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Walden Center and School (Berkeley, CA)
Re: Seeking Mixed-Grade School for advanced kindergartener
Check out Walden in Berkeley. My kid went there from K and is now in middle school. Walden was a great experience. Class size is small (10-15 kids or so, with academic groups no larger than 8) so there's ample room for differentiation in Math and Language Arts. In fact the whole Walden experience is about learning to express yourself in various languages: academic, artistic, and most of all HUMAN. Getting along with others and yourself with kindness and intelligence. Kindergarteners have Spanish, American Sign Language, as well as amazing music, art, drama, dance classes. Art is integrated into the everyday school experience at all grades, so my kid was NEVER bored or rebellious and loved going to school every single day. In fact all the Walden kids I know love school; on school field trips people always comment on how enthusiastic and cooperative they are compared to kids from other schools. This blew my mind as I basically hated school: for me school was a place I too was bored and then a rebel. Kindergarten and first grade have their own classrooms, but 2-3 and 4-5-6 are mixed grade classrooms. Each kid gets to be recognized as an individual and can move at their own pace; their strengths and weaknesses acknowledged and taken care of. Now my child is in a (well regarded) public middle school with little differentiation I can see how the Walden tool-kit of academic and social skills (think for yourself; come up with creative solutions; respect others' and your own opinions; express your thoughts articulately and appropriately) is hugely useful now and into the future. Walden alum parent
Re: First grader says he hates school - change to private?
Since you mentioned Walden school, I thought I'd share some of our experience at the school. I have two children at Walden and we've been at the school now for six years.
To speak to the level of physical activity at Walden, I think it is on the high side compared to most schools. Part of this is because of the physical layout of the school. Each classroom is in a separate little building, so the children inherently get up and move around outside throughout the day as they travel from class to class. They eat outdoors and have generous recess time(s) with organized sporty play. The lower group (kindergarten) children often take walks around the block where they explore what they see in the neighborhood. The children also have a great deal of physical movement/exertion in their dance/drama/movement classes. Keep in mind that art, music and drama are multiple times per week and are a core element of the education at Walden. One thing that you will not find at Walden, however, are organized team sports requiring large fields or facilities. The campus is very small and has only a single modest-sized grassy field.
Academically, the school focuses on inquiry and the learning tends to be deep and thoughtful - not ''rote'' learning. Naturally, there has been some variation in the level of engagement for my kids. They've each had ups and downs, and classes that have gotten them more (and less) excited to go to school. I like that their schedule has a lot of variation: Monday might be art and Spanish, Tuesday is drama and music, Friday science and poetry (plus math or language arts most days). Each of my kids has different favorite classes, so they have better or worse feelings about the different days. I don't hear "I hate school" but I do sometimes hear things like "I hate Mondays."
Next year my son enters sixth grade and we faced the choice of whether to continue another year at Walden or start public middle school in the standard year of 6th grade. The deciding factor for us was the teachers at Walden. I just can't say enough good things about them: they are dedicated, smart, thoughtful, creative, and not overwhelmed or overworked. The teachers take professional development days during the year and are always learning. I know that (most) public school teachers are also wonderful, but I believe that they are less well-supported in their schools. Walden is a teacher cooperative, so the teachers have a great deal of sovereignty over their curriculum and all school decisions.
I wish you the best in your decision and I hope this information has been helpful! Walden family
I want to put in a good word for the summer program at Walden Center & School in Berkeley. This summer the program will feature three key teachers who have taught my children (ages 6 and 14) over the past nine years: Cristin Costello, Dominique Concepcion and Alma Jurado. They have many fun activities planned that include field trips, swimming and lots of PLAYING. The camp will feature activities in both English and Spanish and is open to rising Kindergarteners through sixth graders. I can't say enough good things about these three women!
Cristin Costello has been teaching at Walden for many years and currently teaches kids in a second/third grade classroom. She is masterful in relating to the kids on their level, setting loving but firm boundaries and creating a strong community with the kids she leads. She also manages to be super-fun while she's at it!
Alma Jurado has been teaching Spanish at Walden for many years and is also my older daughter's private Spanish tutor. Alma is amazing at creating games and situations where learning a new language is fun, supportive and engages the whole body. So much of her teaching is game-based and fun and really helps the kids assimilate a new language. I have worked with her personally and think she is the best Spanish teacher I have ever seen at the elementary level.
Dominique Concepcion has been a part of Walden for many years. She has also been a beloved swim teacher at the Berkeley YMCA and other locations. She truly loves working with kids and is so great at making everything feel like a grand adventure. She is the kind of person who kids gravitate toward. She is funny, loving and one-of-a-kind. I love having her as a role model for my daughters.
All three teachers have extensive experience working with children and are attentive to creating a safe environment in every sense of the word. As a school, Walden has a strong philosophy toward healthy conflict resolution that you will see reflected in the summer program. Walden's summer program is sure to be a place where your child will be a respected part of a strong community, will have a great time and will even learn some Spanish. I highly recommend this program. My daughter is already signed up! Sarah C
Re: Which Schools Use A Best-for-Boys Approach?
