Park Day School
Re: Renaissance or Park Day for elementary school?
This is the 6th year I've been a Park Day parent, with 2 kids there. Do my kids like school, want to be there, feel engaged in the activities, feel loved? YES YES YES and ABSOLUTELY. It's been a wonderful experience for them. Both my kids, even my difficult-to-please tween, have loved their teachers deeply and have felt loved by them. They still drop by the classrooms of their old teachers whenever possible to give them hugs (the teachers always have time for a hug from an old student!). They feel their teachers, the staff, & the administration are all their allies whom they can, and do, bring their issues to. When my kids have had difficulties, the teachers have always called with an attitude of ''Let's figure out how we can help your child with this'', never an energy of, ''Your kid was disruptive today'' or ''Your child was a problem.'' They use ''Restorative Justice'' and other philosophies to work on problems. They truly are focused on the whole child, the social/emotional growth of every child, and they are highly skilled at fostering it. It's impressive and inspiring to be a part of it. When a more difficult issue arises, it is not unusual to have a meeting set up with the family and the Head of the lower or middle school, the teacher, the learning specialist, and the Head of the school, all putting their efforts together to improve the situation. Sometimes a special ally is also brought in when the family or the child needs that, too. We love Park Day and our kids love it. It's a wonderful community! A Park Day Parent
We chose Park Day School for our eldest child at 6th grade. After a series of bad classroom practices at our local public school, he was unhappy. We were so impressed by the difference in him after switching to a caring and supportive environment. A year later, we enrolled our younger son at the start of kindergarten. Now in second grade, our youngest is also thriving, especially in mathematics, music and Spanish. We hear him singing world music in the shower. He recites poetry with great fanfare. He has taken an interest in gardening and cooking, part of the hands-on approaches that allow multiple layers of learning to occur. Most importantly, through mindfulness training, he has developed close friendships and a sense of empathy for people.
Our sons face occasional rough patches due to attention, focusing and impulsivity issues related to ADHD. Park Day's learning specialists and administration partnered with us to nurture their talents and extinguish any sense of stigma kids with learning challenges sometimes face. Particularly in a climate where black and brown boys are inundated with negative messages about their success, our kids struggled to develop as learners. Yet at Park Day, they each have grown to enjoy rigorous academics.
Admittedly, I have not heard much about the program at Renaissance and therefore cannot draw any comparisons. However, as a parent and educator, I do know that Park Day staff and teachers are very good at their jobs. Park Day Proud
We have two active, energetic, and bright sons at Park Day School, and I can comment on the way that both teachers and administrators partner with both the students at PDS as well as the families that are part of the Park Day community. Both of my kids have felt ''held'' at Park, I would say that there is a real sense that all of the adult staff at the school ''get'' kids in a way that I think is somewhat unusual these days. It's a busy environment, with a ton going on, but probably the thread that connects all of the activity on campus is the great sense of respect that is conveyed to each child and a general joy that all the staff seem to take in seeing children learn. They take great pains at Park to actively nurture the love of learning and that creative spark in kids, making each child feel safe and content, and that definitely extends to the tone that administrators and teachers take when things do not go exactly as planned. One thing I love about the Lower School is that Karen Colaric, the Lower School Director, basically is known as ''problem solver'' by both parents and (more importantly) students at the school. When kids have a scuffle during recess, one of them inevitably will suggest that they should go ''talk to Karen'' about the situation because she is just that good at seeing kids for who they are, and helping them in a respectful and kind way to resolve differences or misunderstandings. Similarly, an email or a phone call will follow to parents informing them (again in a very non-judgmental way) that there was a situation at school that involved your child and this is how it was handled. This collaborative and respectful tone extends into the classroom. Our younger son had some difficulties with transitioning into kindergarten and the teacher (Simrita) went out of her way to set up conferences with us (the first one was an hour) and remain engaged via email and by phone as he became more comfortable in the elementary school environment and learned to be okay with making mistakes ! (a perfectionist, he was tearing up work that wasn't exactly perfect!).
The director of the school, Jon Kidder, has also made a point since joining the administration to have open-ended conversations with parents in each grade where he asks everyone to reflect on ''what is going well'' and ''what could we be doing better.'' That, alone, is amazing and speaks to the depth of the commitment that the school has for actively collaborating and listening to families and parents of children at the school. We do not take this style of engagement for granted, having experienced basically the opposite style in our previous school. If you are looking for an environment that offers differentiated learning, high academic and social standards, and a true collaborative partnership between students, families, teachers and administrators, then Park would be an excellent fit. Best wishes to you on your school decision! Mom of Park Day boys
Park Day has some serious magic. I can't speak to Renaissance, but I have a fair bit of Montessori experience (Grand Lake in Oakland, Bayside in Alameda, and Urban Montessori Charter School). For happy, engaged kids and responsive leadership, I can't imagine anywhere is better than Park Day.
First, dealing with problems. Park Day administrators and teachers get that partnering with parents is critical to children's success, and they show it in their willingness to grapple with the hard stuff. I am what might be called a ''difficult'' parent. That means I identify my concerns and share them, often without sufficient care or politesse. Park Day has responded substantively - and always with heart - to each of my concerns. More remarkable still, my ferocity in advocating for my kids has not resulted in alienation. My experience is one of consistent warmth and affection from teachers, staff, and administrators. They ''get'' the kids, and love each one no matter what the foibles. I guess they really get the parents too.
Second, do the kids love school? A resounding yes. We bought our house in Alameda for the school zone, but our older kid was struggling in K and miserable in 1st grade - seriously, debilitatingly miserable. By the end of the initial visit to Park Day, this same kid was hugging the teachers and said to me, ''Mama, this was the best day of my life.'' Moving to Park Day resulted in a 180-degree turn around: a kid who wants to go to school, loves the teachers, and won't leave aftercare if we show up too early. The week before fourth grade started, this same kid said, ''Mama, it's a good thing I love Park Day so much, or I would miss you all the time.''
For our second child, we tried Urban Montessori for K after a wonderful preschool experience at Bayside Montessori (and a warning from staff there that the schedule and ratio in a regular public school classroom would be a real challenge for this kid emotionally). It was a hard year all around at Urban, and we made the move to Park Day for 1st grade. Again, a tremendous transformation, and the staff have put in serious care and attention to make that possible. 1st and 2nd grade have been amazing, full of new friendships and love of math, gardening, art, music, and her teacher. This is especially striking because this is a kid who typically would prefer not to leave the house at all. The sense of place and community is profound for her, and we feel so grateful to have found a school that loves and nourishes her.
Third, emotionally sensitive kids. Both of my kids ''notice everything.'' Kinesthetically, emotionally, energetically. Park Day teachers love the kids, and that means that whether a kid is exquisitely sensitive or is barricaded off emotionally to protect herself, the teacher is there holding the space. Every classroom has a different vibe because the teachers really own their classrooms and create an environment in which the children do as well. My kinesthetic kid has learned boundaries and self-assertion; my easily flooded kid has learned both to take space when she needs it and to ask for help from an adult.
Fourth, teaching the whole child. Both of my kids are asynchronous learners with many of the learning and social challenges that often entails. Two things have happened at Park Day. (1) My kids are thriving. (2) I trust that my concerns will be taken seriously and that, for the most part, I can relax and let the school do its job. Neither of these would be possible without Park Day's ineffable magic. They look past the surface to the heart of each kid, and then they support and guide and laugh and love. And the kids are amazing. Kind, and astute, and self-confident, and full of love for themselves and others. PDS parent
Park Day is a wonderful, special place and we highly recommend it. The faculty is dedicated to the students and also to progressive education. We have a 1st grader there and will send our other child to kindergarten next fall. Our son, who still sometimes has trouble separating, loves going to school and has never complained or said, ''I don't want to go to school.'' Students most definitely feel loved and supported.
The best thing to do is to observe the school and see if it feels like the right fit. There are many opportunities and open houses that can give you a sense of the place. No school is perfect. But Park Day certainly is magical and might be perfect for your family. Best of luck in your search. Anonymous
I am a parent of an African American Boy at Park Day School in Oakland on 42nd street -- a great location for both Berkeley and Oakland families. And, full disclosure, I was invited to join the Board of Trustees this year. While no Bay Area independent school is as diverse as I would like it to be, Park Day has been a great fit for my son. The social-emotional skills development coupled with the academic stimulation that he is exposed to has been transformative. He is thriving at Park Day, he loves to go to school, and loves (and is loved by) his school-mates and teachers. In addition to the growing numbers of both African American and other children of color, what sets Park Day aside is the incredibly active network of parents, many of whom are working towards increasing the diversity of our school community. We have a ''Diversity and Justice Alliance'' group made up of families and staff which holds monthly salons and meetings, as well as a family group (''Families of Children of Color'') that meets for social outings. In short, Park Day School is actively 'doing the work.' I'd choose Park Day again (and again) for my son. Tanya
As a mom of an active, outgoing 11 yr. old young man, I looked hard to find a non-elitist, progressive middle school that would nurture my Black child. We landed at PARK DAY SCHOOL in Oakland, and my opinionated son has never felt safer or more at home- at school. During our initial visit, the admissions team (including head of school) made it very clear that they were actively looking to attract and retain Black students, especially boys. Diversity and inclusion have been pillars, and the family/community network is strong. If you have not visited this campus- it is an oasis of gardens, farm animals, and genuinely happy children. The staff is on point with messaging and core values. While the student population is diverse, I would love to see more students of color join. Definitely worth a visit. I was surprised one day, to hear my son tell me he loved school. When I repeated that back to him for further discussion, he quickly corrected me and said, ''NO, I DON'T LOVE SCHOOL, I LOVE PARK DAY SCHOOL.'' J~
I don't think there is a best school- I think there is a best school for your child. Both my children go to Park Day School and both are thriving because it's the right fit for them. The teachers are incredible - inspirational, transformative - their classrooms are alive with activity as the curriculum is super hands on so they dive deeply into what they are studying and have fun doing it. We did the full search and looked at all the independent schools and at the end of the day, it was Park Day that resonated for us the most as we felt most like they do the social and emotional piece like no other. And yes it is rigorous - and not because the kids are laden every night with piles of homework or cramming for tests, it's rigorous because they are taught to think, to question and to form their own opinions about what they are studying. They foster the curious learner, they embrace the learner who needs a bit more challenge, and they champion the learner who needs a bit attention. My kids love their school and they love to learn and at the end of the day - it's the best fit them. Do your homework and go with your gut - you'll know what is best for your kids. Victoria
Hi - come visit Park Day School! Park Day integrates STEAM into the curriculum beginning in Kindergarten. We (staff, parents and kids) just completed the construction of an on-site Innovation Design Space that is being used by all the classes as they integrate design thinking and technology in to the curriculum in all grades. Park is a K-8 progressive school that believes in project-based learning and fostering childrenâ€™s full capacity, confidence, and creativity to be agents of change. The Innovation Space will have 3-D printing but so much more as it expands to its full potential. Park Day partners and collaborates with Harvard's Graduate School of Education and its Agency by Design project to develop curriculum targeted to 21st century STEAM skills. With this dedicated space full of tools and materials, faculty are already expanding their progressive practice by enabling more complex, more interdisciplinary, and more emergent hands-on projects. Students of all ages also now have a supervised but informal place to gather, tinker, share ideas, and mentor one another across age groups. Check out Park Day School! Happy Park Day parent
We have two children at Park Day School, an 8-year-old/3rd grader and 6-year-old/1st grader. Both started in K. In short, Park Day doesn't disappoint.
-Has the school culture changed in recent years with faculty turnover and the capital campaign? The culture and climate of Park Day have never been stronger. It attracts faculty who know its reputation and want to be part of it. And, the school retains faculty for that very same reason. It is a place where we parents can ask the hard questions and the school isn't afraid to take up the discussion. The school has been pushed in recent years to take a deeper look at social justice and has responded quite well. Park Day is a place where your child will be respected, challenged, and held.
-How is the math and science curricula -- is it strong? Quite rigorous. STEM is where it's at for Park Day. The make/design curriculum has really taken off, too.
When our son was in 2nd grade, I asked him what he remembered about K. He said: "There was so much learning and experiencing." And I asked, "Like what?" He said, "Science!!" Our 1st grade daughter loves math and often asks to do math equations while driving, cooking, etc.
