Teachers and administrators of the Julia Morgan School for Girls are seeking to expand their same-sex education model to create an all-boys middle school. The East Bay School for Boys is tentatively planned to open Aug. 2010.
“It is daunting and tiring, but inspiring at the same time,” said Jason Baeten, the acting head of the new school and math teacher at Julia Morgan. Baeten has taught for over 16 years, including at coeducational K-12 independent schools, and was a founding faculty member of the school for middle school girls, which is located on the Mills College campus.
“I saw girls leaving the school with a smile and I knew boys should have the same thing,” he said in describing the inspiration for the school. “They should feel a sense of joyfulness at school.”
Prospective parents of male students might ask how a same-sex education would be different from a coeducational environment.
For Angela Yokata, the difference lies in how each sex learns. “Boys and girls learn differently as girls are more interpersonal and more relational,” said Yokata, who teaches humanities at Julia Morgan and is a board member for the East Bay School for Boys.
“Boys are kinesthetic so they’ll have more hands-on learning,” she said. “They’ll be more likely to want more movement throughout the day.”
Yokata explained that an all-boys education is important in middle school to help kids learn more of who they are by discovering their concept of self with other male peers before going to high school.
At an information meeting held Nov. 17, Baeten and other board members provided an overview of what hands-on learning would look like in the curriculum for boys. An emphasis on daily physical education would be coupled with an academic program composed of math, English and the sciences. Service-learning activities in the community would help students apply skills to active learning projects in subjects such as farming, art, drama and technology. The boys, like their female counterparts at Julia Morgan, will also have access to technological equipment, including an interactive forum between teachers and students that will allow students to map their progress in school.
“Boys have high energy and often learn through experiencing,” said Baeten to a crowd of parents and their sons at the meeting. Baetan described that a diverse curriculum for boys would allow them to learn important skills and realize their personal strengths. He also said the boys and school officials would write the student handbook of guidelines and expectations together.
“We want to build a community where all boys feel recognized and valued,” he said. The boys who attended the meeting even participated in a learning activity that explored the strengths and weaknesses of being a hero, one of many identities to be explored and challenged at the new school.
“I like especially the fencing and I generally like physical education, and I also like the math,” said Zavrey, 10, who hopes to join the first class in the fall.
Most parents at the meeting were excited about the upcoming school, and enjoyed what the presentation had to offer. Rachel Hogan, a parent of three sons, was eager for the school to become a reality for her children.
“It is exciting to be a part of something new and be a part of a vision that is innovative,” she said. “I want a space for boys to be channeled in positive ways.”
Andy Radlow has sons who attend Crocker Highlands Elementary, located in Oakland. He too was considering the new school.
“An all-boys school in sixth grade would have huge long-term benefits,” said Radlow.
Plans are still underway as the school is still looking for a site in Oakland or south Berkeley by the beginning of next February. Applications for the school are available at www.eastbayschoolforboys.org and are due by Jan. 15. According to the website, the process includes a parent and student questionnaire, an application fee of $75, two teacher recommendations, a school report form, parent interview and a student assessment to learn more about the applicant’s skills in writing, math, teamwork and hands-on activities.
Marcia Bedford, another board member and assistant head of Julia Morgan, also spoke to parents about tuition assistance in helping students who would face financial struggle to attend the school.
“We all have a stake in this, we all have sons,” said Wilson, who talked about the dedication of the staff to helping boys in the school. Staff and faculty are yet to be hired, though the school hopes to populate their staff and faculty by the spring of next year.
Baeten said the school is looking for teachers who would act as mentors and role models academically, and seek to encourage the students to learn about themselves and build relationships with their peers and the world around them.
A board meeting will be held on Dec. 14 and a second information night on Jan. 6 at MoJoe’s Cafe. The school is hoping to raise $100,000 by June through donations and charity dinners.
“It’s going, we have lots of people who are now involved,” said Baeten in discussing the progress of the school. “It’s like having several construction teams all at one time.”