Apologies, I didn't see the original post but since you didn't get a lot of suggestions - and no recommendations for schools that are best for boys - I want to put a word in for Walden school in Berkeley. My two kids go there - boy and girl - and one of the things I love about the school is the amount of outdoor time and movement that the kids get. I can't imagine that a student would ever be denied recess as a punishment, since obviously getting a bit of 'running around time' is probably exactly what they need in order to improve their behavior. (besides, Walden's approach to discipline is much more thoughtful and not about punishment).
I have seen times when teachers pause class to send kids out for a quick run, just to get their ya-yas out. I don't know that they do this for individual kids but I bet they would, if need be. Often a child might be sent on an errand, like bringing something to the office (which involves walking outside), and I suspect this is done therapeutically as well. Very small class sizes mean that teachers aren't exhausted by discipline issues and can take the time to individualize, which benefits children of all genders. Expectations for how long a child can sit still are developmentally appropriate.
Walden isn't perfect and there are some frustrating things about it from a parental perspective (I find the calendar difficult for a working family) but in terms of the childrens' experience, I am completely thrilled and grateful to be at Walden. There are many rambunctious kids there (boys and girls alike) who are thriving in an environment that celebrates them for who they are. - Walden parent
Re: Seeking excellent music program for 8 year old
Walden Center and School at McKinley and Dwight in Berkeley has a fantastic music program led by Harry Gray, a very experienced educator and musician with a masters in music education and a PhD in music theory from Northwestern (http://www.walden-school.net/who-are-we/staff/harry-gray/). My child is reading music for vocal and recorder and getting a great grounding in music theory as well as having tons of fun in ensemble work. Kids also get to do musical theater in the Walden drama program led by Russell Wright, who has won the East Bay Express award for Best of the East Bay Arts Educator 3 years in a row. You might check out one of the school's many cultural events to get a sense of the joyous energy in Walden's arts programs--each child is respected as an artist, and grows up with a healthy sense of confidence in his or her ability based on well developed skills. It's wonderful to see a body of students so expressive, fearless, creative and thoughtful in their approach to performance. Walden Parent
Re: Schools that foster creativity?
Walden, without question! My daughter starts drawing as soon as her eyes open some days and tries to draw instead of eating, and I am confident that Walden could be a good fit for your child. Art, excellent! Music, wonderful! Movement and Drama, phenomenal and beyond. The community is warm and welcoming and diverse as well. Happy Walden Mama
I'm overwhelmed by the sheer number of schools that need touring! I am wondering if I can narrow down some of the schools... can anyone give me their perspective on Walden versus Berkwood Hedge? I've toured one (BH) and really liked it, but am wondering if they are very different... should I bother with the other? Thanks. Overwhelmed and Low on Time
Berkwood Hedge has a much more balanced, professional, tantrum-free environment. There is emphasis on the arts and on working cooperatively (both kids and teachers), and they have a director who is able to hear concerns in a non-loaded way and thus really help families. The kids are happily engaged, active learners. Ask to see both school's handbooks. -Done both
I was a bit worried that my son might not be artistic enough for such a creative school, being that he had no desire to draw or paint. I am now often amazed with what he brings home to show me and just how much he loves his art class. And the drama class... well he asked if he could have that 7 days a week!
I was also a wee bit worried about the academic side of Walden, as our son likes a challenge, especially in Math and Engineering. We have been very satisfied with the academics and our son never gets bored. Walden has been a perfect balance for our family. I hope that you have a chance to visit!
Wishing you the best, A Happy Walden Family
One thing I did love at Berkwood was the fact that the teachers and administration work very closely on the curriculum to ensure there is a connection between grades, and I love the honoring time they have on Wednesday morning community meetings. Although Walden does not have these "honoring" times, honoring one another seems a natural part of the Walden way. As for Walden's art program, they have one of the best in the bay area I believe - with the teacher - Russell winning awards several years in a row.
I have to say though that, from personal experience, the before and afterschool program is superior at Walden as is the general love and spirit that you feel when you walk onto the campus. I'm a bit bias because my husband, Naru, has ran the afterschool program at Walden for the past 17 years...however, having been at Walden before I became a Walden parent and now being a Walden parent, I would say the big difference is Walden is a community that becomes your ''home'' away from home. The people, the teachers, the students, the school itself is your family. Berkwood probably has the same spirit...but at Walden it is almost instantaneous and infectious. (Contagious even...). I have to drag my child kicking and screaming away from the school everyday and remind her that she actually has a home where she sleeps with a bed and parents. The best example, to me, of the love that you feel at Walden is when you attend the graduation events where the kids are moving onto junior high school. My experience (having had an older child) is that kids can't wait to leave...but at Walden kids are often quite teary and upset to leave a place they've grown up at the kids often share very sweet stories about all their teachers, paying respect to them, and to one another. This to me, is one of the best transitions a youth can have onto the next phase of their life. One thing I have noticed though: even though they have graduated, those waldenites keep appearing every now and then at Walden events and just any ol day. Jora
I have a daughter who, among many other things, happens to be a very bright little girl who is very far ahead of her peers in all academic areas. She is six and I just don't want her to lose her love of learning by being bored in school. Walden seems like a potential fit. Have any of you send a little intellectual to Walden? If so, please share your experience! Fitting In
Because Walden, a diverse community, embraces a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning, students are encouraged to find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex academic and social problems. Due to space limitations on this posting, I'm only able to offer a few specifics on Walden being a good fit for my intellectually advanced children:
1) Walden teachers look for ways to make learning a thought provoking and enjoyable experience. Homework is high in quality and low in quantity - students actually have to think it through before working, and often, find various ways of tackling the same problem.
