Category Archives: Kids
Having a child is a life-changing event. But “having a child that is destined to die,” as Erica Jong writes in the introduction to Monica Wesolowska’s moving, lyrical memoir, Holding Silvan: A Brief Life, “must be more life changing still. How do we let go? How do we mourn?” Jong asks.
In today’s world of high tech births, it’s a tragedy that most in the United States will not experience. Yet, however rare, newborns do die. Wesolowska and her husband David, both long-time Berkeley residents, were completely unprepared for the awful news that their newborn son, Silvan, had suffered severe brain damage during delivery.
Wesolowska’s pregnancy had been uneventful and her labor seemed normal. Yet something had gone terribly wrong.
The baby lingered for 38 days and Wesolowska fit in a lifetime of loving in that brief time span. She and David decided soon after Silvan’s birth not to feed him, and they held and loved him as his once plump frame withered and wasted. Making the decision to let Silvan die was not easy — and the ethical considerations form a fascinating part of the book — and yet Wesolowska shows readers how it was really the ultimate act of maternal love. … Continue reading »
Community members crammed into the Berkeley City Council chambers Tuesday night to speak out about the absence of 9-year-old Rodrigo Guzman, a Jefferson Elementary School student who was sent back to Mexico with his family in January when they were denied re-entry into the United States due to expired visas. Jefferson students read statements to the council, which later unanimously approved a resolution to fight for the family’s return.
The resolution includes a commitment to send letters to President Barack Obama, Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Senator Dianne Feinstein urging them to write special legislation to grant assistance to the family. The Berkeley Unified School District unanimously passed a similar resolution March 13.
Rodrigo and his family joined the council meeting via a Skype video connection, which Mayor Tom Bates said was a first for Berkeley. (Watch the video of Rodrigo’s statement here.) … Continue reading »
For more than a month, a desk in the middle of a fourth grade classroom at Jefferson Elementary School sat conspicuously empty.
Until December, 9-year-old Rodrigo Guzman occupied the desk, one of four clustered together. But when Rodrigo and his parents were denied re-entry from Mexico into the United States in January because their visas had expired, the desk sat empty for at least a month, a sentinel of sorts to the hope that Rodrigo would rejoin 27 classmates. Finally, Rodrigo’s teacher, Barbara Wenger took it out.
“We were just waiting for him to get back from his family vacation,” said Wenger. “We were just waiting. After we realized he was not going to come back we rearranged the classroom and removed the desk.”
But even though Rodrigo, who came to Berkeley when his was 18 months’ old, is stuck near Mexico City, desperately missing Little Caesar’s pizza, tacos from Rubio’s, and Fruit Gushers, his classmates are not giving up hope he will return. … Continue reading »
For more than 3,000 years, people have been leaping over fires to bid farewell to winter, burn away negativity and welcome with an open heart the New Year that begins on the first day of Spring. The ancient festival of fire, called Chahar Shanbeh Suri, has its roots in Zoroastrianism and is a warm-up to Nowruz, or Persian New Year. Crossing religious and national boundaries, it is observed across the globe by Persian Jews, Christians, Baha’is and Muslims.
Berkeley may hold the distinction, however, as the only city in the U.S. to close off a public street for the annual fire jumping festivities that will take place Tuesday March 12, from 6-10pm on Durant Avenue (between Milvia and Shattuck) with food, music and guaranteed hordes of gleeful fire jumpers of all ages.
The kid-friendly, alcohol-free street party, now in its 14th year, is sponsored by the Persian Center with the full support of the City, whose police and fire departments are happy to lend a hand. The Mayor often attends.
… Continue reading »
By Mollie Hart
Andrea didn’t make eye contact with her writing coach right away. The 8th grader from Berkeley’s King Middle School brought out her rough draft of “An Open Letter to the Adults of our Country,” and started to read out loud, but kept her face turned away from the woman sitting next to her in the school’s designated “coaching” room.
“What did you think of the assignment?” the coach asked.
“It was okay,” said Andrea, without much enthusiasm.
Despite the young girl’s shy demeanor, the coach forged on. Soon the pair was talking about Andrea’s thesis statement, her conclusion, and how the American Revolution figured into the piece. … Continue reading »
Veteran writer and editor Katrina Heron — who has done stints at The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, Newsweek, Vanity Fair, and Wired — was recently named the new director of The Edible Schoolyard Project, the nonprofit started by school food champion Alice Waters which seeks to promote edible education and reform the National School Lunch program.
While taking the reins at the school cooking, gardening, and lunch advocacy organization is a departure from Heron’s journalism career, she has long been associated with the group and reported on a range of food matters for high-profile outlets.
Heron began working with ESYP (then the Chez Panisse Foundation) 11 years ago as a volunteer, joined the board of directors in 2003 and served until 2010.
“When I learned, on quite short notice, that the director role was open, it just seemed like the right time to assume a more active role in advocating for edible education,” said Heron, who follows in the footsteps of several short-lived leaders of the institution, most recently Quinn Fitzgerald, Francesca Vietor, and Brian Byrnes. Prior to that, the post was held by Carina Wong, who departed to work for the Gates Foundation in Seattle. … Continue reading »
A mobile asthma clinic designed to keep kids in school and out of the hospital debuted Thursday at Malcolm X Elementary School in south Berkeley.
The Breathmobile, a 33-foot-long Winnebago RV, drew inquisitive looks and questions from students throughout the day. The vehicle was parked in the school courtyard to offer easy access to families that signed up for its first day ever in Berkeley. The program, which provides free asthma and allergy treatment, has ties to ongoing city-wide efforts to target the achievement gap and bring more accessible healthcare to a high-risk population.
