Forest School, Trackers Micro School or similar for 2nd grader


Our pod is splitting up, so we're exploring other options for our 2nd grader. We're looking for an outdoor, masked situation in a stable group, for around 6 hours a day for 3-5 days a week that can complement the Distance Learning curriculum provided by the public school (we would stay enrolled). We're less concerned about the academics, but really look for an enriching, fun program where our kid can socialize and do things they would normally not get to do in a regular school year. Our kid loves being active, exploring nature and making things. We find it important there is social/racial justice integrated into the curriculum and a diverse student/teacher body. 

I heard good stories about Forest School and Trackers Micro School. Can anyone share their experience there post-covid (so probably not the summer camp situation) or have you heard of other programs we would want to look into?

Thank you.

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Our son is at Hello Hills, which is offering a multi-age program (age 5-10), 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. They have two openings right now - capacity is 12 kids. We love it. The hours are 9-3, so it isn't compatible to signing into zoom class, but I know one family at our school and another at BFS who are staying enrolled in public school - I think they just do zoom class some days and come to school a little late on those days. We aren't doing DL because our son would be in TK and it didn't seem worth it. 

Their COVID protocols are good - kids wear masks most of the time (off for eating and when they are spread out), they do a screening for symptoms/behaviors and temp checks every morning, and they encourage all families to keep closed bubbles outside of school. Kids don't maintain distance from each other all the time, but with the outdoors and masks we feel comfortable with it and we are pretty risk-averse about COVID.

100% thumbs up for Trackers! My son (K) went to Trackers summer camp for the first time and since September has been in the Outdoor Adventure program twice a week from 1- 6 pm. They are super COVID-19 safe and my son comes home with excited reports of exploration and cool skills like archery, carving, hiking, etc. I am so grateful for Trackers both for my son's benefit, and for their superb management behind the scenes. They are responsive and creative in support of families during the pandemic. They are now enrolling for second term starting in late November into Feb 2020.

Another promising option is Outside School which meets in Alvarado Park

I have the perfect program for you: Outside School! It runs Tu-Th, 9am to 3pm, at Alvarado Park in Richmond, and can have 8 children attending (currently there are 3 kids, including my daughter, so there's room). It's all outdoors and masked with social distancing—and it's been amazing. The kids hike all around the park, explore, climb trees, learn about plants and insects, try to catch fish in the stream, whittle sticks, try to identify scat, take breaks for snacks and reading, and walk up to visit the cows and see the view across the bay—and much more. All of this is facilitated by Heather Taylor, who is a very experienced outside educator and all-around cool person. (I actually met her through her equally cool husband.) Every day Heather emails out a detailed report with photos and stories about their adventures—makes me wish I could ditch my laptop and join them. Currently, my third-grade daughter does the Berkeley public school curriculum all day on Monday and Friday, and from Tuesday to Thursday, she attends the morning Zoom meeting with her class before bounding out of the car and into the park. On those days, she does her regular schoolwork after Outside School, which is fine with the teacher just as long as she turns in her work before the end of the day. I'd be happy to talk with you if you have questions about any of this. Here's the website: 

My 1st-grade daughter is in Jewish Community Center's camp, usually held in Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland.  I believe that JCC has several options in different locations.  Camp runs from 1pm to 5pm, five days a week, so that's close to what you're looking for.  The one our daughter goes to is pretty good.  It's the same folks who used to run the after-school enrichment program at Joaquin Miller Elementary School, when we had in-person school.  So they have experience with kids.  I will say that t's not a very richly developed curriculum.  But the important thing is that my daughter gets to play with other kids and run around outside, in the park.

My daughter did summer camp with Trackers, and they were awesome, with great teachers and well developed activities.  And I have a friend with her son in Forest School, and they like it a lot, especially the social justice curriculum.  The JCC option is probably cheaper and not as well organized or well taught.  But it beats sitting at home all day.

I have two kids in Trackers--one is a first grader, the other is in third. They've attended part-time since preschool (we were home schoolers even before the pandemic). They are both active and outdoorsy, and I'm pretty confident that attending Trackers is the highlight of their week.

I can't speak to whether or not social/racial justice is formally integrated into the program, but the students and teachers are a diverse bunch. You could probably give them a call and chat with a staff member about this. 

Since Covid, masks are worn except when eating, everything happens outdoors, temperatures are taken at drop-off, etc.

If your kid enjoys moving, imaginative play, and being outdoors, Trackers would probably be an excellent fit for them.

Our 5th grader has done a half day Trackers program this fall and enjoys it. They are quite organized and reliable and we've had good experiences there for many years. I don't think there is much of a racial or social justice curriculum at Trackers however. And I don't find the kiddos who go to trackers particularly diverse.  There is a Forest school that I think is anchored at Gill Tract that is much more social and racial justice oriented, and while we haven't gone to their programs, they seem pretty awesome and worth checking out.

The program at gill tract is East Bay Solidarity School - I talked with them and it sounded amazing. (We ended up choosing a different program because it had more days/hours, but otherwise were very interested in the program.) It's 11-4, 3 days a week, so it would work really well with keeping up distance learning in the mornings. Very focused on social justice and diversity, and of course lots of great outdoor activities.