2) Walden provides an authentic "education for the whole child." Its well know arts curriculum engages all parts of the child to learn about themselves and world from different approaches.
3) As with many other intellectually advanced children, mine had issues in the area of social development. Walden nurtured them into the socially apt beings that they are today. The school's small size enables teachers, parents, and children to truly know and support one another, and to have fun together. Nobody gets lost in the crowd.
4) One of the most important social development aspects of Walden is its "Respect for All" curriculum: classes, workshops, discussions, early intervention, mediation, role-play, and modeling provide tools and language for positive and peaceful decision-making and conflict resolution for children and the entire community. They are no pigeon-holing identifiers such as: "nerds" or "jocks" at Walden. Children learn at an early age to respect individual differences and appreciate one another.
In a nutshell, Walden students are simply too busy exploring the many wonders of this complex world and their roles this world to get bored. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to talk more in detail.
A Mighty Pleased Walden Parent kati
At Walden, how our child learned, how she felt about herself, and how she functioned as a member of a community were as important as the academic skills and facts she learned. Walden's amazing teachers met her where she was and gave her support and challenges that kept her engaged and eager to go to school every day.
You signed as ''Fitting In.'' I think you might find the idea of fitting in to be uniquely expressed at Walden. To me the most important part of fitting in at Walden is a willingness to accept people for who they are, regardless of how different or similar they might be. Walden really does build a community with many types of diversity, including a variety of learning styles. Our daughter felt truly valued for who she was by Walden's community.
I checked in with a Walden alumna I know from my Walden parent days about how she would respond to your question. Here is what she had to say:
''I am a Walden alum, class of 2006 who is now a freshman at Vassar College. Walden definitely seems like a good fit for your daughter. Walden will fulfill her intellectual curiosities and also foster her creativity. As an alum, I feel like one of the most important qualities I took from my time at Walden is my love of learning--learning for the sake of learning, not for grades or tests. I fully credit Walden with all my success in high school, and with my acceptance into a college as good as Vassar: I wrote my main college application essay on my first Upper Group Play at Walden!''
Nine years later, I am still part of Walden! Just as our daughter graduated, I was offered the opportunity to be Walden's admissions coordinator. I'm thrilled to advocate for the school that means so much to our family. Vicki
Two other factors at Walden have also been key for us: the socio-emotional focus and the real and frequent exposure to the arts. Teaching to the whole child really happens at Walden and socio-emotional learning is equally important to academics in my book. Having Art, Drama/Movement and Music twice a week (for each subject!) helps children develop their brains in different ways than traditional academics and, in my experience, balances a child's experience in school.
My youngest daughter just started kindergarten at Walden this fall and, although her personality and learning style are very different from her older sister, I can already see what a great fit it is for her and they ways in which she is blooming based on what brings her joy. Her teachers engage authentically and give her that "just right" amount of stimulation and challenge.
Both of my daughters would be considered well above average academically by public school standards. In fact, my oldest entered Berkeley public schools this fall and was bored out of her mind. (We've since found her an environment that better fits her drive to learn.) What I love about Walden is that kids aren't categorized as smart, gifted, slow or difficult; they are all honored for the amazing learners they are. And it's important to keep in mind that no matter how smart a student is, there will inevitably be a time when something is hard for her whether it be math, friendship, or learning a new dance step. Walden is a place where I know my child will get the help she needs when she needs it and the push she needs at the right time as well.
Best of luck with your decision. sarah
Re: Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?
You should put Walden School on your list. It's a very small K-6 school established in 1958. It's near downtown Berkeley and it definitely qualifies as a ''hidden gem.'' The tuition is lower than average because of the light-weight administrative structure of the school, and scholarships are available, so there are many families at the school with modest means, especially young artsy families. Wealthy families are there too but I would say they are in the minority. The homework policy at Walden was described to me as ''gentle'' when we first visited - it was a priority of mine, too. This has turned out to be very accurate. But at the same time I have been impressed with the amount of knowledge and academic confidence that our son, now in the 6th grade, has acquired. The best part about Walden is the teachers. Unlike most other schools, Walden does not have a director or Head of School or principal -- the teachers collectively share in the decision making, so they really believe in the mission and are dedicated to a degree that I have not seen in any of the schools my 3 kids have attended, both public and private. Most are ''lifers.'' And by the way, the performing arts program at Walden is like none other in the Bay Area and has been a major factor in our child's growth. It's an incubator for local highschool-level theater groups. Walden is a school that really walks the walk -- what you get is way more than what you see. Walden isn't for everybody, but if it's right for your family, you'll be in paradise! GO
Also, Walden is cheaper than most private schools. To keep costs down, there is mandatory volunteer work - parents maintain the grounds, clean the school, handle administrative tasks and more. Many families get financial aid. You can find tuition and admissions info on the website, here: http://www.walden-school.net Good luck! Walden parent
RE: Small schools - good or bad?
