Dear Fifth Grade Families

Welcome to fifth grade! Already, many of you have begun thinking about next fall and middle school. This is a very exciting journey and time for you and your child as you start to think about life after Aurora. There are many excellent options for middle school, both private and public, for you to consider.

A great way to explore the EBISA middle schools is to come to the upcoming EBISA Fair on Tuesday, October 15 at His Lordships from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Each EBISA school will have a table of information for you to take home plus parent representatives to talk with you about their experiences. This fair is a great time to bring your fifth grader along to explore the various schools. Please be sure to come by the Aurora table and say hi!

If you are unable to make it to the fair please visit to learn more about your EBISA middle school options.

After the fair, choose about 4 to 6 middle schools to visit. You will have to call to schedule a tour and find out when their middle school information night is. Also, be sure to go visit your public school to hear what they are up to.

On Thursday, October 17, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm, Aurora will be hosting a Parent Middle School Information Night in Room 6 for you to hear from our alumni parents who are attending the different EBISA middle schools. In order to have a very honest and candid conversation, students are not invited to this discussion. Instead we will be having an evening for our fifth grade students to hear from Aurora alumni on Thursday, January 16, 2014.

If you are planning on applying to private middle schools, your goal is to identify at least 4 schools to apply to. Application due dates vary so please check with the school for their specific date (usually sometime in mid January) which means that school tours and information nights are completed before the Winter Break.

The 4/5 teachers, Abbie and I will be supporting your family throughout this process. If at anytime you would like to meet with one of us to discuss your thoughts about middle schools, please feel free to contact us.

Hope to see you at the fair!


Lisa Piccione
Director of Admissions

Greetings From Kid Chow

Fulfilling our Mission all Year Round!

For the third year in a row Kid Chow was selected by the Mayor’s office of San Francisco to partner with them to be their summer food service lunch vendor. We have always believed that the healthy local food we prepare should be accessible to all kids. We just wrapped up our final week delivering Kid Chow lunches to low income families at more than 75 San Francisco Community Centers. It’s been a privilege to serve 5,000+ kids a day our local, organic and seasonal fare, fulfilling our mission in a very real and meaningful way. We plan to continue this partnership throughout the school year in both San Francisco and San Mateo counties serving students in after-school programs both snacks and meals as part of the USDA’s Supper Club program.

Introducing Chef Rachel

We are so excited to share the news of our newest team member, Chef Rachel. Hailing from Minnesota and of Peruvian descent, Rachel brings amazing energy and experience to the Kid Chow team. With 20 years of experience in the food industry, Rachel began her culinary career by attending Cenfotour Culinary School in Lima Peru. Rachel has developed global cuisine items for national companies as well as worked with Head Start helping them integrate whole natural nutritious food into their school systems. An early proponent of the farm to table movement and a parent of a teenager herself, Chef Rachel is an ideal fit for Kid Chow and brings great promise of new kid friendly, culturally diverse menu items for upcoming Kid Chow menus. Stay tuned!

Our Rockstar Fall Menu

Our back to school menu promises to be one of our best as we celebrate the flavors of late summer/early fall. We like to start the school year off strong by offering your students a menu chock full of their favorite menu items. We are offering our Bolognese, Mac & cheese, Potstickers, Teriyaki Chicken Wings, Chicken Pesto Flatbread, Chicken Pot Pie, Corndogs, Meatball Grinders, California Rolls, cantaloupe, grapes, juicy plums & pluots, crispy farm fresh apples, steamed broccoli with our homemade hummus and ranch dips, sweet cherry tomatoes and so much more!

Keeping it Local

As a small family owned and operated Bay Area focused business we remain committed to partnering with local businesses to prepare our lunches. Our roster is a proud map of California businesses, Clover dairy for milks, Zoe’s Natural for our deli meats, Mary’s Chicken for our poultry, House of Bagels, Veritable Vegetable for sourcing our local organic produce and Bay Bread (which is made next door to our kitchen and literally pick it up each morning!) We are doing our part to keep our meals delicious and sustainable! Our Ideals in a Lunch BagWe have always believed that kids will eat healthy food if it’s prepared the way they like it and, of course, tastes good. This explains our favorite tagline,” the type of beans in your child’s burrito really matters.” We are deeply proud to be the only lunch provider to offer customized lunches to kids. Lunch customization not only satisfies kids’ palates and makes us the most allergenic friendly lunch program possible but also the most parent-friendly. We recognize that parents appreciate knowing exactly what is in their child’s lunch bag since all of our lunches are hand-packed based on their selections. We genuinely believe that parents should have oversight to what their kids eat so they can teach kids about making good food decisions.

