Category Archives: Kids


10 kid-friendly outings for summertime in Berkeley

BAMPFA with kids: photo by Sally Mason
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Summertime means staying up late, swimming and eating frozen treats, right? Yes. But there’s a wealth of other options too. Here are ten terrific outings for you and your family.

1. Grab some sunscreen and a hat. Tilden Park’s Lake Anza is open daily through September 9 and the merry-go-round will be running this summer, too. (Check hours).

2. In North Berkeley, climb to the top of Indian Rock then follow secret stairs to an abandoned clubhouse at John Hinkel Park. Zachary’s is nearby if all this climbing gives you an appetite.

3. Strawberry Pool is open with three lanes for lap swimming and three lanes for play. There is also a kiddie pool. Day Passes are $6 for adults and $4 for kids under 12. Kids 3 and under are free. Afterward eat outdoors at one of Berkeley’s restaurants with a patio. … Continue reading »

Locals celebrate 10 years of Schoolhouse Creek Common

Schoolhouse Creek Common celebration on May 1, 2016. Photo: courtesy: Brad Smith
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On Sunday May 1, neighbors in North-West Berkeley came together for a day to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Schoolhouse Creek Common. The gathering was also an occasion to thank Jamie Day, who is described as “the guiding light and spark plug” for the development of the park by the neighborhood, and his wife, Phyllis Orrick, both of whom have done so much to create and maintain this open space.

The common, which is on the corner of Curtis and Virginia streets, is a 9,000-square-foot park that is both loved and maintained by local residents. It is located near the site of an elementary school that was built there in 1856.

The original school was replaced by the San Pablo Avenue School and then, later, the Franklin Elementary School. In 2003, Franklin was closed, and a year later the Berkeley Adult School moved into its remodeled buildings.

Schoolhouse Creek Common, created by citizen volunteers with the help of the Berkeley City Council — including then councilwoman Nancy Skinner — and the Berkeley Unified School District, opened on May 13, 2006. It continues to be supported by BUSD. … Continue reading »


Berkeley school superintendent worked 18 months with lapsed credentials

Donald Evans. Photo: Hayward Unified School District
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For much of the last two years, Berkeley School Superintendent Donald Evans has been working without credentials required by his contract.

In July 2014, a year after his appointment, Evans let his school administrative services credential and his teaching credential lapse. He finally renewed them on Jan. 4, 2016.

The Berkeley Unified School District Board is considering giving Evans a pardon for his inattentiveness. The board is scheduled to take action Wednesday to waive the district’s requirement that its top manager hold valid credentials. The action, presumably, would only apply to Evans.

“I am so embarrassed,” Evans said Tuesday. “I didn’t know my credential had lapsed. The state used to send reminders. It stopped doing it and left it up to school districts. Berkeley Unified doesn’t do it (send out reminders).” … Continue reading »

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A cow and a calf join school’s morning assembly

Cow visit to LeConte on March 17, 2016. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Veronica Valerio, principal of LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley, arranged for her young students to meet a cow on Thursday last week. “As city kids it’s important for them to know where milk comes from,” she said. “They need to understand the whole process, from livestock to milk production.”

However, the several dozen kids who sat quietly listening and answering questions posed by Brandon Roberts, a mobile dairy classroom instructor from the Dairy Council of California, appeared to be supremely knowledgeable about all matters dairy-related.

To Roberts’ question about whether the children had consumed milk, yogurt or cream cheese that morning for breakfast, a majority of hands shot up. Asked if they knew how to milk a cow, a majority of hands shot up. Many were also more than happy to demonstrate their technique.

The kids’ enthusiasm was impressive, as was their delight when Roberts finally pulled up the door on his trailer to reveal Buttercup, an impressive Holstein who was wholly unperturbed at the sight of so many small eyes fixed on her, and simply carried on munching her alfalfa. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley fourth-grader hit by taxi; parents call for better crosswalk lighting

A fourth-grader was struck by a car Tuesday on a crosswalk on Claremont Avenue and suffered two broken legs. Photo: Kevin Chang
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A fourth-grade girl from John Muir Elementary School was hit by a car Tuesday night in a crosswalk on Claremont Avenue that parents have long complained is poorly lit and needs the city’s attention.

A car struck the 9-year-old girl as she and her mother were crossing Claremont at Claremont Crescent, right in front of the school, according to an email sent out by John Muir’s principal, Audrey Amos. Both of the girl’s legs were broken and she was treated at a local hospital.

According to Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats, police received multiple 911 calls about the collision at 7:40 p.m. The woman and her daughter were walking west in the crosswalk when a taxi driver traveling north on Claremont hit them. Coats said both the mother and daughter were injured, but that the girl’s injuries were more serious. Both were taken to a local hospital for treatment. The driver stayed at the scene and was cooperative, and was ultimately cited for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Neither drugs nor alcohol appeared to be a factor in the crash.

The accident happened right after a PTA meeting, and has renewed calls for lighting at that crosswalk. The Berkeley Police Department pays for a crossing guard to help students across Claremont before and after school. But many children participate in the after-school program and there is no one to help them cross the street around 5:30 or 6 p.m. when it is dark. Claremont Avenue is four lanes across with a speed limit of 25 mph.
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Authors of new book on ADHD come to Berkeley to debunk myths, provide advice

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Hinshaw and Ellison explain the brain chemistry that causes ADHD, how a parent can get a diagnosis, and why it’s important to diagnose ADHD early. They take an impassionate approach to the question of taking drugs, but also discuss other approaches to controlling it, such as counseling and exercise – all in an easy to understand Q&A format.

The dedication gives a hint at the sense of humor that also pervades the book:”We dedicate [the book] to anyone who has ever wondered whether the occasional joy of spontaneity are worth the annual costs of replacing lost sunglasses, keys, and cell phones, and to everyone willing to make the effort to understand, appreciate, and occasionally forgive the blessings and challenges of neurodiversity.”

Hinshaw and Ellison will be talking about the book and ADHD at Books Inc. at 1491 Shattuck Ave. on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m.

Berkeleyside: Isn’t ADHD just an excuse for bad parenting, lazy, bratty kids, and pill-poppers?

Hinshaw and Ellison: This is a prevalent myth — and one we spend a lot of time debunking in our book, in interviews, and in our public talks. Despite the skepticism and the stereotypes, substantial research has shown that ADHD is a strongly hereditary neurodevelopmental disorder. The quality of one’s parenting doesn’t create ADHD — although it can influence a child’s development — and children with this condition are not lazy but instead handicapped in their capacity to focus attention and keep still.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley artist in residence: Thacher Hurd

Thacher Hurd. Photo: Susan Sandoe
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Earlier this year, Berkeley’s Creston Books re-released famed illustrator Thacher Hurd’s Pea Patch Jig, a picture book featuring a feisty mouse who gets in all sorts of trouble exploring Farmer Clem’s garden.

The picture book, originally published 20 years ago, is aimed at children aged three to six years’ old, and was inspired by a song, Pea Patch Jig, written by singer-songwriter John Hartford.

Berkeleyside caught up with Hurd, who lives in Berkeley and who has written and illustrated more than 25 books for children, to ask him about the reissue. We also spoke to Marissa Moss, the founder of Creston Books.

How long does it take to do each illustration for a book? What comes first: the words or the pictures? Can you work on more than one book at a time?

I don’t know how long it takes to do each illustration. They’re all different. Usually about a week per picture, but if it’s going well, four days. Plus time to mull it over and fiddle with it, which may happen weeks later.

Yes, I do work on more than one book at a time. They’re all at different stages, all the way back to little ideas in the way back of my mind. … Continue reading »

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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.

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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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