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We moved to Berkeley a little more than two years ago with our two children. Our oldest daughter entered the first grade at Park Day. A fellow parent with children who had been through the elementary school and going to Park's middle school program told us the first grade teachers are so amazing, you'll want to have more children just so you can experience first grade with them again. Teachers who make you want to enure the trials and tribulations of early pre-school days? That's quite a compliment, but we found it's no understatement. Our first grader's experience at Park Day couldn't have been better. A quiet observer, our daughter benefited from the nurturing and brilliant teaching style of Susan Erb. Our daughter simply loved first grade, everything from the in-depth study of bridges, developing an understanding of the environment around them, to performing a heart-warming parent-student createdd adaptation of Charlotte's Web. Now in third grade, our daughter's foundation for learning is strong, as she thrives as a strong reader and lover of books, and navigates the sometimes challenging world of mathematics, all the while being assured by her engaging and inspiring third grade teacher, Renee Miller, that she can do it!
Our youngest daughter had the joy of attending Park Day beginning in Kindergarten last year. What a magical experience! Her teacher, Simrita Dhanjal provided a strong platform for developing the children's interest in math, science, writing and reading, that is when the children weren't taking turns at hugging their beloved Simrita. They had so much fun with their lessons, but worked really hard at the same time. And now our youngest is thriving in first grade, in Joanie Albertini's class. Our daughter reads outloud to us at night, and enjoys science experiments and art projects equally. The enrichment programs at Park are outstanding. The specialists in Spanish, Art, Music, Sports, and Gardening are top-notch, ensuring that the child has a well-rounded experience. Having just finished our first teacher conferences of the year, we have such confidence and assurance we made the right choice in sending our children to Park Day. If you are looking for an execptional school that has stellar academics, AND fosters the emotional and social development that as a parent you are working so hard to support at home. Raising a child does take a village, and trust me when I say, Park Day School is a village like no other. But one that you be thankful everyday to have become a part of. As for wishing we had more children to put through Park, you bet. We'll have to settle on passing our best wishes on to you, and hope you consider giving your child a Park Day School education. A Proud Park Day School Parent
Re: Entering 8th & 5th Grade from overseas
We had a similar situation to you, moving back to the Bay Area with our two boys who had grown up in Australia (my home country). Our decision to move back did not coincide neatly with school years, so my son entered 1st grade at Park Day School in March this year. My other son is not yet school age.
This school had been recommended to us by friends and we primarily were attracted to the strong commitment to the emotional and social development of the children, and the great community that was evident there. We did not investigate any other schools, but we trusted the opinions of the people who endorsed the school enough to apply there.
We could not be happier with our choice. My son, and our whole family, felt integrated from day one. His teacher made an outstanding effort to ensure that was the case. The children themselves were wonderfully welcoming and inclusive. Having already completed 1st grade in Australia, he was somewhat ahead academically, but the teacher made sure that he was given tasks at an appropriate level to keep him stimulated and eager to learn.
My son has blossomed in his few months at this school, and his being happy there has made our whole family's transition just so much easier. Helen
Re: Moving to east bay middle school recommendations?
Park Day School has an excellent middle school. It combines teachers using the right mix of intellectual curiosity, enticing projects, and small class size to keep the students engaged. The kids are challenged to excel at math, writing, and science. The school is becoming known for its wonderful maker faire which is hosted each year with such notables as Wired magazines drone maker Chris Anderson. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Maureen
Re: Beacon Day, Redwood Day, Black Pine or Park Day?
I am sure you are going to get a lot of responses from people who have children at all of these schools telling you it is the right one for you - I am doing that as well! My son is at PDS and it is all of the things you described in an environment that is understanding, supportive and responsive to the needs of the whole child. The teachers know deeply who your child is and partner with both the child and the parent to create an environment that helps them become who they are. Certainly the best thing you can do is to visit each school, keep Park high on the list and check it out - I think you will find exactly what you are looking for! mafh
Re: Which private elementary for highly gifted child?
I think Park Day would be a great choice for your gifted child. I've found that their teachers and approach support my kids' growth in a way that has them love learning so that they make the best of their talents without getting drawn into the cut-throat competitive world too early in their schooling. Park is a gentle, loving place with very high expectations. Park Day's teaching staff is an extraordinary blend of long tenured teachers with amazing energy, newer teachers with real wisdom, and second career teachers that have life/work experience that really help my kids learn to learn in the ways that are best suited to their interests and aptitudes. I guess there are other schools that tout their academic rigor more forcefully, but it is clear to me that Park Day holds my kids' growth in all areas (academic, social, emotional) in a way that will have them beautifully prepared to take their gifts to the highest, happiest levels through their formal schooling and beyond. You didn't say what grade your child will be switching from, but I'd also say that the community at Park is pretty remarkable in the way new children are welcomed and held from their first arrival so that they enjoy the learning and their new teachers and friends from the start. anon
Re: social/emotional development vs academics?
My kid started at Park Day School in Kindergarten. For the 8 years we've been there, I've been impressed with the way that the teachers and the staff have been attentive to both his social/emotional growth, and to his learning. Park Day brings these 2 areas together with warm, talented/energetic teachers and a core philosophy that knows and holds children well. Graduates head off to, and succeed in all of the high schools in the area -- Tech, OSA and Berkeley High, as well as CPS, H-R, Bentley, Drew, Lick Wilmerding, O'Dowd, Urban etc.--and to college at the Ivy's, Stanford and the range of top colleges. The academics at Park go deep-with large/involved projects that help kids learn how to learn -- with math, science, arts and the humanities that don't feel heavy (no excessive homework, or high competition to divide the group), instead the projects and discussions have proven engaging and stimulating in a way that has our kid knowing that he can do anything, and asking for more. The math and science curriculum is particularly engaging, and the teachers ask a lot and give a lot to these areas. At the beginning of this year, Harvard's graduate School of Education started to sponsor a multi-year program that is focusing on Park Day's hands-on approach, and to understand how it can be used in classrooms beyond Park Day. If you are looking for a school that brings academics and social/emotional development together in a proven approach, you should really look at Park Day School. A Thrilled PDS Parent
Re: Private K-8 with strong science? Does it exist?
Park Day School in Oakland has an amazing science program that engages kids from Day 1. I recently asked my 2nd grader what he remembers about kindergarten and he said without hesitation - ''There was so much learning and experiencing. Like science!'' It starts with exploring wood, paper, plants in kindergarten, to building bridges, exploring the environment (clouds, oceans, bugs, etc.) in 1st grade, to learning about probability and statistics, weights and measures, anatomy, chemical reactions, etc. in the upper grades. Students are fully engaged in creating nontoxic household cleaners, designing the layout of school's rainwater catchment system, and exploring how the five senses work, among other things. What's more, Park Day students are curious and learn how to develop a solid hypothesis, which allows them to proceed with confidence in their discovery of the answers. Contact the school for a tour 510-653-0317 ext. 120 and visit on Math and Science night. Dara
Re: Good middle school for boys
You just described Park Day School exactly. My son is there now, we entered in 6th grade and I can safely say that the school provides precisely the environment you described. It has been a great experience for us and my son is thriving! Maggie
I always look to the BPN community for advice regarding my own child. I am writing this entry because our son, now eight, my husband, and I could not be happier with the school we chose, Park Day School, and I would like to help others who are facing the same quandaries we faced at the time we had to choose a school.
