The Mosaic Project

Outside the Bay Area
School-Aged, Preteens, Teens

Parent Q&A

  • Mosaic project at schools

    (2 replies)

    I have some questions about the Mosaic project that's part of the Berkeley school system...

    Do all the kids in the class go? If not, is it awkward for kids who don't participate?

    Is it in 4th grade, 5th grade, or both?

    It's during the school year, right?

    Is it at each BUSD school, or only some of them?

    Is it PTA funded?

    Do parents pay for the week of camp?

    I'm confused because I've heard it mentioned as a given, but I don't see how it works...even on a purely logistical basis. Do parents volunteer to help?

    RE: Mosaic project at schools ()

    My son attended Mosaic in 2010 so some things may have changed. All BUSD schools participate. Kids generally go in 4th grade. It’s during the school year. My son went in May. Yes, everyone in the class goes. And you really wouldn’t want your kids to miss out. It was an amazing experience for my son, he grew so much in those few days. There are parent and teacher chaperones. You’re not required to volunteer.  It’s extremely well run and your kids are with professional educators. I believe there is a requested fee but it’s minimal. And if you’re not able to afford it there is always financial aid available. I’m not sure if it’s PTA funded. Mosaic is an incredible program. Please don’t stress over it. Your kid will be lucky to attend. 

    RE: Mosaic project at schools ()

    My child is at Cragmont.  Cragmont participates in Mosaic, and I believe that one or two other BUSD elementary schools do as well. From what I understand, it is not a district-wide program.  While there is some in-school programming that teachers present during the school year (during 4th/5th grades), the key component of Mosaic is the 4 night/5 day overnight camp.  In prior years, the camp was in Napa; it is now housed at a conference center in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  At Cragmont, the fourth graders attend at the beginning of the fall.  While not all kids attended, most did (out of 75 kids, I believe that 5 kids didn't go).  I don't think that kids who stayed back felt awkward.  I believe that the kids who stayed back did so because their families weren't comfortable with overnight camp.  Each of the three classes went during different weeks, so kids who didn't attend simply were assigned to a different classroom while the rest of their class was away.

    Each family is asked to pay as much as possible toward the tuition/transportation.  Our school's PTA covers the remaining costs.

    At least at Cragmont, parent chaperones are not allowed to attend, as Mosaic staff is in charge of the kids both in the dorms/cabins and during the daytime activities. The classroom teacher accompanied the kids.  While I don't know whether this same rule holds true for other schools, my understanding is that "no parent chaperones" is part of the Mosaic camp experience.

    I believe that all BUSD elementary schools have some type of overnight camp experience for 4th or 5th graders.  Other camps emphasize science or the outdoors.  The focus of Mosaic is building peace.  While that sounds like Berkeley-speak, in practice the camp staff teaches kids to appreciate differences as well as giving them real tools to reduce conflict.  I had my private doubts but my child found the camp to be a powerful experience.  The staff really challenges kids to ask and answer tough questions about navigating their world and how to interact and respect kids who have different perspectives. The camp intentionally invites schools with differing demographics to attend during the same sessions so our Berkeley kids may be paired with classes from a private school in Marin, a suburban school from the Peninsula or a charter school in Oakland.  All in all, I thought that the week was well worth the money spent.

    If you haven't already, I encourage you to check out the Mosaic website at  There is an awesome video on the site in which the kids explain the value of Mosaic camp far better than I can.

Parent Reviews

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

Jan 2013

Wise BPN parents, do any of you have experience with The Mosaic Project? I need some frank advice and opinions from anyone who has recently sent their 5th grader on this trip. I understand that many bay area schools pulled out of this program because their students had negative experiences -our school has stuck with it- so I'm curious to hear from those whose children attended in the last few years. Thank you. Concerned Berkeley Momma

I have known both campers and counselors at Mosaic and they all love it. They find it transformative and enriching. It may be difficult for kids to deal with the serious issues of discrimination but the message is positive and based on love and inclusion. --Wish all kids could go

Hello CBM: My daughter went on this trip a few years ago, when she was in fifth grade. I wouldn't say that she had a bad experience but I wasn't terribly impressed either. The attitude of the place was kind of preachy and seemed aimed at younger kids. My daughter made fun of it (especially the songs) and she wasn't the only one to do so. On the other hand, she had some really positive interactions with kids that she wouldn't have met otherwise and I was glad about that. Also, getting the kids out of doors (and away from electronics) for a few days was a good thing. Maybe the school could find an equally diverse camp that isn't so heavy-handed on a message that most Berkeley kids already accept? Ann

My daughter attended the Mosaic camp with her class a few years ago, and she really got a lot out of it. It spoke to her core values and stuck with her. At the time, the class she was in had a less-than-stellar teacher, and the kids hadn't had much work on the topics covered in Mosaic, but it still was a very positive experience for my daughter. I didn't personally hear anything negative from other parents in the class - I did hear positives from some other families. I'm glad my daughter's class went, and that she got that experience. A Berkeley public school mom

I was pretty skeptical of this program after hearing a couple of complaints from parents of children who'd gone to camp in prior years. However, my child absolutely loved it and I believe he got a lot out of it. He's a pretty buttoned-up kid who doesn't talk much about feelings and emotions, and this was a safe setting to explore more emotional territory with lots of new kids. I appreciated that he was given the chance to explore the differences between families in a safe and positive way. Mosaic has a CD of songs which reinforce the lessons learned, and he played the cd constantly and sang along with the lyrics. I will definitely send my younger child when it's his turn.