Another great 1st grade science project is studying an ecosystem. In past years, it's been forests or ocean. Kids choose their own animal or insect to study. The entire classroom is transformed into that ecosystem. You walk in and there is life-sized kelp, jelly fish, sea stars, sharks, hanging from the ceiling, and scuba divers taped onto the ceiling. You really feel you're IN the ocean! It's up for a few days, and then one day, the kids come in and without warning, it's gone. The teacher talks about the oil spill that happened overnight (or forest fire or clear cutting). It leads to some great discussion about being stewards of our environment.
First graders also learn geometry and engineering through build bridges; in K, they get paired up and for a week, they design and build their own structures and then present it to the class.
With the science curriculum, there is so much experimentation. They get a question and try all kinds of different ways to reach the answer. Our kids come home wanting to experiment with making parachutes or see what materials filter water quickly or slowly. They are curious!
In 3rd grade, one of the themes is polyhedrons and in teams, they make a polyhedronville (a city made of polyhedrons). They also study electricity and birds. Our son is having the most fun with the polyhedronville. They have a budget to build their city, each unit is given an amount and certain buildings are required.
At Math and Science Night, we see the upper grade students and how they produce some pretty darn amazing projects. Probability, testing the five senses, making non-toxic household cleaners, testing memory, designing the most efficient wind turbines (multi and single blade), etc.
-The outdoor space is beautiful, but does its size make it difficult for the kids to be well supervised at recess? Staff are vigilant. Everyone is assigned a time/day for supervision and they walk around all areas. For morning recess and lunch recess, and end the day, K students are released a few minutes before everyone else so they can have sometime on the swings, sandbox and play structures to themselves. The students also monitor each other. They know they're not supposed to climb trees or trample through the bushes and will tell an adult if someone is doing so.
-Past reviews have spoken about "spirited" children and "big social energy" of some students. I can't really tell what that means. Are behavior or discipline problems an issue? How are they handled? Park Day is a school filled with wonderful children. And kids do/say all kinds of things. And one thing we love is that behavior is not viewed as a problem. It is authentically viewed as a teachable moment. Two things here: individual behavior (ie, shouting out in class) and conflict among the students. I'll speak to both.
When there's conflict, it's all about restorative justice.
Speaking from experience, our son has been both a giver and receiver. As a receiver, he was teased by a 4th grade girl for using a Hello Kitty lunchbox. Another 4th grade girl stepped up as an ally and said, â€œHe can use whatever lunchbox he wants. The two girls are friends and what I love about this incident is that one friend felt confident enough to say something to her friend rather than join in on the teasing (or ignore the situation).
As a giver, our son was in the lunch line and his best friend was bugging him about something. The best friend wouldn't stop bugging our son. So our son popped his friend in the face. The friend hit back. An adult stopped them and they both landed in the Lower School Director's office. The Lower School Director facilitated a discussion about what happened. She got both of their versions of the incident, and asked them both how they would handle the situation in the future. Then they role played that future situation. It was marvelous!
It is part of the everyday vernacular at Park Day to talk about being a friend/ally/peacekeeper and the impact of their choices every step of the way.
With individual behavior, I have witnessed the spontaneous energy of K-3 girls and boys handled with aplomb. When students shout out in class or have side conversations, teachers take the time to make it a lesson about empathy (how do you think so-and-so feels when you interrupt? How would you feel if you were interrupted?). Kids who wiggle can sit in rocking chairs (older kids can sit on T-stools or have big rubber bands around the feet of the chair so they can push their feet against the tension). Students learn how their behavior impacts themselves (when you have side conversations, you're missing out on some pretty cool stuff) and how it impacts others (when you have side conversations, it makes it difficult for your classmates to hear).
Do you love your school? Yes!
What do you think is most important to know about making this decision? We felt what was most important was finding a school where our children would see the value of education, see themselves as active learners, as having a voice in the educational conversation, and become life-long lovers of learning. And we want them to be confident problem-solvers. We definitely see it all being fostered at Park Day School.
Someone recently commented that Park Day School is not an accredited school and is not academically rigorous. As a long time parent at the school, I think that observation is wholly inaccurate.
PDS is a provisional member of CAIS, the state's independent accreditation organization. Our school was instrumental in convincing this group to eliminate the need for standardized testing in its member schools. Standardized testing is an approach to assessment that has been shown to be innately discriminatory and many independent schools are moving away from this type of evaluation tool and towards more comprehensive and valid assessment strategies.
For those wondering about how Park Day prepares kids academically: Our students attend high schools across the Bay Area including Athenian, CPS, Lick Wilmerding, Drew, Bentley, Head Royce, Bishop O'Dowd and of course our great local public schools. Further, approximately 60% of Park Day School alums from 2007, 2008 and 2009, are attending colleges and universities that US News and World Reports and/or Forbes name as a ''top 100 national college/university'' or ''top 100 national liberal arts college'' in their most recent listings.
Park Day does an amazing job of creating students that are self-aware, academically prepared, thoughtful, independent people. It is a terrific school and well worth looking at if you are looking for a warm community that provides bountiful challenge in every aspect of a student's academic and social emotional development. A satisfied parent
Re: Private schools for gifted child
Though my very bright child has never been at Prospect Sierra, he has been at Park Day School since 2010. I have found that all his teachers, from core classroom teachers to specialist enrichment teachers, have found ways to challenge him or deepen the curriculum wherever it suits him. Many of his core teachers are already experts in differentiating their curriculum so that everyone in the classroom is challenged at their own ''just right'' level - sometimes even without the students noticing these differences.
Aside from making sure your bright kid is sufficiently challenged academically, it's important to remember that even very bright students, and perhaps especially very bright students, also need a place that will support their social and emotional development. There are many ways to get academic enrichment for a bright kid who needs more than they get at school. But it is very hard to find any setting that presents a good balance of academic, social, and emotional learning that is so aware of each kid in their charge. I know my kid is incredibly fortunate to attend a school that not only understands this, but is able to deliver it, year after year. Good luck with your decision, Another parent
We moved to Berkeley a little more than two years ago with our two children. Our oldest daughter entered the first grade at Park Day. A fellow parent with children who had been through the elementary school and going to Park's middle school program told us the first grade teachers are so amazing, you'll want to have more children just so you can experience first grade with them again. Teachers who make you want to enure the trials and tribulations of early pre-school days? That's quite a compliment, but we found it's no understatement. Our first grader's experience at Park Day couldn't have been better. A quiet observer, our daughter benefited from the nurturing and brilliant teaching style of Susan Erb. Our daughter simply loved first grade, everything from the in-depth study of bridges, developing an understanding of the environment around them, to performing a heart-warming parent-student createdd adaptation of Charlotte's Web. Now in third grade, our daughter's foundation for learning is strong, as she thrives as a strong reader and lover of books, and navigates the sometimes challenging world of mathematics, all the while being assured by her engaging and inspiring third grade teacher, Renee Miller, that she can do it!
Our youngest daughter had the joy of attending Park Day beginning in Kindergarten last year. What a magical experience! Her teacher, Simrita Dhanjal provided a strong platform for developing the children's interest in math, science, writing and reading, that is when the children weren't taking turns at hugging their beloved Simrita. They had so much fun with their lessons, but worked really hard at the same time. And now our youngest is thriving in first grade, in Joanie Albertini's class. Our daughter reads outloud to us at night, and enjoys science experiments and art projects equally. The enrichment programs at Park are outstanding. The specialists in Spanish, Art, Music, Sports, and Gardening are top-notch, ensuring that the child has a well-rounded experience. Having just finished our first teacher conferences of the year, we have such confidence and assurance we made the right choice in sending our children to Park Day. If you are looking for an execptional school that has stellar academics, AND fosters the emotional and social development that as a parent you are working so hard to support at home. Raising a child does take a village, and trust me when I say, Park Day School is a village like no other. But one that you be thankful everyday to have become a part of. As for wishing we had more children to put through Park, you bet. We'll have to settle on passing our best wishes on to you, and hope you consider giving your child a Park Day School education. A Proud Park Day School Parent
Re: Entering 8th & 5th Grade from overseas
We had a similar situation to you, moving back to the Bay Area with our two boys who had grown up in Australia (my home country). Our decision to move back did not coincide neatly with school years, so my son entered 1st grade at Park Day School in March this year. My other son is not yet school age.
This school had been recommended to us by friends and we primarily were attracted to the strong commitment to the emotional and social development of the children, and the great community that was evident there. We did not investigate any other schools, but we trusted the opinions of the people who endorsed the school enough to apply there.
We could not be happier with our choice. My son, and our whole family, felt integrated from day one. His teacher made an outstanding effort to ensure that was the case. The children themselves were wonderfully welcoming and inclusive. Having already completed 1st grade in Australia, he was somewhat ahead academically, but the teacher made sure that he was given tasks at an appropriate level to keep him stimulated and eager to learn.
My son has blossomed in his few months at this school, and his being happy there has made our whole family's transition just so much easier. Helen
When moving back to the U.S. after years of living abroad, I wish I had known about Park Day School. We were new to the Bay Area. Web searches and friends steered us toward a ''good'' East Bay public school with relatively high API scores. After 4th grade, we knew it was the wrong place for our talented child. The intellectual nurturing our eldest child has experienced at Park Day is a far cry from the overcrowded, one-size-fits-all and sometimes downright negative learning environment he'd endured. Now entering 8th grade, it took him four weeks at Park Day School as a ''new'' 6th grader to become integrated socially, emotionally and academically. He went from being a kid that was starting to hate school to a kid who loves it, particularly excelling at science and math. We eventually applied to Park Day for our youngest child and have seen him thrive, too. Our boys are an unusual mix for the U.S (South Asian and Black American) so we really wanted a commitment to diversity and social justice to emerge in their learning. Park Day has exceeded our expectations. Carla
Re: Moving to east bay middle school recommendations?
Park Day School has an excellent middle school. It combines teachers using the right mix of intellectual curiosity, enticing projects, and small class size to keep the students engaged. The kids are challenged to excel at math, writing, and science. The school is becoming known for its wonderful maker faire which is hosted each year with such notables as Wired magazines drone maker Chris Anderson. Feel free to contact me with any questions. Maureen
Re: Beacon Day, Redwood Day, Black Pine or Park Day?
I am sure you are going to get a lot of responses from people who have children at all of these schools telling you it is the right one for you - I am doing that as well! My son is at PDS and it is all of the things you described in an environment that is understanding, supportive and responsive to the needs of the whole child. The teachers know deeply who your child is and partner with both the child and the parent to create an environment that helps them become who they are. Certainly the best thing you can do is to visit each school, keep Park high on the list and check it out - I think you will find exactly what you are looking for! mafh
I have three children at Park Day School, a 7th grader and twins in 2nd grade. We love the school and its progressive approach to education while placing an emphasis on both academics and being a good person. The teachers and academics are excellent. Each child is expected to maximize their potential -- something teachers are able to focus on because of small class sizes. Maureen
Re: Which private elementary for highly gifted child?
I think Park Day would be a great choice for your gifted child. I've found that their teachers and approach support my kids' growth in a way that has them love learning so that they make the best of their talents without getting drawn into the cut-throat competitive world too early in their schooling. Park is a gentle, loving place with very high expectations. Park Day's teaching staff is an extraordinary blend of long tenured teachers with amazing energy, newer teachers with real wisdom, and second career teachers that have life/work experience that really help my kids learn to learn in the ways that are best suited to their interests and aptitudes. I guess there are other schools that tout their academic rigor more forcefully, but it is clear to me that Park Day holds my kids' growth in all areas (academic, social, emotional) in a way that will have them beautifully prepared to take their gifts to the highest, happiest levels through their formal schooling and beyond. You didn't say what grade your child will be switching from, but I'd also say that the community at Park is pretty remarkable in the way new children are welcomed and held from their first arrival so that they enjoy the learning and their new teachers and friends from the start. anon
I'm a Park Day parent and an educator who worked at a school for gifted children for ten years. I chose Park Day for my kids because of the school's extraordinary teachers and we have been incredibly happy there. The class sizes are small so the teachers are able to differentiate instruction to meet the range in the classroom. The teachers are truly outstanding, and the school is committed to meeting the individual needs of each child. Additionally, the school is exceptionally equipped to meet the social and emotional needs of its students -- often key with gifted children as they may require additional support in this area. I'd recommend Park Day without hesitation -- it's a remarkable school! Park day parent
Re: social/emotional development vs academics?