Dr. Washington Burns of the West Oakland-based Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement brought the Breathmobile program to the East Bay in 2009. It began in Emeryville and has since expanded to serve 18 sites around the Bay Area. It’s the only one of its kind in Northern California, according to Burns’ staff, though there are also about a dozen other Breathmobile RVs that operate across the nation. … Continue reading »
Halloween is just over a week away and our friends at 510 Families have compiled a hugely useful guide to Halloween activities for kids in the broader East Bay. They kindly let us cherry pick those happening in Berkeley for your delectation.
MLK Middle School Pumpkin Patch Dash: Track races for all grades K-8th, plus carnival with games, prizes, and face painting. Sunday, October 28, 9.30 – 12.30. $5 per child who participates. See City of Berkeley website for race times for each age group.
James Kenney Harvest Festival: Wednesday, Halloween Day 3:30–5:30pm. Free carnival games, costume contest, costume parade, arts and crafts, and light refreshments.
Live Oak Park Rec Center Halloween Party: Wednesday, Halloween Day at 3 pm. Free event includes costume contest with prizes, Halloween parade and games. Refreshments will be served. … Continue reading »
The meeting was held in San Francisco earlier this week at the offices of SPUR, a nonprofit created to promote good planning and good government. The focus of the discussion: an ambitious plan to overhaul Oakland Unified School District‘s inadequate and antiquated school food service. But the driving force behind what could be a model program for re-imagining school lunch in large school districts around the nation is a Berkeley-based nonprofit that has quietly been rethinking school lunch for many years.
No, not that nonprofit. The Center for Ecoliteracy recently released a detailed feasibility study that, if implemented, would amount to a massive makeover for the OUSD school food program. It includes recommendations for a newly outfitted, green central commissary with a 1.5-acre edible farm in West Oakland, refurbished existing kitchens, and the development of 14 school-based community kitchens dotted throughout the school district, which serves 38,000 students at 101 schools, 70% of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. The community kitchens are envisaged as places where budding edible entrepreneurs and local organizations with a food focus could work, for a fee, during after-school hours. … Continue reading »
As the academic year winds to a close this week there is welcome news for next year. Schools are to get a one-year reprieve on the funding front from the federal government for the gardening and cooking programs at three of Berkeley Unified School District‘s elementary schools.
Earlier in the year it was feared that the schools — Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Washington — were going to lose these federal funds, due to failure to meet existing guidelines that require a school to have at least 50% of its students enrolled in the free and reduced-lunch programs.
In April — following a series of school board meetings where parents and community members made an impassioned case for the importance of keeping such curricula — the BUSD Board voted to authorize funding up to $350,000 for edible programs at the three elementary schools in question for the following year.
Now comes word that won’t be necessary. The Network for a Healthy California, the state program that administers the federal monies to local school districts, recently informed the BUSD of its intention to extend the funding for an additional year, according to Leah Sokolofski, program supervisor for the BUSD Cooking and Garden Nutrition Program. The scope of work and budget must remain the same at each school, and no additional schools will be able to use the funds, noted Sokolofski in an email sent to school principals on Tuesday. … Continue reading »
Hundreds of people gathered at HS Lordship’s restaurant Friday to honor the teachers who shine in the Berkeley Unified School District.
The Berkeley Public Education Foundation recognized three middle school teachers for their dedication to their students, inventiveness, and collegiality. The crowd at the annual fundraiser was also wowed by a performance by Berkeley High sophomore Noah Silverman St. John, a spoken word poet who was featured on Berkeleyside in January, and whose work has been heard on NPR.
The luncheon was a “Who’s Who?” of Berkeley with numerous city councilmembers in attendance (Laurie Capitelli was the emcee), as well as state legislators including Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner and State Senator Loni Hancock. Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan was there, as was Interim City Manager Christine Daniel, Auditor Anne-Marie Hogan, Economic Development Program Coordinator Michael Caplan, and other officials. … Continue reading »
On the morning of April 15, Gay Austin passed away one month short of her 94th year. Born in Munich, Gay fled Nazi Germany at the age of seventeen for England where she entered a London training program in early childhood education at the North Hampstead Day Nursery.
In 1937 she arrived in America to join family members in Des Moines, Iowa and then moved to St. Louis, Missouri where she taught at Washington University’s Lab Preschool. Two years later she returned to Des Moines to marry Kurt M. Austin, the young man she had known and loved as a young woman in Munich who had also made his way to America. In 1945 Gay, Kurt and their two children Michael and Ruth moved to northern California.
A year later she started the Gay Austin Nursery School in her home with Michael in her first group of children. In 1957 she and Kurt were able to purchase and renovate a dentist’s office on Hopkins Street in Berkeley as the school’s new home where it remains to this day. … Continue reading »
Sharon Danks and her colleagues around the world are doing their best to combat so-called nature deficit disorder in today’s children, many of whom are growing up with competing demands such as “screen time,” and other barriers to a romp in the park such as safety concerns or access issues.
Danks, a planner and partner with Bay Tree Design in Berkeley, recently co-founded the global group International School Grounds Alliance to address an increasingly sedentary and risk-averse generation of young ones who, it is feared, are becoming disconnected from their natural environments. Some children, shuttled from school to home to other indoor activities, simply don’t spend much, if any, time in the great outdoors.
The nascent organization, with members in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, want kids to experience the fun and games of outside play. … Continue reading »