Of the complaints I'd heard from other parents, I understood that some of the kids got cold at night (didn't bring warm enough clothes or bedding). Some parents were concerned that their kids were not required to take baths or showers during the week. (Hey, it's camp! I'm okay with dirt!) Some kids who have poor social skills will face the same challenges socializing at camp as they do in school (although I think they do a LOT to work on effective social skills). Other kids were frustrated with the way the school sorted which kids were going to attend during which weeks. Those were the extent of the complaints I heard about. Personally, I'm very glad we sent our child. Mosaic Fan

My daughter has attended Mosaic several times in the last few years as a returning cabin leader. I know you are looking for responses of parents of 5th graders, but I've heard a lot about the program from my daughter and how it has affected her and the younger kids who have been in her cabin. When my daughter attended as a 5th grader, I didn't realize until years later how much and how positively that first week at Mosaic had influenced her. I'm not sure if she herself knew. Looking back, I think it took a couple of years for the experience to sink in and understand how much she had learned about herself and her communication with others. That amazing experience led her, and many other former participants, to come back as a cabin leader. I hope your child's school continues to participate in the program. I only see benefits. Mosaic parent

Jan 2013

I was wondering about current thoughts about the Mosaic Project as the archived reviews are 5 years old. I know that certain schools have opted out, and I was wondering if anyone knew why. My child's current school still attends, but I'm hearing mixed things about the program from current parents. I would love to know how your kids did on the trip or if you opted out then what were your reasons. Thank you! anon

Mosaic is awesome. I can't say it any plainer than that. My son went in October as a 5th grader, but many schools send 4th graders in the spring, which I believe our school will start doing soon. I am pretty sure that every single 5th grader at our school attended, except for one girl. We are a Title I school, so for some families it was a stretch financially, but in the spirit of inclusivity, wealthier families contributed anonymously so that all children could attend. My son had an amazing time there, loving his counselors and having fun at regular camp activities, like swimming. He also absorbed many of the Mosaic lessons. His teacher emailed nightly updates with photos, which we enjoyed hugely. I wish every single kid in Oakland could participate in Mosaic--I believe it could make a permanent difference. Mosaic fan

May 2008

Wise BPN moms, Do any of you have experience with The Mosaic Project? I need some frank advice and opinions from anyone who has sent their 4th or 5th grader on this trip. Thank you.

My child just attended the Mosaic Project, and I thought I would respond to your post, since the archives have only glowing reports. I would say that her experience wasn't harmful, but she actually came back with more negative comments about kids from different backgrounds than I have ever heard from her before. Maybe the mix of schools wasn't great, or it was a bad week, but overall she could have skipped the experience.

I'm very interested in understanding from those who said it was a life-changing experience what was so special. Was it your child's first time at a sleep-away camp? First time with kids from different backgrounds? Something else? My child hasn't been to sleep away camp, although she's eager to go when the opportunity presents itself, but is pretty independent and likes to travel.

I think the goals of the Mosaic project are good, and was eager to have my child participate. I even worked to convice other skeptical parents that they should have their child attend. I just wasn't impressed with the result. Maybe the expectations are too high for what can be accomplished in just a few days. I do think, however, that if the whole grade is attending, those children who don't attend will be challenged to understand the class discussion after the fact. Unimpressed

November 2007

I'm looking for any information or experiences with the Mosaic Project in Santa Rosa. This is being offered for the first time in my son's fifth grade class this year and we have not been able to find much about it. Thanks! Fred

I teach 5th grade and have been lucky enough to bring my class the last six years to Mosiac. I think it is an amazing program that is very well run. The students come away with a much greather understanding of diversity, community, and conflict resolution. I am always extremely impressed with the staff at Mosaic. They recruit this incredibly gifted, diverse group of people with whom the kids really connect. It is a poweful experience for the students that I think is wonderful.

Our school's 5th grade classes go every year and it was life changing for my son. he felt heard, and came back a much more empathetic person. In fact it started to change our family dynamic too. cannot recommend it highly enough. they are caring, careful and purposful and it is a very important experience.
another parent for empathy!

My daughter went to Mosaic last year in 4th grade. From what I gathered form her and from her teachers who were there, it was a great experience. I believe that at Mosaic kids focused on the fact that everyone is different (and in that way they are the same), and that differences should be respeceted and not put down. Kids learned to work together in groups with other kids and solve problems. Perhaps a bit like team-building excercises that some of us have seen in the work place, but for many of our kids, these are new. Often Mosaic will bring together kids from 3 schools representing a range of income levels, so kids can get to know other kids from very different backgrounds and abilities and become more comfortable with them. I believe the hope is also to break down stereotypes. It also gave our school's kids a common language to use when talking about tolerance.