My husband is a researcher (Physics), my undergraduate degrees are both in Physics and Math, and my advanced degrees are in Math. When considering schools for our son, we were a little finicky, to put it mildly, when looking at their math and science curricula, in particular. At Park Day School, we were taken by the amazing teachers and director, the strength and degree of integration of their progressive curriculum, and their commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability; all of it taking place, I may add, in the most beautiful campus we saw of all the schools we visited (which were six in total). But this you can see in any brochure. I would like to specifically address math in my post, because it's a very important matter to us, and a very common concern in general.
I am going to write examples of ways in which my son has lived mathematics at Park Day: at the end of his first year he went around the campus, taking photographs of some of the geometric forms he had learned about - circles, ovals, straight lines, parallel lines, diagonals, . . . At five years of age, he was thrilled to play with the camera, all to himself, and transition from concrete to abstract and back in a completely internalized way. The year after, in Kinder, he already knew many numbers, and when he was done a bit early with his classwork, his wonderful teacher had a stack of additional math and logic challenges ready for him - at six years old he loved Sudoku. In first grade, he continued saying that math was his favorite subject (though he started to spend a lot of time reading too), he loved counting by fives, or tens, or fifteens, . . . He developed ad hoc ways of coming up with solutions to multiplication problems even if he didn't know the answer by heart: he knew something close enough, and the he was able to reach the solution adding or subtracting a few. Now, in second grade, he is beginning to understand the advantages of base ten and the algorithm of stacking numbers to add or subtract them, as opposed to putting them side by side; he also estimates things very often and spontaneously, e.g., hmm, it says here that this was 600 days ago, so, I must have been 6. Or we had just celebrated the 100th day of school, so it must have been November. I could go on and on. I firmly believe my son, his peers and other Park students will continue to learn and love mathematics throughout their life, thanks to the education they are receiving at Park Day School. Because it is an education that takes root in the individual's curiosity, and it's carefully nurtured from there. Because on and off campus I see my son and his friends own who they are and what they learn, with enthusiasm, joy, and without fear. MLB
My son attended a wonderful public school in El Cerrito (Madera), but I was unsure of our (only) public middle school. We decided to rent out our house and take an apartment in Berkeley so he could go to King. Along the way, we were encouraged to check out Park Day School. I didn't think we could afford it, but we received financial aid, and that's where my son started middle school last year (2011). WE LOVE IT!
The class sizes are 12-18 students. The atmosphere is relaxed, nurturing, and engaging. He's a shy kid, but on the third day of 6th grade he told me, ''Mom, I can't do that, my friends would kill me!'' He had friends!!! Besides getting the basics (math, English, social studies and science), he takes Spanish, PE, music, drama, and art. There's usually 30-60 minutes of homework a night, plus 30 minutes of reading everyday. The campus is small, with lush established gardens, beautiful older (but revamped) bulidings, and even a chicken coop. There's an after school sports program, school lunch program with in-house chefs and organic foods, several Independent School dances a year, and lots of field trips. The parents are a pretty tight group, but they've been very welcoming to new families (I think about 1/3 of the families were new for 6th grade).
Some of the cool things:
- Read-a-thon: Kids in all grades get to hang out in their pjs and sleeping bags and read for an entire day.
- Mini-Maker Fair: So awesome to get involved with these innovative makers!
- 6th Grade Play: At the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. For two weeks the class schedule is shuffled around so the kids can produce and act in a play.
- 6th Grade Kindergarden Buddies: Each 6th grader pairs up with a little kid, reads with them, and produces several books for them.
- 7th & 8th Grade Garden Plays: Students write and act in their own plays, adapted from a Language Arts assignment. Each group gets their own spot in the PDS garden and plays run continuously, with parents and friends moving from site to site.
- Diversity Series (not sure of the official name): Speakers spoke first-hand to the 6th grade class on different topics (transgender, fat politics, disabled, Muslim, racism, gay, and more).
- 8th Grade trip to Costa Rica/Mexico (Spanish-speaking destination subject to change)
- Math is taught by two different teachers, using different methods, and your kid is placed in the class that best meets his/her learning style.
- Teachers all go by their first names.
- All staff are accessible and responsive to kids and parent needs.
- There has been no bullying, and there really is no tolerance for that kind of behavior.
My son was a good student before, and I like that he's getting this chance to learn in an environment with a more open curriculum. He'll be going to public high school, and most PDS kids are ready for Spanish 2 and Geometry. Lots of PDS graduates go on to academically rigorous private schools like Bentley, Head Royce, Athenian and Lick-Wilmerding.
There are some down sides: very small play areas--no real fields or regulation-size basketball hoops; no common Middle School Library (although the language arts teachers have a lot of books, and the kids use the Rockridge Public Library for research projects), and there are so many fundraisers (which I shouldn't complain about as some of the money goes to financial aid as well as the 8th grade trip to Mexico/Costa Rica). But these are really little things when compared to how much my kid is getting out of the experience. If you're looking for a middle school (or grade school), be sure to check Park Day School out. Jenne
To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for an independent school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner, or if your child is not happy in his or her current school, consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a gorgeous, fun, flower and vegetable filled, campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a "crunchy granola" school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent
My daughter finished nine happy, challenging, wonderful years at Park Day School last year, and is now in 9th grade at Oakland Tech. She loved Park Day, the incredible sense of community, the gorgeous oasis of gardens, sports field, green space and beautiful buildings. She adored her phenomenal, experienced teachers who prepared her so well to succeed anywhere and take responsibility for her own work. (Average teacher tenure at Park: 15 years, and many have been there much longer.) She graduated from Park with an excellent academic education that taught her to think deeply and with the skill to learn anything she puts her mind to.
I credit Park Day for preparing her for the academic challenges at Tech, too. She has transitioned so easily to this large public school (and would have done just as well at a rigorous private school as well). In classrooms of 35 kids, she continues to succeed and is able to focus and learn with a motivation and creativity that her teachers at Park helped instill in her.
Park was worth every penny, because the school gave my kid much more than a good academic foundation. It gave her a sense of her place in and responsibility to the larger community and the creative, adaptive skills to help her succeed in the rapidly changing future. Lauren
To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for a private school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner or if your child is not happy in his or her current school Cb consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a big, fun, flower and vegetable filled, gorgeous campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a ''crunchy granola'' school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent
Re: so many good schools to choose from - which one?
