Category Archives: Kids

Kids get new perspective on plastic, make eco-art

Sean Keller, fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson School, fixing one of the eco-art panels.
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By Ann Krueger Spivack

While students in Sean Keller’s fourth-grade class at Jefferson School tie broken toys onto a wire mesh panel, Colleen Mahoney is talking about LEGOs. Mahoney nods to a red LEGO brick that one student picks up from a table.

“In 2012, 45.7 billion LEGO bricks were produced. That’s more than 5 million bricks every hour. Right now you could give every person on the planet eighty LEGOs and you’d still have LEGO bricks left over.”

Students stop working to listen to Mahoney, and it’s clear they’re considering how much plastic humans create on an hourly basis, and what this means for the planet. This lesson is a first step in teaching children about plastic, where it comes from and where it goes. Where plastic goes is of particular concern to Mahoney, the founder of A Kid By Nature, the nonprofit group sponsoring this lesson about plastic’s impact on the environment. Mahoney explains what motivates her to bring environmental projects such as this one into classrooms, without any cost to the schools. … Continue reading »

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Cal students make crowd-funding site for Berkeley schools

Tutors from the LEARNS Program, one of the school programs currently seeking a grant on the Friends & Family site, with students at Berkeley Arts Magnet. Photo: Diane Dew
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Crowd-funding has made its way to the Berkeley public schools, thanks to a group of students at Cal. Berkeley teachers can now use the Friends & Family Grants website through the Berkeley Public Schools Fund to raise money for everything from books to robotics kits.

Take John Fike for example. The Berkeley Technology Academy teacher is on special assignment this year, addressing intervention for the alternative school’s 100 or so students.

“Many have academic struggles because they have life struggles,” Fike said. Most of the students, he said, need mental heath care and emotional support.

Fike wanted funding for public speakers, field trips, training  for BTA teachers, and after-school activities, such as dance and music production classes.

Fike turned to the new Friends & Family Grants page and posted his request for nearly $10,000. He sent the link to the school’s families, but also to his own friends – many of them fellow graduates of Berkeley schools — and posted on Facebook. He also solicited family, and, “Mom was hitting up her friends,” he said.

Fike got his $9,500, and now the kids at BTA are taking dance and music classes, and planning their field trips. … Continue reading »

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Ferguson decision prompts thoughts written in chalk at Berkeley elementary school

Chalk writing outside Malcolm X School in Berkeley. Photo: Ben Hardy
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The Ferguson-related protests that have consumed Oakland for the past two nights, and spread to Emeryville last night, have not, so far, directly affected Berkeley, although BPD has been on alert and has called for mutual aid in case it was needed.

That’s not to say many in Berkeley weren’t thinking about the decision announced Monday not to indict the police officer who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Someone, or perhaps several people, maybe children, took time to write their thoughts down with chalk in front of the recently installed mosaic walls at Malcolm X Elementary School in Berkeley.

Ben Hardy was on his way to work Wednesday morning when he noticed the writing. He took the photos shown here. Among the sentiments expressed: “Black Lives Matter,” “Don’t Hurt or Kill Anyone,” and “We Stand with Ferguson.” … Continue reading »

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Photo essay: Berkeley, a city consumed by a soda tax

2-McDonalds
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On Nov. 4, Berkeley voters will show where they stand on Measure D, the so-called Soda Tax. The proposed tax on sugary beverages has been one of the most hotly debated Berkeley issues in the city’s history, and certainly one that has brought in record levels of campaign expenditure. The No on Measure D lobby has spent $2.3 million in an attempt to defeat the tax, according to campaign finance reports. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has contributed $532,071 in support of the soda tax. (That includes $265,235 for network advertising for commercials during the World Series, $96,836 for cable ads, and a cash donation of $170,000 to the Yes on Measure D effort.) UC Berkeley’s Robert Reich has been vocal in his views — writing a blog post about the issue titled “In its battle with Big Soda, Berkeley may once again make history,” and shooting a video on the same subject.

Read Berkeleyside’s detailed coverage of Measure D

Gael McKeon has spent several weeks documenting both sides of the campaign with his camera to create this photo essay of a pivotal moment in Berkeley’s political history, one that may set the stage for change nationwide. We publish it exclusively on Berkeleyside. (The ‘No on D’ campaign declined to participate in this story.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley teacher sees future for parenting mag RAD DAD

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 10.20.15 AM
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By Tara Taylor/Bring Them Along

It’s hard to imagine, but there was a point in time when being a parent was a very isolating and lonely place. Parents looking for advice or community couldn’t fire up their computer and seek out a forum or mommy blog. You had one choice, mainstream media or nothing at all. It was the lack of different voices that birthed the parenting zine RAD DAD.

Ten years ago Tomas Moniz was looking for someone — anyone — who shared his feelings about fatherhood. Of course, there were parenting books and magazines, but not a single one addressed his concerns as a young father of a teenage son. There were no articles on how to talk to your kid about porn, drugs, politics, the police, or racism. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: School district overcrowding is an opportunity that begins as a problem

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Last week’s Berkeley School Board meeting kicked off a series of important community input meetings to address the issue of overcrowding in our schools. Parents from local elementary schools shared observations about how increasing demands on our teachers, classrooms, schoolyards and cafeterias undermine the quality education that we want for Berkeley’s kids.

