Welcome to the Lower School

Children form lifelong habits of learning during their earliest school years, and it is for this reason that we are committed to ensuring that our students feel enthusiastic, capable, and successful by providing a respectful and nurturing lower school community. We celebrate the rich diversity we have amongst our student body and professional community and work to foster inclusion and equity as a means to set a solid foundation for the future of our students.

Beginning in kindergarten, students learn the importance of civic purpose and the responsibility for one’s own behavior. Through guided practice students work to develop skills of collaboration, independence, and the fundamentals for a strong work ethic. The social emotional well-being of our students is central in our focus. It is fostered through skillful community building behaviors modeled and explicitly taught by our qualified teachers and professional community leaders. We understand the importance of promoting the development of social skills and the values of respect and responsibility for ourselves, for others, and for the environment. Mixed grade level “families” meet regularly to extend this work throughout the greater Head-Royce community.

The Lower School academic program provides a strong foundation of concepts and skills in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, social studies, science, art, world language, library/media, music, physical education, and technology. In all curricular areas, concepts are introduced at the concrete level and become more complex and detailed as the student’s knowledge and reasoning abilities advance. Teachers provide dynamic and innovative lessons through hands-on activities, simulations, field trips, community engagement, and multimedia projects. We differentiate our instruction to meet the needs of all students. With the addition of a learning specialist and counselor we strive to meet the needs of the whole child.


Lower School Curriculum


The Lower School art program places children at the center of their art-making choices. Students in 1st through 5th grade experience art through the TAB or “Teaching for Artistic Behavior” approach where emphasis is placed on creating artists beyond art products. Students learn artistic thinking and art-making through self-direction and personal choice. They work at their own pace, follow their own lines of inquiry, solve problems and develop skills as they need them. Because everyone is engaged in their own self-directed work, the teacher is available to work individually or in small groups to differentiate for the diverse needs of students.

Music at Head-Royce is built on the foundation of the Orff Schulwerk approach. It begins with the work of children, play! Students’ musicianship is built through the integration of music, movement, speech, and drama with inspiration from celebrations, stories, visual arts, and more. Students imitate, explore, and create with personal expression and practice the skills that they need to become confident, lifelong musicians, and creative problem solvers. Students are active music makers who sing, dance, and play recorders and pitched and un-pitched percussion instruments. They learn vocabulary, musical concepts, how to read music, and how to be engaged listeners of musical works.

4th and 5th graders at Head-Royce participate in a drama program based on the principles of ensembleship and exploration. Students learn improvisation, playwriting, creative movement and collaborative storytelling. They practice giving constructive feedback to each other and learn to respond thoughtfully as an audience to visual and performative art. Within a supportive ensemble, students learn to take risks and explore many forms of self expression including pantomime, puppetry, and mask. Through the enactment of diverse stories students expand their empathetic response to those around them and gain confidence in expressing their own voice.


Throughout their time in LS, students will encounter diversity in a myriad of ways. Through honoring our individuality and unique perspectives, learning about groups different from ourselves and truly beginning the long process of how to accept difference and see the ways in which groups have been underrepresented throughout history makes for rich curriculum and allows for our students to be seen and heard. Teachers use stories, current events, community celebrations, history, books and project based activities to dive into topics of diversity and weave it throughout our curriculum. All teachers (both specialists and homeroom) find opportunities for challenges around the areas of diversity and highlight opportunities for learning.

Many grades incorporate a diverse group of changemakers into their curriculum. Students study about what makes a changemaker; looking at obstacles faced by changemakers and how they have made a difference not just in their own community but in the world. Also taking time to honor current changemakers and changemakers in our own personal lives helps students begin to see patterns of making a difference in the world.

K-5 tackles the work of social justice in a variety of developmentally appropriate ways through picture books, discussion around equity and justice and people who have made a difference. The years of study culminate with a full social justice unit and project in 5th grade.

K-5 teachers have been trained in the implementation of the Welcoming Schools curriculum which is a project of the human rights campaign and gives a comprehensive guide of LGBTQ resources and covers family diversity, gender stereotyping and name calling.


The school's curriculum emphasizes ecological sustainability, environmental health, nutrition, personal responsibility and leadership. Environmental sustainability efforts are often reflected in community engagement activities with students participating in local stream and beach clean ups, and learning about food cultivation and helping to harvest veggies. The students also participate in garden class weekly. Recycling, reducing waste and composting are important elements that are taught to all students. Culminating garden activities include a Harvest Festival and an Earth Day celebration.

Language Arts

The language arts program begins with the introduction of reading and writing skills in kindergarten and culminates in 5th grade with independent, confident readers and writers. Instruction in the primary grades emphasizes phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension as our young students learn to decode and read. Upper elementary grades build and strengthen essential reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. A love of literacy and language infuse every classroom. Writing instruction and assignments are integrated into the reading, social studies, and science curricula. The library and technology specialists support classroom lessons.