Meaningful School Visits

We’ve always been committed to providing incredibly responsive customer service. We appreciate the feedback we receive and, as a web based lunch program, the majority of our feedback is from parents via email. We’re equally interested in hearing directly from your kids. We think kids should know their opinions matter and that we listen to what they have to say about their lunches. Last year Kid Chow owner, Jamie Feuerman, and our parent liaisons, Heidi and Holly, made dozens of visits to our schools to solicit direct feedback from the trenches. We learned a lot from these visits and plan to head out again this year to stay in touch with your kids. Please let your kids know that we are looking forward to speaking with them and encourage them to share their opinions with us. We also plan to host informal lunch tastings with Chef Rachel as we introduce new items on our menu! 11 years and Counting! As we embark on our 11th Kid Chow year we are committed to being a Bay Area only ‘handson’ family business that is personally connected to the school communities we serve. As we have grown, we have remained true to our artisan roots and each year we thoughtfully introduce changes to make our lunch program even better (more convenient, more local) while maintaining our quality standards and tasty food at reasonable prices. In year 11, we promise your family an outstanding and responsive lunch program that uniquely offers the highest quality, locally sourced, healthy and homespun lunches, with global menu offerings, that have been artisanally prepared and customized as if they had been prepared in your own kitchen. Yes, the type of beans in your child’s burrito really does matter!

Categorized under Aurora Blog, News You Can Use

Dinner Table Topics

Aurora’s 4th & 5th grade teachers give great ideas for “Dinner Table Topics”.

If you have a child who doesn’t volunteer lots of information, here are four ideas to get a conversation going:

Play the never-ending word. The rules are simple: one person starts and says a word
having something to do with the topic (we’ve been playing using California), then the
next person uses the last letter of that word to start another word having something to do
with the topic, and so on. Playing with California is lots of fun! You can even get out a
state map and hunt for words together.

What’s your “blue-cloud cloth”? We had a very touching conversation last week after reading Langston Hughes’ “Dream Keeper” about the idea of keeping ourselves and our feelings safe from the “too-rough fingers of the world”. Tell your child about your blue-cloud cloth. Has it changed over the years? Is it a real thing like a baby blanket you tuck under your pillow or a place or … Where do you feel safe? Where do you feel most at home?

Find a map of the world. Ask your child where we’ve “visited” so far this year. Does s/he remember how to say hello in that country? Does s/he remember what language people speak there? Any other details? If you’ve been out of the United States, tell your child where you’ve been, what you were doing there, and what it looks like. If you’ve been out of the United States together, remind each other of some of the details. Look at the world map together and notice where oceans, continents, and other countries are in relation to the United States. Ask your child why the map of the world in Room 5 is “upside down” (and why that’s in quotation marks).

Follow up on a conversation we had in class on Wednesday about the rest of the year. I actually drew it on a calendar so we could all visualize what’s coming in the five weeks we have left after conferences. We also talked about how kids are feeling about the year coming to a close, a conversation that illustrated beautifully how one person can have very different and conflicting feelings at the same time and how different people in a shared space can be feeling very differently about the same thing. Some of the words that came up were excited (of course!), bittersweet, ambivalent, scared, preparing, worried, relieved, and curious. How is your child feeling? Ask her (or him)!

Summer Reading Event, Thursday May 16

Attention teachers, kids and parents of K-5 readers! We’d like to invite you to Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore for their annual Summer Reading Event coming up on Thursday, May 16 at 6:30 pm. They have lined up three wonderful panelists to present their favorite children’s books for K-5 readers:

Katherine Applegate, winner of the 2013 Newbery for “The One and Only Ivan”, and author of the “Roscoe Riley Rules” series, and “The Animorphs” series.

Mary Ann Scheuer, librarian at Emerson School in Berkeley and blogger at blogspot.

Julia Bourland Chambers, librarian at Berkwood Hedge School in Berkeley.