My kid started at Park Day School in Kindergarten. For the 8 years we've been there, I've been impressed with the way that the teachers and the staff have been attentive to both his social/emotional growth, and to his learning. Park Day brings these 2 areas together with warm, talented/energetic teachers and a core philosophy that knows and holds children well. Graduates head off to, and succeed in all of the high schools in the area -- Tech, OSA and Berkeley High, as well as CPS, H-R, Bentley, Drew, Lick Wilmerding, O'Dowd, Urban etc.--and to college at the Ivy's, Stanford and the range of top colleges. The academics at Park go deep-with large/involved projects that help kids learn how to learn -- with math, science, arts and the humanities that don't feel heavy (no excessive homework, or high competition to divide the group), instead the projects and discussions have proven engaging and stimulating in a way that has our kid knowing that he can do anything, and asking for more. The math and science curriculum is particularly engaging, and the teachers ask a lot and give a lot to these areas. At the beginning of this year, Harvard's graduate School of Education started to sponsor a multi-year program that is focusing on Park Day's hands-on approach, and to understand how it can be used in classrooms beyond Park Day. If you are looking for a school that brings academics and social/emotional development together in a proven approach, you should really look at Park Day School. A Thrilled PDS Parent
Re: Private K-8 with strong science? Does it exist?
Park Day School in Oakland has an amazing science program that engages kids from Day 1. I recently asked my 2nd grader what he remembers about kindergarten and he said without hesitation - ''There was so much learning and experiencing. Like science!'' It starts with exploring wood, paper, plants in kindergarten, to building bridges, exploring the environment (clouds, oceans, bugs, etc.) in 1st grade, to learning about probability and statistics, weights and measures, anatomy, chemical reactions, etc. in the upper grades. Students are fully engaged in creating nontoxic household cleaners, designing the layout of school's rainwater catchment system, and exploring how the five senses work, among other things. What's more, Park Day students are curious and learn how to develop a solid hypothesis, which allows them to proceed with confidence in their discovery of the answers. Contact the school for a tour 510-653-0317 ext. 120 and visit on Math and Science night. Dara
Absolutely! I would strongly recommend Park Day in Oakland. It has a strong science program that engages the kids in the manner that most excites - hands on, age appropriate, active, interesting and fun. My son is in 7th grade and wants to get to school early every day so he can hang out in the science classroom! At every age the kids are not just learning facts, they are learning how those facts exist in the natural world, how to be observers, how to be scientists and to engage with the world with a critical and curious mind. On top of all that you get a wonderfully progressive, nurturing environment that strives to have every child grow into who they are - check it out! Maggie
Re: Good middle school for boys
You just described Park Day School exactly. My son is there now, we entered in 6th grade and I can safely say that the school provides precisely the environment you described. It has been a great experience for us and my son is thriving! Maggie
I always look to the BPN community for advice regarding my own child. I am writing this entry because our son, now eight, my husband, and I could not be happier with the school we chose, Park Day School, and I would like to help others who are facing the same quandaries we faced at the time we had to choose a school.
My husband is a researcher (Physics), my undergraduate degrees are both in Physics and Math, and my advanced degrees are in Math. When considering schools for our son, we were a little finicky, to put it mildly, when looking at their math and science curricula, in particular. At Park Day School, we were taken by the amazing teachers and director, the strength and degree of integration of their progressive curriculum, and their commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability; all of it taking place, I may add, in the most beautiful campus we saw of all the schools we visited (which were six in total). But this you can see in any brochure. I would like to specifically address math in my post, because it's a very important matter to us, and a very common concern in general.
I am going to write examples of ways in which my son has lived mathematics at Park Day: at the end of his first year he went around the campus, taking photographs of some of the geometric forms he had learned about - circles, ovals, straight lines, parallel lines, diagonals, . . . At five years of age, he was thrilled to play with the camera, all to himself, and transition from concrete to abstract and back in a completely internalized way. The year after, in Kinder, he already knew many numbers, and when he was done a bit early with his classwork, his wonderful teacher had a stack of additional math and logic challenges ready for him - at six years old he loved Sudoku. In first grade, he continued saying that math was his favorite subject (though he started to spend a lot of time reading too), he loved counting by fives, or tens, or fifteens, . . . He developed ad hoc ways of coming up with solutions to multiplication problems even if he didn't know the answer by heart: he knew something close enough, and the he was able to reach the solution adding or subtracting a few. Now, in second grade, he is beginning to understand the advantages of base ten and the algorithm of stacking numbers to add or subtract them, as opposed to putting them side by side; he also estimates things very often and spontaneously, e.g., hmm, it says here that this was 600 days ago, so, I must have been 6. Or we had just celebrated the 100th day of school, so it must have been November. I could go on and on. I firmly believe my son, his peers and other Park students will continue to learn and love mathematics throughout their life, thanks to the education they are receiving at Park Day School. Because it is an education that takes root in the individual's curiosity, and it's carefully nurtured from there. Because on and off campus I see my son and his friends own who they are and what they learn, with enthusiasm, joy, and without fear. MLB
Park Day School | Middle School
My son attended a wonderful public school in El Cerrito (Madera), but I was unsure of our (only) public middle school. We decided to rent out our house and take an apartment in Berkeley so he could go to King. Along the way, we were encouraged to check out Park Day School. I didn't think we could afford it, but we received financial aid, and that's where my son started middle school last year (2011). WE LOVE IT!
The class sizes are 12-18 students. The atmosphere is relaxed, nurturing, and engaging. He's a shy kid, but on the third day of 6th grade he told me, ''Mom, I can't do that, my friends would kill me!'' He had friends!!! Besides getting the basics (math, English, social studies and science), he takes Spanish, PE, music, drama, and art. There's usually 30-60 minutes of homework a night, plus 30 minutes of reading everyday. The campus is small, with lush established gardens, beautiful older (but revamped) bulidings, and even a chicken coop. There's an after school sports program, school lunch program with in-house chefs and organic foods, several Independent School dances a year, and lots of field trips. The parents are a pretty tight group, but they've been very welcoming to new families (I think about 1/3 of the families were new for 6th grade).
Some of the cool things:
- Read-a-thon: Kids in all grades get to hang out in their pjs and sleeping bags and read for an entire day.
- Mini-Maker Fair: So awesome to get involved with these innovative makers!
- 6th Grade Play: At the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley. For two weeks the class schedule is shuffled around so the kids can produce and act in a play.
- 6th Grade Kindergarden Buddies: Each 6th grader pairs up with a little kid, reads with them, and produces several books for them.
- 7th & 8th Grade Garden Plays: Students write and act in their own plays, adapted from a Language Arts assignment. Each group gets their own spot in the PDS garden and plays run continuously, with parents and friends moving from site to site.
- Diversity Series (not sure of the official name): Speakers spoke first-hand to the 6th grade class on different topics (transgender, fat politics, disabled, Muslim, racism, gay, and more).
- 8th Grade trip to Costa Rica/Mexico (Spanish-speaking destination subject to change)
- Math is taught by two different teachers, using different methods, and your kid is placed in the class that best meets his/her learning style.
- Teachers all go by their first names.
- All staff are accessible and responsive to kids and parent needs.
- There has been no bullying, and there really is no tolerance for that kind of behavior.
My son was a good student before, and I like that he's getting this chance to learn in an environment with a more open curriculum. He'll be going to public high school, and most PDS kids are ready for Spanish 2 and Geometry. Lots of PDS graduates go on to academically rigorous private schools like Bentley, Head Royce, Athenian and Lick-Wilmerding.
There are some down sides: very small play areas--no real fields or regulation-size basketball hoops; no common Middle School Library (although the language arts teachers have a lot of books, and the kids use the Rockridge Public Library for research projects), and there are so many fundraisers (which I shouldn't complain about as some of the money goes to financial aid as well as the 8th grade trip to Mexico/Costa Rica). But these are really little things when compared to how much my kid is getting out of the experience. If you're looking for a middle school (or grade school), be sure to check Park Day School out. Jenne
To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for an independent school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner, or if your child is not happy in his or her current school, consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a gorgeous, fun, flower and vegetable filled, campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a "crunchy granola" school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent
My daughter finished nine happy, challenging, wonderful years at Park Day School last year, and is now in 9th grade at Oakland Tech. She loved Park Day, the incredible sense of community, the gorgeous oasis of gardens, sports field, green space and beautiful buildings. She adored her phenomenal, experienced teachers who prepared her so well to succeed anywhere and take responsibility for her own work. (Average teacher tenure at Park: 15 years, and many have been there much longer.) She graduated from Park with an excellent academic education that taught her to think deeply and with the skill to learn anything she puts her mind to.
I credit Park Day for preparing her for the academic challenges at Tech, too. She has transitioned so easily to this large public school (and would have done just as well at a rigorous private school as well). In classrooms of 35 kids, she continues to succeed and is able to focus and learn with a motivation and creativity that her teachers at Park helped instill in her.
Park was worth every penny, because the school gave my kid much more than a good academic foundation. It gave her a sense of her place in and responsibility to the larger community and the creative, adaptive skills to help her succeed in the rapidly changing future. Lauren
To anyone out there who is either just beginning a search for a private school for a soon-to-be-Kindergartner or if your child is not happy in his or her current school Cb consider Park Day School in Oakland!! We have a big, fun, flower and vegetable filled, gorgeous campus, the academic curriculum is challenging and inspiring, and the community is as diverse in culture, class and experience as any in the East Bay. Some people have an impression that Park Day is a ''crunchy granola'' school which couldn't be farther from the truth. We DO have a very wonderful feeling of community and we ARE different: Children call teachers by their first names and yet the aura of respect in the classroom is palpable. The kids learn gardening, building, and how to be good citizens in addition to all the required academic subjects. Their learning is an amazing panorama of social and emotional mentoring (what does it mean to be an ally?) intertwined with a top-notch-get-in-to-Stanford class room education. Our teachers are PHENOMENAL - every day they help kids figure out who they are and how to write their story as a student. Start your child off on their educational trajectory at Park Day - and if you have a first grader or older who needs a change, there are a few coveted slots in the other grades too. Find out more about the school. Visit. You won't be sorry... An enamored parent
Re: so many good schools to choose from - which one?
