What’s it Like to be a Family of Color in the Aurora Community?

An invitation to prospective parents from our Head of School, Abbie Koss. Mark your calendars and plan to join us for what promises to be a very interesting conversation.

Diversity Discussion

Wednesday, January 13
9:00 – 10:00 am
Aurora School Library
RSVP here
(Adults only please)

There are many ways to be a leader, and we at Aurora School believe students should practice them all. Every day, we give students of different ages opportunities to work together side-by-side and learn from one another what it means to step up academically and socially. The world needs leaders who are as heart smart as they are head smart, and that’s precisely how Aurora graduates are described when they go on to the schools of their choice.

I am proud of the many ways that Aurora School encourages leadership among our students. Perhaps I am most proud of how our staff and students genuinely appreciate and embrace diversity. One look around our campus reinforces what we already know: open mindedness and an appreciation for differences uniquely prepares students to be compassionate leaders in their adolescent and adult years and benefits the community as a whole.

I am writing to extend a personal invitation to you to join us for a discussion about how we honor diversity every day at Aurora School. On Wednesday, January 13th from 9:00 to 10:00 am, I hope you will join me along with Aurora staff and current parents. Together we will talk openly and honestly about what it’s like to be a family of color at Aurora School. This event is designed specifically for parents considering Aurora for their children of color, but all parents are welcome.

We are hosting this conversation to connect with families who are looking for a truly inclusive community for their child and we hope to gather as many prospective parents as possible. We hope you can join us. Please RSVP to our Admissions Director, Lisa Piccione.

I look forward to seeing you on January 13th and wish you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Abbie Koss
Head of School

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Parent Education Event:
How to Talk to Your Kids about Race

Mark your calendars and plan on joining us for a fascinating evening. Aurora is hosting this event which is free and open to the public. (Tell your friends! Bring your neighbors!)

How to Talk with Your Kids about Race

An adults-only evening with Allison Broscoe-Smith, PhD
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
6:30-8:00 pm
Aurora School
RSVP here

When Do You Talk to Kids about Race? What Do You Say?

This workshop is designed to help parents unpack and uncover the ways in which they can approach the subject of race with their children and stay consistent with their own family values.race.talk.border

Parents, teachers, and caregivers will come away with:

  • an understanding of basic developmental awareness of children in regards to race
  • a grasp of what implicit bias is and how it impacts our children
  • support in thinking about HOW we want to engage with children about the topic of race

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear
each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know
each other because they have not communicated with each other.”

-Martin Luther King Jr.

About the Presenter

Allison Briscoe-Smith, PhD, allison.briscoe-smith.border.small is a psychologist who received her undergraduate training in social psychology from Harvard and her clinical degree in children’s psychology from U.C. Berkeley. She has worked directing nonprofit mental health programs for children in foster care, as a professor of psychology, and as a director of a broad array of mental health and other supportive services for Children’s Hospital Oakland. Dr. Briscoe-Smith is originally from Hawaii, and has also lived and traveled in the Caribbean.

For More Information

Please contact Head of School, Abbie Koss.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Aurora, 25 Years

A poem in honor of Aurora’s 25th birthday written by Aurora’s own Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet with Erich Stonestreet

The first class formed a circle,
drew out their selves, portraits
bold, hesitant, reaching:

carefully traced hands,
eyes brown or blue, mouths
boasting proud new teeth, faces

emerging from between the leaves
of the cut-paper tree, its branches
growing out across the hall,

and under the lowest bough
that near-hidden place
where one year and the next

they whispered, read, thought,
wept: alone, together,
in the arms of a teacher, a friend—

They’re grown now, still growing,
returning. A sweet sameness
to the place—the sound of it

when a child rings the bell,
and sings, and the applause
rises up, up, through the school,

through every room.
It is no small thing, to be granted
a space to become. To be.

Quarter-turn of a century later, our own
children’s faces shine from another
construction-paper tree, anchored

by this year’s roots, entwined,
reaching, back and in and down
to the place where we gather

to remind ourselves simply that we are
here, together, all a family
under one sky: this sky that today

receives our voices, rising up
out of what has become, by this
ordinary magic, our shared home.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

25th Birthday Shirts for Sale

Own a piece of Aurora history! Wouldn’t you like to have a shirt to share your love for Aurora with whole world? We are ordering a limited run of chocolate brown short sleeve t-shirts celebrating Aurora’s 25th birthday. Shirts are 100% heavy-weight cotton and cost $20 each regardless of size. Orders must be placed by Monday, June 23, 2014.Laurie.Chocolate.Shirt.jpg DEADLINE has been extended to Monday, July 14th.