The kids at our school had a great time. Even the kids who had not done sleep away camps or many sleep overs before. The staff, counselors and cabin leaders were professional and warm to all the children. They themselves were from diverse backgrounds. Some of them were student's in our own distric't public high school.

Parents are only allowed to drop off and pick up and are not allowed into the camp proper. This is fine with me. It is a space for the kids to learn a bit of navigation on their own, in a very safe and supportive environment. Their teachers were there with them.

One thing I would have liked to be done differently, is for our school to have incorporated more of the Mosaic stuff into the curriculum the rest of the year. They did some, perhaps more than I know, but it would have been good for the school to highlight it more so the parents could see even more worth in sending our kids.

Here is their web site Positive for Mosaic Parent

My daughter and her class went to Mosaic this year, and I can't say enough wonderful things about her experience! She learned about herself, her relationships with others, came home with a lot of skills for conflict resolution, which I think is critical as our kids grow. She also developed an ability to have insight. And, she uses it and shares her awarenesses with us, and this is from a quiet girl!
very happy parent

Hello--I asked a similar question here earlier in the school year before my son's grade in school was scheduled to participate in the Mosaic Project...and saw very few responses, despite knowing that several schools in this area participate in the camp every year. Before he was scheduled to go, I felt somewhat wary of the benefits of the program--it seemed very touchy-feely almost-brainwashy feel-good granola to me--but I let him go anyway because I thought he'd enjoy the social aspects of the camp and would feel left out if he were the only student in his grade not participating. Anyway, he went for a week and had a very good time. It will probably be one of the high points of his school year. He enjoyed the youth counselor who led his cabin group; he had the opportunity to get to know kids from other schools also participating in the program; he appreciated being outside among the redwoods; and even he even initiated discussions with me about empathy, teamwork, diversity, etc. in the weeks following his return from camp.

As to the question of whether there are lasting effects to the kids' participation in the Mosaic Project, I suppose there are (at least that's what his teachers in school observe after having their students participate in the camp for the past several years)--although I am somewhat amused that my son and his friends have modified some of the lyrics to the Mosaic Songs (''Let's break down the walls/So we can dance and be free/Let's start with you and me--free!'') to suit their typical juvenile humor (Let's break down the walls/So we can dance and go pee/Let's start with you and me--pee!).
Parent of Mosaic camper

June 2007

I'm interested in hearing from parents whose children have participated in the MOSAIC Project's week-long camp for 4th and 5th graders at Enchanted Hills Camp, Napa. Did your child have fun? Was it effective in serving its purpose of promoting self-esteem and anti-bullying? I'd particularly like to hear from parents who opted for their child(ren) to not participate in the camp--what were your reasons, and did your child feel like he/she missed out socially or in any way for not being with his/her peers for a week?

The BUSD school where my child attends has had the 4th grade class participate in the MOSAIC camp for the past few years. We incoming 4th grade parents just attended an informational meeting about the camp. It sounds like a huge waste of time and money to me. If it were up to me, I'd prefer for my child to go to a week away-camp to learn outdoor skills, rather than spend a week learning how to use ''I'' statements and talking about themselves. It seems to me that if kids need to learn about community, respect for others, overcoming prejudice, and self-worth, the school should be engaging them in a week's worth of class-led community service activities for the less fortunate, not singing feel-good self-esteem songs around a campfire.

Of course, I've never experienced the camp myself, so my perceptions could be wrong. I'm very interested in hearing what other parents and former campers have to say about the MOSAIC Project camp.

My kid loved mosaic. It was a great way to begin the 4th grade year for the kids who went. I think they solidified some freindships and mdenew ones. They got a lot from the high-chool aged counselors who ere fabulous (my kid reported).

Mosaic gave them a common value set for the year. The kids all worked with the same ideas of respect for and understanding of differences. Now they might not all adhere to those behavior ideals, but they sure all know what the expectations are. I think mosaic gave the 4th graders a great anchor from which to start their 4th grade year. I did not think it was a waste of time at all. Also, it was a lot of fun for our maturing pre- teen kids to spend time away from their families and work on their budding independence. And don't underestimate the power of sing alongs around a fire. Many of us have good warm memories of such events in our own childhoods. It's great for our kids to have thsoe memories, too.

The school did refer back to the mosaic curriculum during the year. I think they could do a better job in letting the parents know that they did so, and telling us specifically how and when. Do you know of a better alternative? If you can find a better one-week or similar camp experience for the 4th graders, why not research and recommend it as a solid alternative now? Providing a specific and positive alternative, and brining it forward for an open discussion ASAP would be your best be if you don't think Mosaic is the best fit. Although, you may be raising this question a bit late for next year's calendar. If that is the case, then you may want to look ahead to activities your school does in older grades (5th and Middle School), and see if you agree with those choices or not. If not, can you provide positive alternatives early on?

I'd say, ''go for it''. Send your kid, and let them have fun and learn about how to better get along with their peers (even if they are great at it already). Maybe they have a lot to teach the other kids, too.
Anonymous Mosaic fan