I can't say enough good things about Park Day School. Two of my children have gone there, one still enrolled, and it is just the right amount of everything. Not one day in the entire 9 years we've been associated with the school has either of my children come home that I haven't appreciated that Park is an extension of our home and a vital part of my children's community! As for academics, don't underestimate Park Day. Both my kids need to be challenged... and they always have been - even if it meant teachers sending home individual homework lessons - in math, they teach the kids to do more than memorize their times tables, but dig deeper, and challenge them to learn 5 or 10 ways to solve the same problem. My oldest left after 5th grade (for financial reasons) and within months of entering the public schools was in advance math programs because of the very strong foundation Park provided in math: she learned to be a mathematical thinker and learner, not just a memorizer. Your child will be engaged, excited about learning, curious and involved at Park Day. S/he will leave Park Day with an inherent ability to advocate for herself - not wait until someone teaches, but to ask, question, and thrive on understanding the world. The campus is amazing and every year I am shocked at how the school introduces so much new into our lives - from the growning gardens, to the new yurt, to the hot lunches. The staff have supported our family - when we've been in need (unemployment) and when we've been able to contribute time, energy and innovative ideas. The kids are supportive of each other and learn to be allies - to see themselves as part of a bigger world and take responsibility for that - a welcome and refreshing perspective given what is going on in our adult world right now! Good luck with your choices - but you can't go wrong with Park! Mom of Engaged Park Day Kids
My child has been at Black Pine and Park Day so I will speak to those two. I think you have to know your kid. My nerdy boy who is gifted in science and an avid reader is much happier at Black Pine Circle. At Park Day there were not as many potential matches for friends. In general I think the social environment at BPC is better than at Park for gentle and sensitive boys in particular. We had far fewer problems with bullying at BPC than at Park Day. The playground at BPC is small, but in our experience, that means it is much better supervised. Park does not, I think, screen for academic preparedness, while I think BPC does. There were definitely more ''spirited'' boys at Park. The classroom environment at BPC is definitely more structured than at Park and to my surprise that too was a huge benefit for my child. The math enrichment at BPC is strong. The creative writing and writer's workshop seemed stronger at Park Day and the afterschool program at Park Day was richer in terms of offerings. There is a kind of joyfulness in the air at Park Day, as well as a lot of kid sense, and that is definitely worth a lot. If, however, your kid is not a good fit -- and if you have any anticipation that your child might be a target for bullying -- it could be very difficult. another mom
Hi We are considering park day school for our daughter who will be five next september. I was wondering what the homework load is for kids in the lower grades? One of the reasons we want to do private school is so she is not loaded with hours of unnecessary homework at such a young age. any other feedback on the school and community would be great thanks ella
I'm a parent of a 6th grader and two first graders at Park Day. The homework assignments at Park have always seemed beneficial. I don't remember a single one that took more time or energy than I thought appropriate for the age. Our first graders love doing their once or twice a week homework. They really find it fun. Our 6th grader has more these days, but balances homework with his play and afternoon/evening activities quite easily. I guess I'd say that the truly remarkable teachers at Park Day focus on homework quality (learning) rather than quantity. Beyond homework, I feel lucky to have our children at Park Day. It's a magical place for learning and I highly recommend it. John
I am the parent of two children at Park Day in 1st and 3rd gr -been there since BK. Park is a progressive school and does not give homework for homework's sake. In the lower grades it is given to reinforce work done in class and to get the kids accustomed to the responsibility of completing it and turning it in. There is never anything given in homework that has not already been covered in class. In the lower grades the homework is very modest, tailored to the abilities of each child. In K & 1st homework is given once a week (and not every week) and is usually a math game and a book to read. Books are tailored to the level of each child. All teachers encourage and welcome feedback about how homework goes at home - and make adjustments for each child as needed. 1st graders also get spelling words to practice. In 2nd and 3rd gr the work increases slightly with more content and variety - science, social studies, reading and math - but it is all very manageable. For 2nd-3rd part of homework is just helping the kids learn to be self sufficient; to take responsibility for getting it done, turning it in, AND learning to ask the teachers for help. 2-3rd gr homework comes home once a week & the whole packet usually takes no more than 45-50 minutes total for the 4 days: spread out over the week it's 15 min a night! As a working parent I am so appreciative of this approach. Every teacher in each grade has made it clear that homework should not be a stressor between parent and child and that if it becomes an issue they are very willing to help you and your child find the tools to make it as painless as possible. Both of my kids take pride in doing and turning in their homework. I feel that without even realizing it our kids are going to be very ready for the bump up in expectations that happens from 4th grade on. Park is a fantastic school and wonderful learning environment - as with most things they find the perfect balance with homework! Linda
My kids attend Peralta (OUSD) and their homework load is very light (and very appropriate I think), so I would not assume that public schools pile on homework and private schools do not. Peralta Mom
Our three children go to Park Day School in Oakland. We have a 6th grader and twins in 1st grade. The school combines an amazing academic experience bottled up and delivered as pure fun for kids. The combination of great teachers, small class sizes, and a creative intellectual approach to learning, allows children to enjoy math, science, and writing, and unknowingly absorb difficult concepts with ease. We have had a truly amazing at Park and have watched as our school continues to expand in many ways. We go from bridge K through 8th grade. Have a beautiful six acre campus. And the school has recently added a hot lunch program (causing our picky slender 6th grader to put on 5 pounds). The school's lesser known brainy side, combined with its known warmth and heart, has created the perfect environment for kids to thrive. Another writer mentions feeling like she won the Willy Wonka golden tickets upon finding out her child got into Park, I couldn't agree more. Maureen
I have always said that having the opportunity for our daughter to attend Park Day School was like receiving one of Willy Wonka's golden tickets. With a Master's degree in curriculum design, and a career as a distinguished educator, I chose Park Day because of the depth, sophistication and heart of their progressive curriculum as well as the consistently exceptional testimonials I heard from local high school teachers about ''Park kids.'' As director Tom Little once said so accurately, Park Day students are known for ''leaning into the learning.''
I have learned over time that sending our daughter to Park Day would be the best parenting decision my husband and I would make. Our daughter has always been a curious, perceptive, and motivated learner. We have discovered that she also has multiple learning challenges.
Imagine: not mastering reading until late 4th grade, yet feeling academically competent. Imagine: at age 10, choosing to tell your classmates that you have OCD, and asking for and receiving their patient caring support.
Park Day students learn to ask: ''How can I make a difference? How can I be an ally for a fellow student in need?'' When she was a kindergartner, our daughter was brought to tears when she became separated from her group during a school assembly. She was quickly embraced by dear 6th grade Maria, and ushered to help. When she was knocked down on the soccer field, a long arm invariably reached out asking, ''Are you okay?'' Years later, if her classmates enjoyed a book that had larger print, they would give my daughter first priority to read it, as it was a good match for her needs.
Park Day is such a dynamic and joyful learning community in which kids are willing to dig for deep understanding and ask for help when needed, because of the depth of thought, heart, and commitment that Park teachers have to make a difference in the lives of their students: socially, emotionally, and academically. When our child went through a period of ''cognitive overload'' and heightened anxiety over her homework, her teacher wrote down her personal cell phone number and asked her to please call for help when needed. When a group of friends were unable to resolve a conflict amongst themselves, the teacher took the time, over weeks, to adroitly guide all of the students to relate in a manner that benefitted all concerned. When our daughter finally cracked the code of reading, several of her teachers wrote her personal letters of congratulations: ''Welcome to the club,'' one teacher wrote, as she described how her own love of reading had touched her through each stage of her life.
Our daughter walks in the world feeling seen, loved and cared for by her community. She feels competent, and worthy of people's time. She, in turn, has been noted for her empathy and kindness. She is a motivated and successful student. Much of this we owe to Park Day School. I am in awe. And as good as it is, every year it just seems to get better. This all comes to mind as I pick our daughter up from school these first weeks back at school, and she repeatedly jumps in the car saying, ''I love school!'' ''I'm not just happy,'' she said, jumping into the car one day. ''I feel grateful.''
There is no question that children with complex learning profiles can be particularly challenging-- and expensive, but we are confident that the investment we've made in our child's development by enrolling her at Park Day School has given our family incalculable returns. anon
I moved my twins from public school to Park Day School in second grade because I thought they would receive a better education.
After less than one year at Park Day School I was told that my son has a learning disability. We were asked to have him tested. The cost of the testing to date exceeds $10,000. He is diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety and depression.
Because my son was not keeping up in class we were asked to augment his education with private Speech and Language Therapy. My son had once-a-week sessions with a private speech and language therapist from age 7 until age 12 at a cost of approximately $600 a month - we paid for this service out of pocket.
In Sixth grade we were asked by the school to hire a ''shadow teacher'' who would sit next to my son in class and help him keep up. He has had a ''shadow'' for three years. The shadow teacher doubles the cost of attending Park Day. Again, this is a cost we parents have paid.
Last year, even with his ''shadow,'' Park Day informed us that my son is not progressing well in Math. For over a year we have paid for weekly math tutoring sessions.
This year we were told that Park Day would not allow my son to remain in their school if we refused to pay for the shadow - even though I am currently unemployed. We intend to transfer my son to a public school in the Fall. We underwent the IEP process and I learned that the Public School system provides for FREE, the assistive services for which we have paid thousands of dollars.
I kept my son in Park Day because I assumed he would get more one-on-one attention. I thought smaller classes would be better. I augmented his education with private tutors, teachers and shadows when I was asked to do so. What I find most troublesome is this: At no time did Park Day suggest to us that our son would benefit if we transferred him to a public school. Park Day Parent
Re: Kindergarten for a Math Geek
My son, now in 6th grade, has been at Park since kindergarten and I have so much respect for the math curriculum. My kid loves math, but so do most of the kids in his grade -- I remember sitting in on the first day of 2nd grade when my son's teacher asked each kid to say what they liked best about school. ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' ''Math.'' It was hilarious.
Here are two things that I think are relevant to your question. One is that kids at Park are taught from kindergarten on to honor and respect each other for who they are, and the result is kids who feel free to like what they like, whatever it is, and be who they are, whoever that is. My son and his (large group of) friends proudly call themslelves ''nerds'' because they like math and science and technology and music and books. But it's a name they chose for themselves, not one that anyone would have called them otherwise.
The second thing is that the math they've learned isn't just a series of equations. Kids at Park are challenged to find multiple ways to solve problem, and the math curriculum includes lots of discussion and writing about math in addition to the equations. DS
Park Day Junior High
After looking at many schools, we love Park Day for many reasons, especially the younger grades, and the new unified campus is amazing- I don't think that there's a better space in the east bay. My question is about their new (ish) junior high school program. I would like to know from both current parents and those graduated, are you happy with the junior high? Is it academically challenging? Is your child prepared for high school? If not, what are some of the challenges? How do former students handle pressure (both academic and peer,) at their new schools? Does (did) Park help you find the right high school? I see that the school has a ton of potential and we're very excited. Thank you! anon
To the parent who asked about Park Day School's middle school, I am a long-time PDS parent and would give the school's middle school VERY high marks. It was great for my 9th grader (=now a freshman at a very challenging high school) and her friends: they all felt well prepared for their various high schools. The graduates of Park seem particularly strong in (a) their study, analytical and writing skills, (b) their attitude toward high school work (i.e., they hit the ground running/aren't burned out), (c) their ability to make friends easily and handle the stresses of high school, and (d)their math/science readiness. The social studies program was somewhat weak until this fall, but has improved tremendously: new teacher, better curriculum. Add: superb student culture, plus the gorgeous campus, plus the sweetest families anywhere. You will love it. Good luck.
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
Park Day School is a progressive school that is incredibly challenging. Their emphasis on critical thinking and work with abstract concepts with hands on learning creates a curriculum that leads children to own their learning and love it. The staff at PDS is mindful of the scope and sequence of the curriculum through the grade levels - they have even mapped their social justice scope and sequence curriculum, as well as math and science. Children's learning is deep and builds from one year to the next. My two children are also known for who they are, held in their emotional/social selves and who they are as learners. PDS talks about differences among people (race, gender,learning styles) and honors each person's contribution. This isn't just pretty language - they really do it - Even when it is not easy and when the community is challenged by the difficulty of finding ways to grapple with issues of diversity. PDS does't just talk the talk but they walk the road. anon
Re: Challenging Progressive School?
A good progressive education can also (should also) include appropriate challenges for academically-oriented kids, and Park Day School excels at this. My spouse and I come from brainiac backgrounds - Harvard (him), UCB Law (both), Nat'l Merit Scholarship (moi) - and wondered whether the warm and fuzzy Park Day School culture could accommodate our unusually gifted but shy third child. Let's just say, in talking to our son about second grade this year I have learned how to spell microchiroptera (and the particular attributes of this half of the bat world, as well as the other, megachiroptera) and seen an exciting version of pre- algebra (using shapes in place of variables). PDS's small class size makes it possible for teachers to really understand what makes each kid tick, and they support their little Einsteins beautifully. Check it out! Park Day School nerd-mom
I'm writing to highly recommend Park Day School's middle school program. If you're looking for a program that combines great psychology (and a true understanding of the adolescent) with individualized attention and appropriate academic challenges, this is it. Our daughter is a rather brainy, sociable, deep thinking kid with an aptitude for math and writing. We transferred her to PDS from public school at grade four. PDS expanded to include 7th and 8th grades just in time for us to benefit, and we are blown away by how well that program is managed and run. Wendy Wilkinson, the 7/8 director, is a wonderwoman. She is so likeable and intelligent, she inspires confidence from parents, kids, and staff. She has decades of experience working with kids this age and helping them (and their parents) find and get into high schools that are a good fit. Gretchen-the-math-teacher is also amazing,sharing her passion for math and getting each kid what s/he needs to improve quickly. PDS is not, as an old neighbor recently joked, a ''hippy dippy'' school - it offers terrific academics in a supportive environment. An A+!
Re: Daughter not ready for K or is it just the wrong school?
