Why Santiago STEAM Magnet?

What is STEAM?

What is STEAM?

STEAM logo

STEAM Education focuses on integrating each element (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Mathematics into highly engaging projects that not only address our California Standards, but prepare students with the skills necessary for college and careers of the future. Students in our high-level STEAM school will work actively to solve problems, take ownership of their learning, and apply content in real-world contexts.

What is High-Quality Project Based Learning?

Santiago STEAM Magnet will focus on High Quality Project Based Learning to drive instruction throughout the day.

Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge. In Gold Standard PBL, projects are focused on student learning goals and include Essential Project Design Elements:

  • Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills - The project is focused on student learning goals, including standards-based content and skills such as critical thinking/problem solving, communication, collaboration, and self-management.
  • Challenging Problem or Question - The project is framed by a meaningful problem to solve or a question to answer, at the appropriate level of challenge.
  • Sustained Inquiry - Students engage in a rigorous, extended process of asking questions, finding resources, and applying information.
  • Authenticity - The project features real-world context, tasks and tools, quality standards, or impact – or speaks to students’ personal concerns, interests, and issues in their lives.
  • Student Voice & Choice - Students make some decisions about the project, including how they work and what they create.
  • Reflection - Students and teachers reflect on learning, the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of student work, obstacles and how to overcome them.
  • Critique & Revision - Students give, receive, and use feedback to improve their process and products.
  • Public Product - Students make their project work public by explaining, displaying and/or presenting it to people beyond the classroom.

*From the Buck Institute for Education


Take a look at our Santiago STEAM Magnet Flyer!


On January 23, 2018, Saddleback Valley Unified School District approved Santiago Elementary to become a STEAM Magnet school for the 2018-2019 school year. This is a great honor and will lead to amazing outcomes for all our students. 

Santiago STEAM Magnet Elementary School has a long standing reputation of being the "School Among the Trees" and the place that students and parents feel part of a family. We are passionately focused on developing intelligent, creative and kind young adults. Our teaching staff collaborate together to monitor progress of all students, use research-based instructional strategies, and above all create a welcoming and engaging environment.

STEAM education is a creative and purpose-driven approach grounded in content knowledge, skills, and cognitive processes, whose purpose is to empower all learners to positively impact our global community.  We focus on the integration of each STEAM domain (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics).

Santiago STEAM Magnet HQPBL (High Quality Project Based Learning) Units are developed and approved by our talented educators before going live in a classroom, while also allowing for voice and choice from students.  Each trimester will culminate with an Ignite Night where students have an opportunity to share their ongoing work with peers, parents and community members in order to grow in their ability to solve complex problems.

Santiago STEAM Magnet continues to improve our knowledge and expertise in supporting our students’ social-emotional development. To that end, we follow our district’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum developed in combination with Common Sense Media. We have also included the Second Step Social-Emotional Learning Program, which is designed to give students the tools they need to excel in and out of the classroom. The program is focused on developing skills in emotion management, situational awareness, and academic achievement.

College and Career Awareness is an exciting endeavor at Santiago STEAM Magnet.  We have developed a Career Day. Members of the community come together to share their love of their careers. Last year, we had over 45 presentations! Lastly, we have developed Field Trip Tours to high schools, community colleges, and state and private universities within southern California. All grades participate in one trip per year to gain a new perspective on higher education for free.

  • Kindergarten: El Toro High School
  • First Grade: Saddleback College
  • Second Grade: Irvine Valley College
  • Third Grade: California State University, Long Beach
  • Fourth Grade: California State University, Fullerton
  • Fifth Grade: University of California, Irvine
  • Sixth Grade: Chapman University

Technology is at the forefront of education and Santiago STEAM Magnet is leading the way.  Lower grade students have access to iPad, while upper grade students revel in the use of Chromebooks. One special area of focus is Math. We participate school wide in the use of ST Math. The program was designed by the MIND Institute and uses visual game play and critical thinking to develop math skills. To move further, we are transforming our Library into the "Innovation Lab" to foster research strategies, creativity, collaboration, and presentation skills to support our young 21st Century learners.

