Educational Philosophy & Curriculum

Our Vision Statement

We are a community of mighty thinkers and doers. We value each learner as an active participant on a personal journey toward success. We seek to understand ourselves and work together to impact our families, our community, and the world.

Educational Philosophy

clark_classroomAt University Park, we are committed to nurturing the whole child. Our teachers are lifelong learners with training to differentiate their instruction, challenging gifted students while ensuring success for all.  Our instructional team collaborates to identify student strengths and needs, and then works collaboratively to ensure a comprehensive, targeted approach to teaching and learning. Physical fitness, wellness, the arts, and technology are integral and valued parts of our educational experience.  At University Park, we love learning and foster a caring community built on respect, responsibility, and cooperation.

At University Park we are a caring community of learners. . .

  • Our neighborhood school enjoys a longstanding, working partnership with our neighbor, the University of Denver.
  • We value cultural and linguistic diversity, and we are proud to have students from around the world among our learning community.
  • About 40% of our students “choice-in” to our school.
  • We focus on social emotional learning and character building, with an emphasis on UPark’s five core values of caring, cooperation, responsibility, respect, and joy.
  • Our dedicated parents and community members participate in all levels of our children’s education, from helping in our classrooms to aiding our leadership team in making executive decisions through the Collaborative School Committee (CSC) and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

…who are respectful and responsible.

  • Older students mentor younger students in reading, art, and other programs.
  • Our six core character values are highlighted every day with our Owl Tickets and morning announcements, weekly with our Owl Tickets photos, and monthly during our Wise Owl Assemblies.

upark2014-60We share a love of discovery. . .

  • Students receive instruction in visual arts, drama, and music every week. Our annual Art Night encourages families to be creative together, and all of our students participate in musical / drama performance. 
  • Our full time librarian supports a love of reading and teaches research skills using both books and technology.
  • All students attend physical education twice a week, and our full-time PE teacher instills a love of movement and an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle. Our Wellness Program also encourages and supports healthy eating and physical activity both at school and home, and earned us Denver Post recognition as the “healthiest school in Denver.”
  • We are one to one blended learning school! All K-1 students have access to their own iPad and students in grades 2-5 are each assigned their own Chromebook.
  • Gifted and Talented: Our GT teacher works with teachers to develop high-quality, differentiated instruction and a challenge program. Our GT instruction rivals offerings at magnet schools with programming running Monday through Thursday every week.
  • Our UPark Band program provides opportunities for 4th and 5th graders to explore their musical talents.
  • Neighborhood Center: Approximately 30 paid before and after school enrichment classes each trimester, with scholarships available. Enrichment classes include theater, painting, sculpting, STEM, coding, robotics, cooking, chess, fencing, karate, Spanish, Mandarin, dance, songwriting, tennis, and more!
  • Discovery Link: Tuition-based before and after-school licensed childcare for our students.
  • English Language Acquisition Program: Ten different languages, including Mandarin, Arabic, French, and Spanish, are spoken by UPark second language learners. We celebrate our cultural and linguistic diversity with our annual Multicultural Night.

. . . and take joy in our journey.

  • Our PTA generously donates a lump sum to the school’s budget every year which helps us with our goal of keeping class sizes as small as possible.
  • Festivities include school supply drop-off and family picnic night, back-to-school night, the Fall Fun Run & Carnival, Multicultural Night, Band Night, grade level art shows, Art Night, musical and drama performances for every grade level, teacher appreciation lunches, and much more!
  • We celebrate student achievement and celebrate our core values by honoring students from every class during our monthly Wise Owl Assemblies.


Reading and Writing

Each classroom implements a reader’s and writer’s workshop in which students receive direct instruction in whole group, small groups, and independent practice. These targeted instruction models allow our teachers to meet each student’s individual needs in order to reach or surpass grade level expectations. Students read and write a variety of genres each year. We nurture a love of reading and writing through modeling and providing authentic opportunities for students to express themselves. We have many teachers trained in Orton Gillingham as well as other phonics programs. We have a balanced approach to using keyboards as well as handwriting during writing instruction.

everydaymathMath: Bridges (K-1) and Engage New York w/ Zearn Online (2-5)

These programs emphasize the application of mathematics to real world situations. Numbers, skills, and mathematical concepts are not presented in isolation, but are linked to situations and contexts that are relevant to everyday lives. Each lesson includes time for whole-group instruction as well as small group, partner, or individual activities. These activities balance teacher-directed instruction with opportunities for open-ended, hands-on explorations with manipulatives, long-term projects, and on-going practice. Throughout the curriculum students are encouraged to explain and discuss their mathematical thinking, in their own words.

