In dynamic classrooms, our students develop academic and problem-solving skills and engage in exciting explorations and hands-on experiences. Our environment fosters creativity, resilience, and self-efficacy.

Our students are at home at Nueva. They bring their whole selves, follow their passions, and feel a strong sense of belonging in our community.

Hallmarks of the Lower School

Students are:

  • Listened to, trusted, and empowered to affect their learning
  • Known and understood
  • Connected to nature through our working garden, forts, and forested trails
  • Independent and collaborative
  • Resilient, self-reliant, and supported through our social-emotional learning curriculum

Learning is:

  • Deeply intellectual with many points of entry and no ceilings
  • Open-ended and child-centered
  • Full of rich arts experiences such as drama, visual arts, creative play, chorus, instrumental lessons, and the Menuhin-Dowling Performance Program
  • Enhanced with curriculum-based grade-level study trips
  • Collaborative through cross-grade opportunities
A Nueva student uses her magnifying glass to examine a small slide


PreKindergarten: Human Body, Cars, Transformation
Kindergarten: Mystery, Evolution of Flight, BIG History
First Grade: Building, Community Partner Connections
Second Grade: Immigration
Third Grade: Cultures, Ancient Egypt, Farmers' Market
Fourth Grade: The Path of the Hero

At its heart, the Lower School is a place where children still climb trees and build forts in the woods, compose original music, write and stage their own plays, and build robots and machines that perform all sorts of tasks. We encourage students’ questions and inquiries and foster their curiosity.


Why Should You Choose a Gifted Program?

We believe it is essential that young gifted children are in a learning environment that celebrates their gifts and understands their specialized needs. Young gifted learners insatiably curious with an innate passion for life and learning.

Because they are young and often have capacities beyond their years, the youngest gifted students have the most asynchronous development and can be the most vulnerable. When their gifts are not supported or nurtured, their questions not welcomed, or their needs not met, they quickly learn to hide their gifts and thus don't reach their full potential.

Nueva is the ideal environment for children who love to learn and don’t want to hide it, a place where the gifts of mind and spirit are cultivated in an inspirational environment of mutual respect. We understand that giftedness is more than intellect: Nueva teachers are experts in feeding students' need for intellectual challenge while addressing their social-emotional and physical needs.

Our Lower School program is designed to teach to their many strengths as well as their growing edges, providing a level of differentiation unavailable in a traditional school environment.

Learn About Gifted Education


Annemarie Roeper
Author, Educational Consultant, and Activist for gifted children

"Giftedness is a greater awareness, a greater sensitivity, and a greater ability to understand and transform perceptions into intellectual and emotional experiences."

The Nueva Way at the Lower School

The excitement of discovery and exploration comes to life within the classroom and across the sprawling Hillsborough campus. With teachers as their guides, Lower School students are offered intellectual challenges that ignite their passion for learning.

In Lower School, learning takes place through thematic studies, and faculty shape the student-centered curriculum aligned with The Nueva Way philosophy. Teachers and students choose these themes collaboratively. Students have an important voice in the classroom and school community, and teachers have the freedom to craft curriculum that captivates their students’ interests. Invited to think critically and to ask why, students become truly excited about learning. 

Students apply high-level thinking skills, forming the foundation for lifelong learning. Our faculty are thoughtful and collaborative planners, weaving together humanities, math, sciences, and the arts into intricate, thematic curricula, all the while ensuring that students acquire essential academic skills at each grade.


Social-Emotional Learning: the Foundation of Our Culture

Gifted learners have deep attention and instincts, and can also be highly perceptive and sensitive. Our teachers are attuned to their social and emotional needs, guiding their development as they navigate each day. Our Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) program, a foundational pillar, is infused throughout our program, with faculty and Social-Emotional Learning specialists teaching and modeling practices that develop student awareness of self and others.

The important work of Social-Emotional Learning begins as soon as students arrive on campus, and is part of a student’s life in and out of the classroom. As in all three divisions, Lower School SEL occurs through formal instruction, integration in other subjects and activities, partnership with parents, and responsive support. SEL specialist and classroom teachers help students successfully work through challenges common at each developmental level.

