The Gross National Product of Running River is Love of Learning.


We believe a strong Science Education program should:

  • Foster a child’s curiosity for the natural world
  • Be hands-on and inquiry-based
  • Include the historical background of the processes of discovery in that field
  • Allow children to ask and answer their own questions
  • Contain a variety of scientific disciplines
  • Include a mixture of indoor and outdoor class time
Egg Drop Experiment from the top of NCAR

Egg Drop Experiment from the top of NCAR

Curriculum Goal:

At Running River, science will be integrated with the classroom theme curriculum. The science program will allow students to develop their connections to themselves, humanity, and the planet through hands-on scientific investigations. Our goal will be to foster a curiosity for the natural world in each student using an inquiry-based approach.

Curriculum Standards:

Grade-Level Concepts and Standards will align with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS Project 2061): Benchmarks for Science Literacy. AAAS Project 2061 was developed by 150 teachers and administrators, and their benchmarks are statements of what all students should know or be able to do in science, mathematics, and technology by the end of grades 2, 5, 8, and 12. Project 2061 promotes literacy in science, mathematics, and technology in order to help people live interesting, responsible, and productive lives.

Student Assessment and Evaluation:

Performance in science will be evaluated based upon the student’s ability to demonstrate their level of understanding of the scientific concepts taught. The teacher will determine student performance using a variety of assessment tools and techniques, such as: class participation, organization of science notebook, level of detail of recordings on assignments, ability to apply the scientific method to experiments and projects, and the student’s ability to explain their understanding of scientific concepts verbally, in writing, or using pictures.

Language Arts

At Running River we aspire to develop in children a love of language that lasts a lifetime. In every classroom teachers read award winning books or tell stories to the children that engender deep discussions, laughter, tears, questions and awakening consciousness. A love of reading begins with a love of stories or information, and by nourishing curiosity and inquiry about all aspects of life.

We use the arts to bring stories to life. We use all art mediums to illustrate stories. We have both used and made puppets and put on shows. We have made movies, performed skits, created dioramas and turned the entire playground into a reenactment. We have danced stories and put them to drumming. We have created full-length, original musicals performed by the entire school from stories they have read.

For the teaching of reading we use the Wilson Fundation program combined with other resources, in particular - children writing their own stories in kindergarten and first grade and beginning to read by reading their own creations. We also have an on-site reading specialist who works with children in need of extra support.

Children become readers by reading books they are interested which builds their confidence and interests. From an early age, children choose the books they read. Class discussions and projects, such as our all school book fair, teach all elements of literature and help students explore the riches inherent in good literature.

Running River utilizes the Common Core Standards combined with individualized assessment tools and resources to place children in appropriate reading groups in the younger grades. Concurrently they receive instruction in whole language, phonics, sight words and visual-spatial learning techniques such as acting and using clay.

In the upper grades, Shakespeare is read and performed each year. Running River is part of the Willpower Festival and performs Shakespeare each spring at C.U. with 5 other public and private schools. There are also special units, such as The Hero’s Journey, based on Joseph Campbell’s work.

All children have a voice, a story, inner experiences to put to word. Every child has the potential to express themselves competently as a writer in many different forms.

We teach handwriting using Handwriting Without Tears, and teach cursive in third grade.

Running River students are engaged in writing on a daily basis in all subject areas. This includes: creative writing; expository writing; poetry; book letters written to the teacher; spelling; practicing handwriting; explaining math solutions; writing out science experiments; or writing letters to each other to be delivered through the class post office.

Creative Writing:
Children are full of stories – that’s why we begin teaching writing in kindergarten! The younger children start the year by dictating stories to teachers and then illustrating them. They make these individual stories into books to take home to read to their families.

In every classroom we have a very dynamic process called Writer’s Workshop. Here the children learn to fully express their rich inner imaginings and life experiences. Anything they have an urge to write about is worthwhile and fuels a lifelong love of writing.

At any time during our Writer’s Workshops one can walk into a classroom and see children at any stage of the writing process: starting a new story, writing, sharing with another student, conferencing with a teacher, illustrating, editing, copying a final draft, reading over what they have written, or doing what we call an “Author’s Chair.”