Pick your sizes and pay with your credit card or PayPal account. Please add a “Note to Seller” at the end of your PayPal transaction to let us know your name and contact information and we’ll be in touch when the shirts arrive over the summer.

Thanks for sharing the love!

Questions? Contact Rachel Siegel, Development and Marketing Director

Let the shopping begin . . .

Kids’ Sizes

Women’s Sizes

Men’s Sizes

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Annie Barrows Visits Aurora!

We are excited to be hosting two special author events this spring to celebrate Aurora’s 25th birthday! In April, we hosted the multiple Newbery Honor winner, author Jennifer Holm. And in May, we will have the author of the popular Ivy + Bean series as well as The New York Times #1 adult title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Let’s celebrate!

A Visit from Annie Barrows:
An Event for Aurora Students and their Families

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
1:00 to 1:45 pm
Aurora School Auditorium

Annie Barrows

About the Author

Annie Barrows grew up in Northern California, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Medieval History. Unable to find a job in the middle ages, she decided upon a career as an editor, eventually landing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, where she was in charge of “all the books that nobody in their right mind would publish.” After earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Mills College, Annie wrote a number of books for grown-ups about such diverse subjects as fortune-telling (she can read palms!), urban legends (there are no alligators in the sewer!), and opera (she knows what they’re singing about!). In 2003, Annie grew weary of grown-ups, and began to write for kids, which she found to be way more fun. She is the author of the immensely popular Ivy + Bean series.


Signed by the Author

If you are interested in autographed copies of Annie’s books, please contact our librarian, Kathy Shepler, by Tuesday, May 13.

For More Information

Please contact our school librarian, Kathy Shepler.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

The Adoptive Family/Birth Family Connection: Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion

Join us for a fascinating evening for adoptive families and their allies. Aurora is hosting this event which is free and open to the public. (Tell your friends! Bring your neighbors!)

The screening of the film Extended Family will be followed by a panel discussion featuring filmmaker Jill Hodges, adult adoptees, and both adoptive and birth parents.

Friday, April 25, 2014
Aurora School
RSVP here (This is an adults-only evening.) In the event that the RSVP link doesn’t work for you, please email Abbie Koss and let her know that you’re planning to come.

Should Adoptive Families Search for Birth Families?

Extended Family is a short documentary about connections between adoptive and birth families. This personal story explores the question of whether adoptive parents Extended Family Postcard, April 25, 2104, Aurora School, Oakland, CAshould search for and connect with their children’s birth families—and what happens when they do.

What Others Have to Say

This touching account of an American mother searching out the family of her adopted son in Guatemala surfs the edges of fear, danger and deeper love for all family members, on both sides of the adoption. – Anna Darrah, Director of Acquisitions, Spiritual Cinema Circle

This short film packs a wallop.
Beth Hall, Co Author, Inside Transracial Adoption, Director, Pact

Beautiful, tender, open, honest, curious, vulnerable, and absolutely lovely.
Eliaichi Kimaro, Filmmaker/Activist

From Writer and Director Jill Hodges

I set out to make this video to explore the questions and issues that came up for me after my husband and I adopted our son from Guatemala. It wasn’t until I was actually in Guatemala to complete the adoption process that I began to see and struggle with the issues that come from adopting across countries, cultures and socioeconomic classes.

I returned to Guatemala to work on an education project hoping to somehow help improve the circumstances that left women with limited options when they got pregnant.jill.hodges.border While I was there, I met a “searcher” who connects adoptive and birth families, and began thinking about whether we should try to connect with our son’s mother now, when we have a better chance of finding her, or if we should wait until he was old enough to decide for himself. We decided to search, and the process raised many of the issues that are at the center of this video: Do the birth mothers want to hear from us? Do we put them in danger by contacting them? Who should drive the relationship (us, our young kids, the birth mother)? What can we or should we do if we find our child’s family living in brutal conditions? How do you avoid setting up some expectations that your child may or may not want to fulfill when he gets older? Ultimately, the film is about mothers—birth and adoptive—trying to figure out how to do what’s right for their kids.