The children’s book specialists at Mrs. Dalloway’s will also present their picks and all featured books will be 20% off for this night ONLY! Kids are free and tickets are $5.00 for adults, which can be purchased either at the store or over the phone. Tickets can also be redeemed toward any purchase in the store through June 16, 2013.

They’ll have cookies from The Elmwood Cafe, door prizes, an annotated book list, and will be giving away a Kobo e-reader! If you haven’t read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, I hope you get a chance to soon.

See flyer for more details!

Categorized under Aurora Blog, News You Can Use

Aurora School Hosts Girls Leadership Institute

We are very excited to bring the success of Girls Leadership Institute to Aurora School this spring. GLI has provided programs for girls and their parents for over 10 years, focusing on friendships, feelings, apologies, creating healthy boundaries and approaches to conflict, all important skills your daughters will need as they navigate the years ahead. Megan Armstrong, a former Aurora Board Chair and parent of a now sixth grader at Julia Morgan, will lead the 4/5 workshops. Megan is a wonderful role model and a strong, clear, and sensible advocate for girls.

The workshops are open to the general public and signups are limited. If you’re interested or you know a parent-daughter pair who might find them helpful, visit Girls Leadership Institute for more information and to register.


Kindergarten & 1st Grade Weekly Workshop
Wednesdays – 4 Weeks
May 8, 15, 22, and 29

2nd & 3rd Grade Weekly Workshop

Mondays – 4 Weeks
May 6, 13, 20, and June 3

4th & 5th Grade Weekly Workshop

Wednesdays – 4 Weeks
May 8, 15, 22, and 29

Parent Ed Event on February 28: Gender Spectrum

Aurora School is excited to announce a Parent Education event on the evening of Thursday, February 28 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. As a school committed to the success of all of our students we are having a workshop that will help parents gain a fuller understanding of gender diversity. While there has been a great deal of attention in recent years to transgender children and youth, this workshop is focused on gender as it relates to all young people, and as such all parents will gain important insights from the session.

This evening will be focused on a number of outcomes:

Defining terms and concepts related to gender diversity, including gender biology, expression and identity, and distinguishing gender identity and sexual orientation

Understanding gender diversity as a naturally occurring phenomenon, across cultures and throughout history

Hearing perspectives from families who are raising gender independent children and their journeys along this unfamiliar path

Recognizing the need for gender-based training and the responsibilities of school communities to insure that discrimination based on gender does not occur for any student

Identifying strategies for discussing gender with kids at home

Joel Baum, MS, Director of Education at Gender Spectrum will be facilitating the workshop. Gender Spectrum provides education, resources and support to help create a gender sensitive and inclusive environment for all children and teens. They accomplish this mission through school trainings, parent support groups and consultations, an annual Family Conference, and work with medical and mental health care providers, social service agencies, and others working with children and youth and/or their families.

What Happens When We Multiply?

Today’s guest blogger is Aurora’s Curriculum Coordinator, Tony Cifra. Here, he reflects on last week’s parent education night What Happens When We Multiply? which he facilitated. It was a great night and we thank Tony for sharing his thoughts...Tony Cifra, Curriculum Coordinator, Aurora School, Oakland, CA

I’ll never forget being a quiet, shy 3rd grader in that multiplication bee. Our desks, usually lined in rows, were pushed against one side of the classroom. Asked to stand in a large circle, we nervously awaited our multiplication problem, secretly hoping we’d get one with a 0 or 1 in it. With each error a bell tone was heard and a student quickly descended to sitting position at his or her circle spot. The problems’ levels of difficulty progressed. Nervous giggles, accompanied by furrowed brows, were silenced by stern looks from our teacher. My final problem of the day was 9 x 6. My answer? 56.

Although this happened many years ago, I remember as if it happened just yesterday. In the past, I’ve managed to weave a thread of humor through my retelling of this memory. Now, after years of teaching, the humor has been displaced by regret and dissatisfaction.

This past Thursday, I had the privilege of learning alongside 60+ members of our community for an evening of math with a focus on multiplication. Together, we considered our own personal histories as mathematicians, thought deeply about multiplication’s “big ideas” including its commutative, associative, and distributive properties, and we deconstructed the US multiplication algorithm to extend our understanding of the constructivist approach Aurora students encounter each school day.