Park Day School in Oakland, a wonderful, warm, progressive and diverse school has started a Bridge-K program. I am always so impressed with how child-centered the staff are. The play area is beautiful and varied. Check it out on their website: www.parkdayschool.org I heard that they are still accepting applications for the Bridge-K program even though there is a deadline on the website. anon
I wondered if anyone who has had experience at both Park Day and St. Paul's - especially if they've switched from one to the other - could share what their experience has been and what they feel are the strong differences (other than the facilities). My son will be starting kindergarten next year. He's a self-directed, articulate, musical, and social guy and would be at home at both places. We like both schools and see many strengths at both from the outside but wonder if an insider can share what they've experienced as the most significant differences between the two. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights. Anon
I've had young children at both Park Day and St. Paul's. They are both wonderful choices for progressive values, diversity, a responsive classroom, language arts, and longtime committed staff and leadership.
But there are differences, to wit:
Park Day: Their campus is peaceful, parklike,and nurturing. If your son is shy, needs space,or has a quirky personality, Park is a better choice. Their teachers will know and love your child. The major down side to Park, for us, was that over time our son was not challenged enough in math and other areas, and we actually hired supplemental tutors to keep enriching his academic experience. Later, he needed to seriously learn how to take a standardized test since he'd never seen one and it was no longer an option. We wondered if it was possible to join a social, activist curriculum with academics, because while our son became an amazing person he was not a great student.
St. Paul's: Their campus is more urban and busy, play areas are limited. A kid who is independent or passionate will thrive, as did our second son. Like Park Day, a lot of social activism and discussion with dedicated staff. St. Paul's was not religious per se (and we're not either), but their spirituality piece which involves meditation and chapel, were way cool. Our son loved that part. We also saw a marked difference in academics, where there were milestones, expectations, and some structured homework (eg spelling words, word problems) which helped our son become a better student. Also some prep for standardized testing in higher grades. While issues like global warming, the needs of our community, and how to be a contributing and caring person were part of his experience, he also was learning how to succeed as an academic student in a way that would translate beyond St. Paul's doors.
Both schools are great, and parents of one appreciate the other, but there are differences. And please remember to look beyond kindergarten when making your decision. Good luck!! A Fan of Park Day and St. Paul's
Like you, we had a hard time deciding between Park Day and St. Paul's when our oldest child (now a 5th grader)was entering kindergarten. We chose St. Paul's, because we really liked the diversity and academics. However, we recently switched, moving both of our kids to Park Day, and are quite happy with our decision.
Each school has some wonderful strengths. The music program at St. Paul's -- particularly after 3d grade -- is amazing. As I mentioned, the school really is diverse, economically as well as in more obvious respects such as race and sexual orientation. And the academics seem good, Science is especially impressive. Bizarrely, they didn't start teaching a foreign language (Spanish) until a few years in, though that might be changing.
Park seems stronger in the ''liberal arts'' -- lots of emphasis on writing, creative expression, visual arts, and social studies/history. Our older child was always a strong reader, but it wasn't until he started at Park that he began to love reading (tho that might just be a coincidence), and our 2nd grader has gone from being hesitant about reading on her own to being a really avid reader. Spanish starts in kindergarten. On the down side, the math and science are, frankly, stronger at St. Paul's. (Tho I have heard that it improves greatly in 6th grade, when the kids spend half their time with a teacher who specializes in math and science). And, while, Park is not as thoroughly diverse as St. Paul's (I don't think any school is) it does pretty good -- probably better in terms of LGBT families -- and is really committed to social justice, community and global awareness issues.
The biggest difference is the warm and nurturing feeling of the environment at Park. Kindness seems to be the school ethos, and you really feel it. But that does not mean indulgence: our kids have been in classes with potentially disruptive kids in both schools. The difference is that at Park, we saw those kids managed in a way that kept them included and cared for, without letting their problems become everyone else's.
Other pluses at Park: the campus is lovely (if small), while St. Pauls feels like a nice urban public school; the new(ish) Park middle school is said to be fantastic; and we like that kids stay in the lower school through 6th grade (which seems too young to throw kids into the middle school whirlwind).
I hope this is helpful to you -- probably either choice will be a good one; they are both fine schools. Good luck.
I have had experience at both schools, although my St. Pauls experience is just with the middle school. Our older son went to Park Day from Kindergarten through sixth grade. We moved him to St. Pauls for 7th and 8th. Like you describe your son, ours is self-directed, articulate, and social. We also have a younger son who is still at Park Day and will probably stay there through middle school.
Almost without exception both of our sons have had great experiences at Park Day. There was not one day in my older sons seven years at the school when he said he didnt like school or didnt want to go to school. Same so far for my younger son. They have had wonderful teachers who took the time to get to know them and always enjoyed them. The small class size at Park Day gives teachers the time to focus on each kid. Kids do a lot of work in groups and with partners and get to move around a lot, which was important for both of my energetic sons. Park Day seems to get a bad rap for its academics, but the curriculum is strong (and constantly being reviewed and revised) and lively, and kids learn what they need to learn. I think the fact that the kids have fun learning it makes people question whether the school is feeding enough of the core subjects. My older son did fine, transitioned to St. Pauls middle school with no problems, and is now at a highly academic high school. My younger son excels in math, and his teacher ensures that he is challenged in that subject on a daily basis. So, kids do get what they need at Park Day, and the school is able to meet the needs of many different kinds of kids, from those who naturally excel at academics to those who need more support. A comment about the facilities: The beautiful, open Park Day campus contributes in a very important way to the childrens experience. The kids have a lot of space and a lot of freedom, get to be outdoors a ton, get to garden, play sports, etc. They love the space and that adds to their positive school experience. And finally, the school does a really good job at keeping parents informed about whats going on in the classrooms and in the school as a wholea thorough, lengthy, and readable weekly newsletter from the administration and regular newsletters and emails from teachers. Plus, its easy to have a quick chat with teachers because the campus/buildings are so accessible. Parents are always hanging around and chatting before and after school.
St. Pauls has some wonderful qualitiesthe diversity and the music program are standouts--but we found St. Pauls to be much more traditional than we had expected, both in terms of the curriculum (we didn't find it particularly exciting), and discipline (my son witnessed many detentions being handed out). Overall, while my son handled it all just fine, it wasnt a great match for our family. There were many disruptive kids in his group;not sure if that was a fluke for his year or a more general problem at the school. The classes were large (24 to a class in middle school), and I didnt get the sense that all of his teachers really knew him. Plus, the facilities turned out to be a big drawback. My older son was excited about the very urban setting, but as the months wore on and he had to line up to go anywhere, eat lunch surrounded by goose poop at the lake, etc., he really missed the old freedoms of Park Days space. Finally, I was not satisfied with the amount of communication from the St. Pauls administration to parents. The school sent out a very short, weekly newsletter, but it was more of a schedule of upcoming events, rather than an insight into the classrooms, curriculum, and general goings-on. Middle school teachers sent emails, but those were mostly a list of upcoming assignments. Also, because parents pretty much have to drive through and drop off their kids, there just arent regular opportunities to stick your head in a classroom after school and have a quick chat with a teacher. Please keep in mind that our experience at St. Paul's was only at the middle school level. Good luck with your school choice
Re: Middle School for an un-enthusiastic learner
We've had a very good experience at Park Day School (we have an eighth grader and a fifth grader at the school). Park Day seems to strike an excellent balance particularly in the middle school between academics taught with real verve and creativity and the arts, particularly drama and music. There is also dance in seventh and eighth grade, but that doesn't appeal so much to our teenage boy.
I think the style of education at Park really does encourage students to enjoy learning. The 7th and 8th grade math, science and language arts teachers are particularly exceptional, I think. Well worth checking it out. I'm happy to tell you more offline if you wish. -Tracey
Re: Peaceful, Kind, Elementary School in Oak/Berk???
There are several very good elementary schools that teach peace, environmental responsibility and non-violence, no bullying, etc. Our 10 year old son goes to Park Day School and has been there since kindergarten. It has a nice balance of technology/computers in the classrooms with basic core values of kindness, sharing, greening, no guns/violent play. The older kids read a lot, the games are focused on kind playing, there is soccer, but no football on campus, etc. The older kids buddy up with the younger ones, for reading buddies, etc. The kids are taught to be an ally/friend, rather than an opponent to little ones or those left out. They have a campus garden and are the first campus to go ALL GREEN, meaning no/limited trash, composting and all recycling. Emphasis on healthy lunches, with a 'ban' on 100% sugar treats in lunches and no play guns or other violent games brought to school. It's quite amazing to see the difference on this campus, when kids are given the opportunity to channel their energies positively. The teaching staff is the BEST in the area. Jane
Re: Private middle schools in the east bay
You should consider Park Day School, which now includes grades 7 and 8. It's a wonderful place, the perfect blend of dynamic academics, a broad-based curriculum that includes community activism and social justice, sports, music, theater, Spanish, dance. The staff is committed and of long tenure. The director, Tom Little, is fantastic. It's a really special school. The 6th grade classes are with the elementary school on the Main Campus. The kids move to the nearby Community Campus when they reach 7th grade. The philosophy is that 6th grade is still elementary, and I think they're right. My daughter's started in Kindergarten and is now in 3rd grade, and her experience has been wonderful all the way. Try it! wwwdotparkdayschooldotorg
Re: Academically strong and liberal private school
Take a look at Park Day School in Oakland. Progressive education with emphasis on social justice. Strong academics and a really fun place for kids. Very, very liberal politically. Diverse socio-economically and ethnically.
I am trying to figure out Middle School options for my ''normalish''(not alternative,geeky,artistic,or a jock) friendly ,kind,bright, athletic son who struggles in the academic areas.He will be coming out of a Public School and I h ave concerns that our Middle School just wont work for him. Any comments regarding 6th grade transfers into St.Pauls or Park Day (Community School) How well do these schools do in supporting kids with learning challenges(differances).What is the social scene,how many of you in the elementary grades will continue on to the middle school grades?(i.e. If you plan on moving your kids out of Park and not continuing on to Community,why)Whats the longer range impact of not testing,grading etc... ...We really do want a nice,friendly ,warm,nurturing and inclusive atmosphere Thanks for any input!!
Another Mother Trying To Figure It All Out !!!
I would highly recommend Park Day/Community School for your son. My older son had a similar profile - bright, fun, athletic, with various learning differences - and had a good experience at Park Day and absolutely thrived at Community School. He is now a happy, confident, well prepared high schooler. Socially, the scene at both schools is generally very inclusive and welcoming - particularly at Community School there is a wide range of ''types'', interests, styles, etc., and the school really is a community, not clickish at all. Very warm and nurturing, and at the same time gives students a lot of freedom to be themselves. The staff really loves working with 13 and 14 year olds, something that I think is quite rare. In terms of learning differences, they are well understood and supported. Depending on the particular needs of your child, you may need to provide some outside support, but the teachers really look at what works for each child and are flexible and accomodating. For example, for the 7/8th grade science classes, students may be given different types of test, depending on whether they are more comfortable with multiple choice, essay, or whatever. The tests are really about understanding the material, and not about how well you take a test. So any student who doesn't do well, can re-take a test. In terms of long range impact of no grades and no standardized tests (there are some tests at both schools in classes, although it is only one of many forms of assessing mastery of subject matter), from my experience it has only been positive. My son was always test phoebic, didn't test well, didn't want to take the tests before middle school (which we didn't end up doing), but now that he is in high school and developmentally ready, he is willingly preparing for PSATs and SATs - I'm sure it will be a much less stressful experience now and ultimately much more productive. He has a lso done fine on tests in class (there aren't a lot of them at his school) and they don't freak him out anymore. Also, when he got his first high school report cards with letter grades (which he is doing very well) his reaction was ''I wish they would tell me more about how I am doing - this is just a letter''. I think the use of assessments rather than just grades really encourages students to understand themselves and think about themselves as learners and people.
Finally, my younger child is now a very happy 6th grader at Park, and we didn't even consider looking at any other schools for 7th and 8th - my kid can't wait to get to the ''Community Campus''! Hope this helps - good luck!
happy mom of happy kids
Re: Oakland Elementary school for possible learning delays
I have two children at Park and have been very happy and satisfied with our experience there. My son is now in the eighth grade at the new Community Campus, and my daughter is in the fourth grade. Both have been at Park since kindergarten. Park's environment is warm and nurturing; the teachers and staff really KNOW each child. Somehow, Park has a reputation for being less ''academic'' than some other schools- I can only say that,when I compare it to what I know of these other schools, it seems to me that kids at Park learn just as much-or more- by having FUN! When they graduate from Park they are entusiastic life-long learners, who know how to think and reason for themselves. They go on to a variety of middle and high schools and do extremely well. My two kids have totally different learning and social styles;my son learns quickly and ea! sily and was always challenged and excited by the curriculm. He loves school and truly looks forward to each school day. I can remember that during his first years at Park he described it as his''second home'' and the staff as ''my second family''. The recent merge with Community School, which makes PDS a K-8 school is yet another reason to apply to Park.
