Our Approach to Education

“We wanted to create a culture of thinking, a place where everyone’s thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted. In essence, a program that encourages students to fall in love with learning, because it was fresh, exciting and addictive. We did not want to make the interesting dull through the monotony of memorization and repetition, but to keep creativity and the spontaneity of learning alive through interesting activities, discussions, and academic courses. The curriculum we developed is, therefore, not the standard remix of old courses, but uniquely designed classes that engage and inspire students to want to learn more.” 
— Ed Walters, Head of School

With an emphasis on science, math, engineering, and the arts, Alta Vista School encourages students to go beyond a strong academic foundation to engage in their community, their environment, and pursue their passions.

Experiential, hands-on learning
Taking things apart can be far more illuminating than following an instruction manual. We believe that children learn best when they individually explore, touch, cause, observe, hear, consider, speak, analyze, measure, predict -- experience learning. Our teachers are empowered to teach creatively and supported through small class sizes.

Passionate about science and technology
Our approach is rooted in the scientific method. We embrace technology, innovation, and design-thinking as powerful tools for good. Technology is thoughtfully integrated into the classroom with Google Chromebooks, SMART Boards, Elmos, video cameras, digital camera, and more.

Serious play
Our teachers are passionate about their work and showcase a joy of teaching. We believe education should be filled with play and joy - and that children's minds will develop most dramatically and positively when it is.

The whole child
We focus on the whole child and recognize that school does so much more than provide an intellectual foundation. We guide our students in the discovery and pursuit of their unique talents and interests and sense of self. Beginning in lower school and culminating by middle school, our program promotes self advocacy, responsibility, accountability, and choice to to help students build resilience and self-reliance in their academic pursuits and beyond. Our middle school curriculum builds confidence and independence, with an emphasis on analytical and problem-solving skills across a variety of contexts. This foundation will serve our students well as they continue their academic pursuits, and throughout life.

Grounded in community
Equally crucial to development is learning to be inclusive, responsible, and respectful of ourselves, and the greater community that surrounds us. We ask our students to be kind, respectful, and proud of all their actions, and to take responsibility in their communities around them. This includes individual responsibility, cooperation with peers, and tools for effective and peaceful conflict resolution. We have created MindUP™, a social-emotional curriculum rooted in cognitive neuroscience that teaches students about how our brains work (anatomy and function) and how they can positively influence their own brain development. An important part of our curriculum is learning to be a contributing community member – at Alta Vista and beyond.

Everything that we do here at Alta Vista supports our larger mission; to prepare students to thrive, and to become the next generation of creative thinkers, innovators, leaders who change the world for the better.


Alta Vista School 
a forward-looking school for curious young minds
 info@altavistaschoolsf.org |  
(415) 467-3700