As children are learning to write (and to read) we start by using their personal writing to teach these skills. Children learn writing skills by using them to improve their own writing, not by merely doing worksheets. In order to facilitate this, we use word walls, personalized spelling lists, mini-lessons to teach grammar and mechanics as well as give instruction in writing skills. We also tie reading comprehension strategies back to writing stories. We use “Author’s Chair” to encourage children to read their stories out loud to the class or to a few friends so they can learn to receive feedback and suggestions to improve their stories.

Our all school Book Fair is in April. Every child publishes a book to sell and read excerpts from with the school community.

We need poetry. We really do. Poetry promotes literacy, builds community, and fosters emotional resilience. All the children will have poetry read to them, and learn to read and write poetry – all different kinds of poetry, and poets throughout the ages, from all cultures. Yeats said this about poetry: “It is blood, imagination, intellect running together…It bids us to touch and taste and hear and see the world, and shrink from all that is of the brain only.”

Reading to the audience at the Spring Book Fair

Reading to the audience at the Spring Book Fair

Non-fiction Writing :
There has to be a purpose for children to enjoy expository writing and to improve it. It begins with writing about topics children choose. Our writing process is clear, organized and reliable so children gain confidence in the skills of paragraph and essay writing.

In 2015-16 the school focused on Joseph Campbell’s Heros Journey. Stories built on the model of the hero myth have an appeal that can be felt by everyone, because they spring from a universal source in the collective unconscious, and because they reflect universal concerns. They deal with the universal questions: Who am I? Where did I come from? Where will I go when I die? What is good and what is evil? Why am I here? What must I do about it? We kept these questions in mind as we explored the hero. The all school production integrated all the arts into a retelling of Odysseus. In K-1, Megan used her oral story telling skills with fairy tales and myths, and puppets and dress up play to recreate Hero tales. In 2nd-3rd grade, the focus was on Greek, Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology and integrating L.A. with their theme studies. The 4th-6th studied the story of Odysseus and the movie Star Wars to understand the Joseph Campbell model of the Hero. They compared and contrasted other classics, including Shakespeare, and modern literature, with the universal myths. They also be studied Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam in their study of religious law and learned how the great teachers were also heroes.


“Knowing mathematics means being able to use it in purposeful ways. To learn mathematics, students must be engaged in exploring, conjecturing, and thinking rather than only in rote learning of rules and procedures. Mathematics learning is not a spectator sport. When students construct personal knowledge derived from meaningful experiences, they are much more likely to retrain and use what they have learned. This fact underlies teachers’ new role in providing experiences that help students make sense of mathematics, to view and use it as a tool for reasoning and problem solving.”
—Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics: Executive Summary, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, March 1989, page 5

The math program at Running River School strives to help students create meaning of processes and operations through the use of manipulatives and real-world problem solving. Our method is heavily based in the constructivist approach, which suggests that children are at all times broadening their construct of the logical and symbolic world through the assimilation of new experiences, which conflict and align with previous knowledge and understanding: thus, creating new meaning.

Our Math program is called Math in Focus, by Singapore Math. Math in Focus is an authentic Singapore Math® curriculum—with problem solving as the center of math learning and concepts taught with a concrete–pictorial–abstract learning progression through real-world, hands-on experiences. We chose this math program based on its visual and project based approach to teaching math. We use many other resources to bring life, meaning, connection and practical application to our math program.

One strength of our program lies in the way math arises out of our project based learning. For example, when the Kindergarteners want to know how big dinosaurs were, we study measurement. They study length, height, and weight of dinosaur footprints, tails, and heads. They also compare and contrast with animals in their world, a pre-skill of ratio. By engaging kids emotional center, we quickly activate excitement in the brain as well.

Another strength of our program is that we give kids every opportunity we can to use math as a tool in life. We teach in a way that gets all kids excited to apply their developing skills to real life practical projects such as carpentry, gardening, cooking, and orienteering in the outdoors. Research shows that although students may be able to perform well at arithmetic computation, often they are not able to use those skills to solve problems.

A third strength of our program is our multi-age grouping. We intentionally create multi-age classrooms because peers are great teachers. When students present their findings and ideas, they are solidifying new information and teaching one another what they have learned. We are constantly challenging kids to teach one another. When kids struggle and reach out for help, we often direct them to other students. Our teachers evaluate students’ knowledge by observing the ways in which individuals and groups of students work and rework the problems together.