I share your concerns about the effects of a small school on your child's social development, which is why I've chosen to have both my children attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley.
Besides being a well-rounded education setting, Walden is a nurturing community for my children's healthy social development as well. The school's small size enables teachers, parents, and children to truly know and support one another, and to have fun together. Nobody gets lost in the crowd. Walden, a diverse community, embraces a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning. Students find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex academic and social problems.
Although it is natural that my children (or all people for that matter) "click" more with some than with others, at Walden, students learn organically how to be members of a community. In other words, while not everyone becomes best friends with everyone else, all students get along and respect one another. In my opinion, it is Walden's proactive approach to healthy social development that makes the need to "reshuffle" non-existent.
One of the most important social development aspects of Walden is its "Respect for All" curriculum: classes, workshops, discussions, early intervention, mediation, role-play, and modeling provide tools and language for positive and peaceful decision-making and conflict resolution for children and the entire community. Respect for All starts at the early grades, so that when students reach upper grades, they are abundantly equipped to manage the social mores of their age group.
Take a look at Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It could very well be the place for your child and family. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to talk more.
K.G. -- A Delighted Parent of Walden Center and School
Re: Looking for Developmental Multi-age School for 4th grader
You should visit Walden Center and School in Berkeley, which has one class for 4th, 5th and 6th grade. There are 2 teachers, and about 30 students in the 3 grades. The school has a developmental philosophy, encouraging students to follow their interests. My daughter will be in 4th grade next year also. Currently she's in the combined 2nd/3rd grade. It's a wonderful school with focus on the arts and integrating music, drama, and visual art into the curriculum. I'd be happy to answer any specific questions, but Vicki, the admissions coordinator, is a good contact for you: firstname.lastname@example.org. They are having tours now for fall 2012 admissions. Happy Walden Parent Laura
Re: School for 11-year-old Spanish speaking boy
You might look at Walden Center & School, a private K-6 school in central Berkeley. During the time my child has attended, several foreign students have joined the school for varying periods of time and have done well. At least two of the teachers speak fluent Spanish, and many of the students also speak at varying levels. Mary
Re: Good Elem School(s) for Sensitive Boy?
Hi, Have you looked at Walden Center & School (a couple blocks away from Berkwood Hedge in Berkeley)? My son had major anxiety issues entering kindergarten. We really didn't know if any school would work out and we toured 21 schools altogether! I'm glad we chose Walden. I can't say enough good things about the nurturing, low-impact environment there. The teachers really get to know each child (this is possible because the teachers are not overwhelmed by large class sizes). They helped him slowly emerge from his shell and he is now thriving and happy in his gaggle of kids. It's a tiny school, which I think is great for sensitive and anxious kids. As a plus, Walden is less expensive than other private schools in the area. It looks like they are still taking applications for next year. good luck! - happy walden parent
Re: Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less
I want to recommend Walden School in Berkeley as a school with a ''gentle'' homework policy. I am not sure what happens in K-3 at Walden because we have just started this year for the 4th grade. But homework in 4th grade is MUCH more reasonable and also MUCH more thoughtful than what we have experienced in public school or other private schools. There is reading a book of his choice every night, as in other schools. There is a weekly project due on Weds. customized to tie into instruction for the week. Example this week is writing about pros/cons of California's aqueduct system. Then there is one short nightly assignment which alternates between math and language arts that takes an inattentive, distracted kid 30-45 min., for example a couple pages in the math workbook. There is no busy work, no brainless discouraging stuff, none of the xeroxed sheets we'd grown used to in the past. Sometimes homework still doesn't get done, and the Walden teachers will sit with my son the next day to work on it. They also check his assignment book every day, adding notes as needed. I really like the way they do things at Walden. G.
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
I would like to tell you about Walden School in Berkeley which is private and fits your brief description of what you want. It is the most affordable private school we found, and worth every penny. It's an art-based, progressive school that is truly developmental. It's also very small, allowing for a lot of individualized instruction. The teachers are amazing. Each year we have fallen in love with the new teacher and see how each offers something wonderful to our child. At Walden, 2nd - 3rd grade are combined in one class, and 4th - 6th are also combined. Each class has music, drama/movement, Spanish and art twice a week. K - 1st also learn sign language. It's a wonderful community of committed parents and teachers and we enjoy being a part of it. Here is a brief quote from the website:
''We embrace a progressive, constructivist, and developmental model of teaching and learning. What this means is that Walden students actively participate in their own learning. They look, listen, and touch. They ask, answer, and discuss. They measure, move, and create. Walden students find creative and useful solutions to interesting and complex problems.''
The website is an excellent resource for learning more: http://www.walden-school.net I'm also happy to answer any questions. Best of luck! Happy Walden parent laura
Re: What are some progressive schools in Berkeley/Oakland?