All of this happens because we have a dedicated staff and PTA. Our PTA is focused on enriching the lives of all students and parents. We start the year off with an Ice Cream Social! Our PTA funds and supports our Fall Festival, Family Fun Nights, Red Ribbon Week, Book Fair, Jog-a-Thon, and Bagels with a Loved One. You will want to add them all to your calendar.

And, speaking of calendars...Santiago use Bloomz!

Bloomz is a school communication app that gives you the ability to be up to date on all things going on a Santiago. Once signed up, you will have access to our school and class calendars, current events, posts from teachers and administration, and volunteer opportunities. Bloomz gives you all access in to what is happening in your child’s class. Do you speak another language? No Problem - Bloomz translates instantly in the language of your choice.

To show our children that learning is a life long endeavor, Santiago offers monthly parent workshops ranging from Digital Citizenship to Homework Alternatives to Reading Strategies. This offers parents the opportunity to increase their knowledge and understanding and to support their children in this increasingly complex world.

As you can see, Santiago STEAM Magnet has everything you are looking for and more! Want to learn more? Stop on by or call to set up a tour.

Howard Johnston

High Quality Project Based Learning Units



Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


My Place In the World

What Do I Need From My World To Survive?

Woodpecker Video

Class Big Book, including charts and individual student pages.

*The Living Song- performed at Ignite Night with projects 1 and 2 (with sign language).”


My Place In the World

How do my choices affect plants and animals?

Badger Video

Individual student books


My Place in the World

Why do I observe weather?

Rainforest Weather Video

Students make a video presentation of our class weather chart and a written “script” of one week of weather (icons and labels) and a complete sentence.


My Place in the World

How do I use Patterns to describe weather? 

Squirrel Video storing nuts for winter

Green screen group presentation.


My Place in the World

How Am I Affected by Sunlight?

Moving shadows on our playground- mark at different times

Shelter for an animal (animal made out of UV beads).


My Place in the World

How do I make responsible choices?

Deforestation photo

Collaborative model of a project to save resources, with a poster and opinion writing piece.


My Place In the World

How can I make changes or find solutions?

Rube Goldberg Trick Shot Video

Students set up a course to rescue an animal (decorated golf ball) from a flood.  Students must get that golf ball into a cup (at a higher level)


My Place in the World

How can I tell if my change or solution is effective? 

Pinball machine video

A Maze to get animal safely to food while avoiding a predator (with 3 other objects in its path)

First Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


My Place in the Universe

What are the different types of communities and how are they established? How can we create and design a community that is beneficial to the success of all living things?

Communities Look Similar and Different

Build Models and Blueprints of a Community with Green Screen Presentations


Communication in the Changing Universe

How can light and sound be used to solve problems with communication over a distance?

Synchronized Fireworks Show

Create codes to communicate messages using light and sound


Survival in the Changing Universe: 

Survival on Earth - Biomimicry 


How can we design a device that provides a solution to a given human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use external structures to survive, grow, and/or meet their needs?

Duck and Airplane Clip without Sound

Biomimicry without Sound

Students design a device that provides a solution to the given human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use external structures to survive, grow, and/or meet their needs


Second Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


Our Changing Environment

How is our environment changing and what is our impact?

Glacier National Park Video

TED Talk


Skype/Google Chat- teaching another elementary class

Green Screen: 



     -Greenhouse Gases

     -Renewable Energy Sources (wind, solar, water)

    -Ocean Pollution (plastic pollution)


Habitat Biodiversity

How are plants and animals affected by the environment that they live in?

Habitat Flyover Video

Habitat Model


Systems & Interactions Within Ecosystems

How do living things interact with and depend on each other in an ecosystem?

Gallery Walk

Pollinator Engineering and Proposal


Solving Problems in Our Environment With Technology

How can we use technology to solve problems in our environment?

Ozobots & Scratch Jr.

Junior STEAM Shark Tank


Third Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


Creating Community

How and why can groups form?

New Lake Forest Civic Center

Students will present a set of class rules and values (based on evidence from science and history) to Mr. Johnston and any relevant administrators. They will also include an actionable suggestion for improving our school culture.


 Investigating Balanced and Unbalanced Forces

How can outside influences disrupt the status quo?

