). Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010) topics are incorporated and embedded throughout each unit of instruction. Twenty-first century skills (P21, 2007) and technology are infused throughout each unit as well.

Formative and Summative assessments are incorporated into each content area. Formative assessments are used as a diagnostic tool to determine areas of growth and strength, thus allowing teachers to differentiate for all learners in their classroom. Formative assessments allow teachers to gain insight into student learning and make daily instructional decisions based on this data.

Formative assessments may include:

  • Observations
  • Discussions
  • Exit tickets
  • Response logs
  • Graphic organizers
  • Peer/self assessments
  • Presentations
  • Summative assessments measure what a student understands, typically at the end of a unit of instruction.  Summative assessments may include:
  • Quizzes
  • End of unit tests
  • Projects
  • Written papers


The following required assessments will be administered to K-5 students:

  • ACCESS (WIDA): The Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners is an English language proficiency assessment.
  • CogAT: The Cognitive Abilities Test will be administered to all 3rd grade students and all 5th grade students in the fall of each year.
  • CMAS: The Colorado Measures of Academic Success assessment is administered to 4th grade social studies students and 5th grade science students in the spring of each year.
  • MAP: The Measures of Academic Progress assessment is administered in the fall, winter and spring of each year to all students.
  • PARCC: The Partnerships for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers assessment is administered to all students in 3rd through 5th grades. Students are assessed in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics.
  • Renaissance STAR Early Literacy Assessment: This assessment will be administered as a diagnostic tool to identify students needing support in literacy.
  • TS Gold: This assessment provides readiness data related to kindergarten student learning and achievement.

Reading, writing, speaking and listening are essential components of an effective literacy program for K-5 students (Calkins, L., 2014; Routman, R., 2003). Curriculum aligns with the Colorado Academic Standards (CDE, 2010) and Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010) framework. The STEM School will provide a balanced literacy approach that incorporates the following key principles:

Reading and writing instruction are closely connected. Components of balanced literacy include classroom instruction related to word study, interactive read aloud, shared reading and shared writing, independent reading and writing, and interactive editing.

To optimize literacy instruction and student learning, time in content can be infused with modeled and shared reading and writing. The application and transfer of skills, strategies, and processes of reading and writing occurs across the day and throughout contents.

Skills are connected and maximized in all content areas (math, science, social studies, engineering, art, music, physical education, world language).

Non-fiction text is relevant and integrated which provides a forum for problem solving, collaboration with others, and critical thinking within real world relevant issues.

Mathematics curriculum is developed utilizing the Colorado Academic Standards (CDE, 2010) and the Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010) framework which include skills, content and mathematical practices. The following Common Core Standards of Mathematical Practice (Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2016) drive instruction at all levels.

Students will:

  • Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them
  • Reason abstractly and quantitatively
  • Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others
  • Model with mathematics
  • Use appropriate tools strategically
  • Attend to precision
  • Look for and make use of structure
  • Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning

Mathematics instruction is active and student-centered. Authentic, problem based learning experiences incorporate real world and relevant opportunities for students to apply mathematical skills and concepts.

Science and engineering curriculum focuses on incorporating real world and relevant experiences through a 5 E Inquiry Model of Instruction (BSCS, 2006). Curricular decisions are based on the Colorado Academic Standards (CDE, 2009), Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010) framework, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Science curriculum also provides opportunities to do the work of scientists and engineers by applying science and engineering practices within appropriate content.

The following science and engineering practices will be embedded throughout K-5 curriculum:

  • Asking Questions
  • Developing and Using Models
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations
  • Analyzing and Interpreting Data
  • Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking
  • Constructing Explanations
  • Engaging in Argument
  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Science and engineering curriculum is also enhanced through partnerships within the community that enrich students with the real world work of scientists and engineers. Students will experience authentic science and engineering through field excursions, webinars and collecting scientific data that contributes to the scientific community (GLOBE, Bud Burst, Journey North, GO3, Roots and Shoots).  Students will present their solutions to scientific problems to adult audiences for feedback.

Engineering will be implemented as an integration of literacy,  science and math content.  Within the classroom, students will develop an understanding of engineering careers through Engineering Is Elementary curriculum (Boston Museum of Science). Literacy is embedded within each unit through a problem solving approach.

All students will also be provided opportunities to learn the Engineering Design Process (Tufts University, 2002) through coding and early programming using Lego curriculum.  Students will solve problems through designing their own solution, creating their own stories, and testing their design ideas. Story Starters, WeDo robotics kits and EV3 Mindstorms robotics kits will be resources used to teach these skills.

Social Studies curriculum aligns with the Colorado Academic Standards (CDE, 2009) and Core Knowledge (Core Knowledge Foundation, 2010). These standards are essential as a guide in developing the knowledge and skills to help students make sound judgments, understand historical and contemporary experiences/events, analyze interpersonal and global tensions, and actively participate in the complex world in which they live.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL), is a major instructional focus for every grade level and content area at the STEM School. Students take ownership of their own learning, collaborate with others, solve real-world problems using data, research and analysis. They persevere to create new and creative ideas, projects and solutions, and communicate and share ideas with real-world audiences. Problem-Based Learning requires our students to not only have a strong foundation of knowledge but to apply the learning using technology for a creative and novel solution to a relevant problem.

Even our youngest students have opportunities to solve real-world problems. For example, in a first-grade classroom, students may be designing a museum exhibit for other students through an in-depth study of the Snowmass Colorado Mastodon discovery by visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and meeting paleontologists and museum designers. Students may meet with a designer of museum exhibits to understand the elements of an effective diorama. Students then would be tasked with determining the best design of a diorama using Sketch Up (a technology component that allows for a 3D look at a plan). Colorado Academic Standards are addressed in multiple areas and the final presentation of their solutions and design ideas are presented to an expert panel of museum designers.

Another example of a Problem-Based Learning experience relevant to second-grade students includes studying the implications of the Mountain Pine Beetle in Colorado. They may visit a mountain area to collect data on the pine beetle infestation with entomologists, as well as learn about the stages of the beetle’s life cycle. They may study the beetle and analyze and the pros and cons on the ecosystem. Students use technology to record their data through pictures and video and create solutions for the new ecosystem. These solutions are designed, created, tested and are presented to a panel of experts from the National Park Service, Division of Wildlife and other stakeholders. Each student team also weighs the pros and cons of their solution to improve upon their design.

Although Problem-Based Learning experiences will vary from grade to grade, all students will participate in the process of determining real-world and relevant problems, understand essential content related to the problem at hand, design and test solutions to the problem, and present to an authentic audience.

Academic Curriculum References

BSCS. (2006). The BSCS 5E Instructional Model: Origins and Effectiveness. Online access: http://bscs.org/sites/default/files/_media/about/downloads/BSCS_5E_Full_Report.pdf

Calkins, L., et al. (2014). Units of study in opinion, information, and narrative writing: A common core workshop curriculum. Online access: http://www.heinemann.com/shared/onlineresources/E00871/UoSWResearchBase85x11.pdf

Colorado Department of Education. (2010). Colorado Academic Standards. Online access: https://www.cde.state.co.us/standardsandinstruction/GradeLevelBooks

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2016). Standards for Mathematical Practice. Online access: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Practice/

Core Knowledge Foundation. (2010). Core Knowledge Curriculum. Online access: http://www.coreknowledge.org/

NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States. Online access: http://www.nextgenscience.org/

P21. (2007). P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Online access: http://www.p21.org/

Routman, R. (2003). Reading Essentials. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Tufts University (2002). Engineering Design Process. Online access: Engineering Design Process