I can't say enough good things about Park Day School. Two of my children have gone there, one still enrolled, and it is just the right amount of everything. Not one day in the entire 9 years we've been associated with the school has either of my children come home that I haven't appreciated that Park is an extension of our home and a vital part of my children's community! As for academics, don't underestimate Park Day. Both my kids need to be challenged... and they always have been - even if it meant teachers sending home individual homework lessons - in math, they teach the kids to do more than memorize their times tables, but dig deeper, and challenge them to learn 5 or 10 ways to solve the same problem. My oldest left after 5th grade (for financial reasons) and within months of entering the public schools was in advance math programs because of the very strong foundation Park provided in math: she learned to be a mathematical thinker and learner, not just a memorizer. Your child will be engaged, excited about learning, curious and involved at Park Day. S/he will leave Park Day with an inherent ability to advocate for herself - not wait until someone teaches, but to ask, question, and thrive on understanding the world. The campus is amazing and every year I am shocked at how the school introduces so much new into our lives - from the growning gardens, to the new yurt, to the hot lunches. The staff have supported our family - when we've been in need (unemployment) and when we've been able to contribute time, energy and innovative ideas. The kids are supportive of each other and learn to be allies - to see themselves as part of a bigger world and take responsibility for that - a welcome and refreshing perspective given what is going on in our adult world right now! Good luck with your choices - but you can't go wrong with Park! Mom of Engaged Park Day Kids
Hi We are considering park day school for our daughter who will be five next september. I was wondering what the homework load is for kids in the lower grades? One of the reasons we want to do private school is so she is not loaded with hours of unnecessary homework at such a young age. any other feedback on the school and community would be great thanks ella
Our three children go to Park Day School in Oakland. We have a 6th grader and twins in 1st grade. The school combines an amazing academic experience bottled up and delivered as pure fun for kids. The combination of great teachers, small class sizes, and a creative intellectual approach to learning, allows children to enjoy math, science, and writing, and unknowingly absorb difficult concepts with ease. We have had a truly amazing at Park and have watched as our school continues to expand in many ways. We go from bridge K through 8th grade. Have a beautiful six acre campus. And the school has recently added a hot lunch program (causing our picky slender 6th grader to put on 5 pounds). The school's lesser known brainy side, combined with its known warmth and heart, has created the perfect environment for kids to thrive. Another writer mentions feeling like she won the Willy Wonka golden tickets upon finding out her child got into Park, I couldn't agree more. Maureen
I have always said that having the opportunity for our daughter to attend Park Day School was like receiving one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. With a Master's degree in curriculum design, and a career as a distinguished educator, I chose Park Day because of the depth, sophistication and heart of their progressive curriculum as well as the consistently exceptional testimonials I heard from local high school teachers about ''Park kids.'' As director Tom Little once said so accurately, Park Day students are known for ''leaning into the learning.''
I have learned over time that sending our daughter to Park Day would be the best parenting decision my husband and I would make. Our daughter has always been a curious, perceptive, and motivated learner. We have discovered that she also has multiple learning challenges.
Imagine: not mastering reading until late 4th grade, yet feeling academically competent. Imagine: at age 10, choosing to tell your classmates that you have OCD, and asking for and receiving their patient caring support.
Park Day students learn to ask: ''How can I make a difference? How can I be an ally for a fellow student in need?'' When she was a kindergartner, our daughter was brought to tears when she became separated from her group during a school assembly. She was quickly embraced by dear 6th grade Maria, and ushered to help. When she was knocked down on the soccer field, a long arm invariably reached out asking, ''Are you okay?'' Years later, if her classmates enjoyed a book that had larger print, they would give my daughter first priority to read it, as it was a good match for her needs.
Park Day is such a dynamic and joyful learning community in which kids are willing to dig for deep understanding and ask for help when needed, because of the depth of thought, heart, and commitment that Park teachers have to make a difference in the lives of their students: socially, emotionally, and academically. When our child went through a period of ''cognitive overload'' and heightened anxiety over her homework, her teacher wrote down her personal cell phone number and asked her to please call for help when needed. When a group of friends were unable to resolve a conflict amongst themselves, the teacher took the time, over weeks, to adroitly guide all of the students to relate in a manner that benefitted all concerned. When our daughter finally cracked the code of reading, several of her teachers wrote her personal letters of congratulations: ''Welcome to the club,'' one teacher wrote, as she described how her own love of reading had touched her through each stage of her life.
Our daughter walks in the world feeling seen, loved and cared for by her community. She feels competent, and worthy of people's time. She, in turn, has been noted for her empathy and kindness. She is a motivated and successful student. Much of this we owe to Park Day School. I am in awe. And as good as it is, every year it just seems to get better. This all comes to mind as I pick our daughter up from school these first weeks back at school, and she repeatedly jumps in the car saying, ''I love school!'' ''I'm not just happy,'' she said, jumping into the car one day. ''I feel grateful.''
There is no question that children with complex learning profiles can be particularly challenging-- and expensive, but we are confident that the investment we've made in our child's development by enrolling her at Park Day School has given our family incalculable returns. anon
I moved my twins from public school to Park Day School in second grade because I thought they would receive a better education.
After less than one year at Park Day School I was told that my son has a learning disability. We were asked to have him tested. The cost of the testing to date exceeds $10,000. He is diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety and depression.
Because my son was not keeping up in class we were asked to augment his education with private Speech and Language Therapy. My son had once-a-week sessions with a private speech and language therapist from age 7 until age 12 at a cost of approximately $600 a month - we paid for this service out of pocket.
In Sixth grade we were asked by the school to hire a ''shadow teacher'' who would sit next to my son in class and help him keep up. He has had a ''shadow'' for three years. The shadow teacher doubles the cost of attending Park Day. Again, this is a cost we parents have paid.
Last year, even with his ''shadow,'' Park Day informed us that my son is not progressing well in Math. For over a year we have paid for weekly math tutoring sessions.
This year we were told that Park Day would not allow my son to remain in their school if we refused to pay for the shadow - even though I am currently unemployed. We intend to transfer my son to a public school in the Fall. We underwent the IEP process and I learned that the Public School system provides for FREE, the assistive services for which we have paid thousands of dollars.
I kept my son in Park Day because I assumed he would get more one-on-one attention. I thought smaller classes would be better. I augmented his education with private tutors, teachers and shadows when I was asked to do so. What I find most troublesome is this: At no time did Park Day suggest to us that our son would benefit if we transferred him to a public school. Park Day Parent
Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
My son, now in 6th grade, has been at Park since kindergarten and I have so much respect for the math curriculum. My kid loves math, but so do most of the kids in his grade -- I remember sitting in on the first day of 2nd grade when my son's teacher asked each kid to say what they liked best about school. ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' It was hilarious.
Here are two things that I think are relevant to your question. One is that kids at Park are taught from kindergarten on to honor and respect each other for who they are, and the result is kids who feel free to like what they like, whatever it is, and be who they are, whoever that is. My son and his (large group of) friends proudly call themslelves ''nerds'' because they like math and science and technology and music and books. But it's a name they chose for themselves, not one that anyone would have called them otherwise.
