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Sunnyside Elementary School

Sunnyside Elementary in San Francisco serves a highly diverse population of students in kindergarten through fifth grade. AFT President Randi Weingarten visited the school on the union's 2009 Back-to-School Tour.

In addition to 15 classroom teachers, Sunnyside employs a large team of part-time professionals including a librarian, a PE coach, a psychologist, teacher assistants, music teachers and performing arts instructors. Parents, volunteers and student-teachers from San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco often work with teachers in the classroom. Sunnyside also has a special education department, a division to assist students with language needs, and a talented-and-gifted program.

An impressive focus at Sunnyside is the arts. Together with Kid Serve, local poet Gail Newman and Flyaway Productions, Sunnyside exposes students to arts education across five major disciplines: visual arts, music, dance/movement, creative writing and theater. Through the artist-in-residence program, the school participates in an annual schoolwide project. Working with LEAP (Learning through an Expanded Arts Program), students also engage in hands-on arts activities throughout the year. One recent project was the Peace Wall, for which each student, teacher and staff member decorated a ceramic tile. Tiles were then compiled to create a permanent mural on the school playground.

Sunnyside students visit local museums, learn from their specially trained teachers about great works of art and respond analytically to those works. Students also benefit from similar experiences in music and performing arts thanks to the school’s partnerships with the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet. Sunnyside’s Adventures in Music program brings four concerts to the school each year and takes students on an annual field trip to the symphony. The ballet works with second-graders and offers some students scholarship opportunities. Finally, creative writing is showcased in an annual literary journal; in its first year, “The Ray” debuted at about 70 pages.

Sunnyside ensures that all students learn about the sciences in the classroom or on field trips. First-graders visit Mission High School four times each year to participate in various science activities. Second-graders benefit from the cooperation of San Francisco State, which sends science students to visit Sunnyside several times a year and lead students in engaging experiments. For older students, specialists from the Working to Improve Science Education program visit each week. Throughout the year, Sunnyside teachers receive training at the California Science Teachers Convention.

Other hallmarks of the school include a thorough leadership development program in which students perform different school and classroom jobs. Students also participate in a daily fitness regimen. Parental and community involvement is crucial at Sunnyside. For example, a technology committee is working on acquiring upgraded equipment for the school, and volunteers lead students in a daily recess activity. Parents and teachers also are developing a “learning garden,” where students can garden and learn about the life cycle. Sunnyside shows how exposing students to fundamental academic disciplines and partnering with numerous organizations go a long way toward producing well-rounded young people.


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