Prospect Sierra, a K-8 independent school in El Cerrito enrolls 470 students on two campuses giving them the tools to build a better world. We appreciate their sponsorship of 510families.com today.
My friend Sunny has been a Prospect Sierra parent for more than eight years now, but I still remember when she was making the kindergarten decision. It was a big deal because she lived across the street from a well-regarded public school at the time. When she toured Prospect Sierra, met the teachers and staff, and learned more about the curriculum that went well beyond the school's strong reputation for academics, she knew it would be a great fit for her son and was eager to apply. Now as the parent of a successful middle schooler, she tells me she would choose Prospect Sierra all over again.
The core principals at Prospect Sierra are intellectual engagement, self-knowledge, and care for others.
“The community is just amazing,” says Carleigh, Richmond mom of a second grader and kindergartner. “I trust this school so much, that they are providing the absolute highest level of everything, from safety to teaching tools to quality of staff. The social and emotional lessons are as amazing as the academics. The team at Prospect Sierra is always striving to be on the cutting edge. They are taking the best care of my child in all ways, and I love that I have so much confidence in my school.”
We talked to lots of parents about their experiences with Prospect Sierra, and the words that came up over and over again were “Community” and “Social Emotional Learning.” Establishing positive emotions in the classroom and cultivating a feeling of safety and confidence in children is the foundation of the academic program.
Building 21st Century Skills through flexible spaces
What makes Prospect Sierra different?
- Emotions matter. Faculty and staff believe that when children feel emotionally safe they are ready to learn. The staff helps students identify emotions, regulate emotions, empathize with others, and make responsible decisions.
- Collaborative Maker Space. In addition to rigorous work in the core subjects, students on both campus spend time making, building, crafting, and tinkering. While the tools may vary from the technological (3D printers, laser cutters) to the basic (hammers, duct tape), the goal is to give students a place to develop Design Thinking, 21st century skills, and a passion for exploration.
- Ecoliteracy. Students in all grades get off campus for field study and engage in projects in their community. For example, sixth graders visit Live Power Community Farm each year, a 50-acre, solar electric and horse-powered, diversified, certified biodynamic farm where students set up camp, harvest potatoes, cultivate compost, watch sheep shearing, milk cows, develop empathy for all forms of life, and see first-hand the impact of sustainable farming practices.
Prospect Sierra cultivates compassion, fairness, respect, and individuality within a community that celebrates diversity, authenticity, and service. The exceptional teachers inspire students to seek deep, meaningful understanding; to develop strong academic skills; and to become creative and independent thinkers. Prospect Sierra students are passionate about learning.
For a deep dive into the curriculum at different grade levels, visit this handy interactive curriculum grid and click away.
Reflecting on her son's years in the Prospect Sierra community, Sunny told me, “There are so many wonderful things about Prospect, but I feel the absolute best thing is the teachers – they’re all incredible. They’re so committed to the kids and really do make learning fun and engaging on all levels and for all their students.”
She also spoke passionately about the school’s dedication to providing a holistic education that goes beyond just academics. The service learning and social and emotional learning that goes on at the school at every grade level is really outstanding.
Parents play a big part of the school community. The school hosts parent coffees, grade level social gatherings, parent education events (I've been to a few of these and they're FANTASTIC), opportunities for giving back to the community, and more!
See for yourself. How to get to know Prospect Sierra:
To get a flavor of the school without leaving home, read the blog with articles written by the Head of School, Katherine Dinh, along with faculty, staff, and parents. Here Ms. Dinh discusses the importance of talking to our children about politics and world events in age-appropriate ways; the middle school librarian recently wrote about the ways in which reading cultivates empathy and close connections with those who may be different.
Both Prospect Sierra campuses (K-4 and 5-8) are home to expansive outdoor spaces designed for open-ended exploration, exercise, and play. Extended day programming is available.
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL @ 2060 Tapscott Avenue El Cerrito, CA 94530
MIDDLE SCHOOL @ 960 Avis Drive El Cerrito, CA 94530
Bus transit available throughout the Bay Area. The community is represented by over 18 different Bay Area cities!
Elementary School (K-4th grade): 510.809.9018
Middle School (5th-8th grade): 510.809.9025
Thank you to Prospect Sierra for sponsoring our site today. And to our friends for letting me ask a ton of questions!
[All photos provided by Prospect Sierra and used with permission]