Home Program Academics
Park Day School’s robust academic program focuses on deep learning and developing intrinsic motivation. Learn more about assessments and how teachers differentiate and provide feedback in a standards based grading environment.
With carefully scaffolded instruction, expert teachers guide students to find the connection point between their own interests and various topic areas. With hands-on investigations and design challenges, students are encouraged to explain their thinking in a variety of ways. They are challenged to think critically and take academic risks. The goal is to develop a lifelong love of learning, where students find satisfaction through development and mastery of academic challenges. Through their studies, students come to understand from a very young age that their words and ideas are valued, and can be used for connection, inspiration, understanding, and to make change.
Language Arts at Park Day focuses on empowering students to read, write, listen, speak, and debate their ideas. We strive to foster intellectually curious, independent thinkers who use literacy to make sense of the world.
In Lower School, through direct and implicit instruction, students develop oral and written vocabulary, learn the decoding and encoding skills needed to construct meaning, and become practiced in how to best communicate their thoughts and ideas. Teachers take a structured literacy approach that places emphasis on phonological awareness with a systematic phonics approach using Fundations and leveled reading assessments along with other regularly scheduled formative and summative assessments. Writing occurs daily in the classroom through journaling, research reports, learning logs, persuasive paragraphs, descriptive paragraphs, and essay construction.
In Middle School, students engage in multiple types of literary analysis while flexing and improving their writing and persuasive skills. The curriculum is comprised of written responses to literature, character analysis exercises, expository writing, persuasive writing, creative short story, and more. Park Day’s progressive approach also includes mock trials, literary re-enactments, writers workshops, peer review, and the Harkness method for student led class discussions. Hands on projects that require students to dive deeply into the material and develop personal connections to it help spark creativity and connection.
Peer and teacher feedback plays a pivotal role and revising and editing is considered an integral part of the learning process. Throughout the grades, teachers use individual instruction, small discussion groups, individual instruction, small discussion groups, guided annotation strategies, and class activities. Students learn to respond emotionally and intellectually to what they read. Most importantly, they are encouraged to lose themselves in books, and find their passion on the journey to becoming lifelong readers.
Here are some examples of recent Language Arts assignments:
7th Grade Tell-Tale Heart
3rd Grade Story Plays
Park Day School’s goal is to help young people develop into confident mathematical thinkers who understand the why as well as the how, who can see connections, and use their mathematical knowledge in innovative ways to solve problems throughout their lives.
In Lower School, the Bridges in Mathematics program is the foundation for teaching math along with Number Corner and Context for Learning in Mathematics. With Bridges students gain a deep understanding of concepts, proficiency with key skills, and the ability to solve complex problems. Number Corner features short daily workouts that introduce, reinforce, and extend skills and concepts related to the critical areas of study at each grade level. Through Context for Learning in Mathematics, powerful questioning, conferring, and differentiating opportunities help students dive into robust investigations and math congress.
In Middle School, the Desmos Curriculum utilizes problem-based lessons that promote mathematical curiosity and student engagement. The Desmos program builds on the coherence and rigor of the Illustrative Mathematics curriculum. The scope and sequence of units, activities, and representations are designed to help students develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts, build fluency with procedures, and solve mathematical problems that reflect their lived experiences, all while holding students’ ideas at its center.
Math at Park Day School is taught with frequent small group collaborations and partner work. Communication is integral to every math project. Students are expected to justify their ideas, listen to classmates’ alternative strategies, and approach problem solving in multiple ways.
At Park Day School, students learn to approach the world with curiosity, applying the scientific method to make discoveries for themselves.
In Lower School, specific study areas are assessed and selected using student interest, local and global events, the availability of local resources, and field trip opportunities. Next Generation Science Standards help guide the scope and sequence. Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCIs) are the key ideas in science that have broad importance within or across multiple science or engineering disciplines. These core ideas build on each other as students progress through grade levels and are grouped into the following four domains: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth and Space Science, and Engineering.
In Middle School, students examine patterns, cause and effect, system models, and structures in a way that blends with systems of oppression, democracy, and personal choices. Science class highlights how personal choices can impact individuals, communities, and the wider world. 6th grade focuses on heredity, genetics, and earth sciences. 7th grade moves into structure and properties of matter, the food and digestive system, and viruses, bacteria and the immune system along with human development and body systems. 8th grade primarily focuses on energy transformation, circuits, and coding all while applying scientific principles to investigations, models, and analysis.
Climate change and environmental ecology play a significant role in our scientific studies school wide. Ethics in science and the government’s role in science are integral aspects of the curriculum and teachers work collaboratively with specialists in the Learning Garden and Innovation Workshop to blend student interests, and explore emerging ideas in science education.
