FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSVisiting Park Day School is the best way to experience our program. In advance of your visit, we hope these frequently asked questions will help you learn more about our school and community.
Throughout the admissions process, our staff and faculty are available to answer questions about our curriculum, teaching philosophy, and more. During Parent Tours, Open Houses, and other admissions events, Park Day School parents will be on hand to answer questions from a more personal point of view. If you have specific questions that have not been answered as we near the application deadline, please let us know and we'll make sure you have the chance to talk with a staff member or current Park Day School parent.
Q. Where is Park Day School located and what is the campus like?
Park Day School’s four-acre, five building campus is located in the heart of Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood and abounds with greenery—ample trees, flower and vegetable gardens, birds, squirrels, and a chicken coop.
The Palm Building houses kindergarten through third grade. Students in fourth and fifth grades occupy a building across the playground named the “MPR” for its multi-purpose flexible-walled spaces.
The sixth grade is in Gramma’s Attic near the basketball courts, strategically located between the elementary and middle school buildings. This allows for easy travel to classes in the middle school building while supporting the transition to middle school.
The Magnolia Building is home to our 7th and 8th grade middle schoolers, and includes spaces for science, math, Spanish, humanities, language arts, two art rooms, a music room, and The Great Room, used for school-wide gatherings.
The Innovation Workshop is an indoor/outdoor space, built by parents in 2015. The Nature Zone is an outdoor area stocked with a “library” of items collected from nature, including bark and twigs, leaves and flowers, seeds and stones. Students use this space to build temporary art sculptures from natural materials, learning that creative arts need not be permanent to be meaningful. We also have multi-age play and recreation areas, including swings, climbing structures, an all-weather playing field, and a shaded gazebo.
Q. Where can I learn more about Park Day's academics?Please visit our curriculum matrix to dive into the details of our spiraled K-8 curriculum across a variety of subject areas.
Q. What is the birthday cut-off date for kindergarten applicants?
We recommend that children have turned five years old by the end of September in the year they start kindergarten. If your child is displaying signs of kindergarten readiness, Park Day School will assess those with birthdays that fall in October as well. Please ask if you have questions about kindergarten readiness for your child.
Q. When does the school day begin and end?
The school year usually begins the Tuesday after Labor Day and ends in mid June. We break for two weeks in December, a week in February, and a week in April.
The school day begins and ends at different times depending on student grade level.
Kindergarten: 9:00 am - 2:45 pm
1st-3rd grades: 9:00 am - 3:00 pm
4th-5th grades: 8:45 am - 3:00 pm
6th-8th grades: 8:30 am - 3:15 pm
On Wednesdays, the lower school day ends at at 2:00 pm, and the middle school day ends at 2:30 pm. Students may stay in aftercare at no cost until 3:15 pm.
Q. Does Park Day School offer a before-school and after-school program?
Before-school care is offered at no cost to all families and begins at 7:30 am.
The After School Activities Program (ASAP) offers a wide range of academic and co-curricular choices. Students from all grades come together for a collective sharing of the day’s happenings over snacks, before engaging in classes ranging from sports, arts and crafts, ‘zine making, to theater and coding. Classes rotate every trimester. The program begins at dismissal and ends at 6:00 pm.
Q. What is Park Day School’s philosophy on homework?
Reading books-- any kind of book!-- is an important part of cultivating a love of learning. We ask that students read (or be read to) every night. Our guiding philosophy is that when it is assigned, homework, beyond nightly reading, should be relevant to a student’s classroom experience, reinforce concepts and skills first learned in class, and assist students in developing the academic and time management skills necessary for success. This approach is informed by research that states that homework should be meaningful while also providing students with the opportunity to practice key skills. Homework in grades K – 5 is assigned at the start of the week, beginning at 15-20 minutes per week in kindergarten, moving up to 15-45 minutes per night by fifth grade. In Middle School, the general expectation is that students will have between one and two hours of homework each night, inclusive of all subjects.
Q. What does “differentiation” mean at Park Day School?
Our classrooms are comprised of students who are different from one another in how ready they are to learn a particular concept or skill. We study what motivates them to learn and how they prefer to learn – and we plan for a variety of ways for students to engage with a topic and to demonstrate their understanding. Our progressive model maintains the student as the center of gravity, around whom we plan and construct our lessons. In our classrooms, this means we support and challenge the range of learning styles by differentiating our instruction so that each student is in their stretch zone as much as possible. We create lessons where every student can step into learning confidently, and which are open-ended enough to allow students to move forward with increased depth and challenge. Differentiation is not an individualized curriculum for each student, nor is every lesson in a classroom differentiated. Instead, we consider that all students are moving forward toward a common destination, and are taking slightly different paths from one another.