Mystery Science and Inquiry

Students become engaged in the process of scientific inquiry and technological design by asking questions, conducting investigations, using tools, finding evidence, keeping reflective journals, and sharing their evidence and ideas. Students learn to work together as reliable members of a scientific team–a great way to make sure everybody in the group is involved and successful. We incorporate Mystery Science, which is designed for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We cover key performance expectations for K-5 science. The experiment-based modules also encourage independent inquiry through which students find answers to their own questions. Examples include: “What’s that red thing on the turkey?”; and “Why is gravity different on different planets?”. Within each lesson, students check their own understanding individually or with their team and are engaged in hands-on learning.

Social Studies and Community Advocacy

Social Studies Alive! is a program integrating hands-on active learning, achieving a consistent pattern of high quality social studies instruction, while being mindful of standards. Assignments, involving multiple intelligences and higher-order thinking skills, challenge students to apply what they’ve learned. Students have opportunities to synthesize and apply the information they have learned in a variety of creative ways. At UPark, social studies is a key component of our school-wide vision of affecting the world around us.

Gifted and Talented Program

At UPark, we have a Gifted and Talented teacher who works four days per week with classroom teachers and small groups of students to ensure our gifted and high-achieving students continue to be challenged. In cooperation with classroom teachers, the Gifted and Talented teacher develops an individualized Advanced Learning Plan for each identified gifted student. Gifted and high-achieving students have the opportunity to participate in four unique cross-school challenges throughout the year. We also have Semantics and Math Olympiad teams as additional opportunities for students.

Reading Intervention

Students who are achieving below grade level in reading receive additional small-group instruction to further support the core instruction. The goal of intervention is to accelerate students’ progress and provide them targeted instruction. Intervention varies in duration, frequency, and size in order to meet the needs of each learner. Intervention provides additional opportunities for students to connect reading and writing while building foundational skills.


At UPark, our Special Education Team is comprised of two Mild/Moderate Special Education Teachers, and Affective Needs Teacher, School Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist, Occupational Therapist, School Nurse and three SPED para-educators. This multi-disciplinary team helps support students who are identified as being eligible for special education services. The team provides services in a variety of environments which are designed to meet the needs of each unique student. Services can be provided in a small group setting, or through an inclusive approach, such as co-teaching within the general education classroom. The inclusion model ensures our students with disabilities have opportunities to learn alongside their peers. Inclusive education is our primary focus as it values diversity and the unique contribution each student brings to the classroom. 

Our Affective Needs classrooms are self-contained classrooms for students with emotional disabilities that provide a strong emphasis on affective education, academics, and social skills programming. Emphasis is on replacing inappropriate behaviors with more socially acceptable ones. They offer a highly structured environment with individualized behavior management strategies and plans exist within these center classrooms.

English Language Acquisition (ELA)

We typically have 10 or more languages spoken at UPark during any given year. We have two teachers who provide pull-out, small group dedicated English instruction for our multilingual student body. Each of our classroom teachers is ELA-E certified to provide language acquisition support for all students. We also have a native language tutor who speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, and English, supporting our myriad of students from China as well as other students needing language support. This makes UPark a wonderful place of cultural and linguistic diversity, which is celebrated each year during our Multicultural Night.

Music and Drama

All students at UPark attend both music and drama each week. They begin their year participating in name and ensemble building games. Students in Kindergarten through 2nd Grade then learn about the four voices (shout, sing, talk, whisper), engage in finger plays, circle singing games, and echo songs. Third through 5th graders learn stage directions. All students rehearse for and participate in an annual grade level performance. Other major content explored throughout the year is as follows:

  • Kindergarten: Dramatic Play, Sounds of Music, Musical Detectives,  Carnival of the Animals
  • 1st Grade: Dramatic Play, Musical Detectives, My Many Colored Days
  • 2nd Grade: Storytelling Games, Picto-Prompt Scenes, Instrument Families of the Orchestra, Peter and the Wolf Unit, Musical Explorers Curriculum through DU (includes culminating concert)
  • 3rd Grade: Fairy Tale Plays, Recorder Karate
  • 4th Grade: Improvisation Games, Short and Scary Plays, Pictures at an Exhibition Unit, Modern Band Unit, Citywide Elementary Choir Concert
  • 5th Grade: Tableaus, Open Scenes, Spirituals Unit, Blues Unit, DPS Shakespeare Festival, Modern Band Unit, Citywide Elementary Choir Concert

Visual Art

All students in grades K through 5 attend art every week.  During this time, students create works of art with intent and purpose that have personal and symbolic meanings that connect to the world through history, math, science and literature.  Students reflect on the meaning and connections in their art as well as their artistic choices. Students have the opportunity to explore and use various media and processes such as acrylic and tempera paints, watercolors, pastels, paper mâché, collage, batik, pottery and weaving.