For More Information

Please contact Abbie Koss.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Jennifer Holm Visits Aurora!

We are thrilled to be hosting two special author events this spring in honor of Aurora’s 25th birthday! The celebration begins on Monday, April 21, with Jennifer L. Holm, a multiple Newbery Honors winner and New York Time bestselling children’s author.

Monday, April 21, 2014
10:00 to 10:30 am
Aurora School Auditorium

About the Author

Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm are the brother and sister team of two graphic novel series that are packed with humor and kid appeal — the popular Babymouse and the bestselling Squish series. Jennifer is also the author of several historical fiction novels for middle-grade readers, including Penny From Heaven, a 2007 Newbery Honor Book. In addition to her all-school presentation, during her visit, Jennifer will also be spending some time separately with our 4th and 5th graders. Together they will talk about writing historical fiction.


“When I was a kid, I liked to read. A lot. One of our neighbors said recently that his clearest memory of me as a child was watching me rake the lawn one-handed while I read a book with the other!” – Jennifer L. Holm

Coming Soon

Stay tuned for the date and time in May, where we’ll welcome Annie Barrows, the author of the popular Ivy + Bean series, as well as the New York Times #1 adult title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

For More Information

Please contact our school librarian, Kathy Shepler.

Specialist Monthly Newsletter – February & March 2014


We are in a music theory unit for all of the grade levels at Aurora School. Kids are learning about the staff and treble clef, and working on memorizing all of the note names in the treble clef. We’ve been doing this through stories and games, and in particular some stories featuring Freddie the Frog (who lives on the F line in the treble clef). We are also working on learning and composing with whole, half, quarter and eighth notes, as well as the quarter note rest.

K/1s spent much of February and March perfecting their play songs and choreography. Room 3 additionally took time to choose and compose musical sounds for their characters.

2/3s continue to work on recorder, which we have been using as our main tool for reading and playing music.

4/5s have been through a process to choose what they will be singing for Graduation. I always learn more about popular music from the kids during this time, as they bring in their favorite songs and we listen to and discuss lyrics and melody.

In K/1 movement we have been playing games with hula hoops and carpet squares, as well as our usual scarf and ribbon fun. We have just added bean bags to the mix which is fun – kicking, balancing, and catch and toss. – Eve


K-3: The younger grades spent some time in February looking at other award winners from the American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference such as the Geisel Award for the best beginning reader of 2013. Then we began one of the best-loved units of the year, the California Young Reader Medal competition. Together we read 5 books nominated for the CYRM picture book category and then students voted for their favorite. Each student’s vote was forwarded to Sacramento where the votes are tallied. A winner will be announced in late April. Everyone enjoys being a real judge for the winner.

4/5: In the older grades, we also spent some time on other award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards for 2013, such as the Newbery Award for the most distinguished writing for young people. We reviewed the criteria for the award and learned all about the four books that won a medal this year. We’ve also spent a good amount of time on sharing favorite recent reading with each other and identifying titles to add to the Aurora Library. And the “behind closed doors” bookshelves are such a wonderful hit with the 4/5 students. Those books are the titles that are reserved for only the older readers getting ready for middle school and they are so popular! We’ve also added quite a few older reader graphics that are equally popular. Our “young adult” section is humming with enthusiastic readers.

During the last two months we have also completed our hand-made booklets to hold our “Fiction Genre” study coming up. Everyone created a single signature of pages, hand-sewed the pages together and attached them to the “hard cover” boards also of their making. They look beautiful and will be the perfect home for our study of six specific fiction genres coming up next month. – Kathy


Ceramics was the name of the game for the month of February in the Art Room across all grades. We delved into the skills of coiling, pinching, modeling, and slab building. During the process of learning the properties of working with the clay we then added textures, details, and our own style. Glazing and firing the kiln is always a highlight. It is sort of magical to watch students go through the process that requires a certain amount of patience, for a big reward. They are very proud of their work, sharing it with their fellow classmates.

The month of March brought our artists into exploring other media:

4/5 students began acrylic painting, a real highlight of the year. This year we focused on various methods to create a more “painterly” look (rather than our paintings looking like they were “colored in” like in a coloring book.)

2/3 students worked on a scratch paper art project, discovering ways to add pattern and texture to their drawings of animals. We studied various artists from Aboriginal art to engravings by Stephen Alcorn and discussed how these artists achieved this effect.