Q. How will I know how my child is doing at Park Day School?
Our small class sizes allow teachers to get to know each student as an individual learner and report in detail on their academic, social, and emotional developments. Written assessments are complemented by parent-teacher conferences to discuss each student’s progress. Students tend to join their parents for at least part of these conferences, and as they advance through the grades, they take a larger role in facilitating the conversation about their learning. Park Day School does not use traditional grades. If you would like to receive an example of a student assessment report, email email@example.com.
Q. Does Park Day School offer financial assistance? Does applying for financial assistance impact our application for admission?
Park Day School has a generous financial assistance program. 35% of the student body receives financial assistance. Applications for financial assistance are kept separate from applications for admissions. Families who have applied for financial assistance are informed of both their admission decision and financial assistance allocation on the same date in March. We invite you to learn more about financial assistance.
Q. How often do students go outside during the course of the school day?
All the time! Classes move outside to take shadow measurements, observe insects in flight, write poetry, and play. We have recess and lunch every day, during which younger children leave notes for the faeries in our “Faerie Tree”, play basketball, make potions in the garden, or play on one of our many climbing structures. Older students enjoy sports, hang-out in shaded, tabled areas or in the gazebo. Like students in lower grades, they also enjoy classes that move indoors and out according to the subject area and student or teacher inspiration.
The Learning Garden is a regular part of the school week. The curriculum’s environmental focus means you can find Kindergartners studying seed collection, first graders learning about weather cycles and pollination, second graders delving into the origin of foods, bats, and the plant cycle, all the way up to the 5th graders who study the carbon cycle and photosynthesis watersheds. Middle schoolers dive into a variety of environmental projects outdoors according to each class’s interest.
Q. What is the Design+Make+Engage program and Innovation Workshop?
The Design+Make+Engage program was established in 2012 in conjunction with Park Day School’s participation in the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero, Agency by Design. In Design+Make+Engage students become designers, engineers, builders, and scientists, engaging in complex, hands-on projects, collaborating across grade levels to apply concepts and explore new technologies. The Innovation Workshop, a flexible indoor-outdoor lab designed to support Design+Make+Engage, was completed in 2015. The Innovation Workshop includes various tools and materials including soldering irons, vinyl cutters, circuits, recycled materials, natural materials, and materials donated from various factories. This spring we will be bringing in a CNC Router and Laser Cutter.
Social and environmental justice themes are often interwoven into Design+Make+Engage activities. Recent projects include first graders building a transportation network on the playground while studying transportation systems; second graders constructing wooden ancestry boxes as a part of their studies of family immigration and war-related migration; third graders demonstrating the geometric patterns in math facts with a “multiplication circle” six feet in diameter; and sixth graders creating a physical representation of ancient river valley civilizations, complete with a flowing river!
Q. What is the Mini-Maker Faire? How does it relate to the Park Day School curriculum?
Park Day School has been a leader within the larger arts and maker communities among other schools and in the East Bay at large. The annual East Bay Mini Maker Faire, is a significant school fundraiser and important East Bay cultural event. Primarily parent-run, the Maker Faire brings over 7,000 people to campus on one day to view innovative and whimsical projects by Bay Area makers as well as Park Day School students. During the event, the school co-sponsors an educator workshop for teachers interested in maker-centered learning.
In 2017, the East Bay Mini Maker Faire will take place on Sunday, October 23, starting at 10 am.
Q. How does the curriculum reflect Park Day School’s emphasis on social justice?
We hope that all Park Day students thrive in a diverse society and honor the ways in which they are alike and different from others. We teach them to recognize and acknowledge the biases that exist in society and to develop and articulate their own values. Throughout the curriculum, students have opportunities to deeply investigate life experiences that are different from their own.
