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.


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!