K/1 students continued to explore their classroom theme of oceans/water by creating multi layered ocean collages, using a variety of media to create depth and texture.

Integrated Art was focused on the 4/5 classrooms in February, studying the human skeleton. In the Art Room we talked about the wide variety of jobs that exist for artists in the fields of Bio Medical Visualization (Medical Illustration) and how it crosses over from hand drawing to computer work. For our practice we carefully observed a human skeleton and skull and practiced sketching with awareness.

Integrated Art in March was focused on the 2/3 classrooms and their study of People Who Make a Difference. In the Art Room, each week, we looked at the way artists can make a difference. From a study of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) we took a stroll around the school discussing and noting how our school includes people of all abilities and what changes we can make to make it more accessible. This led us into designing a playground that would include everyone – a boundless playground. We also studied Rachel Carson and her contributions to environmental awareness. We made “seed balls” of indigenous wildflowers that attract birds and butterflies that we threw (planted) throughout our community. Our final week was focused on the artist Hundertwasser and his contribution to environmental activism through his posters and the way he lived his life. We created our own posters in response to issues we personally believe in and would like to see changed. – Kerry


It’s been a lot of fun in computers this month! The 2/3s continued using Storybird. Students chose artwork from a gallery of beautiful illustrations and created their own story, including characters and dialogue. After they finished them up, they shared them with you…be sure to check your email inbox This creative writing exercise has been a fun way for students to practice their typing skills and allow our writers to create a story from artwork rather than an idea of their own.

The 4/5s have been hard at work with their state project. They were introduced to Britannica for Kids the first week of March. Room 5 researched Alaska’s geography and Room 6 researched Hawaii’s geography. They gathered information and made notes in preparation for an in-class writing assignment. Each class since then has been spent gathering research for their state project, formatting their paragraphs, and typing up their author connections and bibliographies. Great work 4/5s! – Nikki


As always, we’ve been having a wonderful time in woodshop these past few months!

Our biggest project so far was the abacus. With 2 rows of 10 beads, we were able to start practicing addition and subtraction. The students worked hard to build these complex math machines, and they were then given the opportunity to brainstorm their own math problems. Not surprisingly, many creative problems appeared on the woodshop dry erase board. 10+10-2? No problem! Let’s count the beads!

In the era of smartphones and tablets, an abacus may seem archaic, even to a first grader. However, making our own tools helps to strengthen understanding and empowerment, and hopefully, enthusiasm for the task at hand!

Next up, we’ll be building wooden brick houses for the island project. This project consists of an imaginary community that we build from the ground up on a model island in the middle of the ocean. – Alex


This is Coach Scott with the PE update. Before the February break, we had a great time re-visiting Capture the Flag. This is always a favorite and is a great teamwork activity.

We had been working for a long time on lacrosse and have just recently reached the culmination of our Lacrosse unit. We played ‘steal the bacon lacrosse’ in which the students had the opportunity to show what they had learned. The ‘scoops’, ‘shots’, and ‘passing’ were done very nicely and all of the students made improvements in their hand eye coordination.

Next up we have Basketball. In this unit students will learn how to :

1. Dribble
2. Pass
3. Shoot
4. Steal
5. Defend

I truly love teaching the basketball unit and am excited to get started! – Coach Scott


K/1s have been learning about different shapes, body parts and, “La Ropa”. They are going to be designers creating their own clothing. They have been solving crosswords and playing memory cards. They know more words in Spanish, and some of them can create short silly phrases.

2/3s have been learning about “the city” and directions. They have created their own maps and added the names of different places in Spanish. In April, they will be exploring how to navigate in a city where people speak only Spanish. Students made a word-search in Spanish for Aurora. Please find the instructions to solve it in the auditorium on the Spanish bulletin board.

4/5s have been learning about professions and verbs. They had an intense month learning how to conjugate verbs in Spanish. They created a song and learned a lot. Fifth graders made a video about members of their families. It will show at an assembly in April. I will send you the date soon.

You are always welcome to be part of any Spanish class; please feel free to contact me in advance to let me know when you want to join us. – Tania

Aurora’s Online Auction Needs YOU!