The school’s Social Justice program manifests in many ways, and our teachers are dedicated to and passionate about this work. Faculty and staff are afforded the professional development and training which allows them time to fully implement a curriculum that is not easily, if at all, found in mainstream education. This teaching starts in kindergarten, when teachers and children talk about looking around the class or the yard for the child that might need help, or might need a friend, and practice the various ways that every member of the class should try to reach out to such a child. First graders learn early in the year, "If you see something wrong, do something about it." Children take this concept seriously, and one can hear and see the youngest of our students working to right the wrongs they see in the classroom, on the yard and all across campus. In second and third grade, students investigate their own family histories, and those of their peers. This includes age-appropriate investigations of immigration, environmental justice and the civil rights movement among other areas. In the fourth grade media awareness, stereotypes and the importance of seeing issues from the multiple perspectives of each of the stakeholders are investigated. This is a part of our work to increase awareness of personal and group perspectives, and how they can be shaped by the media.
In 5th grade, students participate in the Mosaic Project’s weeklong “outdoor school” overnight experience along with students from other schools. During the week, children of diverse backgrounds are taught essential community building skills and become empowered peacemakers. Together, students experience a powerful week in which all are welcomed and respected. With Mosaic, and on our own campus, we work to create microcosms of the just, diverse, inclusive world we envision, and make a conscious effort to bring those to life every day.
By the time our students enter Middle School, they have the language and skills to engage in complex discussions about social justice, and to analyze and interpret history, literature and understand contemporary mathematical and scientific practices with perspective and perception. Understanding who is in the picture and who is not, why that might be, and what we can learn and do about it is part of the learning. Because empathy and emotional awareness is such an integral part of the Park Day School approach, new students, are welcomed, embraced and brought into the conversation with compassion and understanding.
Q. What does Social-Emotional Learning look like in the classroom?
A Park Day School education is designed to meet the needs of the whole child, paying close attention to each student’s emotional development. We teach students to "read the situation" and make informed decisions before acting when resolving conflicts. We help them to learn how to cooperate and how to appropriately interact to create safe and joyful learning environments. We ask our students to look into each other's faces and to consider the impact they're having on their peers. We encourage students to speak up and to speak out with the assurance that they will be heard.
Quantitative studies support that students who receive direct instruction in social-emotional understanding do better academically in high school and college, and report higher levels of life satisfaction in adulthood. Park Day School students graduate with a deeply embedded social-emotional skill set that helps them navigate the challenges they will face in school and out for the rest of their lives.
Q. How are music and art taught at Park Day School?
The music program at Park Day School inspires, cultivates, and trains students to embrace music, and to explore and celebrate themselves as musicians. The curriculum is grounded in six elements of music—voice, rhythm, movement, instruments, theory and culture—at the heart of which is improvisation and creative exploration. Park Day School uses the Orff-Schulwerk approach, beginning with things children already like to do: sing, chant, create rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat by drumming on anything near at hand. These instincts are directed into learning music by hearing and making music first, then reading and writing it later on.
Students learn that visual art has its own history, language, vocabulary, and traditions. The lower school art curriculum explores most major art movements, including the Modern Art movement, Primitive Art forms, Classical Art, Graffiti Art, Multicultural Art, Fashion Design, Impressionism, The Fauves etc. Art conversations and critiques in class support each individual artist as they find their own creative voice and discover their own style. Artists in every grade are celebrated as courageous, valuable thinkers and risk taking explorers. Using nature studies and our local urban environment as well as formal classroom resources guide a child’s awareness that art is a part of everyday life and surrounds us no matter where we go or how we live. Lessons sometimes are non-permanent and other times become installations or group pieces in celebration of all school themes.
In middle school, art classes are conceptual, emphasizing the process of making and creating unique art. Students might find themselves creating album covers in response to the lyrics in a song that addresses issues of social justice, making a giant collage from found art, or using print-making to bring to life an aspect of their own personal identity. Creative thinking, experimentation, and the exchange of ideas are encouraged. Students build their vocabulary and confidence in sophisticated art critique through self-reflection and group discussion of their work.
Performance art is a major part of Park Day’s schoolwide curriculum. A highlight of the lower school experiences for 3rd graders occurs when students write and direct their own “story plays,” eventually performing them for their classmates. As students get older they make commercials in Spanish and film them, write and direct one-act plays in middle school, and integrate art and performance in a multitude of ways related to their studies.
Q. What is the Physical Education program like at Park Day School?
Throughout our lower school PE program, we strive to expand knowledge of organized play through participation, positive competition, and personal control of emotions and body. While each grade attends PE classes twice a week, running, jumping, dancing, playing and strengthening our bodies happens throughout each day. In PE, we emphasize effort, accountability, and personal athletic progress. We stress working as a group, learning from mistakes, and enjoyment for all. Students have opportunities to teach and create games while experimenting with strategy and movement. The program promotes a positive attitude, participation, striving for your personal best, and treating others the way they want to be treated.