In response to the poster looking for progressive schools in Berkeley & Oakland, I'd suggest you look into Walden Center and School in Berkeley near Dwight Way/MLK. The school is small, child centered, arts-based, and identifies as progressive. It's a private school but offers financial aid, and is one of the lower tuitions (if not lowest) in the area. One strong feature of the school is community involvement; all families are required to volunteer for the school and parents perform a great many functions, including staffing the office and cleaning & maintaining the school facilities. We've been very happy with our experience at Walden so far (in our 3rd year now). Good luck! -- very happy Walden family
Re: Will private schools accept a child without preschool?
I have 2 daughters at Walden, and preschool experience is not a requirement. Some children come into the school after being home-schooled for a time, some come from a preschool. It is a small school with amazing teachers. Pamela is the K teacher and she has an amazing ability to include all children, help the wiggly ones focus, allow the focused ones to lead, and teach a subject all at the same time.
My younger daughter started there early and will do a second year in K this coming year, and we are thrilled to have Pamela for 2 years. Ruby will be 5 this Sept. Pamela is very able to incorporate children of different abilities / maturity. The curriculum is different every year, based on the children's interests. It's a small school with lots of individual attention, and lots of encouragement for each child to ask questions, think for themselves, be creative, work together, solve problems, etc. Walden is a wonderful place with integrated arts, music, drama, sign language, and Spanish. I'd be happy to answer any more questions you have. Best of luck with relocating. Laura
Re: Summer camp for two German 10-year-old friends
You might try the summer camp at Walden Center & School in central Berkeley. Their phone number is 510-841-7248. My 10-year-old will spend a couple of weeks there this summer. It's a fun, low-key camp with a few field trips to places like swimming pools. Last summer a camper from France had a good time at the Walden camp. Mary N.
Re: Moving from Boston ... which school?
Congratulations on your move to the Berkeley area. (I grew up in Bedford MA) My 2 girls attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley and we love it. It's a small private school focused on integrating arts education with academics. My children are in 1st and K, and so far the homework is optional. Class sizes are small, generally 10 - 15 in a class, and often they break into 2 groups for lessons. The teaching at Walden is very creative, using varied activities to teach a subject (discussion, demonstration, games, small groups).
For example, the 1st grade has recently studied frogs, ancient Egypt, and money. The unit on money included store games, learning about different types of money, kids bringing in samples from different countries, reading stories about money, making and designing their own coins, and learning the song ''Can't Buy Me Love'', among other things. Music, art, math, history, etc are all integrated into lessons about a common theme.
Outside time: I think they get a full hour (including lunch), and it's free play. They also do mindfulness exercises, and have quiet time in the classroom when they can choose from a variety of quiet activities.
The after school program is run by fabulous teachers with lots of free play. This really fits into my understanding that children learn while playing. My kids are generally there until 5:00 or 5:30, and they don't want to leave. I wish they didn't have such a long day, but feel good about where they are. I know almost everyone at the school.
Best of luck with your move! Happy Walden Parent
Re: Private school that is not trying to prove itself academically
There are lots of schools in the East Bay that fit the description of ''a private school that is ... not trying to prove itself academically.'' In fact there are only a handful that are! But I can personally recommend taking a look at Walden School in Berkeley. We are starting there for 4th grade in September for similar reasons to yours. My nephew went to Walden and is now in high school. He was very well prepared academically, though he was difficult as a young kid, and I think he would not have succeeded in other schools. In my opinion, Walden is a small enough school that every child can be met at her/his own level, but at the same time the bar is very high, and the teachers, most of them long-term, seem to be pretty outstanding. Plus, the emphasis on arts makes school fun and challenging for kids. Check it out! Walden newbie
The curriculum is both rich and deep, and fully integrates the arts, helping kids find the ways they learn best. Walden kids are confident, self-expressive, and respectful of diverse ways of being. They go out into the world and become passionate, compassionate, and accomplished adults. Walden graduates are an incredibly diverse bunch of people and include foresters, theater directors, teachers, engineers, carpenters, entrepreneurs, midwives, musicians, professors, and yes, Harvard alumni, to name a few. At Walden achievement goes beyond academics.
Our daughter is thriving there and we are very happy. Walden is small, so all the teachers and students know her. She is part of a learning community that values diversity, respect, and creativity. At Walden you'll find a wide range of learning styles and levels because Walden reflects the world in all its diverse glory. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. Vicki
Re: My 4th grader son gets into 'trouble' for being a normal little boy
My child goes to Walden School in Berkeley (not to be confused with Waldorf). The boys there seem to be allowed to be boys. In fact, one of the many things I love about Walden is that everyone is accepted for who they are. The school's philosophy is child-centered and progressive, with great arts classes (art, music, and drama each twice a week). Check out the website: www.walden-school.net. happy parent & child
Re: Seeking school for hands-on, kinesthetic 1st grader
My two girls attend Walden Center and School in Berkeley (K and 1st grade), and it is a truly developmental school where there is lots of hands-on work on all topics. The children learn by experience and doing in the classroom on all subjects -- from making their own knitting needles, estimating how many objects are in a jar, field trips, etc. Arts are integrated into the curriculum: music, dance, visual arts, etc. I find that my children are picking up sign language very quickly, but their Spanish is a bit slower. I attribute this to the fact that they are visual learners. I am no expert on different educational philosophies, but Walden is definitely a place to check out! Happy Walden parent
Re: Kindergarden Next Year, but which one?