Although our schools are overflowing, the school board meeting felt strangely empty. Four of our ten elementary schools were represented, and no middle school or high school parents … Continue reading »

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New book for ‘Go the F**k to Sleep’s Adam Mansbach

The new book from Berkeley author Adam Mansbach, due out on Nov. 12, homes in on parents' frustration with their offspring's picky eating habits. Photo:
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Berkeley author Adam Mansbach is best known for his book Go the F**k to Sleep. Published in 2011, it caused something of a sensation, not least because only the most chilled-out parents contemplated actually reading it to their children as a bedtime story.

A No. 1 New York Times bestseller, and a viral sensation that shot to No. 1 on Amazon months before it was even available, Go the F**k to Sleep has been published in 40 languages and is currently being developed as a film.

L. Samuel Jackson loved the book so much he recorded himself reading it, and the resulting video was also a hit. His rendering was even turned into a song. The actor cheerily admitted he often told his daughter when she was young to “go the f**k to sleep.”

Mansbach has followed up with You Have to F***ing Eat — due out on Nov. 12, illustrated by Owen Brozman – which takes as its subject picky eaters, and is sure to put a knowing smile on many a parent’s face. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Measure D will not reduce soda consumption

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I was visiting recently with a fellow Berkeley parent while at the Washington Elementary School Fall Fair. He wanted to know if I was familiar with Measure D, and wanted to encourage me to support it.

Rather than avoid the topic, I agreed to indulge him and struck up a conversation about the pros and cons of this measure. After all, my family does not consume soda, and we have made healthy eating a cornerstone of our lifestyle. Additionally, I have … Continue reading »

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Beverage companies donate $800K to fight soda tax

The PAC against a soda tax in Berkeley has poured $800,000 into the No on Measure D campaign. Will Berkeley be first? Photo: Mike Mozart
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The political arm of the American Beverage Association donated $500,000 on Sept. 16 to fight a proposed tax on sugary beverages in Berkeley, bringing to $800,000 the amount of money it has poured into the No on Measure D campaign.

The contribution, which appears to be the single largest in Berkeley history, will be used to print materials, mail campaign flyers, send campaign workers door-to-door, and pay for advertisements in newspapers and on websites. (Full disclosure: Berkeleyside has a number of No on D ads on its site, as well as a Yes on D ad.) … Continue reading »

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State-mandated kindergarten program explains perceived student numbers squeeze at Berkeley schools

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When the Berkeley school district added two new kindergarten classes – one to Cragmont school and one to Malcolm X — just before school began, some parents were concerned about what impact the move would have on the schools, which, they said, were neither spacious nor overstaffed. In an opinion piece published on Berkeleyside, Joshua Room, former President of the PTA at Malcolm X, asked why the district couldn’t plan ahead better. Quite a few readers agreed with him.

In fact, this year’s incoming kindergarten class is smaller than last year’s class. The squeeze is instead coming from the fairly new – and growing — transitional kindergarten program, required by state law. And the BUSD admissions office said it was well aware of the crunch coming.

“I knew we needed more classrooms back in February,” said Francisco Martinez, district admissions director. But over the course of the spring, plans about where to put the transitional kindergarten classrooms went through several shifts. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley program, teens learn the law, leadership

Meea Sheard spent her summer interning at the General Counsel's Office of the Peralta Community College District. Photo: Nancy Schiff
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Jay-Z and Beyoncé are working out their relationship problems. The celebrities — impersonated uncannily by two 17-year-olds — are pretty angry at each other. But eventually they restore their romance, thanks to the help of an articulate 16-year-old mediator.

Mediation role-playing is just one sliver of the Summer Legal Fellowship Program at the Center for Youth Development Through Law. Each summer, the non-profit offers 30 disadvantaged youth from Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond paid internships and training in law and leadership.

This year’s program ended with a graduation ceremony last week. The teenagers worked hard until the end, juggling their internships at various government agencies and non-profits, attending college prep and constitutional law classes, and preparing their resumes for mock job interviews. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley park, free boxing program inspires young men

It started when Manuel Buendía began taking his young sons to San Pablo Park in Berkeley to teach them to box. Soon others wanted to join in, and now Buendía runs an informal, free boxing training program for any young person who shows interest.

Buendía hopes the sessions are helping some of the participants stay out of trouble. As he says in the video above, “Instead of them fighting out on the street, they should bring it here. Here in the park, right? They can take their anger out here, with boxing.”

Luis Flores, a UC Berkeley student who also attended Berkeley High School, shot the video above through Youth Radio, a non-profit based in downtown Oakland. … Continue reading »

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Report: Berkeley spends $12.2M annually on children

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Last Thursday afternoon, 40-some kids sprinted around Willard Park, capturing flags and thwacking tether balls. That’s the typical scene at the park most summer afternoons, where the campers at Berkeley Day Camp’s extended care program keep busy until their parents come pick them up.

Recreation services like the popular day camp claimed a good chunk of the $12.2 million that the city spent on children last year, according to a brand new report that details — for the first time ever, according to the city — the funding spent on children’s programs and services in 2013. … Continue reading »

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