Student art work is displayed throughout the school building on a regular basis, and families are invited to attend grade level Art Shows. Additionally, each January our school community comes together for Art Night, where families are invited to explore their creativity together at a variety of art stations.


In the University Park Elementary School Library, our focus is on supporting and growing the student’s love of reading. In kindergarten and first grade we concentrate on getting to know the school library, understanding book care, and the elements of a book, as well as to how to choose a just right book from our shelves. In 2nd through 5th grade, we highlight using specific technology that reinforces the use of e-books and audio books, non-fiction databases for research, and discovering how to use the Dewey Decimal System to find the perfect book, piece of research, or data set.

Physical Education

University Park offers a quality physical education program that helps all students develop health-related fitness, physical competence, cognitive understanding, and positive attitudes about physical activity so that they can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.  Our PE program is based on standards driven instruction with a psychomotor, cognitive, and affective emphasis.  Some of the types of activities we include in our curriculum are teamwork and cooperation games, skills related to team and individual sports, health related fitness, dance, and balance and tumbling skills.


Fourth and 5th grade students at UPark have the opportunity to participate in our band as a before school enrichment program through Big As Life Music. Over 60 students receive twice per week instruction in woodwinds, brass, and percussion. Both beginning and intermediate band are offered. University of Denver Lamont School of Music and Metropolitan State University students serve as sectional leaders throughout the year.

In addition to weekly practice, students participate in winter and spring concerts, perform at the school Fun Run, take a field trip to Metro, perform at a University of Denver sporting event, and participate in other performance opportunities in the community. 

The school has nearly 60 instruments that are maintained by the PTA. These instruments are available for UPark band students to use throughout the school year for a low-cost rental fee, and scholarships are also available. 


  • Small classes between 20-22 students in 2019-2020
  • Paraprofessionals in each classroom
  • Each student has daily access to an iPad to support instruction
  • Arts are integrated into core instruction
  • Students become readers with small group and one-on-one instruction targeting individual needs
  • Literature rich environment with opportunities to reread and dramatize quality books and express connections through art
  • Students become authors, exploring their own lives and experiences through writing
  • Math instruction and exploration through games and the use of real-world materials
  • Students have voice and choice during Daily 5 Literacy centers

1st Grade

  • Small classes around 26 students in 2019-2020
  • All teachers are guided reading trained and deliver targeted small group reading instruction
  • Daily 5 promotes learning through voice and choice
  • Flexible seating in every classroom
  • Each student has daily access to an iPad to support instruction
  • Science projects and units of animals, properties, and weather
  • Emphasis on building friendships and community
  • Denver Zoo field trip connected to life science unit
  • Use of technology to publish research online

2nd Grade

  • Small classes of around 24 students in 2019-2020
  • Personalized learning inventory
  • Goal setting aimed at fostering a growth mindset in all students
  • Developmental flexible seating
  • Community service project to collect stuffed animals for the Child Rescue Foundation
  • Reading Buddies with UPark third graders
  • Environmentally friendly geography balloon launch
  • Cultural heritage and author study projects
  • Community walking field trips

3rd Grade

  • Small classes of around 24 students in 2019-2020
  • Differentiated activities for learning styles and needs
  • Flexible Seating 
  • Blended learning with Chromebooks 
  • Genesee hiking trip
  • Hatching chicks from eggs 
  • Three-D printing opportunities
  • Geography Across the USA study
  • Read to Feed Annual Service Learning Project

4th Grade

  • Small classes of around 24 students in 2019-2020
  • Each student is assigned their own Chromebook.
  • Differentiated learning for students based on learning styles and needs
  • Personalized learning with interest based activities
  • Young AmeriTowne field trip
  • Coding opportunities using and Scratch
  • STEM Activities, including the Annual 4th Grade Egg Drop
  • Financial Literacy, math, and science enrichment using Everfi
  • Curiosity Projects

5th Grade

  • Small classes of around 23 students in 2019-2020
  • Extension activities for accelerating learning
  • Flexible Seating
  • Each student is assigned their own Chromebook
  • Genius Hour / Shark Tank Projects
  • DPS Shakespeare Festival
  • Young AmeriTowne field trip
  • Balarat Outdoor Education overnight field trip
  • Create own math board games
  • Student Council

If you are looking for a caring learning community where students come first, join us at University Park Elementary School! Schedule a tour!