You said you are looking for a bilingual program, and we applied for that in Berkeley but did not get it. We are incredibly happy with the school we ended up at: Walden Center and School in Berkeley, which is a private school focusing on integrated arts with education. It's a wonderful, small school with Spanish, sign language, music, drama, art: http://www.walden-school.net/ If you're looking for a small, individualized, developmental, arts-based program for your child I highly encourage you to check out Walden. And I'd be happy to answer any questions. Laura
I toured Walden recently and was very impressed with the teachers and the teaching I saw going on. But it feels very small to me--the current kindergarten seems to be only about 10 kids--and I worry about what that is like socially for the kids, and for the parents. I'd love to hear from current parents about the school culture. Thanks. looking for a progressive school
Turns out, we have been ecstatic with Walden. My son is in first grade now and I think he knows the names of every kid at the school. He's up at the crack of dawn begging to go to school every day. It really says a lot about the school that 10 and 11 year olds will play with the kindergarteners and treat them kindly!
My son was certainly not a socially graceful guy, and yet he has made good friends at Walden. Beyond that, his entire class of kids seems to be on warm and friendly terms with one another. I don't think this is just luck -- I think it has a lot to do with a carefully tended culture of caring and respect. My son has developed warm relationships with not only his homeroom teacher, but also Spanish, visual arts, dance/theater, music, and sign language teachers, each of whom knows him well, not to mention the aftercare staff, other parents, and younger & older siblings of students, all of whom often 'hang out' before and after school.
Feel free to contact me off-list if you want to talk more about it! Gradiva
Re: Elementary schools where African American boys thrive
... we moved to Walden on Dwight Way in Berkeley. Walden is a very small, sweet school with a ton of heart. There is a real community there that embraces children, and even parents, with genuine warmth and support. Like nearly all private schools, the student body is not extremely diverse; however there are long-time African American teachers who are at the core of the school's program and (collective) decision-making functions. They are fabulous role models for all the children at the school. If you are open to a truly alterative school, I recommend that you check it out. Anon
Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
I would say not the right school, rather than not ready for kindergarten. After all, the preschool teacher knows your daughter well. Since you're already looking at private schools, you might like Walden in central Berkeley. At the Walden kindergarten visit, if a child is not okay with her parent leaving, then the parent may stay. The kindergarten teacher, and in fact all of the Walden teachers, appreciate that some people are quieter than others and know how to make all children feel welcome and happy in school. As a former shy child myself, I feel strongly that shy does not mean unready! Jennifer
We're considering Walden School and have been very impressed with everything, especially the drama program. We would love some feedback about what's going on with music. Thank you! Music Fans
My son has been at walden since Kindergarten and when he was in 1st grade, a new music teacher was hired. The previous music teacher had been there a long time (15+ years) and was much beloved by the entire community. It was a tough transition to a new person in that role. What my son reported at the time is that many kids found the teacher more strict, which I think might have really meant more ''technique oriented''. What I notice as a parent is that the performances are tight and the children take a lot of pride in knowing they sound great! And, as I mentioned before, my child is really happy. Hope this helps. Contented Walden Parent
Right now, the music program is Walden's weak link, but my sense is that the program will be different next year (the current teacher has already accepted a job at another school and reduced his time; he has also let the kids know how much more appreciated by the students he is at the other school). Even if the situation doesn't change the rest of the program makes up for it.
I think the current situation with music speaks to one of Walden's greatest differentiators: it is a teacher run collective. This is both awesome as you get truly invested staff, and difficult, as it is often tricky finding new staff that get it, and when a fit is not great the staff can have a hard time recognizing and reacting to it (once a staff member is brought on board it can be difficult for the collective to own up to the mistake). This strength/weakness shows itself in other areas of the school, for example sometimes its hard to know who to ask about something, or how to get a decision made. Sometimes the school can be slow to address a problem that seems obvious. Ultimately we think its more of a strength because all of the long term staff/collective members truly love their work and are extraordinarily dedicated to the community and educating the kids. One might even say that its only by the standards they set that the current music teacher doesn't measure up.
We strongly suggest you consider Walden for your child, its been great for ours.
BTW: the music teacher is a very serious, good musician and has conducted well received workshops for the school's parents. He's a far better teacher of adults than kids, imho... a Walden parent
Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
Our peace loving son is loving Walden Center and School in Berkeley. It's a very safe, tolerant place.
The kids are active, creative, vocal, readily ask for help from the wonderful yard staff, and have positive outlets for aggression.
Playground violence and bullying are not tolerated - and the staff helps the kids find other ways to communicate. My preschooler loves to play on the bars with the big kids and they tolerate/support her very well.
