We hold these values to be at the core of our mission:
While achieving academic excellence relies on continual assessment and evaluation, it goes beyond numbers and metrics. A setting that challenges students intellectually, while fostering their social and emotional strengths, pushes them beyond schoolbook basics to real-life understanding.
Students learn best when they are actively engaged in their learning. We want our students to think deeply about issues that matter to them, and to understand ideas from all perspectives. Thematic Project-Based Learning--education that is rooted in experiential, hands-on learning that inspires our children to ask, explore, and engage--helps students become active creators of their knowledge.
Throughout their years at Berkwood Hedge School, we expose students to a carefully considered curriculum of mathematics, reading, writing, social studies and science, supplemented by a vibrant enrichment program including Spanish, visual art, music, drama, environmental science and physical education.
Our approach to teaching supports a child's natural creativity and desire to learn. Students leave Berkwood Hedge as confident and self-directed learners, consistently successful at the broad range of independent and public middle schools they attend.
When teachers feel valued, are encouraged to think creatively, and are given the freedom to teach to the child, not the test, they become more than educators--they become role models. Their passion becomes contagious, seeding in their students an appetite for learning that extends well beyond the classroom.
Social justice is at the core of the Berkwood Hedge curriculum. We encourage children to think critically and consider different viewpoints, to listen, question, probe, and challenge. This leads not only to intellectual and emotional growth, but also helps children develop an appreciation for their own perceptions, and a sense of their own agency.
Our comprehensive program highlights social justice issues at every level. Starting in kindergarten, children talk openly about the beauty and diversity of their eyes, hair, skin, freckles, glasses, hearing aids - anything that makes them unique and celebrates the common threads. This exploration continues through the grades, culminating with a fifth grade study of colonialism, reading primary and secondary sources to discuss and understand different historical perspectives.
We reinforce our curriculum by supporting discussions of social justice issues as they arise in our students' day-to-day lives. The process of creating classroom agreements, the balance of power in friendships, whether third grade girls can play with second grade boys, a newspaper article about racial profiling - we find no shortage of subjects to consider in classroom discussions.
Social justice discussions often translate into action. Students have stenciled storm drains to protect the watershed, collected supplies for pets victimized during Hurricane Katrina and raised money through the "Soup's On" lunch program for local social justice organizations.
Berkwood Hedge students are not intimidated about seeking solutions to complicated problems. Our philosophy creates a learning community that enables children to develop into empowered participants creating positive changes in our world.
A Green School
As part of our mission to preserve the environment, Berkwood Hedge School is committed to setting an example for sustainability and environmental awareness through our curriculum, recycling programs and purchasing decisions.
In 2005 we became the first school in Alameda County to earn certification as a Green Business, and each year we continue to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and educate our students about sustainable ways of living.
Our efforts include:
- Full Belly Farms Partnership Program
- recycling all cardboard, mixed paper, cans, bottles, aluminum foil, and plastic.
- using either reusable or compostable plates, cups, tableware and napkins at all school events where food is served. Daily snack in our after school program is served using reusable plates and bowls.
- planting California native and drought tolerant plants in the garden areas surrounding the school and watering our gardens using drip irrigation.
- depositing our snack and lunchtime fruit and vegetable waste in small compost containers. This compostable waste gets fed to our composting worms. All other compostable waste is added to the three "green bins" located around the school.
- using 30% post consumer waste paper for all copying.
- purchasing and using "green" and natural non-toxic cleaning products and art supplies.
- encouraging everyone in our community to use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk to school and actively participating in an annual Bike to Work and School Day.
- conserving water by sweeping rather than hosing down the school-grounds.
Community is the foundation of Berkwood Hedge School, and we take pride in our long history as a strong, collaborative organization. With care and intention, we have worked together to create a small, inclusive environment, valuing each individual member of our community - child, staff member, parent, or friend - as a significant participant in the school.
Together, we embrace the unique qualities that each of us brings to the group, across a spectrum of skin color, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, educational background, family structure, and strengths and challenges. In addition, we explore, with a sense of joy and discovery, the rich mix of family cultures, traditions, values, and beliefs represented among us.
Through meaningful activities such as weekly Community Meetings, the annual Teach-In, and a supportive web of buddy systems, we nurture our sense of community on many different levels. Understanding our cultural and personal differences, we gain a profound sense of our individual identities.
At the same time, our commitment to learning about one another - respecting and celebrating our separate experiences, yet also seeing the many ways in which our lives overlap - unites us as a healthy and vibrant community.
At Berkwood Hedge we take advantage of the rich and diverse cultural resources and beautiful natural landscape available to us here in the Bay Area. Field trips are carefully planned to enhance classroom learning, connect students to the larger community, and support children's ecological understanding.
Field trips in the SPIRIT class allow us to enjoy the vibrancy of many Bay Area neighborhoods and resources for example. We make many visits to the North Berkeley Senior Center, frequent our local public library, take a walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco, learn the inner workings of our post office, enjoy the biodiversity at the Berkeley Marina, and more.
As first graders, the WOOD class studies community and our field trips add a great deal to this study. From hiking at Tilden Park to traveling on BART to the San Francisco Symphony, to journeying to Ano Nuevo to see the elephant seals, our trips engage the children in many aspects of community life.
In the EARTH class, field trips are an opportunity to experience and deepen the connection between our learning and the world in which we live. Cultural events such as museum exhibits, and dance, music, and theater performances connect thematically to classroom curriculum. We take naturalist-guided hikes in Berkeley's Regional Parks and go on a two-night family camping trip to Cazadero to make our in-class study of woodlands and animals come alive.
In the AIR class, field trips are an extension of the learning that happens in the classroom. As we read the biography of Cesar Chavez, we work at a local garden, planting and potting strawberry plants. The students later distribute the plants to neighbors along with a card that tells about Chavez's contribution to the farming community. In the spring, the class goes on an overnight trip to Full Belly Farm. We camp out and help with farm rituals such as picking crops, milking cows and feeding chickens.
Field trips in the WATER class are an integral part of the California history curriculum. A few highlights include: touring an authentically reconstructed Coast Miwok village at Point Reyes National Seashore; hiking at Sunol Regional Wilderness, where students learn about how native plants were used by Ohlone people; and studying the life and work of Rancho San Antonio at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park. We culminate with a 3-day trip to the Sierra foothills where students participate in living history activities related to the Gold Rush.
The FIRE class takes several field trips throughout the year that connect to various topics of study. Examples of field trips include: a visit to FDR's yacht in the Oakland Harbor as part of our study of U.S. history, a trip to SF MOMA to see a current exhibit to complement the art program, and a lunch trip to a local Mexican restaurant to practice speaking Spanish. The year culminates with a three day trip to the Marin Headlands to participate in the field science program of Naturebridge. With a emphasis on climate change, the program encourages students to think critically about our oceans' warming trends and the consequential affects on all living organisms.