Park Day students are taught to notice the perspectives dominating their studies and to seek out a diverse pool of voices in an effort to better understand history. By studying past and current events, students learn about community and societal structure, and how members of a democratic nation can educate themselves to challenge those societies and make impactful change.
In Lower School, teachers integrate community values and aspects of belonging into every part of the curriculum. Social Studies content includes an inclusive and honest look at history with a focus on identity, justice and developing future change makers, while being mindful of age appropriate stages of development. Educators teach grade-level skills and concepts including research, organizing written and oral thoughts, persuasive reasoning, critical thinking, presentation, and delivery.
In Middle School, independence, power and influence, critical analysis, interpretation of current events using previous moments in history, personal and structural bias and perspectives, geography and cartography, race as a force in America, and formation of government all come together in a spiraled curriuculum. Students dive even deeper in their understanding of how to select and use appropriate primary and secondary sources to back up opinions, and clarify perspectives and bias.
Because History and Social Studies bring together so many topics, including history, government, economics, civics, sociology, geography, and anthropology, students frequently participate in multi-week layered projects.
Learning from and caring for Park Day School’s four-acres of land, located in the center of what was once a bustling Ohlone-Chochenyo village– and thinking about land rights and land use on a larger scale– is central to our community culture.
In Lower School, lessons in our expansive garden campus encourage students to become stewards of the environment and the keepers of its history. Classes incorporate curriculum from LifeLab, Occidental Art and Ecology Center, FOSS, and Edible Schoolyard. The program is closely integrated with science and social studies curriculum and adapts to emerging student interests in collaboration with each grade’s classroom teachers.
In Middle School, students participate in Ecology Club and take on full management of our Seed to Table program that provides fresh produce to the school’s hot lunch program. An important part of this work is the intersection between social justice and access to food, and studies around this (including aquaponics systems) integrates into the Middle School science program as well. Our biophilia program is a collaboration between Spanish and gardening programs where students learn to care for plants in Spanish and in English, working with design elements to create a personalized ecosystem.
The Learning Garden is a living laboratory where students explore the natural world. They study the diverse wildlife on campus, tend chickens, and gain valuable agricultural and culinary skills.
The Spanish program is built with an emphasis on oral language within a cultural context. In many ways, Spanish is a blend of Social Studies merged with an equity and justice course.
In Lower School, class is conducted in authentic and engaging ways similar to how children learn their first language in their home: through social interactions, playing games, singing, listening to and reading children’s literature, and by engaging in hands-on projects through the study of various Spanish speaking cultures.
In Middle School, Spanish class meets three times a week. The curriculum is rooted in equity and justice learning, with a focus on news, events, and culture from Spanish speaking countries. A typical lesson may find students viewing short news clips in Spanish, and writing responses to those which are then used as catalysts for group discussion. Grammar studies are integrated into daily lessons, and students often place into Spanish II in High School.
Because we have a wide range of students at various levels of Spanish language proficiency, from native speakers, to children coming from immersion pre-schools and grade-schools, to first time speakers, our Spanish program is thoughtfully differentiated throughout the grades.
Watch Video: Middle School Spanish
At Park Day School, student use of technology is viewed as a path to a wider understanding of, and engagement with, the world. There are key skills commonly understood to be necessary for today’s students to stay competitive in a changing world and eventual job market. Technology and media literacy can serve to leverage and more widely disseminate research, perspective, and creativity. It serves as a way to create a connected environment for collaborative projects. It provides an innovative and fresh way for students who may communicate better through video or coding to share their ideas. Watch a video about teaching with technology at Park Day.
In Lower School, starting in 3rd grade, students use the innovation workshop digital fabrication tools and other technology-based design instruments and coding languages in service to their curricular studies.
In Middle School, upper level Science classes teach coding (specializing in Java) and circuitry. Projects vary and may also unfold in the innovation workshop using specialized digital fabrication tools.
In the After School program, classes in robotics, coding, and other tech based sciences are offered throughout the year.
All technology at Park Day is viewed as a tool for enriching the academic experience. With teacher guidance (and complemented by Parent Education), students learn digital citizenship, as well as how to have a healthy relationship with technology in their lives.
Park Day School provides a rigorous academic program while offering a structured, support system for students who may encounter learning challenges along the way. Classroom teachers, Learning Specialists, and the K-8 School Counselor consult regularly in support of individual students who may be struggling in a particular area. There are three Learning Specialists (K-2, 3-5, 6-8), and their primary role is to help support classroom teachers to ensure each child is learning successfully.
For students with more persistent struggles, families may privately employ outside educational therapists, many of whom choose to coordinate with the school to support students on campus before, after, or during school hours.
At the heart of our program our goal is to support students. Sometimes we are able to provide accommodations and scaffolding within the program, and other times a student may benefit from a different type of school environment.