My son is a Harry Potter nut and was really into StarWars last year, but I've never seen the kids do gunplay. The fans get together and talk about the movies, characters, etc. Shirley
We are considering Walden Center and School for our son who will be entering kindergarten next Fall. I have toured the school and really like what I saw. However, I haven't gotten a strong impression of the kindergarten teacher. I know she has been there a long time, but she was not very outspoken at the open house and I only observed her classroom for a short period of time on the tour. Does anyone have any feedback about her strengths and weaknesses and what it was like for your child in her classroom? Thanks so much.
My son had the current Kindergarten teacher many years ago as a kindergartner. He still says she is his favorite teacher, even after all these years. Incredibly sweet, kind, intelligent and attuned to each student. I always felt she is a quintessential Kindergarten teacher. Children really respond to her warmth. I have no idea why she seemed reserved to you in the open house, but that is not my experience of her. I highly recommend both Walden and the kindergarten program. Feel free to e-mail me if you would like more specific informaiton. ekl
I especially like the way Pam teaches math skills, and as a math/science person myself, I'm not easily impressed. For example, she has the kids count out 10 or 12 of a small object (like goldfish crackers), and then has them group the objects by 2's, by 3's, by 4's, etc., and has them count how many groups of 2,3, etc, and how many objects are in the remainder (e.g. 2 groups of 4 with 2 in the remainder if there are 10 objects total). This is a very visual, hands-on way of laying the foundation for later math skills.
She also has each child keep a journal -- in pictures, and then with letters and words as their writing skills develop.
All of the teachers at Walden are fabulous -- my son enjoys the music, art, Spanish, drama, and after school teachers as much as his classroom teacher. But of all the fabulous teachers at Walden, I think that Pam is especially wonderful.
I looked at something like 17 schools (public, private, and charter) before choosing Walden. I was looking for a warm, nurturing environment, a low child/adult ratio, a hands-on approach to learning, and an active and involved parent community. I found all of that at Walden, and I definitely recommend the school and all of the teachers highly. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me. Diane
Re: Lonely 2nd grader is the only African American in her class
Please have a look at Walden Center & School. I know you asked specifically for Oakland, but it is central Berkeley very close to many parts of Oakland and many students there are coming from Oakland. It is a small nurturing school, and the kids are generally friendly and inclusive. For its size I think it fairs better in many areas of divesity than many other private schools. There is diversity among the teachers and staff too, including African American and male teachers which I think is vital in celebrating, honoring and modeling diversity to kids. anon
I am considering Walden School for my son, who will be entering kindergarten this fall. I have read the reviews in the archive, which are largely positive, but the most recent is two years old, and most are older. I'm interested in hearing from parents with more recent experience with the school about how you and your child(ren) feel about the school. Does your child like school? Are they making good progress academically? It sounds like everyone loves the art/drama/music there, but there's less information about the math and science program. What math and science topics are covered, and what level of math skills do the kids typically attain by 6th grade? How do Walden grads do in middle school? I'm also interested in hearing feedback on the before and after school programs -- again, does your kid like it, and what do they do? I'm also kind of curious why Walden still has openings this time of year, when most other private schools are full with waiting lists? Thanks for any and all feedback! -- a prospective Walden parent
Why is enrollment lower than many privates? I can only venture a guess that the school is not as attractive to some people who can pay private tuition precisely because it isnt high pressure.
Also the school is small and the campus is small. It isnt glitzy, but it is very warm and comfortable, which in my opinion is much more important to kids than fancy. I know people who anxiously compete for the right preschool based on where they think their child should go to college. Tracking from age 3 doesnt work for me. And Walden isnt like that. I really believe it a hidden gem. You are welcome to email me directly with further questions. c_scott
Yes, the arts and drama program are first rate- I don't think many other schools' programs come close to what the kids at Walden get in terms of the arts. With our older daugher (now in 8th grade), we were concerned about the level of math and science, mostly because we just weren't sure where she should be, and since there are no letter grades or testing, we didn't have ''proof'' of how she measured up. But she is doing fantastic in math, and has a real understanding of the concepts and mechanics. She is on track to be in Honors Geometry in the fall at Berkeley High. Neither of our girls are fond of science, but I would say that the hands-on science at Walden, especially in the ''middle group'' is stimulating and really gets kids thinking as scientists- ''what happens if?'' and ''why did that happen?'' The teachers weave the subjects together (learning strands) so kids are learning topics in depth- ie. they might study the rainforest and bring that subject into math and language arts, as well as science.
A few other positives- there is true diversity at Walden- economic, racial, LGBT. The community is small and most families form strong friendship bonds over the years. There is very low teacher turnover- many teachers have been at Walden for 10-20+ years! And yes, it's private, but the cost is among the lowest in the Bay Area.
As to why there are still spaces- I can't say. I know that many people who consider Walden are weighing that choice against public school, and many will go that route instead. We have had such a positive experience at Walden, I could go on and on. Feel free to email me with any more questions.... christa
Do you want a truly developmental elementary school instead of one that masquerades as developmental while under the surface they are exerting high academic pressure on very young children, even while claiming they dont buy the No Child Left Behind view of education?
We were drawn to Walden for our two children because we didnt feel we would be shut out of our childrens lives at school, but instead would be part of a warm community of caring teachers, parents, and children.
We chose Walden because the teachers personally connect with every child, and address their individual academic needs.
