Music, Visual Arts, Theater
Students attend music class twice a week for at least 30 minutes per session. During class students explore musical genres through rhythm, melody and instruments. The goal of the music program is to provide each student with a foundation to learn the fundamentals of music by studying the following musical elements: structure, timing, timbre, melodic sequence and rhythmic syncopation.
Using the arts to form a rich and varied learning environment for students is an integral part of Spruce Street School. The goal of the Visual Arts program is for students to learn how to connect ideas, materials and techniques as they create artwork, with an emphasis on helping students to see themselves as artists. Students share the art studio to develop creativity, practice learned techniques, and build an understanding of the fundamental elements of art: line, shape, color, and texture.
All students perform class plays for the school community. Our integrated curriculum approaches theater as a way to explore history, culture, language, movement, music, and costume/set/prop fabrication. Teachers often work with outside actors, directors, choreographers and designers as a part of the process. Each level has its own artist-in-residence budget to support these experiences.
Community Connected Classroom
Children at Spruce Street School utilize downtown resources and infrastructure - libraries, parks, museums, transportation, and businesses - to anchor their learning in real world settings that are literally at the school's doorstep.
Parks and Playgrounds
Cascade Park is a ten-minute walk from Spruce Street School, and includes a playground, a playfield, ball court, and well-established p-patch. All students and teachers walk to Cascade Park every Friday afternoon to enjoy the big grass field, the tall climbing structure, or examine the insects in the garden. Spruce Street School is also within walking distance or a short bus ride to numerous other parks and playgrounds, and our summer camp program visits them frequently.
Denny Triangle is a small, eclectic, urban neighborhood located just north of downtown Seattle and south of Lake Union. It is home to a mix of educational, residential, commercial, government, and light industrial organizations, including Cornish College of the Arts, Antioch College, the Washington Braille Library, the Federal Courthouse, Morningside Academy, Seattle Children’s Research Center and the Seattle Police Department. The neighborhood is undergoing dramatic and rapid development, providing vibrant and dynamic surroundings for our school community. Convenient access to city buses and the Seattle Streetcar make Seattle's downtown a natural part of the school's resources.
Every year our oldest level students interview individuals from the community that surrounds Spruce Street School which they then publish in a magazine we call the Community Connector. Click here to read the 2021 edition.
Four times during the year, children from each of the core classrooms meet together in mixed-aged groups (ages 5-11) to explore topics offered by the faculty and staff. Each series of Electives meets twice a week for three weeks. These Electives foster learning between students and strengthen the bonds within the student community.
Science, Social Studies, Theme
Children at Spruce Street School encounter real world learning situations where multiple subjects are combined to broaden understanding of an activity. Each year students experience this interdisciplinary learning through a theme chosen by teachers. Themes are designed to be broad enough to encompass all content areas, and unique enough to give a specific lens through with to learn. Each multi-age level has its own theme for the year.
The arts, sciences, social studies, and basic skills all interplay in our students’ education. This interdisciplinary approach prepares children for holistic lifelong learning rather than compartmentalized training in discrete subjects. Science and social studies give our students the opportunity to experience life rather than simply learn about it.
Main features of integrated curriculum are:
- A combination of subjects
- An emphasis on projects
- Sources that go beyond textbooks
- Relationships among concepts
- Thematic units as organizing principles
- Flexible schedules
- Flexible student groupings
Scientific studies at Spruce Street School foster the belief that science is a vital means of solving problems and making the world a better place. Students grow to see themselves as curious and competent scientists, who observe the environment around them and seek explanations. As active participants in a community of scientists, they collaborate in investigations and share questions and conclusions. They are critical scientific thinkers who listen actively to others’ ideas and evaluate the validity of their conclusions. They are intellectually honest scientists, ready to reexamine their beliefs and assumptions based on the results of their own investigations or the arguments and conclusions of others.
The yearly theme is tied directly to at least one domain of science (earth, life or physical) and all students focus on each domain at least twice during their six years of elementary school. Read more about science at Spruce Street School.
Language Arts and Math
Our highly differentiated approach to reading, writing and math provides children with a firm foundation for their future intellectual adventures. Our teachers employ a variety of approaches to address different learning styles and build on our students’ strengths. Skills instruction and practice are integrated with the study of arts and sciences to give students a rich context in which to learn.
We believe all children can learn, and we neither require testing prior to admission to Spruce Street School nor do we use standardized tests to evaluate academic growth. A child's progress is assessed through demonstration of competency in realistic situations from daily life and reported to parents through qualitative narratives and continua. Annual assessment includes two written reports, two continua, math benchmarks, reports from specialist teachers, and two parent conferences. Teachers are available throughout the year for additional conferences.
In addition, the school has a series of math benchmarks for each multi-age level. These benchmarks are based on Common Core Math Standards.
We believe that physical activity is an important part of the educational program. In addition to recess every day, children attend physical education classes twice each week. During class, students participate in vigorous aerobic exercise, stretch their major muscle groups, practice sportsmanship and perform calisthenics. The goal of the physical education program is to help students develop the skill, knowledge and attitudes necessary for participating in active, healthy living.
The goal of the Spanish program is to give students the opportunity to listen to and speak Spanish in an encouraging environment that will instill in them a desire to learn a second language. Maintaining a Spanish dialogue in the classroom gives children an opportunity to practice learned vocabulary and new phrases. The use of songs, games, and notebooks contribute to expanding students’ basic reading, writing, and comprehension skills. Students enjoy learning Spanish through the music, art and food of Spanish speaking cultures. Remembering to say gracias, por favor, and de nada is an important part of each day.
In addition to academic progress, children at Spruce Street School benefit from time dedicated to developing social and emotional skills. A supportive peer environment comes from conscious commitment. Students learn empathy, impulse control, anger management, and conflict resolution through the Second Step programs. This program is the cornerstone of our commitment to build a community that encourages individual differences and reduces the effect of peer pressure and cliques. Each and every member of the community is taught to take responsibility for his/her own behavior, to give and receive help graciously, and to be respectful of differences. We teach children (through curriculum and modeling) to recognize and respect their own feelings and the feelings of others. We emphasize collaboration in work and play. We teach and make use of conflict resolution skills in daily school life.
Children take these skills into the wider community, where they are expected to be good urban stewards, sharing parks, buses and the sidewalk with our neighbors. Students also engage in service projects. Service learning is integrated into the curriculum.