Design Thinking and Engineering Are Built on a Foundation of Empathy

Design Thinking – empathy-centered design – asks students to put themselves into someone else’s shoes in order to understand their needs and create meaningful solutions. This gives students tools and mindsets to embrace new challenges, unleash creativity, and develop a strong sense of self-efficacy, all starting from a place of empathy.

And because developing empathy in our students is a core principle of our foundational Social-Emotional Learning program, the overlap creates natural synergies, building students’ capacity to look beyond themselves.

At Nueva, teachers creatively integrate Design Thinking into their curriculum and projects in ways that are developmentally appropriate for each age group. As early as PreK and across the grades, students cycle through the full process, and zero in on a particular element, e.g., brainstorming, growing their repertoire of skills. By fourth grade, they embark on a full-scale, 16-week Design Thinking challenge to build an LED lamp for someone in their lives who needs light.

Last year, the first grade students used Design Thinking in their Community Partner Project and collaboratively developed this definition:

First Grade Students

"Design Thinking is thinking about someone or something, using empathy and kindness, to brainstorm and prototype a solution for them."

Global Citizenship Starts in Lower School

Equipping our students with the tools, empathy, and confidence to become responsible global stewards begins in PreK, where students launch inquiries into their environment and community.

From their first days on campus, we foster good citizenship, community awareness, and democracy. Our Lower School students are introduced to these concepts by first thinking locally, beginning with their classroom, classmates, and their families. In ever-increasing boundaries as they grow, this initial orientation of incorporating the external world into their lives expands.

Students PreK-fourth grade are active community members, attending meetings where they initiate campus improvements and support the needs of their classmates. They are are stewards of our spaces, empowered to take ownership of how we use our resources, being mindful about our handling of food and waste, and advocate for reducing our footprint. They frequently draw upon their SEL skills as they develop awareness of their needs and their impacts on others.

Learn More

Parents Are Essential

At Nueva, parents are our partners, playing an integral role and participating in the educational process. The early elementary school years are a particularly unique time for parents as they come to understand the needs of their gifted child. To assist, we provide resources and extensive parent education, and we offer a welcoming and inclusive community where parents are immediately connected to a cohort that supports one another.

Parents are invited to be involved in the daily life of the school in ways that are personally meaningful to them by leading classroom experiences, like leading a Lit Club and providing important feedback about how the learning comes home.

Lower School Nueva News

Snapshots: Lower School Trips

Students in first through fourth grade had exciting overnight adventures with their classmates and teachers! From nature journaling to hiking, pitching a tent and cleaning up after a camping meal, Lower School students took their learning and community building outdoors.

Snapshots: Lower School

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, the Lower School halls were alive with the sounds of music and laughter. As part of Spirit Week, students dressed in their coziest pajamas and carried beloved stuffed animals. Throughout the Hillsborough campus, Lower School students could be found doing acrobatic movements, creating innovative LED art, getting lost in the world of books, and more. Join us on a walk through the Lower School!

Snapshots: Lower School

The halls were abuzz on this week as Lower School students could be heard singing, playing, reading, and calculating! We invite you to learn more about a variety of class activities below.

Photo Walk Series: A Day in the Lower School

This Wednesday, lower school students could be seen seeking mittens in the woods, creatively imitating animals in the ballroom, measuring their teachers on the lawn, and soldering wires in the I-Lab. We invite you to learn more about a variety of lower school class activities.

Our Photo Walk Series aims to provide the community with a snapshot in time—a celebration of work being done across grade levels, content areas, and divisions.

Stop-motion Animation Project Brings Mali Empire Study to Life

In a project that combines art, movement, and theater, third grade students are telling stories of the Mali Empire through stop-motion animation, a sophisticated art form that challenges students to plan out their thoughts, work collaboratively, and use new-to-them technological tools.

Building a Present Tense of the Ohlone People

Second graders spent weeks researching the Ramaytush Ohlone to understand their culture, history, and impact on the land before culminating their learning by writing their own land acknowledgements and turning them into posters to be displayed around the Hillsborough campus.