The Lower School math program develops mathematical thinkers who can compute, problem solve and think flexibly. Skills build from year to year in each of the six strands of the math program, number sense, operations and computations, measurement and geometry, patterns and relationships, mathematical reasoning, and data analysis. Concepts are taught from concrete to abstract levels with manipulative materials, texts, workbooks and technology. Our math specialist supports differentiated instruction and enrichment by collaborating with teachers on curriculum development and working with small groups of students.

Physical Education

The Lower School physical education team has developed a robust program that meets the needs of all students. The primary curriculum comes from a group called SPARK, which is a research based program that promotes lifelong activity and wellness. The Head-Royce facilities allow our teachers to go beyond the scope of the SPARK program, with the addition of swimming, tennis, and basketball. We also bring in yoga and cross-fit training instructors to further enhance the curriculum and to ensure well balanced student growth.


The science curriculum introduces Lower School students to a variety of units in the life, physical and earth sciences. Each year brings more complexity to the skills of questioning, observing, hypothesizing and experimenting. The science resource teacher and the well-equipped science lab support classroom lessons.

Community Engagement

Community engagement is defined as "a teaching and learning approach that integrates community service with academic study to enrich learning, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities." Students engage in community engagement programs that are relevant and valuable to both participants and those being served. It is an integral part of the learning process and has direct ties to academic studies. Community engagement activities should provide opportunities for students to process their learning and evaluate the effectiveness and success of the program. Through community engagement programs, students encounter and gain appreciation for a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives. Students are active partners in the programs and have a voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating the service activities. The progress and achievements of community engagement programs are shared with education leaders, and others, to help sustain program support and high quality standards.

Social Emotional

Research shows that emotional intelligence is associated with a wide range of positive outcomes among children, including improved cognitive and social functioning, psychological well-being, and higher academic performance. A developed emotional intelligence is also associated with less stress and burnout and greater classroom satisfaction. Our own informal observations have shown that classes with higher emotional intelligence have students who are more engaged, behave in more prosocial ways, and learn better. Responsive Classroom practices are used to creative a positive community and a sense of belonging in the Lower School.

At Head-Royce our emotional intelligence, more broadly called social emotional learning (SEL) is explicitly taught in all classrooms. The key factors in a SEL program to promote success are using a comprehensive, integrated and authentic approach, which we have found in the Toolbox™. This research-based, social and emotional learning (SEL) program helps foster the “development of resilience, self-mastery, and empathy for others.” The beauty of Toolbox is that it awakens each child’s self-awareness and fosters the ability to tap into existing resources that can be applied to successful learning experiences and positive interpersonal relationships. Along with the Toolbox™ our students practice mindfulness on a regular basis.

Student Support Services

Student Support Services comprises a collaborative team of a learning specialist, counselor, nurse, and the assistant lower school head who foster the development of academic, behavioral, and social emotional well-being. Our school community is enriched by the diversity of thinkers and learners who add their talent to learning activities each day. These individuals work together with the professional community to provide a supportive learning environment, positive social skill development, and emotional balance. This collaborative model enriches the experience for all students as they journey through the Lower School.

Social Studies

The social studies curriculum develops an understanding of the components of a respectful and nurturing community. Study begins with family, friendships, and self, and gradually expands to include local, regional, and international communities. Students study the history of California and the early United States. A variety of print and Internet resources, interviews, videos, and field trips support the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of social studies, history, globalism, multiculturalism, and ecological literacy.

Technology & Design

Technology and design is integrated into all classrooms. Technology is implemented in a relevant, developmentally appropriate, and innovative progression of skills and computer science education for all Lower School students K-5. Lessons are designed to explicitly teach students how to be digital citizens and navigate tools & skills for research projects. Technology is used to promote design innovation, differentiated instruction and collaboration to best enhance student learning. A designated space, IDEA has been created to not only meet the needs of science and engineering enrichment, but also for design thinking. Applying project-­based practices, strengthen the breadth and depth of learning across the grades particularly as they relate to science, engineering and technology is also relevant at Head-Royce. Design allows for, and fosters the creative hands-on construction of prototypes in conjunction with the design thinking model of problem solving.

World Languages

The Head-Royce World Languages Department offers three languages: French, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish. In kindergarten, students sample all three languages in a twelve-week rotation before deciding on their course of study for the remaining time in Lower School.

Our team consists of a group of diverse teachers from all over the globe. Language teachers provide an interdisciplinary education, encourage critical thinking, and engage students in a variety of ways that call on multiple strengths and creative skills.

Lea Van Ness
Head of Lower School
(510) 531-1300 x2287

Leslie Powell
Assistant Head of Lower School
(510) 531-1300 x2255


Marlo Huaman
Assistant to Lower School Head
(510) 531-1300 x2518