We chose Walden because it is immersed in the arts: The fulltime arts teachers are a central part of the staff, and drama/dance, music and visual arts are all taught twice a week.
Our children are thriving there.
Walden still has a few spaces for Kindergarten (2007/08). If you have questions about the school, you can visit www.walden- school.net or call 841-7248. Constance
Re: Alternative/arts based public school?
Although it has been some time since my son attended, Walden Center & School is what you're looking for! They have an arts-based curriculum, with art, drama (which often includes dance), and music all being an integral part of the curriculum. Check it out. They are on McKinley at Dwight in Berkeley. Deb
We have been extremely happy with Walden School and think of it as a little gem in the world of schools. It is a small, nuturing arts-based environment that does a great job at catering to kids throughout the spectrum of learning abilities. Because it is small with a low student to teacher ratio, kids' work can be individualized to their ability. I'd would definitely encourage you to check it out for yourself. mmann
Walden (not be confused with Waldorf) is a small independent school of about 90 students K- 6 - and the parent/teacher community is fabulous. It's like a village that is helping us to raise our son, not an institution where we hope he will survive.
There are openings for the 2005-2006 school year in kindergarten and the upper group (grades 4-6). For more information, you can check out www.walden-school.net or call 841-7248 and leave a message for Cristin Costello.
I am happy to answer questions about our experience at Walden. B Avalon
Walden fosters deep understanding and intellectual development. It is very hands on - my child now does exceptionally well in math and science. I attribute this in part to Walden's focus on music and art instruction which educational research has shown to develop mathematical abilities, and in the way students were required to verbalize all their science and math lessons. I do agree it is not big on test taking skills so we had her tutored in that area. Though generally she performs well on subject area tests in school.
In terms of cleaning - getting down with the basics. Performing these basic tasks forms community - it is the way you get to know the other parents, by working together and adding TLC to the classroom. Some parents do other jobs during the day like Office Parent, Classroom Assistant, Construction, or fundraising. Parents can opt out of this by paying more tuition or paying for a substitute when they can't make their work time. Parents who need more scholarship are often granted more hours or specially skilled jobs. I often say that when you go to other schools you gain an education but at Walden you gain an exceptional education AND a family. Walden teachers there have always happily and enthusiastically gone the distance for my child.
FYI- Walden Center and School is not a Waldorf school, this is a common confusion, one that I shared when I first heard the name, Walden has its own very independent, very dedicated history which greatly influences its path thru today. c e c
[Editor note] We do accept negative reviews but only if they meet the policy. The policy about negative reviews is on the website here: http://parents.berkeley.edu/FAQ/rec.html#neg
I highly recommend also looking at WALDEN SCHOOL in Berkeley
(no, no affiliation with Waldorf schools or methods.) We only
looked at Walden and Crestmont so I can't compare to the others
you mentioned but I hear Walden has more similarities to Aurora
and Berkwood Hedge (nearby.) The STAFF is wonderful and diverse-
racially, and gender too (2 male teachers and 1 teaching
assistant,) which is nice to come by in an elementary school. It
has an arts-based curriculum, each class has art and drama and
music (also Spanish and sign language) twice a week. The student
body is diverse, though I would not say radically- but it is
either the same or better than other private schools. a bonus is
that you can opt to do 50 hours work commitment for the school
year and reduce tuition by $2000 making it one of the most
affordable of the private schools (crestmont is slightly less,
that is why we didn't look at the others.) In theory that might
attract economic diversity, but maybe not because 8000 vs. 12000
is still a lot. It is a warm vibrant community and the children
seem happy and excited to be there.
You can call 841-7248 for information and see if it fits for
(located on McKinley off Dwight Ave.)
happy mom and kindergartener
The school provided excellent academic preparation in a slightly different environment. It is an arts based curriculum with full time teachers in drama, music, and studio arts. There is no elementary school in the area which provides a finer environment in the arts. The teachers are wonderful. Students have ALL the arts twice a week, they do not need to choose. Current studies are showing that this type of environment is excellent for developing upper reasoning math skills, which it has done for my daughter. When half the class is in art, the other half is in academics: Language, Science or Math. Makes for very small academic classes like 8-12 depending on the year. Spanish starts in the early years - I think 1st or 2nd grade, also an excellent program - hard to match in Middle School.
The philosophy is grounded in peace education, very diverse, conflict resolution is practised naturally- not a ''special'' subject. When you go to Walden you become part of an extended family. There are no grades, tests or written records kept. This irritates some people. My daughter stayed through sixth grade, she is doing extremely well at Berkeley Montessori Middle School. c
It's a small school (around 80 kids in K-6), with an strong focus on the arts. The kids have music, art, and drama (and Spanish) twice a week, with special teachers who teach only these subjects. It's educational philosophy is "progressive"---no grades, multi-age classrooms, experiential learning. The social atmosphere is wonderful---kids of all ages mingle on the playground, and the social and emotional development of the children is seen as very important. The school is also committed to diversity. Three of the teachers are African-American, one is Thai, one is Palestinian, and many of the kids are kids of color. Two of the teachers are males, too, which is really nice for the boys.
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