In Middle School, PE is offered four times a week, and the Park Day Mighty Apples compete in the Middle School Sports League against other East Bay schools in soccer, cross-country, flag football, basketball, track and field, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee. Players gain an understanding of sportsmanship, teamwork, and healthy competition.
Q. What role do teachers play beyond the classroom?
For 40 years, the magic of Park Day School has been fueled by amazing teachers in partnership with with our community of students and parents. The school values collaborative decision-making, and we know that the experience of teachers -- those closest to our students within the Park Day School community -- is essential to the continued vibrancy of the school. Every year, there are Park Day School teachers and staff who serve on the school’s Board of Trustees as full voting members alongside Park Day School parents. Teachers participate in wide-ranging committees, including strategic and master planning, enrollment, and development. Teachers are active in community groups, including Park Day School’s Diversity and Justice Alliance, Park Parent Association, Learning Support Alliance, and Green School Alliance. The collaboration between teachers, parents, and staff -- all with an eye towards the best interests of our students -- is a tradition we are proud of at Park Day School.
Q. Does Park Day School teach a world language?
All Park Day School students study Spanish. The Spanish program begins twice a week in kindergarten. Students learn basic vocabulary with an emphasis on oral language and respect for diverse cultures. Students learn Spanish in ways similar to how they learned English: through social interactions, playing games, singing, listening to and reading children’s literature, and by engaging in hands-on projects.
When they reach 2nd grade, students make their own cancioneros (songbooks) and finish the year filming interviews with each other in spanish. By the time they are in 8th grade, Park Day School students are well prepared for their week long cultural immersion class trip to Mexico, where they stay at Camp Molino in Guanajuato. They attend their choice of various workshops covering traditional skills and crafts, local culture and architecture, natural resources management, and more -- all taught in Spanish and alongside students from Mexican schools.
Q. What is parent involvement like at Park Day School?
Parent volunteers are vital to the unique learning environment at Park Day. While some parents help in the classrooms directly, others are involved in the life of the school according to their own specific talents and interests. In the past, parents have helped with graphic design, cinematography, construction, office organization, fundraising, the Mini Maker Faire, community advocacy, as field trip chaperones, and so much more.
Each Park Day School family is asked to volunteer each year to support the school community. Families with one child and two parents are expected to complete 25 hours per school year. 10 of those hours are directed towards a fundraising activity including, but not limited to, the Maker Faire, silent auction, read-a-thon, year end raffle. Four volunteer hours are directed towards attendance at diversity events and programming. Families with one parent are expected to complete half of the volunteer hours noted above (12.5 hours total, 5 in fundraising, 2 diversity hours). Families with two or more children double the volunteer hours noted above (50 hours total 20 in fundraising, 8 diversity hours). Parents who are unable to volunteer can opt to “purchase” hours if needed. The Park Parent Association holds a Back-to-School gathering each September to share a variety of volunteer opportunities.
Q. Where do students go after they graduate from Park Day School?
Park Day School supports each student and family as they explore their high school options. Graduates attend many different types of high schools, including private, public, charter, and boarding schools. The Middle School Director and advisors meet and work with each family individually to help them discover the many high school options. While Park Day does not require any standardized testing for our own admission process, test taking skills and strategies are taught to those students applying to high schools that require entrance exams.
Last year nearly 90% of Park Day School graduates who applied to independent high schools were admitted to one of their top choices. In the past several years, our students have enrolled at the following high schools: Alameda High School, Athenian, Bay Hill, Bentley, Berkeley High, Bishop O’Dowd, College Prep, Drew School, Head Royce, Lick-Wilmerding, Maybeck, Oakland School for the Arts, Oakland Technical High School, Piedmont High School, and Urban. High School representatives from the area present their programs to interested eighth grade students beginning in early Fall.
Q. Do you have openings for the current (2017-2018) school year?
There are limited openings in certain grades for the 2017-18 school year. Please call us at (510) 653-0317 x101 to learn more.
Fast Facts: (Park Day School By The Numbers)Total number of students: 310Established: 1976Grades served: K-8Student/Teacher Ratio 10:1Total size of campus: 4+ acresAverage faculty tenure: 8 yearsPercentage of students of color: 40% self-identifyingSchool Mascot: The Mighty Apples