Beginning during the first week of school and continuing (on blue sky days!) through in-person assessments, kindergarten teachers are meeting each new student in person.
Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park mark St. Paul’s entrance to life in Oakland. From early in our school’s history, our teachers have created an immersive, educational experience in partnership with our neighbors across Grand Avenue. Classes explore Lake Merritt and downtown Oakland by foot. We walk to the Oakland Museum of California for exhibits and performances, maintain a plot at Lakeside Gardens, support bird counts at the refuge, and monitor water quality. We look for ways to live and learn with our environment.
During a regular year, students use the park every day as an extension of our campus. Running a game of Capture the Flag among the groves of trees during P.E. class puts them in touch with the land. The entire school parades through the park for Halloween and sprawls across the grassy fields to participate in the all-school Olympiad.
Learning in Oakland started as a way to use our location as classroom space, but that’s happened for so long now that it seems the school couldn’t exist without the neighborhood. Our earliest in-person gatherings this Fall took place at Children’s Fairyland of Oakland, or “Fairyland” as we all know and love it. Beginning during the first week of school and continuing (on blue sky days!) through in-person assessments, kindergarten teachers are meeting each new student in person.
Children enter the park at the Teddy Bear Picnic Area with screening protocols and a stop at the hand-sanitizing station. While parents bond in small talk beneath giant oak and redwood trees, five kindergarteners in five hula hoops form a circle with their teachers in the grass by the stage. And for one hour, they get to know each other.
The children learn the names of their teachers and classmates and explore first moments with the help of puppets. They play “Just Like Me” to find connections and honor differences in a very St. Paul’s recognition of each child. At the end of some sessions, a couple of children run up and down the grassy hill. They are apart, but they run in parallel, and no doubt, feel a streak of adrenaline and a spark of connection with each other.
The coronavirus has forced us to reimagine the way that we approach learning in community. We want to be together and yet, this double pandemic in the midst of historic mega-wildfires on the precipice of a mind-blowing national election challenges St. Paul’s to find meaningful relationships with each other. We strive to make connections however they may be forged, starting with one student at a time.