Category Archives: Kids

BUSD curriculum aims to boost emotional intelligence

Jessica Arroyo and her fifth grade students at Malcolm X Elementary School use the Breathing Tool. Photo: Coby McDonald
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By Coby McDonald

A dog ate Shyel Meisels’ homework. More precisely, Shyel’s puppy Hazel chewed up the book that his 5th grade teacher Jessica Arroyo had assigned.

“She jumped on my bed and demolished the book, and it belonged to the school,” Shyel told his classmates at Malcolm X Elementary, who were gathered on the rug at his feet. “So I totally freaked out.” He was eventually able to calm himself down, he said, by putting the incident in perspective and making a plan: the next day he would come clean to Ms. Arroyo about the book’s demise.

“What tools did Shyel use to find a solution?” Arroyo asked her students.

“The Breathing Tool!” one called out.

“The Courage Tool!” added another.

“He used the Apology and Forgiveness Tool,” said Pearl Gauthier, “because he apologized to you—and he forgave the puppy.”

For the uninitiated, all this tool-talk among Arroyo’s students might seem a bit peculiar, but in Berkeley at least, it’s gone mainstream. Last year, the city rolled out a district-wide Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum meant to teach elementary and middle school students to better manage their own emotions and empathize with their classmates. It’s called Toolbox, and it’s changing the way kids talk about their feelings. … Continue reading »

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Top tips for family Halloween activities in Berkeley

Trick or treat. Photo: Thomas Hawke
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Local Halloween events for children have been curated for us by our friends at Face paint optional!

Pre-Halloween events

  • Halloween Playdate at Habitot: For special needs children, 0-5, this event is a special celebration that is fun for the whole family. These after-hours playdates are open to the public and great times for children and families to play with hands-on exhibits, explore the art studio and enjoy family bonding time in a safe, accessible and fun environment. Register here. Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2065 Kittredge St., 1:30-4:30 p.m. More.
  • Halloween House Workshops at Habitot: Grandparents and grandchildren will build and decorate a Hansel & Gretel-style Halloween house. Costumes welcome! This event is FREE to Grandparent Circle Charter Members, and $29 per child for everyone else. Registration required at or call 510-647-1111, ext. 14. 2065 Kittredge St., Friday, Oct. 23, from noon to 1 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 24, from 9:30-10:30 a.m. More.
  • Scary Stories and Magic Tricks at South Berkeley Library: Spooky stories and magic tricks for ages 5 and up. “These stories are slightly spooky and told in traditional storytelling style.” Wednesday, Oct. 28, 1901 Russell St., 7 p.m. More.
  • Solano Avenue Parade: Cal’s marching band, police escorts and 400 elementary school children in costume makes a fun show for toddlers who can sit on the curb in front of Wells Fargo or Starbucks on Solano to watch it go by. Friday, Oct. 30, begins at 10 a.m. on upper Solano Avenue. 
  • Halloween Community Parade: Described as “creative, cute, creepy and festive,” this parade makes its way through the neighborhood around San Pablo Park. Festivities include a costume contest, freeze dance, food and goodie bags. San Pablo Park, 2800 Park St., 3-6 p.m. More.
  • Solano Avenue Costume Contest: Cash grand prizes for the adult and kid categories, and great second place prizes are promised. Albany YMCA, 921 Kains, 5-6 p.m. More.
  • Harvest Festival at James Kenney Community Center: Families are invited to a FREE mini-Halloween carnival. Friday, Oct. 30. 1720 Eighth St., 3:30-5:30 p.m. More.
  • House of Screams: The event is free and suitable for kids 5-15. Friday, Oct. 30 at Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Services Center at Grove Park, 6-9:30 p.m. More.

Continue reading »

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Trying out food delivery services in the East Bay

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Between my regular life as a parent of three busy children and my temporary situation as a part-time home renovator, I have tested local food delivery services to the limit over the past few months.

