Lower School (K-5)


How We Teach


Intentional & Diverse

Aurora staff collaborates on a curriculum focused on academic excellence, leadership, and the consideration of diverse perspectives. Our curriculum goes beyond national and state standards to teach for deep understanding and is grounded in the progressive belief that children learn best when they are involved and engaged in learning. Hands-on experience, critical thinking, and exploration of diverse perspectives and approaches are part of everything we do. Units of study are integrated across content areas, with social studies at the center. Our curriculum is designed to be student-centered and developmentally appropriate. 

We evaluate students’ progress through formal and informal assessments, collecting schoolwide reading, writing, and math data to inform our teaching practices and support our students’ achievement. Parents receive detailed progress reports and attend parent-teacher conferences twice a year, to ensure they are well informed and involved in their children's academic experience. Students in upper grades practice test-taking skills to be prepared for standardized testing. 

Lower School Curriculum


Social Studies

Essential questions provide the base for a year of deep exploration and discovery. Field trips around the Bay Area and beyond extend our students' learning. Service learning projects inspired by social studies units vary from year to year. For example, students learning about Oakland may study the houseless epidemic and then create a project to help the unhoused. Other students might educate the community on water pollution after studying the science of water. Aurora students learn to see themselves as empowered citizens who know they can make positive change.


We believe that children are natural born scientists who are always inquiring, investigating, formulating, and reformulating their ideas about how the world works. We strive to cultivate a sense of wonder about the natural world using the FOSS curriculum from the Lawrence Hall of Science. These science explorations provide our students with hands-on units of study, with field trips and experiential learning.



Math at Aurora is taught by grade level. K-5 students use  The Bridges in Mathematics curriculum, which creates a strong conceptual understanding of mathematical thinking and creates the essential foundation for deeper learning into middle school.

Language Arts

We use the Writing and Reading Workshop model, along with a combination of phonics and meaning-based strategies. Students progress from learning to read in grades K/1 and transition to reading to learn. As they develop their craft and their voice, Aurora students understand that their words can be powerful agents of change whether they come in the form of a story, a poem, or a speech. Students experience the process of writing as professional authors do, from drafting to editing to publishing. Families are invited into the classroom at the end of each writing unit for publishing parties.


Social-Emotional Learning

A primary goal for all Aurora is to develop and sustain a respectful, cooperative, and supportive environment that supports learning and independent thinking. Aurora uses the Open Circle Social Emotional Program, an evidence-based social-emotional learning curriculum. This innovative program develops children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, self-awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. and helps build communities where students feel safe, cared for and engaged in learning.

Integrated Art

Throughout the year, lower school students deepen their understanding of their social studies unit through what we call “integrated art”. During integrated art, the art teacher and classroom teachers collaborate to take the students on a four-day thematic learning journey that empowers them to express what they've learned with art.


Social Justice

Aurora employs Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards, a road map for anti-bias education at every grade level. The Social Justice Standards are a set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes which provide a common language and organizational structure. Our teachers use them to guide curriculum development, and all of our staff are trained in Restorative Justice practices to model and use in conflict resolution.

Multi-Grade Classrooms

Each of our Lower School classrooms combines two grades: K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 students share learning spaces for most classes and have the same teacher for two years. Studies have shown looping with the same teacher for more than one year results in stronger relationships and better learning outcomes. This also enables older students to serve as mentors for their younger peers, who have a chance to model leadership and empathy when they become mentors the next year. Our curricula are on a two-year rotation so that no lessons are repeated.

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