It is difficult for a visitor not to be distracted by the charm of Rosa Parks’s campus. Built in the form of a child-friendly village, the school is comprised of small, colorful buildings surrounding a central play yard. The multi-purpose center stands to one side, overlooking the playing field. The center is home to the Bayer Children’s Science Center, the hub of the school’s magnet environmental science theme. “This is a perfect location for what our students are learning,” says the Principal. “Bayer is two blocks away, the Marina not much further, not to mention the gardening and recycling centers, whose staffs are so willing to teach us about what they do. Our neighbors have been very, very generous with their time and financial support. Part of the excitement of this program is the partnerships we have formed with this scientific community.”Basic skills like reading, writing and arithmetic are not forgottenâ€”in fact learning those skills is built into every science project, as well as tackled separately. And like many of Berkeley’s elementary schools, Rosa Parks small sizeâ€”300-some studentsâ€”fosters an atmosphere where students and their families feel part of the learning community.
A visitor may be distracted, but in the laboratory and classroom Rosa Parks students are firmly focused and on-task. Rosa Parks’s program encompasses three major themes: Weather and Space, Marine Life Study, and Urban Gardening and Ecology. Students study each area every year, with the material increasing in complexity as they advance through the grades.
“We are constantly building on what we have already learned,” explains the Principal . “For example, second graders will create terraria in order to study insects visible to the naked eye, while fifth graders will be using microscopes to study microbes living in the same environment. The school’s buddy-learning system works well with this curriculum, as older and younger students share and compare knowledge and scientific experience. For instance, fifth graders prepare slides to give the second graders a preview of this ‘hidden’ life.”
“We believe that the more actively children participate in their own education, the more successfully they will learn,” explains the Principal. “This is the essence of scientific inquiry, which is a process of formulating questions then seeking the answers. Children quickly learn that answers frequently lead to more questions, and further inquiry. More often than not life is not about ‘right’ answers, it is about trial and error. We are teaching our children not to be afraid to try and try again. After all, how many important discoveries have been made by scientists looking for something else?”
For this same reason, students learn that an experiment includes preparation and clean up. Creating the materials gives them a deeper understanding of what they are doing. Supporting the program with their expertise are a full-time science teacher and a technology specialist. “It takes a very special group of instructors to tackle science,” says the Principal. “Our teachers combine the best of attention to detail, broad understanding and creativity.”
At Rosa Parks, science, along with the rest of the curriculum, is studied in two languages as part of the school’s dual-immersion program. Students selecting to participate in the six-year program develop fluency in both Spanish and English. One class in every grade level operates in the dual-language setting and all dual-language teachers are fully qualified as fluent bilingual teachers.
Rosa Parks offers a broad variety of after school programs, with child care and specialty classes in science adventure, puppetry, Spanish, and much more. The school is fortunate to have a social service component that includes individual and family counseling, dental care and health referrals. The Principal speaks with great pride of the conflict-resolution program that is practiced throughout the school. “We teach our students to be good scientists and caring individuals. It’s a winning combination!”
Susanne Reed, Principal
Alicia Barajas, School Admin Assistant II
Rosa Parks Bell Schedule
Grades 1-3: 3:05 pm (Wed: 2:15 pm)
Grades 4-5: 3:10 pm (Wed: 2:20 pm)
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Rosa Parks elementary is a place where all students can learn, thrive and achieve.
– Paco Furlan, Principal
I feel so welcome at Rosa Parks, this place has a special energy and feeling that is magical.
– Rosa Parks Parent