My daughter has struggled with ''learning differences'' and has received lots of extra help in order to succeed. She now is a hard working student who(deservedly) takes great satisfaction in her acheivements. Her learning problems were picked up early on in her school career,and she has benifited greatly from the extra tutoring she has received. She also loves going to school and is excited by all she learns there.
Both kids have thrived socially at Park, and the wonderfully diverse school community has also been a source of comfort and friend! ship for our whole family. I can wholeheartedly recommend Park Day School!
Happy Park parent
Re: Which private school?
I have a daughter who's entering 2nd grade at Park Day (she's been there since kindergarten), and I can't say enough good things about the school. I think that Park is often viewed from the outside as a looser, perhaps less academic school, but when you really look at what's happening in Park classrooms, you'll see kids doing amazing things and graduating from 6th grade fully prepared to enter and compete at Head-Royce or Bentley. My daughter's 1st grade experience was wonderful -- every kid in her class became an enthusiastic reader, writer, mathematician, and scientist during the year. She had homework just once a week, given on Thursday, due on Tuesday. And her reading/writing skills are superior to many kids who are drilled intensely on phonics, as the approach at Park is a whole language approach. The teachers are dedicated and truly appreciated, they give their all, and the school community is a marvel. Park Day truly backs up its committment to educating children not just in the academics, but also in creating community and becoming good people/citizens. Lauren
Re: Which private school?
Our daughter is going into 2nd grade at Park Day and pretty much fits the description of your soon-to-be kindergartner. Park Day has been an amazing fit for her so far. The kindergarten year was a perfect transition year for her - with the small class size and focus on social/emotional development, our daughter felt part of a community, part of a group, for the first time in her life and that was so valuable. She was reading in kinderga! rten and had a new teacher who wasn't as good at finding academic challenges for her, but that was okay - it was kindergarten and the social challenges she was experiencing helped her grow tremendously, we knew the academics would come. In first grade, her teacher challenged her when she was open to being challenged, assessed her academic strengths quite quickly and easily, and spent the entire year stimulating her, engaging her, and helping her grow both academically and socially. She was constantly offering our daughter more challenging books and reading/writing assignments and offering her extra math work so long as my daughter was open to it. At times, she just wanted to be like everyone else and her teacher completely honored that. More importantly, my daughter got one-on-one help navigating the complex social relationships of first grade in a way that I can't imagine happening anywhere else.&nbs! p;
Feel free to write if you have more questions or want more details. I'm sure there are other families in the upper grades who can respond to the academic issues of the upper grades, but know that many of the kids we know at Park in 4th grade had ample amounts of homework (not necessarily 3 hours per night). I believe that no matter what kind of child you have, there will be strong years and weak years in school wherever you go. jls
Re: Elementary school in S. berkeley/N.Oakland
I would highly recommend Park Day School, located in the Temescal area in North Oakland. Both my children have had a wonderful experience. Park Day takes the whole child approach, combining a rich hands-on program, with equal concern for emotional and social growth and well being. Students learn how to communicate and resolve conflicts and how to care about the world they live in and the people around them. A fantastic staff, great parent community, and wonderful program. Check out their website at www.parkdayschool.org a satisfied parent
Please share your experiences about the aftercare programs and lunch/recess times at Aurora, Berkwood Hedge and Park Day schools. Is there enough adult supervision? Is teasing or bullying noticed and adequately addressed? What happens on a rainy day? Are younger children separated from older children? What do you think about the quality of afterschool enrichment programs? Thank you for your responses to any of these questions as to any of these schools.
Grateful for Your Thoughts!
I just came from dropping my kindergartener off at Park School's ''holiday camp'' which is run by the after school program on days when the school is on vacation. I think the after school program at Park is wonderful, as is everything about Park. Not only is there plenty of supervision, but the culture of the school ingrains compassionate and caring behavior into the children from day one. When my child first started at the school, I was amazed at the way the older kids watched out for the kindergarteners -- not only integrating them into their games, but making special ''kindergarten'' exceptions to the rules because the kindergarteners were getting frustrated because they were getting ''out'' too often. I remember watching a 3rd grade boy tell my sniffling son and his friend, ''i know how you feel, when I was in kindergarten I wasn't very good at this game either, but you'll get better if you keep playing.'' So sweet! And completely unprompted by adult intervention. I've seen many many similar interactions at lunch and after school. Sure there are times when kids are mean to other kids, but it is always dealt with promptly and thoughtfully. At one point my son complained that some second graders were being mean to him and his friends (which meant that they were dominating the monkey bars and not letting the younger kids use them). His teacher set up a ''play date'' with the 2nd grade class in question so that the kindergarteners and second graders could get to know each other and the problem disappeared.
Re: Gay Friendly Schools in Oakland
To the family considering moving to Oakland to have their child attend Park Day School: I cannot respond to your questions about high school, and about East Bay vs. S.F. But I can strongly support your considering Park Day School for your child and your family. We are an LGBT family and I cannot recommend it highly enough for it's integration of LGBT families and kids. We feel very good about the social- emotional foundation our kids are receiving at Park coming from a ''different'' family, and their exposure and comfort with families of all types there. It is an excellent school in many other ways as well, of course! anon
Re: Gay Friendly Private Schools
Park Day School in Oakland is a very welcoming place for gay families. We are straight parents at Park, but many of the families we know are gay and pleased with Park. One of the highlights for me was a couple of years ago during ''Care week.'' Each yar, Park devotes a whole week to exploration of an aspect of being a caring community -- other years have included weeks focused on bullying, disability, gender, etc. This particular year, the focus was on GLBT issues. Understanding of GLBT issues and families were presented across grade levels in ways that were very appropriate for each grade. For instance, the younger grades (my daughter was in 2nd that year) had a lesbian mom come in, or a gay firefighter etc. and talk about their lives with the kids. The older grades had more sophisticated discussions and activities. Several weeks later my daughter was doing a research project and came across the phrase ''home sapiens''. I was surprised she knew what that was so I asked her if she understood what it was. Very assuredly she told me she did -- that ''home sapiens'' were men who married other men. :-) Anyway, Park actively tries to reach out to GLBT families in admissions and encourages GLBT families to refer others to the school. Ilana
I'm writing to inquire about Park Day School. Our son will be going to kindergarten next fall and we've looked at several schools already with a few more to go. I've read previous feedback regarding Park Day School, but just wanted a bit more feedback. I know it has a progressive philosophy with a diverse and nurturing environment, which is why I love it. But are there any hard facts about success in traditional evnvironments after Park Day? Do we went to give our son the privilege of a holistic education? Absolutely. Do we want to stimulate his intellect, his desire to learn, and provide him with every tool possible to be a successful and productive human being? Absolutely. Is it possible to do this in one place? I'm not so sure. I guess at a certain point you've got to go on faith and intuition, but it's hard to make the leap. Two other schools we really like are Redwood Day and Black Pine Circle. Any feedback, positive or negative on any of these schools would be appreciated. Sincerely, Wanting to be convinced..... anonymous
I have sent two children to Park Day School and want to say the academics are terrific! The teachers are fantastic and they present innovative, creative and challenging lessons to the kids. While the school plays close attention to developing the social and emotional needs of kids, it also makes sure students are well trained in the fundamentals. The school has a project- based curriculum, so instead of worksheets and memorization drills, kids use games and projects to learn. My oldest daughter went from K-6 at Park and guess where she is now, in 7th grade -- Head-Royce, a much more traditional school. Six students from Park entered Head-Royce this year and all of them are doing very well -- all As and Bs. It's a great place and I would be happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more. Frances
To the parent who was concerned about whether Park Day School can be academically challenging at the same time it is diverse, nurturing and progressive, I say YES, YES AND YES! I have twin boys who graduated from Park Day School last summer and are now in 7th grade at Head Royce. We just received our first progress reports, and the boys are doing extremely well in their new, more traditionally academic environment. In addition, teachers commented on how much they each offer to their class. This favorable feedback has a lot to do with the kind of education they received at Park. Nurturing, for example, is not only about comfort and care. Nurturing engenders confidence, trust and a belief in one's own abilities. There is a spirit of encouragement at Park which invites kids to ask questions, be an advocate and solve problems both academically and socially. Diversity is not just a number or a percentage, it is woven into the curriculum through areas of study, and also through the information, rituals, and special traditions that the kids themselves or their parents bring into the classroom. Park challenges each child to develop a conscience about their friends, school community and world. It challenges them to think independently, critically and thoughtfully. It also teaches the power of brainstorming, cooperative learning and sharing of ideas. Guided and instructed by phenomenally dedicated, energetic and knowledgeable teachers, these kids learn to set their own standards. And their capabilities are astounding! Park pushes kids academically by supporting the potential of each child. In a way, kids come through Park with a maturity and breadth of understanding that many don't achieve until adulthood. They are allowed to be unique thinkers and are equipped with the most powerful tools for academic achievement: confidence, curiosity, resourcefulness and wisdom - oh, and knowledge, too.
Other parents at Head Royce have commented on the work ethic and diligence of kids from Park. I like to believe that this comes from a curriculum rich in engaging projects that spurs kids to want to learn. Within a dynamic academic program, kids become intrinsically motivated and fully engaged learners at Park. And, yes, they have math tests and spelling quizzes, too. They really do get the basics.
p I remember when my husband and I were looking at elementary schools, loaded with handouts and dizzy from hearing all the talks, we asked ourselves, "Do I feel comfortable in this environment?" "What's the sense I get from the classroom or playground?" "Would I be happy in a school like this?" And then, thankfully, we trusted our instincts. Ali
Hi, I went to Park Day School from 2nd to 6th grade (graduated in 1992). I have nothing but positive things to say about the school and the teachers. I am now 25, graduated magna cum laude from Cal State Hayward, and have been working for a fortune 500 company for 2 years now. Because the emphasis at Park Day is on holistic education, you don't see that blatant pressure to acheive ''high standards''that you see at many other ''academic'' schools. But that doesn't mean that the students aren't extremely successful. If you want more examples, ask to see a copy of the school newsletter - there is an alumni news section that is full of success stories. Good luck with your decision, and please email me if you have any more questions. a.o
My child attends Park Day School and I can assure you that it is an excellent school academically. As a progressive school, Park is accustomed to being asked this question -- and if you want actual data on how the kids do after Park, they keep that information in the admissions office. Call Flo Hodes (the Assistant Director) and she will tell you where the kids go on for middle and high school, and also college. The teachers at Park are very intelligent, intellectually-alive people. The educational philosophy at Park is one where the emphasis is more on the process of learning and the love of learning -- not on memorization of facts. However, they are keenly aware that these kids will go on to schools were testing scores will be used, and so the kids are taught how to take standardized tests in 6th grade so they are prepared for them in the 7th grade and beyond. One thing that impresses me about the academics is how thoroughly the kids are immersed in the concepts and skills they are learning -- the material is integrated into their math, their language arts, their spanish, their science, their art, etc..so that they are engaging their minds on many levels. (As an aside -- Park is going to extend through 8th grade, so within the next few years it will be a K-8 school.) Feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk about Park further! Heath
My experience may be a few years old, but our take on Park Day was that it is a very sweet school but not really able to meet the needs of a child who shows particular giftedness in math, for example, and the school, going a few years back, was clear with us that accelerating a child with certain academic gifts was not a priority--that helping children be good citizens was. That said, I have learned that the most academically rigorous or zealous environment may promote learning less than an environment of emotional safety and warmth. I think a bright child, who is a self-starter, would emerge just fine from PD. As an extra bonus, Park Day has a nice leafy yard on a hot, sunny day. Nothing's Perfect
My sons went to Park Day School, the older one through 3rd grade, and the younger one through kindergarten, and we left only because my family has recently moved to Colorado. Park Day School is the single thing I miss the most about the Bay Area, and I truly grieve that my kids couldn't stay there throughout their elementary years. While we were there, the academic issue often came up, especially from parents who thought well of Park Day but sent their kids to other schools. I was therefore apprehensive about moving my children to a new school and having them be behind academically. They were not. They stepped into a new school and school system, somewhat more traditional, without any problem. What's more, my older son has some learning disabilities, but I credit Park Day with observing this early and helping him to get appropriate support. He negotiated the transition to a new school with amazing confidence. Finally, my children are far more sophisticated than many of their peers: last year when I was bewailing the fact that many of my college-age students were baffled when I mentioned the United Nations, my older son said, ''It seems like I know more about what's going on in the world than they do.'' Park Day School respects children enough to engage with them on difficult social issues, addressing (in age appropriate ways) such issues as disability rights, being allies for gays and lesbians, and working for peace. I will always remain grateful that my children thrived and learned there. Elizabeth
As the time approaches to consider touring schools, I strongly recommend families who are considering a socially progressive, developmentally based, culturally rich and diverse program for their child to come to a tour at Park Day School. There are several recommendations about Park on the website -- check them out. We are a community that is strongly committed to diversity and consequently our community is stronger for it. Families of color, interracial families, GLBT families, kids with different learning styles, single parents, are well represented in our school. If you have any questions about Park you can e-mail me directly -- or contact them at 653-0317. Our child loves going to school, as do his classmates -- and we feel very much at home in the community there. Heath
My two sons go to Park Day School and my family is entirely happy with the school. I just spent the morning making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a local food bank with a lot of sticky, happy kindergartners. I love that Park Day gives children the opportunity to participate in the community and make a positive difference in the world from the beginning of their education. The school's emphasis on community and social justice is very important to me.