The second thing is that the math they've learned isn't just a series of equations. Kids at Park are challenged to find multiple ways to solve problem, and the math curriculum includes lots of discussion and writing about math in addition to the equations. DS
After looking at many schools, we love Park Day for many reasons, especially the younger grades, and the new unified campus is amazing- I don't think that there's a better space in the east bay. My question is about their new (ish) junior high school program. I would like to know from both current parents and those graduated, are you happy with the junior high? Is it academically challenging? Is your child prepared for high school? If not, what are some of the challenges? How do former students handle pressure (both academic and peer,) at their new schools? Does (did) Park help you find the right high school? I see that the school has a ton of potential and we're very excited. Thank you! anon
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
Park Day School is a progressive school that is incredibly challenging. Their emphasis on critical thinking and work with abstract concepts with hands on learning creates a curriculum that leads children to own their learning and love it. The staff at PDS is mindful of the scope and sequence of the curriculum through the grade levels - they have even mapped their social justice scope and sequence curriculum, as well as math and science. Children's learning is deep and builds from one year to the next. My two children are also known for who they are, held in their emotional/social selves and who they are as learners. PDS talks about differences among people (race, gender,learning styles) and honors each person's contribution. This isn't just pretty language - they really do it - Even when it is not easy and when the community is challenged by the difficulty of finding ways to grapple with issues of diversity. PDS does't just talk the talk but they walk the road. anon
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
A good progressive education can also (should also) include appropriate challenges for academically-oriented kids, and Park Day School excels at this. My spouse and I come from brainiac backgrounds - Harvard (him), UCB Law (both), Nat'l Merit Scholarship (moi) - and wondered whether the warm and fuzzy Park Day School culture could accommodate our unusually gifted but shy third child. Let's just say, in talking to our son about second grade this year I have learned how to spell microchiroptera (and the particular attributes of this half of the bat world, as well as the other, megachiroptera) and seen an exciting version of pre- algebra (using shapes in place of variables). PDS's small class size makes it possible for teachers to really understand what makes each kid tick, and they support their little Einsteins beautifully. Check it out! Park Day School nerd-mom
I'm writing to highly recommend Park Day School's middle
school program. If you're looking for a program that combines
great psychology (and a true understanding of the adolescent)
with individualized attention and appropriate academic
challenges, this is it. Our daughter is a rather brainy,
sociable, deep thinking kid with an aptitude for math and
writing. We transferred her to PDS from public school at grade
four. PDS expanded to include 7th and 8th grades just in time
for us to benefit, and we are blown away by how well that
program is managed and run. Wendy Wilkinson, the 7/8 director,
is a wonderwoman. She is so likeable and intelligent, she
inspires confidence from parents, kids, and staff. She has
decades of experience working with kids this age and helping
them (and their parents) find and get into high schools that
are a good fit. Gretchen-the-math-teacher is also
amazing,sharing her passion for math and getting each kid what
s/he needs to improve quickly. PDS is not, as an old neighbor
recently joked, a ''hippy dippy'' school - it offers terrific
academics in a supportive environment. An A+!
Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
Park Day School in Oakland, a wonderful, warm, progressive and diverse school has started a Bridge-K program. I am always so impressed with how child-centered the staff are. The play area is beautiful and varied. Check it out on their website: www.parkdayschool.org I heard that they are still accepting applications for the Bridge-K program even though there is a deadline on the website. anon
I wondered if anyone who has had experience at both Park Day and St. Paul's - especially if they've switched from one to the other - could share what their experience has been and what they feel are the strong differences (other than the facilities). My son will be starting kindergarten next year. He's a self-directed, articulate, musical, and social guy and would be at home at both places. We like both schools and see many strengths at both from the outside but wonder if an insider can share what they've experienced as the most significant differences between the two. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights. Anon
But there are differences, to wit:
Park Day: Their campus is peaceful, parklike,and nurturing. If your son is shy, needs space,or has a quirky personality, Park is a better choice. Their teachers will know and love your child. The major down side to Park, for us, was that over time our son was not challenged enough in math and other areas, and we actually hired supplemental tutors to keep enriching his academic experience. Later, he needed to seriously learn how to take a standardized test since he'd never seen one and it was no longer an option. We wondered if it was possible to join a social, activist curriculum with academics, because while our son became an amazing person he was not a great student.
St. Paul's: Their campus is more urban and busy, play areas are limited. A kid who is independent or passionate will thrive, as did our second son. Like Park Day, a lot of social activism and discussion with dedicated staff. St. Paul's was not religious per se (and we're not either), but their spirituality piece which involves meditation and chapel, were way cool. Our son loved that part. We also saw a marked difference in academics, where there were milestones, expectations, and some structured homework (eg spelling words, word problems) which helped our son become a better student. Also some prep for standardized testing in higher grades. While issues like global warming, the needs of our community, and how to be a contributing and caring person were part of his experience, he also was learning how to succeed as an academic student in a way that would translate beyond St. Paul's doors.
Both schools are great, and parents of one appreciate the other, but there are differences. And please remember to look beyond kindergarten when making your decision. Good luck!! A Fan of Park Day and St. Paul's
Each school has some wonderful strengths. The music program at St. Paul's -- particularly after 3d grade -- is amazing. As I mentioned, the school really is diverse, economically as well as in more obvious respects such as race and sexual orientation. And the academics seem good, Science is especially impressive. Bizarrely, they didn't start teaching a foreign language (Spanish) until a few years in, though that might be changing.
Park seems stronger in the ''liberal arts'' -- lots of emphasis on writing, creative expression, visual arts, and social studies/history. Our older child was always a strong reader, but it wasn't until he started at Park that he began to love reading (tho that might just be a coincidence), and our 2nd grader has gone from being hesitant about reading on her own to being a really avid reader. Spanish starts in kindergarten. On the down side, the math and science are, frankly, stronger at St. Paul's. (Tho I have heard that it improves greatly in 6th grade, when the kids spend half their time with a teacher who specializes in math and science). And, while, Park is not as thoroughly diverse as St. Paul's (I don't think any school is) it does pretty good -- probably better in terms of LGBT families -- and is really committed to social justice, community and global awareness issues.
The biggest difference is the warm and nurturing feeling of the environment at Park. Kindness seems to be the school ethos, and you really feel it. But that does not mean indulgence: our kids have been in classes with potentially disruptive kids in both schools. The difference is that at Park, we saw those kids managed in a way that kept them included and cared for, without letting their problems become everyone else's.
Other pluses at Park: the campus is lovely (if small), while St. Pauls feels like a nice urban public school; the new(ish) Park middle school is said to be fantastic; and we like that kids stay in the lower school through 6th grade (which seems too young to throw kids into the middle school whirlwind).
I hope this is helpful to you -- probably either choice will be a good one; they are both fine schools. Good luck.
Almost without exception both of our sons have had great experiences at Park Day. There was not one day in my older sons seven years at the school when he said he didnt like school or didnt want to go to school. Same so far for my younger son. They have had wonderful teachers who took the time to get to know them and always enjoyed them. The small class size at Park Day gives teachers the time to focus on each kid. Kids do a lot of work in groups and with partners and get to move around a lot, which was important for both of my energetic sons. Park Day seems to get a bad rap for its academics, but the curriculum is strong (and constantly being reviewed and revised) and lively, and kids learn what they need to learn. I think the fact that the kids have fun learning it makes people question whether the school is feeding enough of the core subjects. My older son did fine, transitioned to St. Pauls middle school with no problems, and is now at a highly academic high school. My younger son excels in math, and his teacher ensures that he is challenged in that subject on a daily basis. So, kids do get what they need at Park Day, and the school is able to meet the needs of many different kinds of kids, from those who naturally excel at academics to those who need more support. A comment about the facilities: The beautiful, open Park Day campus contributes in a very important way to the childrens experience. The kids have a lot of space and a lot of freedom, get to be outdoors a ton, get to garden, play sports, etc. They love the space and that adds to their positive school experience. And finally, the school does a really good job at keeping parents informed about whats going on in the classrooms and in the school as a wholea thorough, lengthy, and readable weekly newsletter from the administration and regular newsletters and emails from teachers. Plus, its easy to have a quick chat with teachers because the campus/buildings are so accessible. Parents are always hanging around and chatting before and after school.