Bowers Museum First Californians Basket Weaving

Students will design and build props that use a predictable pattern of movement to artistically emphasize a disruption in the lives of Native Californians. They will perform a spoken word piece that uses their prop, followed by an audience Q&A.


Analyzing Patterns in Life

How can humans interact with cycles in nature?

Bowers Museum Plein Air Painting

Students will design (and hopefully plant) indigenous gardens that can withstand the damaging environment of the non-native eucalyptus forest at our school in an attempt to restore indigenous life and beautify the campus for our school community.


 Innovating Adaptations

How can we advocate for others?

Bowers Museum Cochineal Prints

Students will design and implement a community outreach message to positively impact the survival of a threatened local organism.


Mitigating Impacts

How can we mitigate the impacts of events beyond our control?

Tour OCFA Fire Station #19

Students will assess their home, school, or local community for fire risk and use research about existing fire science solutions to propose an actionable suggestion for mitigating the impacts of fire hazards in their chosen area. This could be in the form of community outreach education, physical changes to a space (lightning rod, signage, emergency preparedness and evacuation plans).


Fourth Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


Adaptations in California Regions

What adaptations are needed to survive in each of California’s four regions?

Octopus Video

Given the climate of a specific region, create an animal and plant with the external and internal structures needed to survive in the changing region. 


Mock Citizen Science Project?  or Trail Map



Earth Systems

How has California’s landscape and people have changed over time?

Rock Layers formation video

Create a children’s book about a rock in California. You will be reading it to your 2nd grade buddy

What kind of Rock are you? Where are you located? What could you be used for? Where do you travel through the state? What people do you interact with? This could be a play, a story a comic book.


Earth’s Systems

How does erosion affect daily life in California?

Timelapse of Mountain

BOSCH Construction

Where would you choose to build in California and why?

After a landslide, fire or flood how do you survive/move forward? (teacher examples- clean water, personal belongings, floatation devices for priceless things, compact boulder mover, retractable power cords, human waste disposal, clean food source, temporary housing -Tent. Fire retardant clothing for infants, fire safe bassinets. Medical Kits- Food Supplies via Drones.)

Editorial Newspaper- How did you get to California? What was your journey like?

Ozobot goes on a trail 



Cause and Effect: How do people use energy for daily life?

Nuclear Explosion

Design, Test and Build a Device that converts one form of energy to complete a task.


Earth and Human Activity

 How do we get and use fuel and energy for transportation and communication?

Candle Car

Create a solution to reduce the impact on Earth using natural resources.


Fifth Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


Water on Earth. Water is a limited resource.

How can we as a community implement improvements in order  protect our limited fresh-water resources?

Desalination Demo

Present a proposal to improve current community practices, restrictions, etc. to implement additional improvements in protecting fresh water resources in a our local water district.


Then and Now - Patterns in the Solar System 

How are the actions of living things predicted and influenced based on patterns in the Solar System? 

Gallery walk Sundials arranged in different ways

Using their knowledge of patterns of  the Solar System, students will design a Day-time Astronomy Event for 1st graders 


Interactions: Ecosystems and Energy

How can we as environmental stewards advocate for and help protect the biodiversity in our local coastal ecosystems?

Algae Food and Fuel 

Create educational material for Crystal Cove State Park (or Back Bay Nature Reserve). Create a call to action (PSA, posters and infographics) to advocate for the protection of our local coastal ecosystems.


-People’s influence on natural systems

-Structures and functions


What happens when part of a cycle is changed?

Photo: Plant growth in old lock

Design, organize, produce, build a worm composting unit to reduce amount of trash and to produce fertilizers for sale to help fund school garden.


Changing Environment - Cause and Effect

How can we as scientists explain the properties of an oil spill and decide the best method for clean up?

Gulf Coast Oil Spill

Students will create a model and label the various parts of the oil spill, including structure and properties of matter. Students will also design a prototype to solve the problem and will continue to revise their prototype throughout the unit. Additionally, each student will write a CER on oil spills.


Sixth Grade


Big Idea

Driving Question

Anchoring Phenominon

Final Deliverable


Humans Impact Earth’s Systems

How can humans use energy in Earth’s Systems?