To a one, my children's teachers have been skilled, creative, and caring. They do ambitious, dazzling projects that often integrate learning from multiple disciplines. My third grade son is combining history, literature, and science in his study of Native Americans this fall.
Park Day School is a wonderful place. The schoolyard is a little Eden. The children, their parents, and the staff at the school are all people I look forward to seeing every day.
My son transferred from 3rd grade at Mills College Children's School last year to 4th grade at Park Day School this year, and we have been very impressed with Park Day as well. The sense of community there is very strong and welcoming; we feel that we're in a group of people that is very principled, generous, and committed to the school community. There is a strong emphasis on social conscience, and on behaving in a principled way towards others. The director of the school is a thoughtful, conscientious and kind leader, and he sets a great example for the kids (and the parents too!). They have been very welcoming to our son, and we are so happy we moved. (I'm a faculty member at Mills College). Lisa
The first time we visited Park Day School, we watched as two children collided in play. Instantly, these children were surrounded. Are you okay? was the refrain. Tears were wiped away, hands outstretched for help. Almost as quickly, play resumed. It wasnt for our benefit these children helped each other; it is the story of the playground at this extraordinary school. We sent our first son to Park because of the kindness of these children. It didnt hurt that there were trees and more trees, flowers vegetables, swings, slides, sand and water; that the classrooms were full of love and art and humor and music; that we came to respect and adore the beloved teachers; that we learned we were part of a community which held out collective hands to help us, to help each other up.
At Park School, there are traditions that make for community: care week, cultures day, a day of sharing, authors night, all school sing, storyteller night. Each kindergartner has a secret 6th grade buddy and all children have reading buddies from different grades. Each class is involved in community outreach; younger grades make sandwiches, pack food bags for a neighboring school; kindergarten and 1st grade visit the ladies at the Matilda Brown home; 2nd graders make activity baskets for sick children at Childrens Hospital; 3rd graders serve at a soup kitchen; 4th graders focus on recycling/environment; 5th graders read to preschoolers in Oakland and the 6th graders sponsor an ambitious book drive.
Grade by grade, the curriculum is inspiring. I will never forget the second grade teachers beaming face as our son walked to the podium to speak the words: I am Bishop Desmond Tutu. That same year, our son learned about Duke Ellington, Romare Beardon, Gonesha, Helen Keller and his own greatgrandmother. We have three children at Park now; the things they learn, the gifts they are given are remarkable. Our children are unique, included and loved well at Park, where, by a complex mix of grace, awe and respect, all mutual, these teachers and children hold each other.
Lastly, for our biracial sons, we have been encouraged by Park's commitment to diversity, to a school population reflecting the economic, racial, ethnic, and lifestyle diversity of the communities in which we live and work. Park's educational programs, admission policies and financial assistance grants fully support this principle. agrigsby
I'd like to post a strong recommendation for Park Day School for all parents, but particularly I want to welcome gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered parents to consider Park for their child(ren). As a two-mom family we feel absolutely at home in the Park community -- it is a model school in many, many ways -- the curriculum, the focus on social-emotional growth and well-being, the creativity and joy that is expressed and cultivated there -- the academic excellence -- I could say a lot about this school. The culture of the school is one which not only values diversity but does a lot to cultivate, honor, and grow from it's diversity...including active outreach and providing healthy financial aid support to families who otherwise would not be able to consider such a high-quality private school.
The sensitivity toward, and genuine celebration of alternative families has been a wonderful experience for us and for our children.
Please consider contacting the admissions director, Flo Hodes, and ask her for parent contacts who you can speak with directly if you are interested in learning more about Park! The school keeps a list of parents from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, gay and lesbian, etc so that you can speak directly with parents about their experiences at Park. CM
Consider Park Day School in Oakland at 43rd St. between Broadway and Telegraph (www.parkdayschool.org). They have an excellent diversity program and it's not lip service- it's the real deal. Excellent and enthusiastic teachers and administration, with great emphasis on respect for all and developmentally appropriate curriculum. - A happy parent
I suggest that you visit Park Day School in North Oakland. We chose Park Day for our three biracial sons (K, 4th and 5th) because of the school's commitment to diversity, community service and academic excellence. In my kindergartner's class, there are African American, Latino, biracial and multiracial, LGBT and single parent families. My son's kindergarten teacher is African-American. Our family is very comfortable at Park Day as it is committed to a school population that reflects the economic, racial, ethnic, and lifestyle diversity of the communities in which we live and work. Park's educational programs, admission policies, and financial assistance grants fully support these principles. For families who apply to Park, the school offers an e-mail contact list (made up of e-mail adddresses from current African-American, Latino, Asian, biracial, multiracial, LGBT, single parent and adoptive families) which has been helpful for families with diverse backgrounds as they can communicate parent to parent about the Park experience. Throughout out the admissions season, the school offers tours for prospective parents, including evening tours. Visit the website at htttp://parkdayschool.org agrigsby
Please consider Park Day School (43rd St. in Oakland--beautiful wooded campus between Broadway and Telegraph).
While many schools ''talk the talk'' about wanting a diverse student body, Park truly ''walks the walk''--with a deep commitment toward actively recruiting families of color. The commitment to diversity is part of an overarching philosophy of learning that fosters respect for the richness inherent in our cultural, racial, and socio-economic differences.
From the Park Day School ''philosophy of education'': ''When children leave Park Day School, we want them on their way to be caring, constructive, open-minded members of the adult world. We want them to be equipped to live in a diverse society and to be comfortable with the ways in which they are alike and different from others. We want them to be able to recognize the biases that exist in society and to develop and articulate their own values.''
I could wax poetic about Park Day (and would be happy to do so if you'd like to call me at (510) 841-4608.) Diversity is just one of its many, many virtues! Check out the website: Parkdayschool.org
Now is the time to tour the campus. You can call (510) 653-0317 to talk with Flo Hodes (Assistant Director and Admissions Coordinator). Park always receives more applications that spots available, so apply soon.
Good luck! Linda
Sorry, I don't know anything about schools near Hercules. But since your post indicate you are looking at private schools in Oakland as well, I'd like to mention a couple that have and highly value racial diversity. Park Day School is a wonderfully diverse (both racially and economically) school that offers a rich experience both academically and as a community. The school actively recruits diverse families of all kinds. As a single parent who has been at Park Day for several years, I've been very pleased with the kids, values and differences my child has been exposed to -- their work is a lot of what has made him the special kid he is today. Hope the info is helpful, and good luck in your search. School Mom
We are still pinching ourselves that we were lucky enough
to have our son enrolled in Park Day School this year,
* a warm, kind community where 6th graders enjoy playing with kindergarteners (!),
* dedicated teachers who have spent over 20 years constantly challenging themselves to come up with innovative ways to educate,
* a wonderful campus with lots of trees and vegetables and space for baseball games and playing house,
* an academically rigorous (but supportive) environment where music, languages and social education are as highly valued as reading, math and science.
-- thankful family
My son is in 2nd grade at Park Day School in Oakland. Evey single day I am grateful that he is there and for the people that work with him. The sense of community at the school has really warmed and impressed me. The school offers enrichment in Spanish, art, and music, but they also have a full time staff person devoted to community outreach, so even in kindergarten, my son was making sandwiches for needy kids and bagging up food for a food bank. We just finished ''care week'' in which the kids studied peacemaking, and had special curriculum and visiting speakers to teach about peacemaking. The teachers are really loving and attentive to the kids. AND there's a fabulous play yard where they can really play and stretch their legs.
Is there a down side to Park Day? Some people think it is not academic enough. My own background in alternative education and subsequent success in competitive academic institutions causes me to feel little worry on that count. It is a little hard for me to gauge my son's progress in traditional terms because he was diagnosed last year with mild dyslexia. I will say that Park Day caught it early, that their learning specialist has worked closely with him, and that she spent tons of time giving me referrals and information. There is even a parent support group for kids with learning differences.
No place is perfect, but I feel that Park Day School has been as close as we are likely to get. I love that school. If you feel it might be a good match for your child and family, I strongly encourage you to apply.
My daughter goes to the best school in the Bay Area, as far as I'm concerned. Park Day school. Thier philosophy is based on meeting the student at the student level, in the way the student learns best. They will meet your child individually where that child is and help that child learn and want to learn. When you speak of strong academics, I'm wondering if you're referring to something like French American International School where they apply strict European highly regimented academics (great for some, possibly does not foster independent thinking...). Park Day, which does not apply regimented aggresive academics, but includes academics in cooking, creating books and so on, is an incredible, progressive school that is famous for it's continuing attention and growth in educational thinking. They shun standardized testing, but start testing in about 3rd grade to teach their students HOW to test. It is done in a way that fosters a willing intelligence and an application of knowledge of study, rather than fear and competitiveness. Schools that receive 7th graders from Park Day rant about our students, who go on to excell in other schools. The school director just went on sabbatical during which he was a fellow at Teachers College in NY with numerous other heads of school for an intensive phase of study and interactive theory of education. This shows me that this school is continuing to be on the cutting edge of education, and is run by highly intellectual individuals. In addition, they integrate with other schools, children are involved in community service from day one and the teachers are idealistic, kind and loving. Go visit and check out the classrooms, or talk to other parents. Alcina
I'm a Park Day parent and I have to disagree with the parent who wrote in questioning the academic rigor of Park. In a nutshell, we love Park Day School. The teachers are superb, the community close-knit, we love the diversity and our daughter loves the school. (Our daughter is now in her third year at Park and our son will start in the fall in kindergarten.) I also think the academics are superb.
I should also say that the approach to learning at Park is very different from what most of us had as children. The traditional approach to learning emphasizes drilling, memorization, rote learning, testing and grades. I don't know Head Royce super well, but I would venture to say that because it is a more traditional school, you will see these traditional approaches used much more readily than you do at Park. So when parents question the academic rigor of Park, I think what they are really struggling with is the actual style and approach to learning. It's hard to let go of that tape from our childhood that says the traditional approach to learning is the best, the tried and true method.
I can tell you that after having spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom over the last three years, kids at Park love learning and they love going to school. When the kids leave Park, they have honed a general approach to learning: they know how to ask questions and get information, and they have strong self-esteem and confidence in their abilities. Each child doesn't leave the school academically brilliant, because we all aren't; but they leave feeling good about themselves and they know how to learn.(Interestingly, a friend of mine who was looking at Park and Head Royce for her kindergartener, told me that the assistant director at Head Royce told her that Head Royce teachers particularly enjoy the kids from Park Day School who go on to Head Royce for middle school. They find that Park kids are independent, self-starters who love learning. They are often times leaders because of their strong problem-solving abilities.)