St. Pauls has some wonderful qualitiesthe diversity and the music program are standouts--but we found St. Pauls to be much more traditional than we had expected, both in terms of the curriculum (we didn't find it particularly exciting), and discipline (my son witnessed many detentions being handed out). Overall, while my son handled it all just fine, it wasnt a great match for our family. There were many disruptive kids in his group;not sure if that was a fluke for his year or a more general problem at the school. The classes were large (24 to a class in middle school), and I didnt get the sense that all of his teachers really knew him. Plus, the facilities turned out to be a big drawback. My older son was excited about the very urban setting, but as the months wore on and he had to line up to go anywhere, eat lunch surrounded by goose poop at the lake, etc., he really missed the old freedoms of Park Days space. Finally, I was not satisfied with the amount of communication from the St. Pauls administration to parents. The school sent out a very short, weekly newsletter, but it was more of a schedule of upcoming events, rather than an insight into the classrooms, curriculum, and general goings-on. Middle school teachers sent emails, but those were mostly a list of upcoming assignments. Also, because parents pretty much have to drive through and drop off their kids, there just arent regular opportunities to stick your head in a classroom after school and have a quick chat with a teacher. Please keep in mind that our experience at St. Paul's was only at the middle school level. Good luck with your school choice
Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
We've had a very good experience at Park Day School (we have an eighth grader and a fifth grader at the school). Park Day seems to strike an excellent balance particularly in the middle school between academics taught with real verve and creativity and the arts, particularly drama and music. There is also dance in seventh and eighth grade, but that doesn't appeal so much to our teenage boy.
I think the style of education at Park really does encourage students to enjoy learning. The 7th and 8th grade math, science and language arts teachers are particularly exceptional, I think. Well worth checking it out. I'm happy to tell you more offline if you wish. -Tracey
Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
There are several very good elementary schools that teach peace, environmental responsibility and non-violence, no bullying, etc. Our 10 year old son goes to Park Day School and has been there since kindergarten. It has a nice balance of technology/computers in the classrooms with basic core values of kindness, sharing, greening, no guns/violent play. The older kids read a lot, the games are focused on kind playing, there is soccer, but no football on campus, etc. The older kids buddy up with the younger ones, for reading buddies, etc. The kids are taught to be an ally/friend, rather than an opponent to little ones or those left out. They have a campus garden and are the first campus to go ALL GREEN, meaning no/limited trash, composting and all recycling. Emphasis on healthy lunches, with a 'ban' on 100% sugar treats in lunches and no play guns or other violent games brought to school. It's quite amazing to see the difference on this campus, when kids are given the opportunity to channel their energies positively. The teaching staff is the BEST in the area. Jane
Re: Private middle schools in the east bay
You should consider Park Day School, which now includes grades 7 and 8. It's a wonderful place, the perfect blend of dynamic academics, a broad-based curriculum that includes community activism and social justice, sports, music, theater, Spanish, dance. The staff is committed and of long tenure. The director, Tom Little, is fantastic. It's a really special school. The 6th grade classes are with the elementary school on the Main Campus. The kids move to the nearby Community Campus when they reach 7th grade. The philosophy is that 6th grade is still elementary, and I think they're right. My daughter's started in Kindergarten and is now in 3rd grade, and her experience has been wonderful all the way. Try it! wwwdotparkdayschooldotorg
Re: Academically strong and liberal private school
Take a look at Park Day School in Oakland. Progressive education with emphasis on social justice. Strong academics and a really fun place for kids. Very, very liberal politically. Diverse socio-economically and ethnically.
I am trying to figure out Middle School options for
my ''normalish''(not alternative,geeky,artistic,or a jock)
friendly ,kind,bright, athletic son who struggles in the
academic areas.He will be coming out of a Public School and I
h ave concerns that our Middle School just wont work for him.
Any comments regarding 6th grade transfers into St.Pauls or Park
Day (Community School) How well do these schools do in
supporting kids with learning challenges(differances).What is
the social scene,how many of you in the elementary grades will
continue on to the middle school grades?(i.e. If you plan on
moving your kids out of Park and not continuing on to
Community,why)Whats the longer range impact of not
testing,grading etc... ...We really do want a
nice,friendly ,warm,nurturing and inclusive atmosphere Thanks
for any input!!
Another Mother Trying To Figure It All Out !!!
Finally, my younger child is now a very happy 6th grader at
Park, and we didn't even consider looking at any other schools
for 7th and 8th - my kid can't wait to get to the ''Community
Hope this helps - good luck!
happy mom of happy kids
Re: Oakland Elementary school for possible learning delays
I have two children at Park and have been very happy and satisfied with our experience there. My son is now in the eighth grade at the new Community Campus, and my daughter is in the fourth grade. Both have been at Park since kindergarten. Park's environment is warm and nurturing; the teachers and staff really KNOW each child. Somehow, Park has a reputation for being less ''academic'' than some other schools- I can only say that,when I compare it to what I know of these other schools, it seems to me that kids at Park learn just as much-or more- by having FUN! When they graduate from Park they are entusiastic life-long learners, who know how to think and reason for themselves. They go on to a variety of middle and high schools and do extremely well. My two kids have totally different learning and social styles;my son learns quickly and ea! sily and was always challenged and excited by the curriculm. He loves school and truly looks forward to each school day. I can remember that during his first years at Park he described it as his''second home'' and the staff as ''my second family''. The recent merge with Community School, which makes PDS a K-8 school is yet another reason to apply to Park.
My daughter has struggled with ''learning differences'' and has received lots of extra help in order to succeed. She now is a hard working student who(deservedly) takes great satisfaction in her acheivements. Her learning problems were picked up early on in her school career,and she has benifited greatly from the extra tutoring she has received. She also loves going to school and is excited by all she learns there.
Both kids have thrived socially at Park, and the
wonderfully diverse school community has also been a source of
comfort and friend! ship for our whole family. I can
wholeheartedly recommend Park Day School!
Happy Park parent
Re: Which private school?
I have a daughter who's entering 2nd grade at Park Day (she's been there since kindergarten), and I can't say enough good things about the school. I think that Park is often viewed from the outside as a looser, perhaps less academic school, but when you really look at what's happening in Park classrooms, you'll see kids doing amazing things and graduating from 6th grade fully prepared to enter and compete at Head-Royce or Bentley. My daughter's 1st grade experience was wonderful -- every kid in her class became an enthusiastic reader, writer, mathematician, and scientist during the year. She had homework just once a week, given on Thursday, due on Tuesday. And her reading/writing skills are superior to many kids who are drilled intensely on phonics, as the approach at Park is a whole language approach. The teachers are dedicated and truly appreciated, they give their all, and the school community is a marvel. Park Day truly backs up its committment to educating children not just in the academics, but also in creating community and becoming good people/citizens. Lauren
Re: Which private school?
