K-8 EXCELLENCE SINCE 1973
2027 7th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710 (map) • 510‑845‑0876

Curriculum Highlights

Every day, our teachers weave together arts, academics, and social & emotional learning.

Here are some highlights from the rich interdisciplinary curriculum in each grade:

What Colors Are We Made Of?

KINDERGARTEN

What Colors Are We Made Of?

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Kindergarteners mix colors to create paint tones that match their own skin, then paint their own full-size self-portrait. Read-aloud time explores children’s literature that stimulates thoughtful conversations about our similarities and differences. All of our students, including our very youngest, learn how to safely and respectfully discuss race, skin color, and gender.

Up Close with Bugs

KINDERGARTEN

Up Close with Bugs

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An entomologist brings hissing cockroaches and praying mantises to the classroom, an incubator hosts a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, and students embody the world of insects as they perform Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug.

Mystery Haikus & Other Structured Poetry

FIRST GRADE

Mystery Haikus & Other Structured Poetry

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Running water blue, Tumbling into a river, Rushing down stream. 

First graders study both structured and free verse styles, from Haikus to the much loved "sandwich poem.". As first graders become progressively more comfortable and capable of producing their own poetry, we advance to forms like "Mystery Haikus," where the reader is encouraged to guess and discover the subject of the poem.

What Makes Motown So Magical?

FIRST GRADE

What Makes Motown So Magical?

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Interdisciplinary lessons built around the history of Motown include creative writing, learning math through patterns in rhythms and beats, multimedia art activities, and social studies. Motown is captivating to first graders because many of the songs and dance moves the students enjoy have their roots in this musical era. Students give voice to their understanding of the Motown story with a performance incorporating their own songs, poems, and choreography.

Interdependence of Plants & Animals

SECOND GRADE

Interdependence of Plants & Animals

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Second grade botanists dissect a flower in the garden to understand the vital roles insects play in plant reproduction. They become agricultural engineers, using nature as inspiration for human-made tools as they design and construct hand pollinators in the science lab. Visiting the Berkeley Botanical Gardens, they encounter touch-sensitive plants and cacao trees in the tropical rainforest. They make observations, gather data, and draw illustrations in their lab notebooks.

Ten Genres in Ten Weeks

SECOND GRADE

Ten Genres in Ten Weeks

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These avid readers encounter a wide variety of literary forms by reading a book in each of ten different genres over two months: realistic fiction, fantasy/adventure, historical fiction, biography, poetry and more. They also try their hand at writing in a number of the styles.

Biodiversity and Service Learning

THIRD GRADE

Biodiversity and Service Learning

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Third graders examine the ways native people utilized resources, discover the hydrodynamics and biodiversity of local watersheds, and get their hands dirty through service learning projects. Students participate in field studies and act as environmental stewards on trips to Coyote Hills Regional Park, the Museum of the American Indian, EBMUD restoration sites, Save the Bay learning centers, and Marin County’s Slide Ranch.

Crafting a Family History

THIRD GRADE

Crafting a Family History

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Students confer with parents to select an object with an important family story. They use story mapping to identify key concepts in the story of the artifact. In art class they sculpt a replica of their artifact from clay. Each replica is displayed along with a hand written artist statement sharing the story of the artifact as well as reflections on the creative process.

NaNoWriMo

FOURTH GRADE

NaNoWriMo

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In November, our fourth and fifth graders join thousands of others across the country for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).  Each writer chooses a daily writing goal, whether 100 words/day or 1000! Teachers and staff and even some parents join in. They develop a daily writing practice, shrug off their inner critic, and take their writing all the way to (informal) publication, including a book jacket with a summary and an author’s (brief) biography.

Music is Thinking with Sound

FOURTH GRADE

Music is Thinking with Sound

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We find that musical and mathematical skills develop more readily in tandem. In fourth grade (and continuing into fifth), students learn to play the recorder. In grades 6th-8th, students learn to play the ukulele, guitar, and keyboards as well. In this way, we give students many opportunities to fall in love with an instrument and develop the skills for playing in an ensemble.

Step into a Civil War Soldier’s Boots

FIFTH GRADE

Step into a Civil War Soldier’s Boots

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Fifth graders decipher and interpret primary source documents and prepare an in-depth presentation about their soldier. Original photos, handwritten letters from the battlefield or field hospital, and documents related to widows’ pensions provide a window into a dynamic moment in our country’s history. A visit to the Presidio National Cemetery brings them face to face with the names of real individuals who served in more recent conflicts.

Best Buys, Ratios & Rates

FIFTH GRADE

Best Buys, Ratios & Rates

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Students comparison shop to deepen their understanding of proportional reasoning, using ratio tables to determine the cost of different amounts of bird seed sold by weight, or the status of a truck's gas tank over various trips. These rich problems offer a "low floor and high ceiling," concrete models for students who need extra support, and extension for those who require additional challenge. Students present their problem-solving strategies to peers in a "Math Congress," responding to their questions, which pushes them to clarify their thinking.

Team-Building & Reflection

SIXTH GRADE

Team-Building & Reflection

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About a third of the sixth grade class is continuing from our lower school, eager to meet those coming from other elementary schools. To strengthen their social bonds, they live in the Marin Headlands for four days each fall, combining team-building with natural science education in a dramatic setting. Humanities teacher Maria Palmer accompanies the class, guiding students to write about their memories of their time at the Headlands as an introduction to the sixth grade’s study of memoir.

Exploring Famous Artists from the Inside Out

SIXTH GRADE

Exploring Famous Artists from the Inside Out

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Students research artists, identify their aesthetic fingerprints, and work through the artist’s process in order to fabricate their own works. Sixth graders might recreate fabric art in the style of Faith Ringgold, sew fashion by Coco Chanel, emulate graffiti by GATS (pictured here), and even wrap a play structure like Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

Coding from Scratch

SEVENTH GRADE

Coding from Scratch

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Inspired by Caine Munroe’s Cardboard Arcade, students use their creativity and emerging programming skills as they repurpose discarded materials in inventive ways. In teams, they develop an idea for an arcade game, code with the Scratch programming language, design their own electrical circuits, learn to solder, and realize their vision. The result is an arcade for the entire BPC community to enjoy.

Illuminating Identity

SEVENTH GRADE

Illuminating Identity

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Seventh graders examine elements of identity and narration in Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese graphic novel. They then create their own graphic novellas, illuminating their own story of identity through ancestry or geographic migration. At a time when they are transitioning from concrete to more abstract thinking, graphic novels allow students to understand symbolism in text and art, both as readers and as creators.

Holding the World in their Hands

EIGHTH GRADE

Holding the World in their Hands

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Eighth graders take on a gargantuan challenge: to draw and name all 200 countries of the world from memory. They work through each continent over the course of the year, pausing to learn more about countries that interest them. A visual and mental challenge, students gain geographic literacy essential to understanding both history and contemporary political issues. Though daunting at first, by the time they graduate, students have all gained the confidence to map the world by heart.

MasterWorks

EIGHTH GRADE

MasterWorks

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The capstone experience of the upper school is the MasterWork, a 40-80 hour interdisciplinary project undertaken under the supervision of an advisor over many months. Students conceive, research, and develop a project proposal. Past MasterWorks have included novels, musical compositions, photography exhibits, a tunic of chain mail, and hand-sewn couture. Students share their projects with peers and parents on MasterWorks Presentation night.

Note: These are memorable classroom activities from recent years. Curriculum is subject to change.