Charity water video

Design something that uses water as an energy source


Use energy to move water from one location to another


Weather Patterns Impact Earth’s Systems

Why is predicting weather useful?

Severe Weather video

Newscast set in an ancient civilization.  Newscast to include a weather forecast and what the civilization should to do prior to the event to affect the outcome (lessen the effects of a drought, etc) - explore what the civilization could do if they could predict weather like we can today.   The newscast should include an editorial, and  a human interest story (historical narrative).


Curiosity and questioning create innovation to solve problems.

How does Earth inspire human endeavors? 

What real-world problem are you inspired to solve?

Natural phenomena on causes damage /

Earthquake creating a wave

Create something that solves a problem.  Include a product pitch to market your device and lure investors.


Organisms, their makeup, and their interactions with each other and their environment for survival.

How are living things organized?

Organized in ancient civilizations (governments, religions) and as an organism.

Inner Life of a Cell

Create your own nation, with its own government and religious structures to support its values and survival in the world.


 An organism’s survival depends upon its genetic makeup and the environment in which it lives.

How and why do organisms survive in their environment? 

Wolves Change a River (Yellowstone)

Create a model that predicts the genetic variation of an offspring of two parents with different traits.  (Scratch with Punnett Squares).


Create a genetic animal that reproduces offspring that will survive in your civilization.


Questions and Answers

What other advantages are there for attending Santiago?

  • Uniquely Designed Curriculum
  • Flexible Learning Environments
  • All Day Kindergarten
  • Innovation Lab
  • Ignite Nights
  • College Field Trips for students and parents
  • UnHomework Policy
  • School-Wide Mobile Device Program
  • Second Step: A Social/Emotional Curriculum Program
  • Bloomz: A School-wide Communication App

If my child is on School Choice at Santiago now, can they stay next year?

Yes. Any student who has already Choiced into Santiago, will continue on next year.

After attending Santiago STEAM Magnet School, will my child continue with STEAM at intermediate and high school?

Both Serrano Intermediate and El Toro High School have STEAM programs and are working with Santiago and district administration to align our schools to increase each school's program.

Santiago is not our home school, can I still attend?

If you are part of our SVSUD family and would like to attend Santiago next year, you will need to apply for School Choice between March 4 - 29.

If SVUSD is not your home district, we do have a process to apply to Santiago. You will need to complete an INTER District Transfer. More information can be found soon on our district's website.


Will you have enough space for my child to attend?

If you are interested, please apply. We will make every effort to accept as many students based on space availability. All students who live in Santiago's boundary will have first priority.

Do you know the hours for students next year?

While there is always a chance it could change, we are planning to have the same hours we do now. All students will arrive by 8:10am. Learning hours are from 8:15am to 2:20pm.

Is the STEAM Magnet a program or school wide?

Santiago STEAM Magnet is school wide. It is for all students, all day.

Will grading be different than a traditional elementary school?

As a district, all elementary schools have moved to a standards-based reporting system.  There are no more letter grades.  Rubrics based on a four scale system is used.  This system supports the type of project-based learning at Santiago.  Most of the work, including student projects, are scored using a rubric system.

Will teachers have training to support STEAM instruction?

Yes. All teachers at Santiago STEAM Magnet will be provided with ongoing training beginning this school year, over the summer and throughout next school year. Professional development will continue to evolve as new research and best practices are established and become available.

I am unable to attend the informational meetings. How else can I learn about your STEAM Magnet school?

Our principal has also scheduled two school tours.  Please give our office a call for dates and times.

If my child is struggling in school, will they still receive extra support?

Yes. We have foundational block times for Language Arts and Mathematics.  This is a time that all students are receiving support or enrichment in their specific areas.  Many of our grades mix students during this time to group students with like needs.

My child attends Oxford Preparatory Academy - Saddleback Valley. Can my child Choice in to Santiago?

Oxford Prep is not a part of Saddleback Valley Unified School District.  If your home school is Santiago, but you chose to attend Oxford Prep, you can enroll in Santiago.  If you live outside the home boundaries of Santiago, you will need to use the Choice process and do so within the Choice window.