Our daughter is going into 2nd grade at Park Day and pretty much fits the description of your soon-to-be kindergartner. Park Day has been an amazing fit for her so far. The kindergarten year was a perfect transition year for her - with the small class size and focus on social/emotional development, our daughter felt part of a community, part of a group, for the first time in her life and that was so valuable. She was reading in kinderga! rten and had a new teacher who wasn't as good at finding academic challenges for her, but that was okay - it was kindergarten and the social challenges she was experiencing helped her grow tremendously, we knew the academics would come. In first grade, her teacher challenged her when she was open to being challenged, assessed her academic strengths quite quickly and easily, and spent the entire year stimulating her, engaging her, and helping her grow both academically and socially. She was constantly offering our daughter more challenging books and reading/writing assignments and offering her extra math work so long as my daughter was open to it. At times, she just wanted to be like everyone else and her teacher completely honored that. More importantly, my daughter got one-on-one help navigating the complex social relationships of first grade in a way that I can't imagine happening anywhere else.&nbs! p;
Feel free to write if you have more questions or want more details. I'm sure there are other families in the upper grades who can respond to the academic issues of the upper grades, but know that many of the kids we know at Park in 4th grade had ample amounts of homework (not necessarily 3 hours per night). I believe that no matter what kind of child you have, there will be strong years and weak years in school wherever you go. jls
Re: Elementary school in S. berkeley/N.Oakland
I would highly recommend Park Day School, located in the Temescal area in North Oakland. Both my children have had a wonderful experience. Park Day takes the whole child approach, combining a rich hands-on program, with equal concern for emotional and social growth and well being. Students learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts and how to care about the world they live in and the people around them. A fantastic staff, great parent community, and wonderful program. Check out their website at www.parkdayschool.org a satisfied parent
Please share your experiences about the aftercare programs and
lunch/recess times at Aurora, Berkwood Hedge and Park Day
schools. Is there enough adult supervision? Is teasing or
bullying noticed and adequately addressed? What happens on a
rainy day? Are younger children separated from older children?
What do you think about the quality of afterschool enrichment
Thank you for your responses to any of these questions as to any
of these schools.
Grateful for Your Thoughts!
Re: Gay Friendly Schools in Oakland
To the family considering moving to Oakland to have their child attend Park Day School: I cannot respond to your questions about high school, and about East Bay vs. S.F. But I can strongly support your considering Park Day School for your child and your family. We are an LGBT family and I cannot recommend it highly enough for it's integration of LGBT families and kids. We feel very good about the social- emotional foundation our kids are receiving at Park coming from a ''different'' family, and their exposure and comfort with families of all types there. It is an excellent school in many other ways as well, of course! anon
Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
Park Day School in Oakland is a very welcoming place for gay families. We are straight parents at Park, but many of the families we know are gay and pleased with Park. One of the highlights for me was a couple of years ago during ''Care week.'' Each yar, Park devotes a whole week to exploration of an aspect of being a caring community -- other years have included weeks focused on bullying, disability, gender, etc. This particular year, the focus was on GLBT issues. Understanding of GLBT issues and families were presented across grade levels in ways that were very appropriate for each grade. For instance, the younger grades (my daughter was in 2nd that year) had a lesbian mom come in, or a gay firefighter etc. and talk about their lives with the kids. The older grades had more sophisticated discussions and activities. Several weeks later my daughter was doing a research project and came across the phrase ''home sapiens''. I was surprised she knew what that was so I asked her if she understood what it was. Very assuredly she told me she did -- that ''home sapiens'' were men who married other men. :-) Anyway, Park actively tries to reach out to GLBT families in admissions and encourages GLBT families to refer others to the school. Ilana
I'm writing to inquire about Park Day School. Our son will be going to kindergarten next fall and we've looked at several schools already with a few more to go. I've read previous feedback regarding Park Day School, but just wanted a bit more feedback. I know it has a progressive philosophy with a diverse and nurturing environment, which is why I love it. But are there any hard facts about success in traditional evnvironments after Park Day? Do we went to give our son the privilege of a holistic education? Absolutely. Do we want to stimulate his intellect, his desire to learn, and provide him with every tool possible to be a successful and productive human being? Absolutely. Is it possible to do this in one place? I'm not so sure. I guess at a certain point you've got to go on faith and intuition, but it's hard to make the leap. Two other schools we really like are Redwood Day and Black Pine Circle. Any feedback, positive or negative on any of these schools would be appreciated. Sincerely, Wanting to be convinced..... anonymous
Other parents at Head Royce have commented on the work ethic and diligence of kids from Park. I like to believe that this comes from a curriculum rich in engaging projects that spurs kids to want to learn. Within a dynamic academic program, kids become intrinsically motivated and fully engaged learners at Park. And, yes, they have math tests and spelling quizzes, too. They really do get the basics.
p I remember when my husband and I were looking at elementary schools, loaded with handouts and dizzy from hearing all the talks, we asked ourselves, "Do I feel comfortable in this environment?" "What's the sense I get from the classroom or playground?" "Would I be happy in a school like this?" And then, thankfully, we trusted our instincts. Ali
As the time approaches to consider touring schools, I strongly recommend families who are considering a socially progressive, developmentally based, culturally rich and diverse program for their child to come to a tour at Park Day School. There are several recommendations about Park on the website -- check them out. We are a community that is strongly committed to diversity and consequently our community is stronger for it. Families of color, interracial families, GLBT families, kids with different learning styles, single parents, are well represented in our school. If you have any questions about Park you can e-mail me directly -- or contact them at 653-0317. Our child loves going to school, as do his classmates -- and we feel very much at home in the community there. Heath
To a one, my children's teachers have been skilled, creative, and caring. They do ambitious, dazzling projects that often integrate learning from multiple disciplines. My third grade son is combining history, literature, and science in his study of Native Americans this fall.
Park Day School is a wonderful place. The schoolyard is a little Eden. The children, their parents, and the staff at the school are all people I look forward to seeing every day.
At Park School, there are traditions that make for community: care week, cultures day, a day of sharing, authors night, all school sing, storyteller night. Each kindergartner has a secret 6th grade buddy and all children have reading buddies from different grades. Each class is involved in community outreach; younger grades make sandwiches, pack food bags for a neighboring school; kindergarten and 1st grade visit the ladies at the Matilda Brown home; 2nd graders make activity baskets for sick children at Childrens Hospital; 3rd graders serve at a soup kitchen; 4th graders focus on recycling/environment; 5th graders read to preschoolers in Oakland and the 6th graders sponsor an ambitious book drive.