The Auction is on and we have yet another opportunity to take notice of the tremendous support our community and families provide to Aurora School. Thanks to their generous donations, Aurora’s Annual Online Auction is open for bidding through 10:00pm on Wednesday, March 26. Visit now at www.biddingforgood.com/auroraschool. Today is Day Five and we’re already a third of the way to our goal! Let’s keep the bidding alive. Invite friends, co-workers, neighbors and family. Thanks to our generous sponsor, Liz Dalrymple from Merrill Lynch, nearly all of the auction proceeds directly support students and teachers.

The key to remember when bidding is that this is a FUNDRAISER where we come together as a community to support the learning at our school. Partaking in some friendly bidding competition is just a bonus (and super fun)! Keep a close eye on the auction to watch your progress. We know without a doubt that there is something for everyone!


When you visit the auction site, pay special attention to the Aurora Fun section. This piece of the auction is an incredible gift from our teachers, and a win all around. The teachers offer up their personal time to go out and spend some time with kids out of the classroom, just having fun. Students have a great time and we fund important programs at our school. Thank you to the staff for participating. Aurora kids are looking forward to yoga, hiking, hitting up a movie, and going to Fairyland with their teachers. Some even want to take a crack at Abbie’s job! If you haven’t purchased your child’s bonus opportunity to hang with their teacher, quick…visit the Aurora Fun items now before you miss out! There’s even a great chance for this year’s first graders to hang out with their future second grade teachers!

Or maybe YOU want to have some fun with a teacher, outside of the school setting? Did you know that an evening of wine tasting could help your child’s experience at school? Take advantage of this second annual night out to enjoy great wine, good food and good conversation with our incredibly friendly and fun staff! That definitely sounds like a win-win. This year, there are several other fun gatherings being offered up. Take a look at the Unique Experiences section to see for yourself.

You can also support Aurora through the Fund-a-Need, a wish list of items requested by our staff. Your contribution to these items is a direct way to help Aurora students and teachers. Take a look at our Fund-a-Need to see what our teachers are dreaming about. Please note, Fund-a-Need contributions are tax deductible.

Before you go, don’t forget to take a Curtain Call. It’s time for a new stage curtain in our auditorium. We have 129 students and if each family puts in $16 for each of their kids, we’ll have the whole curtain! (That’s 4 square feet each.) Please take a Curtain Call and help us meet our goal!

Click on over to www.biddingforgood.com/auroraschool and begin shopping. There are over 250 items to bid on from so many generous donors, so shop early and often! Remember that all proceeds from the Aurora Online Auction benefit Aurora kids and Aurora’s programs.

Special thanks go to Maury Boswell, Keri Levy, Joey and Carla Macapinlac, Rachel Siegel and their helpers and volunteers who contributed their time and talent. They have been hard at work for months and the result is a great shopping and helping experience for all of us.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

The Connected Family: Navigating the Tech World With Young Children

Mark your calendars and plan on joining us for a fascinating evening. Aurora is hosting this event which is free and open to the public. (Tell your friends! Bring your neighbors!)

The Connected Family: Navigating the Tech World with Young Children
An adults-only evening with Jason Brand
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Aurora School
RSVP here

Is This About Screen Time?

Yes, this is about the screen time question, but it’s also about so much more. How do we keep true to the values we want for our family in a world full of technology? The Connected Family Postcard, February 26, 2104, Aurora School, Oakland, CAIt’s a digital dilemma. This workshop is designed to help parents maximize the good and limit the areas of concern when it comes to digital play and learning.

Join us for an opportunity to:

  • Define your family’s values around digital gadgets, gizmos and game-players
  • Figure out how much screen time is “right” for your child
  • Discuss smart limits around games and sites with inappropriate content
  • Understand when and how to introduce new technology into your child’s life
  • Learn to support your child in knowing what to do if inappropriate online activity comes his or her way.

About the Presenter

Jason Brand, LCSW, Jason Brand, LCSW, February 26, 2104, Aurora School, Oakland, CAis a family therapist in Berkeley and the author of 1 to 1 at Home: A Parent’s Guide to School-Issued Laptops and Tablets. In addition to his psychotherapy practice, he specializes in providing support to families in a rapidly changing world where digital technologies are transforming our lives. He works closely with many school communities through his organization ConnectedSTAR which promotes safety, trust, awareness, and respect in the digital age. In his private practice, Jason counsels families with children and adolescents.

For More Information

Please contact Rachel Siegel.

Categorized under Aurora Blog, Aurora Happenings

Next Page »