Finally, knowing where students are in their mathematical understanding is crucial. We use pre-assessments prior to each math concept area to place students in appropriate leveled groups. We do post assessments to gauge progress, and in addition rely heavily on the work that students are doing in their daily math work and journals. We use journals to give kids an opportunity to demonstrate their thought processes through writing and pictures, thus activating both sides of the brain. These math journals become roadmaps for the students to review the paths we’ve taken throughout the year. At Running River School students drive the instruction. Because we have such a small student : teacher ratio, we are able to tailor instruction to each individual’s needs.

Building a bridge

Building a bridge

Theme (Integrated Social Studies)

We have a spiraling, integrated theme curriculum from K-8.  We believe that if children learn history OR investigate a year long essential question (such as What is Law?) with depth and breadth, as opposed to learning some facts about many different topics, they will learn HOW TO LEARN about anything!  For example, one of our themes for our 2nd-3rd grade year is What is Community?  The children spend the year learning about Mesopotamia (from early clans up through civilization) and then Ancient Egypt.  Math, Science and Language Arts are integrated into hands on projects such as building and testing irrigation systems; grinding and cooking wheat over an outdoor fire; making model chariots and testing them; writing reports on areas of interest and mummifying potatoes and putting them in homemade coffins decorated with hieroglyphics made from plant dyes mixed with chalk!! What kid wouldn't love to learn this way?  And they know more details about these civilizations than their parents can believe.  They also use their own classroom to explore and build community, and in the spring do a special prairie dog study.

Creative Arts

We encourage children to experience the joy that comes from being able to think freely and express openly that which comes from inside of them. We use drama, music, art, movement and dance to allow children to navigate the realms of creative expression.


Children spend time making up stories and plays, playing games and acting out what we are studying. Drama is a continuously spontaneous part of the curriculum, one of the great avenues for teaching and working with children. We create an all school performance once a year. The older children are involved in writing, producing and directing these original productions. They design and build the sets and create the costumes; choreograph the dance with our dance teacher, and help write the songs. These are amazing experiences, and we know that no other school does it the way we do it (the kids call it “The Running Rive Way”). We sometimes take well known stories, such as The Wizard of Oz, and change them to express what we feel is the essence of the story. We also write completely original works. The entire process teaches the children deep comprehension of a story; team work; the power of presence and attention; acting; singing; dancing and the integration of all the arts, skills, gifts and talents of a lot of people. Go to our you tube button to see scenes from some of our productions.

In 2015 our 4th-6th graders were invited to participate in the C.U. Willpower Festival with 5 other schools. We were given 3 scenes from Much Ado About Nothing to perform at C.U. We used this as a perfect way to study Shakespeare in L.A. and the children fell in love with Shakespeare. This is now a yearly part of our L.A. and Theater curriculum.


The children, over the years, learn and experiment in every medium. In the Spring we have an art show with selections from every child’s art work. Art is an integral part of the daily class. We create learning experiences to educate children about where certain art forms originated. We work with clay directly from the earth, and make a container of some sort to hold water. We make dyes and paints from plants. We make our own paper, or find other things to write on. Art is not a separate subject, but a process we are constantly engaged in.

Music and Dance:

We have the most amazing music and dance teachers! Janet, our music teacher, is trained in classical piano and is a piano teacher, along with being a running coach. She comes once a week and teaches the children how to sing, drum, work with rhythms and perform. Our dance teacher, Lauren Beale, has her Masters from CU, and teaches dance to children and adults, as well as performs locally and nationally. The children choreograph the dances for our performances and learn to perform as a real troupe. She teaches all forms of dance, and most importantly, lets them feel confident and joyful in how they move! We also are involved with the CU Moving program, and every year visit and dance with the dance students on campus. There is always singing and dancing happening at Running River!

Physical Fitness

The skill of the 21st century: to have the tools to be confident and centered in, sensitive to and knowledgeable of your body. All children have the potential to develop this skill. We want children to develop their own physical capacities and be in touch with how good it feels to be centered in their bodies. Children learn how to stay in touch with their innate sensitivity through sensing how their bodies feel, and learning how to move, sit and walk in a way that is unified, graceful and energetic. We help children to feel integrity and strength in their bodies and thus to meet life open and confident.

We spend extended time outdoors hiking, running, jumping, climbing and being very physically active. This alone develops strength, agility, balance, and physical endurance, but we also include a skill development program taught by an experienced coach and P.E. teacher. Children learn the universal movements and skills that are the foundations for all sports. In P.E. they also play soccer, basketball, volleyball, softball and football.