I can also tell you that my daughter reads and writes and spells well. (And yes, she even takes a weekly spelling test, though somehow her classroom teacher manages to even make that fun.) My daughter doesn't receive grades, though the parents do meet with the classroom teacher twice a year for a thorough school conference, after which we receive a several paged report describing our daughter in depth. During the Spring conference our daughter will be present so that she can present her own work and discuss ways in which she would like to grow.
I have no doubt that Head Royce is an excellent school. The main differences I can see is that Park really emphasizes the social and emotional needs of children. Kids spend a fair amount of time at Park talking about relationships, feelings, responsibilities and choices, and problem-solving. My understanding is that this doesn't happen at Head Royce to the same degree. Also, Park's diversity is extraordinary. Park emphasizes diversity in every form, including reaching out to gay and lesbian families and low-income families. Park is very generous with financial aid, because a school has to be willing to pay for true diversity. -- a parent
I am a parent of a Park Day student, and a few days ago I introduced myself to a couple who arrived at Park Day as school was starting. I could tell by their tentative approach they were newcomers and sure enough, they had received word that their child had been accepted and they were looking the school over to try and reach a final decision.
In the two years since our daughter came to Park Day my wife and I have become ardent supporters of the school and its philosophy of education and I waxed enthusiastic in an unsolicited gush of positive feelings. I spoken to them about my own understanding of PDS's emphasis on promoting "emotional intelligence" in children, as well as the school's method of integrating the classroom and grades in such a way that team cooperation is learned and encouraged and a meaningful sense of community is fostered.
A few minutes later I was speaking with another parent who had been in touch with the same couple earlier and learned that they were a professional couple whose major concern rested with securing for their child a firm grounding in academics and they had heard that "academics" was not a first priority at Park Day. Something about that idea, of Park Day being perceived as not an academic school, kept bothering me throughout the day. Finally, in a conversation with my spouse later that evening, I realized what was bothering me. And this open letter to you, prospective PDS parents, is an attempt to address and clarify this issue.
Let me begin by saying that I believe that the Park Day School methods and philosophies of education are perhaps the best and most logical path to creating an intellectually stimulated individual with a life-long desire to learn, who is capable of discovering their own way in the world, fearless in the tested belief in their own unique abilities and grounded in their desire to help others.
The myth that PDS is not academically oriented must surely rise out of the misconception that a regimented approach to "basics" is the proper path to "higher learning." Let me quote from teacher Herbert Kohl in his book, "The Discipline of Hope," where he states, "It seems foolish to concede skills issues to... people who advocated obedience, overly structured learning and mechanical performance, when skills have everything to do with the development of intelligence and sensibility, and for young people, of an awareness that the life of the mind is an abiding source of power and joy."
I don't know that we really understood this when we first put our daughter in PDS. But we had a sense of it. In walking the hallways, in peeking in the rooms during class, in the faces of the students and the teachers, there was a flavor of something that made us turn to each other that first night after orientation and say, "Gee, I wish we could go here."
But we know it now. And we rejoice in it. We see the results--both in our own child and the children of others. We understand it in the fact that the graduates of PDS are the leaders in the schools they go on to, the achievers of excellence in the academic and social arenas. I could go on and on but I suggest that you read the Parents Handbook. Most of the concepts about the school are clearly elucidated. Perhaps PDS doesn't look or feel like other schools. There's a real good reason for that.
For anyone looking at Bridge Kindergarten programs, our experience with Park Day was over-the-top positive. First off, it was formed by a master teacher with over 30 years of early childhood teaching experience. As an elementary school educator myself, I look at her as a guru of early childhood education. There is always a wide range of learners, styles, strengths and abilities in any Bridge K classroom and the same can be expected in Kindergarten for that matter. What wowed me about Park's program was how the teacher got to know each child individually and helped them thrive both as learners and as community members. My son is an awesome block builder who felt great about his abilities. I loved those block building presentations where he and his building partners presented their construction to an audience of peers and parents and then fielded questions. He was not as highly skilled (yet) as a reader and writer and he got coached along just as he needed. He proudly showed us his books and journal where he drew, gave dictation and attempted his own writing. My son is now in first grade at Park Day and still pours through those priceless books he created in Bridge K. ''That was an awesome year,'' he recently remarked.
Our son had issues come up in Bridge K and we were so appreciative of how this sage teacher handled it. She gave us an open line of warm and thoughtful communication and guided us through some pretty rough bumps our son was having. It is very possible that in other settings, he would have been lost in the shuffle. As he moved into Kindergarten, she communicated directly with his new teacher. This thread of communication continued into his current first grade year, not in a way that pigeon holed or labeled our son, he has grown and changed ton, but in a way that shows me that the teachers at Park really understand and support our child. Park Day Parent
Park Day Bridge Kindergarten, a relatively new program to bridge preschool kids to Kindergarten, has not been a good experience for us and our boisterous extroverted and loud son, whom we think is wonderful. Our son is very energetic and could not be 'reigned' in to their program. Partly I felt like we were at fault for not being able to control his behavior and 'train' him to settle down and conform. In the beginning when problems arose between our son and what was going on in class, I tried hard to get him into shape and quickly realized that this caused him a great amount of stress. I was not willing to do this to him at his young age of 5 so I backed off. Watching him in class he was indeed obnoxious. While the other children sat and listened to the teacher in circle time, he would wander off and be disruptive. Something was obviously not working for everyone so I decided not to return next year. We will be sending our son to public school for Kindergarten. Park Day is an idyllic setting with wonderful caring parents and teachers, but I am not sure that always means it is a good fit for everyone. I don't think they do well with rough and tumble little boys. I also think they are still not accustomed to the developmental level of 4-5 year olds before Kindergarten. I partly thought they were still expecting too much from the younger children my son's age. And while 6 months is not much time, I actually think my son will be ready by fall to start Kindergarten by then.
Re: Recommendations for Bridge-K programs Oakland
Park Day School in Temescal (Oakland) has a WONDERFUL Bridge-K program. Our son is enrolled now and we couldn't be happier. It is play-based, with a ton of emotional/social-learning and warm care-taking, but combined with some structure and expectations in preparation for kindergarten. They offer some phonics, writing, etc, but that is not pushed. There is lots of art, music, science and exploration of the natural world. The teacher is just a gem, with many many years of experience, warmth, educational sophistication, and nearly super-human patience. We feel very blessed to have our son there.
Re: Bridge K/Transitional K Programs?
Our son is just finishing a year in the bridge-K class at Park Day School; it has been a wonderful year for him. He was ready for something more than preschool, but wasn't quite ready to start kindergarten. This was an ideal solution for us. The class has a much more structured environment than preschool, so the kids start to get the feel of school (they have circle time every morning). They are exposed to reading, writing, math but there is no pressure for them to learn them (yet our son has started to read with almost no coaching from us). The teacher is amazing; she has developed a very rich curriculum; filled with art, finding art in nature, recurring themes and projects, outside play and projects, science (such as studying water and its different properties), lots of socializing and play (there's a big block area and dress-up corner). There is always a focus on play and stimulating and supporting their interests. I hope this is helpful, good luck in your search! anon
Have a look at Park Day's Bridge-K if you have a child who is not quite ready for Kindergarten either because of age requirements or development but are out- growing their current preschool. Our son is currently enrolled there and is thriving in ways we have never seen before. His teacher is Harriet Cohen. Her decades of experience are readily apparent every day as she guides the children to work and play as a group while attending to each child's individual needs. The curriculum is so rich and thought out. Go check it out. Park Day's Bridge-K is making a world of difference for our boy. He will be so much more prepared when it's time for Kindergarten. Happy Bridge-K Parent
Re: Low-key half day camps for just-turned 6 yr-old?
My 7 y/o son really enjoyed his week at Park Day summer camp. It was his first experience with summer camp (and with a longer day of structured activities, since we homeschool). We were warmly welcomed the first day by junior counselors and counselors-in-training. I was welcomed to stay as long as I liked with my younger (3 y/o) child, enjoying the playground, etc. Parents drop off kids during a fairly big window of time in the morning so there wasn't a morning rush to be there at x time exactly. They offer a shorter day (3/4? time) that we did and again, there wasn't time pressure; we were welcomed to stay and play and catch up on what his day involved at our own pace. Kids of all ages seemed well held both by teachers and fellow campers (and their great counselor & CIT program). I recommend their program & my son has asked to do camp there again. a good experience
I am interested in the art summer camps at Park Day because they look fabulous online and Park Day always has such a great reputation as a general school. However, the only reference for the summer camp is 6 years old. Does anyone have any recent experience and comments? Anon
My daughter is in 5th grade this year. This will be her 6th year of attending park day during the summer. She also does other things during the summer, but generally goes to Park Day for 3 or 4 weeks. First of all I advise prospective campers to read their website and brochure....they're actually accurate and true! The camp has a great balance of indoor and outdoor time. I think the super sporty type might not feel there are enough organized sports, but there is ample opportunity for active outdoor time in a beautiful large shady campus. My daughter is very active, and always finds plenty of fun things to do during the breaks between classes and during ''club time'' (after camp). The art classes are top notch, with wonderful, interesting teachers. They all seem so engaged, and excited to be sharing their passion and profession with the kids. The projects are always unique and interesting, and the art supplies are excellent and abundant. Last year the kids made small wooden inlaid tables that were absolutely beautiful. My daughter always loves snack time, especially Moses' ''famous cinnamon bread.'' At the end of each week there is a celebration of that week's art which might include skits, dancing, exhibits, or even a fashion show. The kids love planning for this event. Moses and Judy the co-directors are just great, and will spend time really getting to know your kid. There is great attention given to the emotional wellbeing of the kids. If your child has a concern, or some challenge they are working on, they go above and beyond to assist however they can. Bottom line: My daughter has lots of interests, and has been to many many camps. This is one she returns to every year because it has truly become like a family tradition. Next year she hopes to become a Junior counselor in Training. This is a safe, fun interesting camp that I think any kid would enjoy. Definitely give it a try. Happy Art Camp Mom
My then 6-yr-old son was at Park Day Summer Art Camp for three weeks last summer. It was very laid back. This impression was probably accentuated for me by the stark contrast from our earlier experience at the Cal Explorer Camp, which seemed hyper organized and regimented. That said, once my son got to know the routine, he loved it. I really liked the variety of projects they were doing and I liked the school campus being so pretty and safe. We're going back for at least one week this summer. Camp Galileo is also using the campus at the same time, so I don't know how that's going to work.
I'm thinking ahead to summer camp and would like to hear comments from people about the summer camp at Park Day School. My son will be 6 years old, entering 1st grade this summer. Is this a good camp for a child's first real day camp experience (he did Cal's Explorer camp for a week this past summer)? My child is physical but not seriously into sports. He likes some crafts but he's not overly wild about them. He's very into imaginative play and is very social. I know he will adore the grounds at Park Day but want there to be more for him than just a great physical space. Please share your experiences/comments. Thanks a lot! Amy
My step-daughter has attended the Park Day Summer Arts camp for the last two years. The first year she was happy and we were happy -- they seemed to do interesting projects, she made friends (unfortunately, many kids go for only a week or two, and she went for 6 weeks, so she was not able to hang out with the same kids every week), and she adored her teachers. Last year, something seemed out of wack. The camp seemed very unorganized, for one thing. A few examples:
On Fridays, there is a performance and a chance to see what the kids have been working on for the week. The previous year, this usually lasted about an hour, but this time the show-and-tell lasted 90 minutes or more, mostly listening to the teachers give remarks about why the projects they planned for the kids were so cool. Frankly, I want to see more of the kids at this kind of thing, and hear less about the instructors' teaching philosophy.
Another example is a project the kids did one week called ''take apart art.'' This involved kids disassembling things like VRCs or computers and gluing the pieces onto boards or whatnot. When we asked the instructor if the kids were being instructed in proper handling of materials (many of these items have lead and other heavy metals in them), he assured us that they had, but when we quizzed our girl about it, she said they didn't have to wash their hands, and we saw kids pretty much putting their hands in their eyes and mouths after touching the materials. The instructor, who is one of the people who runs that camp, was very cavalier when confronted about this a second time.
The first year, when we would show up at pick up time, there was a frenzy of activity still going on, and last year kids were playing on the computer or listening to music while the teachers talked to one another, not appearing to engage with or even pay attention to the students.
We were disappointed enough that we will look for other options next year. a little disappointed