Grade by grade, the curriculum is inspiring. I will never forget the second grade teachers beaming face as our son walked to the podium to speak the words: I am Bishop Desmond Tutu. That same year, our son learned about Duke Ellington, Romare Beardon, Gonesha, Helen Keller and his own greatgrandmother. We have three children at Park now; the things they learn, the gifts they are given are remarkable. Our children are unique, included and loved well at Park, where, by a complex mix of grace, awe and respect, all mutual, these teachers and children hold each other.
Lastly, for our biracial sons, we have been encouraged by Park's commitment to diversity, to a school population reflecting the economic, racial, ethnic, and lifestyle diversity of the communities in which we live and work. Park's educational programs, admission policies and financial assistance grants fully support this principle. agrigsby
The sensitivity toward, and genuine celebration of alternative families has been a wonderful experience for us and for our children.
Please consider contacting the admissions director, Flo Hodes, and ask her for parent contacts who you can speak with directly if you are interested in learning more about Park! The school keeps a list of parents from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, gay and lesbian, etc so that you can speak directly with parents about their experiences at Park. CM
Consider Park Day School in Oakland at 43rd St. between Broadway and Telegraph (www.parkdayschool.org). They have an excellent diversity program and it's not lip service- it's the real deal. Excellent and enthusiastic teachers and administration, with great emphasis on respect for all and developmentally appropriate curriculum. - A happy parent
While many schools ''talk the talk'' about wanting a diverse student body, Park truly ''walks the walk''--with a deep commitment toward actively recruiting families of color. The commitment to diversity is part of an overarching philosophy of learning that fosters respect for the richness inherent in our cultural, racial, and socio-economic differences.
From the Park Day School ''philosophy of education'': ''When children leave Park Day School, we want them on their way to be caring, constructive, open-minded members of the adult world. We want them to be equipped to live in a diverse society and to be comfortable with the ways in which they are alike and different from others. We want them to be able to recognize the biases that exist in society and to develop and articulate their own values.''
I could wax poetic about Park Day (and would be happy to do so if you'd like to call me at (510) 841-4608.) Diversity is just one of its many, many virtues! Check out the website: Parkdayschool.org
Now is the time to tour the campus. You can call (510) 653-0317 to talk with Flo Hodes (Assistant Director and Admissions Coordinator). Park always receives more applications that spots available, so apply soon.
Good luck! Linda
We are still pinching ourselves that we were lucky enough to have our son enrolled in Park Day School this year, which features * a warm, kind community where 6th graders enjoy playing with kindergarteners (!), * dedicated teachers who have spent over 20 years constantly challenging themselves to come up with innovative ways to educate, * a wonderful campus with lots of trees and vegetables and space for baseball games and playing house, * an academically rigorous (but supportive) environment where music, languages and social education are as highly valued as reading, math and science. -- thankful family
Is there a down side to Park Day? Some people think it is not academic enough. My own background in alternative education and subsequent success in competitive academic institutions causes me to feel little worry on that count. It is a little hard for me to gauge my son's progress in traditional terms because he was diagnosed last year with mild dyslexia. I will say that Park Day caught it early, that their learning specialist has worked closely with him, and that she spent tons of time giving me referrals and information. There is even a parent support group for kids with learning differences.
No place is perfect, but I feel that Park Day School has been as close as we are likely to get. I love that school. If you feel it might be a good match for your child and family, I strongly encourage you to apply.
I should also say that the approach to learning at Park is very different from what most of us had as children. The traditional approach to learning emphasizes drilling, memorization, rote learning, testing and grades. I don't know Head Royce super well, but I would venture to say that because it is a more traditional school, you will see these traditional approaches used much more readily than you do at Park. So when parents question the academic rigor of Park, I think what they are really struggling with is the actual style and approach to learning. It's hard to let go of that tape from our childhood that says the traditional approach to learning is the best, the tried and true method.
I can tell you that after having spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom over the last three years, kids at Park love learning and they love going to school. When the kids leave Park, they have honed a general approach to learning: they know how to ask questions and get information, and they have strong self-esteem and confidence in their abilities. Each child doesn't leave the school academically brilliant, because we all aren't; but they leave feeling good about themselves and they know how to learn.(Interestingly, a friend of mine who was looking at Park and Head Royce for her kindergartener, told me that the assistant director at Head Royce told her that Head Royce teachers particularly enjoy the kids from Park Day School who go on to Head Royce for middle school. They find that Park kids are independent, self-starters who love learning. They are often times leaders because of their strong problem-solving abilities.)
I can also tell you that my daughter reads and writes and spells well. (And yes, she even takes a weekly spelling test, though somehow her classroom teacher manages to even make that fun.) My daughter doesn't receive grades, though the parents do meet with the classroom teacher twice a year for a thorough school conference, after which we receive a several paged report describing our daughter in depth. During the Spring conference our daughter will be present so that she can present her own work and discuss ways in which she would like to grow.
I have no doubt that Head Royce is an excellent school. The main differences I can see is that Park really emphasizes the social and emotional needs of children. Kids spend a fair amount of time at Park talking about relationships, feelings, responsibilities and choices, and problem-solving. My understanding is that this doesn't happen at Head Royce to the same degree. Also, Park's diversity is extraordinary. Park emphasizes diversity in every form, including reaching out to gay and lesbian families and low-income families. Park is very generous with financial aid, because a school has to be willing to pay for true diversity. -- a parent
In the two years since our daughter came to Park Day my wife and I have become ardent supporters of the school and its philosophy of education and I waxed enthusiastic in an unsolicited gush of positive feelings. I spoken to them about my own understanding of PDS's emphasis on promoting "emotional intelligence" in children, as well as the school's method of integrating the classroom and grades in such a way that team cooperation is learned and encouraged and a meaningful sense of community is fostered.
A few minutes later I was speaking with another parent who had been in touch with the same couple earlier and learned that they were a professional couple whose major concern rested with securing for their child a firm grounding in academics and they had heard that "academics" was not a first priority at Park Day. Something about that idea, of Park Day being perceived as not an academic school, kept bothering me throughout the day. Finally, in a conversation with my spouse later that evening, I realized what was bothering me. And this open letter to you, prospective PDS parents, is an attempt to address and clarify this issue.
Let me begin by saying that I believe that the Park Day School methods and philosophies of education are perhaps the best and most logical path to creating an intellectually stimulated individual with a life-long desire to learn, who is capable of discovering their own way in the world, fearless in the tested belief in their own unique abilities and grounded in their desire to help others.
The myth that PDS is not academically oriented must surely rise out of the misconception that a regimented approach to "basics" is the proper path to "higher learning." Let me quote from teacher Herbert Kohl in his book, "The Discipline of Hope," where he states, "It seems foolish to concede skills issues to... people who advocated obedience, overly structured learning and mechanical performance, when skills have everything to do with the development of intelligence and sensibility, and for young people, of an awareness that the life of the mind is an abiding source of power and joy."
I don't know that we really understood this when we first put our daughter in PDS. But we had a sense of it. In walking the hallways, in peeking in the rooms during class, in the faces of the students and the teachers, there was a flavor of something that made us turn to each other that first night after orientation and say, "Gee, I wish we could go here."