My favorite for fresh restaurant-quality food:

San Francisco’s Munchery wins hands-down as long as I remember to order before the 2pm cut-off. My children LOVE the salted chocolate chip cookie and have come to expect it when they see the telltale Munchery bag around. One of my children declared it, “Always delicious” and I tend to agree. Since meals are prepared by restaurant chefs, many of the food choices are creative. Always fresh because I finish the cooking at my house right before serving. … Continue reading »

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Authorities respond to 2 incidents at Malcolm X School

Malcolm X school. Image- Google Maps
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Two separate incidents in the vicinity of Malcolm X Elementary School on Monday morning brought traffic to a standstill on Ashby Avenue, a state highway, and provoked significant presence from emergency responders and utility agencies.

Police blocked off an area around King Street after a power line came down, according to BUSD spokesman Mark Coplan. At around 8 a.m., a bicyclist ran into the back of a school bus that was on Ashby adjacent to the school campus, according to CHP spokesman Sean Wilkenfeld. There were no injuries, either to the cyclist or to any students on the bus, but protocol has it that the bus has to stay in place until the California Highway Patrol arrives, therefore the highway was blocked. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley schools on alert after 2 abduction attempts

Willard Middle School
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Berkeley schools, and the local school community, are on alert after reports of two separate attempted abductions Friday morning as students made their way to classes at Willard Middle School on 2425 Stuart St.

This morning, just before school, two BUSD students were approached by a male individual in a dark green minivan near the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Oregon Street, very close to the school, according to Pasquale Scuderi, BUSD Deputy Superintendent. Scuderi sent an email to the school community at around 12:20 p.m. today.

The man tried to convince the two students to get into his van. The students refused, and continued walking, according to Berkeley police. The man then pulled up to them and once again told them to get into the van. The students declined and then made their way to the Willard Middle School campus, and notified staff who in turn called the Berkeley Police, according to Scuderi. … Continue reading »

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Police: Man groped kids at Strawberry Canyon Pool

Photo: UCPD
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The University of California Police Department is looking for a man reported to have groped several children while they were swimming in Strawberry Canyon Pool on Thursday.

According to a UCPD notice released Friday at about 10:50 a.m., the reports came in Thursday at about 5:45 p.m.

Police say the man “swam up to each victim, grabbed their leg and/or buttocks then swam away. It is possible that there are additional victims.”

Police said the man grabbed several girls, ages 9 to 13, while they were swimming.  … Continue reading »

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IKEA donates ‘makeover’ to shelter for homeless families

The "after" picture of a living room at BOSS furnished with Ikea furniture.
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The families living in the McKinley Family Transitional House in Berkeley now have a lovely space from which to plot their move out from homelessness.

IKEA, the Scandinavian furniture store with an outlet in Emeryville, recently donated $10,000 worth of furniture and design services to McKinley House, located at 2111 McKinley Ave. in central Berkeley. The home, which is operated by BOSS, or Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, won the IKEA Life Improvement Challenge.

Now the living room has a comfortable blue plaid couch, lamps, a desk and shelving area, and new art on the wall. The bedrooms have wood dressers, beds and throw rugs. There is also new outdoor furniture on the lawn.

McKinley House is hosting an open house today from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to show off the redecorated facility.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley softball field named in honor of Jane Hammond

ABGLS community members in front of City Hall after the vote to name the Jane Hammond softball field. Photo: ABGSL
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A once-nameless field in Berkeley will now honor one woman’s achievement in a local softball league, with the approval last week by the City Council to name the Codornices Park field the “Jane Hammond Field.”

Bestselling Berkeley author Michael Lewis, whose daughter plays for the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League (ABGSL), and who coaches one of its teams, is among the many who are delighted with the decision. Lewis said Hammond, who has devoted 25 years to the league to date, brings a persuasiveness to recruiting and retaining players from many different backgrounds, with graduates of her program going on to receive college athletic scholarships.

Read Michael Lewis on the unique Berkeley spirit of the ABGSL.

“It’s fair to say that the players my kids play with have overlapped from other schools and crowds that otherwise we wouldn’t have been with,” Lewis said. “Communities are stitched together by people like her, and it’s nice just to acknowledge all the works she’s done.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s One World Play Project aims to empower young women through sports

In hot pursuit. Photo: One World Play Project
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One World Play Project, a Berkeley-based organization that sends indestructible soccer balls around the world, has launched an initiative that aims to empower young women through sports. Called #AllGirlsCanPlay, the campaign began on May 7, and its roll-out coincides with the women’s World Cup in Vancouver, which kicked off this week.