It’s now four days later, and I’m still responding to a collection of emails I received from that night. The messages include connections to early math experiences, requests for additional resources, and expressions of gratitude that our children can experience an approach that honors process and depth of understanding.

As I continue to reflect on our evening together, I’m reminded that the hallmarks of a constructivist math approach are so clearly aligned with our broader progressive philosophy. As partners on this path, we share a commitment to:

  • developmentally appropriate curricula;
  • curricula focused on depth over breadth in pursuit of specific habits of mind;
  • active engagement;
  • self-reflection as an integral part of the learning process;
  • opportunities to consider and share multiple perspectives;
  • creativity; and
  • fostering a curiosity that beckons us to ask simple, yet significant questions such as: How? Why?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a progressive philosophy is characterized by a warm, welcoming community in which learners feel comfortable sitting with the disequilibrium that occurs naturally throughout the process. Last Thursday night, on my drive home, I was fixated not so much on the math principles we explored, but on the supportive, collegial energy that pervaded the experience. I look forward to future parent education events so that we may continue learning together and also maintain our strong community as partners on this path.

With admiration,

Tony Cifra

Intellectual Struggle across Cultures

Our Curriculum Coordinator, Tony Cifra, shared his thoughts about a segment earlier this week on Morning Edition on NPR: Struggle for Smarts? How Eastern and Western Cultures Tackle LearningTony Cifra, Curriculum Coordinator, Aurora School, Oakland, CA. The segment explores “intellectual struggle” and how it is perceived and addressed quite differently across culture.

Tony shared with the whole staff that he made several connections with the piece. The NPR segment reminds him of . . .

  • Aurora’s overarching value of process over product
  • K/1 teacher, Alexa Eurich exercising her “mistake muscle”
  • Kerry Higuera’s motto in the Art Room: Take Chances, Make Mistakes
  • Head of School, Abbie Koss saying that “disequilibrium” is a natural part of learning
  • Publishing parties and how they celebrate our learning process
  • Stanford Professor Carol Dweck’s research on “growth mindset” and how student feedback should be specific and highlight effort
  • Our Positive Discipline professional development leader, Lori Onderwyzer’s idea of the “Continuum of Change”
  • Conversations that 4/5 teachers Carrie Klein and Helena Vonk facilitated last year about cross-cultural differences
  • First-generation American students (just like Tony!) that we have at Aurora

Tony’s words remind us that we are continually exploring our practice and challenging our assumptions here at Aurora. Thank you, Tony for sharing this interesting piece.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, News You Can Use

A Welcome from Abbie

The quiet buzz of productivity is seeping through the hallways. During recess this morning, the yard was filled with so many joyful faces. It seems many children are thrilled to be back at school. On the yard, teachers are already teaching students new games they learned this summer at our Playworks training. Teachers and students are busy building community while playing games that require strategy.

Today, some students have asked, where did the parallel bars go? Every few years playground safety codes change. When the play structure inspection was completed this year, we found out the parallel bars were no longer in compliance with safety codes because they were placed too close to the rest of the play structure and the building. Therefore, we had to remove them. We know this is disappointing to some, but safety comes first.

It has been a pleasure to watch students getting reacquainted with old friends and teachers and meeting new friends and new teachers. This morning I learned that at least two people in room 6 have chickens at their homes! Excitement fills the air here at Aurora. We are all happy to be back in a supportive learning environment that encourages each of us to bring our personal best to everything we do.

Please remember to read Friday Features each week so you know what is going on at Aurora. Please join us for assemblies Tuesday mornings from 8:45-9:00 am, if work permits. There are two informative parent/guardian evening events coming up this month that I encourage all of you to attend. There are also grade level potlucks this month that we encourage you to attend to get to know other parents in your child’s classroom. All dates will be in Friday Features this week.

We welcome those of you who want to join us on the yard in the morning, however please remember NOT to park in the Aurora/HNHS driveway. These spaces are reserved for staff. Please DO NOT PARK IN THE RED ZONE at the bottom of the driveway, people driving into the driveway might hit your car. Crossing the driveway on foot is dangerous too. There is ample parking on the street for those of you who want to park and come into the yard.

It was a pleasure to see so many of you this morning. We are thrilled to have you all back for another enriching year at Aurora!

We will see you at 1:00 pm on the front steps, unless your child is going to aftercare.


Categorized under Aurora Blog, News You Can Use