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Academics at ECS

At Emerald City School we believe that education should be a transformative experience. Academic interests should be kindled and developed, while areas of challenge may be strengthened so that they never present a roadblock to success. 

The foundation of our academic program comes from a deep understanding that each student learns differently and can learn. Thus, we use diverse curricula that develops students’ core skills and knowledge for college and career success. We optimize learning by small classes size, evidence-based pedagogies, explicit skill instruction, and clear learning objectives.



We are focus on experiential learning, which involves the metacognitive constructs of learning (e.g., such as the concept of transfer, which is the ability to take skills from one setting and use them in another). Often experiential learning includes hands-on learning. Experiential learning, however, is not synonymous with hands-on learning. Hands on learning is a piece of the pie, but in isolation it lacks the metacognitive characteristics of experiential learning. Our students need to have access to skills in a continuum from explicit to implicit instructions in order to master new skills. Students that learn differently often need help with making connections, retrieving background knowledge and storing new knowledge. Thus, part of our praxis involves working on a fluid continuum from direct and targeted instruction to experiential learning.

Theory of Mind

“Children with more developed theories of mind are better able to participate in social relationships. These children can engage in more sensitive, cooperative interactions with other children and are less likely to resort to aggression as a means of achieving goals.” Amy Nathanson, PhD.

Research indicates that television exposure reduces Theory of Mind in children (i.e., weaker understanding of peoples beliefs and desires) and reduces cognitive development (Nathanson, A., 2013).

A critical part of growth is the development of Theory of Mind (ToM), which is the ability to take the perspective of another person.  Executive functions represent a precursor of ToM and ToM understanding predicts the development of executive functions, and a children’s level of verbal ability and their working memory are important predictors of performance on both executive functioning and ToM tasks theoretically important relationships among determinants of young children’s cognitive development.  The development of Theory of Mind is for our students is imperative to long-term success, and thus at ECS we incorporate ToM in our instruction by using mental state verbs in everyday routines, link concrete objects with mental state verbs, talking about past experiences and upcoming events, and we name the mental states as they happen.

Emerald City School is currently serving Upper Elementary through High School, grades 3-12, in the following subjects:

The English Language Arts (ELA) Department makes every effort to differentiate instruction in order to present a well-rounded whole-literary curriculum; introducing students to a range of classic and contemporary texts. Students are taught to become active readers and critical thinkers who can engage with literature on a deeper level. An understanding of the writing process is emphasized in each grade, and teachers reinforce the reading comprehension strategies curriculum being taught across all subjects
We are dedicated to providing math instruction that makes sense to students with learning differences. During math class, we focus on the concrete-representational-abstract sequence of instruction. Students see the real-world application of math concepts, then break those concepts down into understandable steps. Students learn that selecting and applying the correct math processes to a given problem is just as important as arriving at the correct answer. In order to build math confidence, we also encourage math fact fluency through programs like Rocket Math. Finally, students are assigned intensive math interventions to master specific skills.
In technology class, Emerald City School teaches students homekey typing, how to use the Microsoft Office software suite, and how to conduct internet research. We also teach Digital Citizenship through Common Sense Media, a program which highlights the importance of internet safety, privacy, and the dangers of cyberbullying.
Emerald City School is honored to participate in a collaborative Fine Arts program with the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop), just two blocks from our location in central Seattle. Every week, our students participate in a wide variety of Fine Arts classes taught by professional creative artists. This year, our students have explored the magic of puppetry, dance, and the Japanese graphic literary artform known as Manga. We look forward to learning all we can from the amazing art programs offered at the MoPop.


Essential to a student’s success in school, as well as in the workforce, is his or her ability to think critically.

Higher order thinking skills such as problem-solving, application, synthesis, and evaluation are fundamental to students’ intellectual growth.  ECS has the expectation that students engage in high levels of cognitive work as often as possible during instructional time. Students have multiple opportunities per class period to complete tasks that are cognitively demanding.

Language deficits, learning disabilities and limited knowledge of subject matter should not restrict students. Critical thinking is a vital component to 21st century skills and the foundation of our academic standards.

At ECS we are replacing the kinds of rote memorization techniques that long dominated the American education landscape because our mission is to teach students the kinds of skills that will serve them well in the real world. Our teachers urge our students to dig deeper into the material they are studying and mine it for the profound lessons that mark critical thinking as such an important part of overall learning.

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