#AllGirlsCanPlay has been in the works for a while, but became a concrete idea in the fall of 2014, said Neill Duffy, whose title is “Chief Catalyst” for One World Play Project.

“We were looking for a trigger point,” Duffy said.

One World Play Project has used international soccer events to dovetail with its campaigns in the past. After working on the prototype “indestructable” ball for two years, the company launched during the 2010 men’s World Cup in South Africa and sent balls to São Paulo during the 2014 men’s World Cup in Brazil. … Continue reading »

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Fathers the focus of Nancy Rubin’s photography show

Photo: Nancy Rubin
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UPDATE, 07.16.15: Nancy Rubin’s photography exhibition at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library has been extended until July 31.

ORIGINAL STORY: When Nancy Rubin taught the pioneering Social Living class at Berkeley High School from the late ’70s to the ’90s, she became something of a public figure and was often asked to comment on the challenges faced by teenagers. People would say: if there was one thing that could be changed to help the kids who are getting in trouble, what would it be? Rubin was quick to point out that there was no “magic wand.” However she did have a suggestion: “Put a loving father in every home.”

That’s not to say that children can’t be raised exceptionally well by a single mom or two women, Rubin said recently at her home, where she was preparing for her first solo photography exhibition that centers on fathers. All sorts of kids do really well in all sorts of family situations, Rubin stressed. But as someone who grew up with a “wonderful, warm” father, Rubin could only wish the same for the students she was mentoring, some of whom had no relationships with their own fathers. … Continue reading »

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BUSD poised to adopt tougher school enrollment policy

Berkeley High School has 3,300 students, most of who travel off-campus for lunch. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Berkeley school board officials are considering tougher enrollment requirements to curb illegal enrollment in the district, following the initial success of new registration requirements this year.

Stricter enforcement in recent months led the Berkeley Unified School District admissions office to reject 11% of applicants from private middle schools to Berkeley High School for 2015-16 after it was determined they did not actually reside in Berkeley, according to Francisco Martinez, the BUSD admissions manager. About 150 students applied. Thirty-seven students were flagged for follow-up and officials found that 17 of them did not reside in Berkeley, he said.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 story on fraudulent enrollment in Berkeley schools.

BUSD, for the first time, also required all currently enrolled fifth graders to prove their Berkeley residency before being accepted into sixth grade, he said. About 8% of the 684 students did not reapply for admission, despite an aggressive campaign to inform families of new requirements. … Continue reading »

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10 kid-friendly outings for summertime in Berkeley

Berkeley Kite Festival July 25-26: one of many fun events for kids this summer in Berkeley. Photo: Whitney Moss
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Now that Memorial Day is behind us and all thoughts turn to summer, we bring you, via our friends at 510 Families, ten kid-friendly outings that suit the season.

1. Get lost among the stacks at the Bay Area Book Festival the weekend of June 6 and 7 at Civic Center Park. There will be a free book for every child, dance performances, pony rides and a meet-and-greet with Judy Blume among many other literary wonders.

2. Swing from the life-size hammocks and bounce on the trampolines at We Rock the Spectrum Kids Gym. We love Berkeley’s all-abilities playspace for its drop-in fun, last minute camps, and birthday parties. Did you know they also provide “break time” for parents (meaning YOU CAN LEAVE THE KIDS THERE)? Just thought you should know. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley author Marissa Moss says goodby to Amelia, a character that has delighted readers for 20 years

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By Michael Berry

After 20 years and more than 5 million copies sold, Marissa Moss‘ “Amelia’s Notebook” series has arrived at its concluding chapter.

The Berkeley writer is bringing her feisty, hand-drawn creation back to its small-press roots, publishing “Amelia’s Middle-School Graduation Yearbook” through her own children’s press, Creston Books.

Moss, 55, said she took her inspiration for Amelia’s story from a composition book she originally intended for one of her three sons. Although she had already published a number of picture books, she decided to experiment with a new combination of hand-written prose and pictures to tell the story of a fourth-grade girl trying to figure out a move to a new school. … Continue reading »

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