Middle school near Berkeley with hands-on learning and/or creative arts?

My daughter is in 5th grade, and has had terrific elementary teachers but has rarely enjoyed traditional academic learning. I know she'll need to work even more on academics in middle school, so I'm looking for a school that will give her other experiences that will help her feel positive about going every day. She loves building things of all kinds, crafts, music and art. She also likes project-based learning. We live in Berkeley and are considering both public and private schools. Any schools out there that might be a good fit? I'd thought of OSA for music or art but it looks like she'd need to already be quite skilled. The East Bay School for Boys has the projects, but she's a girl . . . I'd love any thoughts. 

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You might want to look at the Redwood Day School in Oakland. In addition to great academics, it has art, drama and tech/innovation lab as part of the regular curriculum in MS. On a less regular schedule, it also offers cooking and gardening (more regular in lower school  

It also offers “activities” as a class which changes each trimester. The “activities” classes can be and have been almost anything from floorball to cooking to mochas & math. The teachers (and done students) teach something they love and the kids get to pick which one they want to take. 

Sounds like it might be a fit?

Park Day School in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland may be a good fit. The school integrates a hands-on, project based approach to teaching math, science, and the humanities. There's a lot of peer collaboration alongside independent work.  Students take art, music, and drama, and there is a weekly elective that lets kids dive deeper into arts, sports, community service, or other interest areas. Park Day is a K-8, and maker-centered learning is baked into the curriculum. For example, in 6th grade, during the living museum project, students create something in the school's Innovation Workshop to bring a research topic to life. Also they combine math, science and art and build an actual “average 6th grader.” It’s  pretty cool.

Our daughter attended Park Day School for 6th grade in the 2017/2018 school year and it was not a good experience. The academics and arts were weak, especially math, science, drama, and music. When selecting a middle school for 6th grade, the decision was between OSA and Park Day School (our daughter got a spot at OSA in the drama program). We wish we would have chosen OSA. One of the selling points to us about the middle school at Park Day was the strong theater program—that theater was woven into the curriculum and that they put on a 6th grade play. But the drama teacher could not even get the class together enough to put on a play, so there wasn’t one. And our daughter was uninspired and unchallenged by the music program—the teacher was not able to differentiate teaching based on each child’s abilities, which was surprising given the small class size. With Park Day, the mission is a wonderful one, but unfortunately they aren’t anywhere close to delivering on their mission—they don’t walk the walk.

Have you considered Black Pine Circle School (BPC) in Berkeley? Both my kids went there for middle school (6th-8th grades). My daughter (now a senior in high school) is also a person who loves building things. She always has several projects underway, even now. In addition to being an academically and socially wonderful school which encourages kids to be creative in their own ways, BPC has a Maker Club that I suspect your daughter would appreciate. The club is run by one of the (amazing) science teachers. The kids are encouraged to be as creative as they would like be. There is a great deal of interesting equipment for the kids to use (e.g. 3-D printers) although all forms of building and "making" are encouraged. I would strongly suggest visiting BPC -- you'll get a real sense of the school and the kids. My kids couldn't be more different from each other and both had great experiences at BPC.

My son is currently at Park Day School in 7th grade (in 2018/19), we are really happy with the Middle School program this year. Last year was a bit rocky for a variety of reasons, but this year I have been blown away I am by how fierce and brilliant and loving and organized my son’s teachers are. He is learning so much (and thriving in) math, science, humanities and Spanish.  In terms of the arts, while we are happy with the visual arts program, and the new music teacher, the drama program is particularly strong. After getting to experience all of the disciplines, in 8th grade, Park Day students specialize in drama, arts, or music. The arts program overall is quite solid, with all three arts teachers (drama, art, music) often connecting projects to social justice and current events.

Touring the school and talking to current parents and educators will help you know very quickly whether it may be a good potential match.  Good luck with your search!

My daughter is at the East Bay Waldorf School and I would encourage you to consider it.  The curriculum is an incredible integration of academics and the arts, practical activities (handwork), and outdoor education.  They offer singing, orchestra, artistic movement, handwork, woodwork, and gardening.  And if you don't know about the Waldorf approach to education -- it really makes learning naturally interesting. My daughter is excited to go to school and the variety of ways the subjects are taught really help every child find a way in...  They also have an incredible 11-acre campus that allows students to relax -- the optimal state for learning!  We love it and I'd encourage you to take a look.  We're also in Berkeley and so many families go up to Richmond/El Sobrante from Berkeley/Oakland/Piedmont because the trip is totally worth it.   Good luck to you!