But we know it now. And we rejoice in it. We see the results--both in our own child and the children of others. We understand it in the fact that the graduates of PDS are the leaders in the schools they go on to, the achievers of excellence in the academic and social arenas. I could go on and on but I suggest that you read the Parents Handbook. Most of the concepts about the school are clearly elucidated. Perhaps PDS doesn't look or feel like other schools. There's a real good reason for that.
For anyone looking at Bridge Kindergarten programs, our experience with Park Day was over-the-top positive. First off, it was formed by a master teacher with over 30 years of early childhood teaching experience. As an elementary school educator myself, I look at her as a guru of early childhood education. There is always a wide range of learners, styles, strengths and abilities in any Bridge K classroom and the same can be expected in Kindergarten for that matter. What wowed me about Park's program was how the teacher got to know each child individually and helped them thrive both as learners and as community members. My son is an awesome block builder who felt great about his abilities. I loved those block building presentations where he and his building partners presented their construction to an audience of peers and parents and then fielded questions. He was not as highly skilled (yet) as a reader and writer and he got coached along just as he needed. He proudly showed us his books and journal where he drew, gave dictation and attempted his own writing. My son is now in first grade at Park Day and still pours through those priceless books he created in Bridge K. ''That was an awesome year,'' he recently remarked.
Our son had issues come up in Bridge K and we were so appreciative of how this sage teacher handled it. She gave us an open line of warm and thoughtful communication and guided us through some pretty rough bumps our son was having. It is very possible that in other settings, he would have been lost in the shuffle. As he moved into Kindergarten, she communicated directly with his new teacher. This thread of communication continued into his current first grade year, not in a way that pigeon holed or labeled our son, he has grown and changed ton, but in a way that shows me that the teachers at Park really understand and support our child. Park Day Parent
Park Day Bridge Kindergarten, a relatively new program to bridge preschool kids to Kindergarten, has not been a good experience for us and our boisterous extroverted and loud son, whom we think is wonderful. Our son is very energetic and could not be 'reigned' in to their program. Partly I felt like we were at fault for not being able to control his behavior and 'train' him to settle down and conform. In the beginning when problems arose between our son and what was going on in class, I tried hard to get him into shape and quickly realized that this caused him a great amount of stress. I was not willing to do this to him at his young age of 5 so I backed off. Watching him in class he was indeed obnoxious. While the other children sat and listened to the teacher in circle time, he would wander off and be disruptive. Something was obviously not working for everyone so I decided not to return next year. We will be sending our son to public school for Kindergarten. Park Day is an idyllic setting with wonderful caring parents and teachers, but I am not sure that always means it is a good fit for everyone. I don't think they do well with rough and tumble little boys. I also think they are still not accustomed to the developmental level of 4-5 year olds before Kindergarten. I partly thought they were still expecting too much from the younger children my son's age. And while 6 months is not much time, I actually think my son will be ready by fall to start Kindergarten by then.
Re: Recommendations for Bridge-K programs Oakland
Park Day School in Temescal (Oakland) has a WONDERFUL Bridge-K program. Our son is enrolled now and we couldn't be happier. It is play-based, with a ton of emotional/social-learning and warm care-taking, but combined with some structure and expectations in preparation for kindergarten. They offer some phonics, writing, etc, but that is not pushed. There is lots of art, music, science and exploration of the natural world. The teacher is just a gem, with many many years of experience, warmth, educational sophistication, and nearly super-human patience. We feel very blessed to have our son there.
Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
Our son is just finishing a year in the bridge-K class at Park Day School; it has been a wonderful year for him. He was ready for something more than preschool, but wasn't quite ready to start kindergarten. This was an ideal solution for us. The class has a much more structured environment than preschool, so the kids start to get the feel of school (they have circle time every morning). They are exposed to reading, writing, math but there is no pressure for them to learn them (yet our son has started to read with almost no coaching from us). The teacher is amazing; she has developed a very rich curriculum; filled with art, finding art in nature, recurring themes and projects, outside play and projects, science (such as studying water and its different properties), lots of socializing and play (there's a big block area and dress-up corner). There is always a focus on play and stimulating and supporting their interests. I hope this is helpful, good luck in your search! anon
Have a look at Park Day's Bridge-K if you have a child who is not quite ready for Kindergarten either because of age requirements or development but are out- growing their current preschool. Our son is currently enrolled there and is thriving in ways we have never seen before. His teacher is Harriet Cohen. Her decades of experience are readily apparent every day as she guides the children to work and play as a group while attending to each child's individual needs. The curriculum is so rich and thought out. Go check it out. Park Day's Bridge-K is making a world of difference for our boy. He will be so much more prepared when it's time for Kindergarten. Happy Bridge-K Parent
Re: Low-key half day camps for just-turned 6 yr-old?
My 7 y/o son really enjoyed his week at Park Day summer camp. It was his first experience with summer camp (and with a longer day of structured activities, since we homeschool). We were warmly welcomed the first day by junior counselors and counselors-in-training. I was welcomed to stay as long as I liked with my younger (3 y/o) child, enjoying the playground, etc. Parents drop off kids during a fairly big window of time in the morning so there wasn't a morning rush to be there at x time exactly. They offer a shorter day (3/4? time) that we did and again, there wasn't time pressure; we were welcomed to stay and play and catch up on what his day involved at our own pace. Kids of all ages seemed well held both by teachers and fellow campers (and their great counselor & CIT program). I recommend their program & my son has asked to do camp there again. a good experience
I am interested in the art summer camps at Park Day because they look fabulous online and Park Day always has such a great reputation as a general school. However, the only reference for the summer camp is 6 years old. Does anyone have any recent experience and comments? Anon
I'm thinking ahead to summer camp and would like to hear comments from people about the summer camp at Park Day School. My son will be 6 years old, entering 1st grade this summer. Is this a good camp for a child's first real day camp experience (he did Cal's Explorer camp for a week this past summer)? My child is physical but not seriously into sports. He likes some crafts but he's not overly wild about them. He's very into imaginative play and is very social. I know he will adore the grounds at Park Day but want there to be more for him than just a great physical space. Please share your experiences/comments. Thanks a lot! Amy
On Fridays, there is a performance and a chance to see what the kids have been working on for the week. The previous year, this usually lasted about an hour, but this time the show-and-tell lasted 90 minutes or more, mostly listening to the teachers give remarks about why the projects they planned for the kids were so cool. Frankly, I want to see more of the kids at this kind of thing, and hear less about the instructors' teaching philosophy.
Another example is a project the kids did one week called ''take apart art.'' This involved kids disassembling things like VRCs or computers and gluing the pieces onto boards or whatnot. When we asked the instructor if the kids were being instructed in proper handling of materials (many of these items have lead and other heavy metals in them), he assured us that they had, but when we quizzed our girl about it, she said they didn't have to wash their hands, and we saw kids pretty much putting their hands in their eyes and mouths after touching the materials. The instructor, who is one of the people who runs that camp, was very cavalier when confronted about this a second time.
The first year, when we would show up at pick up time, there was a frenzy of activity still going on, and last year kids were playing on the computer or listening to music while the teachers talked to one another, not appearing to engage with or even pay attention to the students.
We were disappointed enough that we will look for other options next year. a little disappointed
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