Sunnyside Environmental School... I've now graduated two years ago from SES. I started in Kindergarten and finished through 8th grade. Would you say that I wasted nine years of my life? Some would say yes some would say no. K-3rd grade were easy because I didn't have to learn or do anything yet. In 4th grade I had to write complete sentences and do multiplication problems, I knew nothing because SES didn't set me up. 5th grade was very concerning for my parents because I hadn't learned nearly enough yet to go to middle school. My parents wanted to transfer me to Mt. Tabor middle school; I begged them and cried not to do it because I was so attached to all my friends at SES. When middle school came it was barley enough education. This is concerning, I only had two periods 3 times a week. Math and Spanish and they were only an hour long. I had Science, PE and Art once a week for 45 minutes each. At the end of 8th grade I had my first final and it was to name 25 native plants to Oregon. I knew I needed to change my life around so I applied to a private High School I wouldn't recommend this school unless you're a hippie and you don't care about your child's life.
My family is relocating to Portland and Sunnyside was one of the 10 schools I was excited about visiting. Unfortunately it was the only school out of the 10 that was rude. I walked into the office and politely introduced myself. A woman with a name badge on, Kristy Pearson-Denning, came over to speak to me. She told me that we would be welcome there, but he teachers wouldn't like it if we did. She recommended that we move to the East side of Portland and when I said that this was the neighborhood I was interested in, she told me "not to have an attitude" about the East side of Portland. She advised me that it was very expensive in the Sunnyside neighborhood and that all the people coming to Portland have "pushed the poor people out to the East". Ironic words, since that is where she advised me to go. I asked if I should basically avoid this neighborhood when I look at houses and she backtracked a bit. You couldn't pay me to send my children to this school. The office was so rude and unorganized and it was clear we were not wanted. Good thing the other 9 elementary schools I visited were warm and welcoming. If her plan was to keep a nice, involved family out, she has succeeded.
Our child is finishing up her second year at SES. She is excited about school every single day. I firmly believe this is because her teachers make the teaching "come alive" in real ways for children through their Storyline approach and integrated curriculum. the learning is deeper, and more meaningful, than in most traditional schools. My only concern about the school is the open campus set-up. I do worry about safety during recess and would love to see this concern addressed.
Sunnyside is an amazing school. I am in 7th grade and have been at the school since kindergarten. It is great!!!!!!!!!
The jury is out on this school. I have found with the assistance of an advocate, the school is willing to be more cooperative and collaborative. The dynamics of personality and professionalism are another issue. The special education staff are "generalists" and tend to clump, rather than think outside the box. The principal is open minded and dedicated to supporting a strong academic focus for all the students at her school Her youth and training are a definate asset. It would be great if the school had an accommodation specialist- who truly could provide a range of alternatives. My advocate provided the name of a book for teachers and their aides to use in better understanding how to help children. It is clear my child's aide did not read the book, nor did the special education teacher.
There are some wonderful things about this school such as teaching social responsibility and the importance of protecting our environment but they give out an incredible amount of homework (in middle school at least) and offer no tutoring/after school assistance. If your child has any difficulties academically this is not a good school for you.
After 3 unsuccessful years at SES we have finally decided to move our child to a private school. In our opinion the first and foremost thing teachers in early grades have to do is to make children enjoy learning. The school failed on this big time. The homework assignments were easy but complex (most of the time spend with cutting and gluing than actually learning useful information), and they were rarely graded or returned; this lack of feedback severely undermines learning. The teachers and the principal behaved in ways that will never earn kids' respect, not a good social model. Big emphasis was placed on things that seemed inconsequential (like not wanting to stomp in mud!?). Starting at the private school mid-year she barely qualified to be in her grade (even with once a week private tutoring for 2 yrs). We don't understand how kids can learn in the chaos reigning at SES. All the "great" things SES offers are things parents do at home. I expect a school to teach study habits, self-governance, how to be part of society at large, general knowledge, and reading, writing, and arithmetic. SES is a fail in those areas. If you want your kids to succeed later, look elsewhere.
My child is thriving at Sunnyside Environmental. I would say it's not for every child or parent. There seems to be more emphasis on the whole child, and this is definitely not a "kill and drill" environment. I love the emphasis on personal responsibility and respect within the student body. The culture is unique, creative, and loving. My kid looks forward to going to school, and that says it all.
Sunnyside Environmental School is a beautiful community for hands on learning. Our daughter transferred there during 3rd grade, She is now finishing 5th grade with a passion for reading, creative writing and the natural world. She loves her school and teachers. She has a deep sense of community. Morning "Gathering" is a time for singing and joy. She has ownership and pride in her school work. There is a emphasis on community service, right action and global awareness. The structure is a bit informal, but it encourages student autonomy and creativity on many levels. Perhaps it is not the right choice for every family, but it has been an amazing blessing for us. Long live Sunnyside and its devoted teachers & staff!!!!
My son graduated from SES 2 years ago. He made great friends, had a good experience, but he didn't learn a thing. With little emphasis on academics or studying for the 3 years he was there, he consequently crashed his freshman year of high school. It took months for him to catch up with his peers from other middle schools. He had no study habits as they were not a requirement at SES. Despite the fact it is an environmental sciences school, my son and his SES friends scored poorly in their freshman biology class that was based on NW ecology and environment. Some of the middle school teachers are good, few are great, and a couple make me wonder why they are teachers in the first place. The math program under Sarah Taylor was sub-par. I hope it has improved with Amy. The mandatory weekly neighborhood field trips were a waste of time. There were no textbooks. The district based curriculum was ignored. And morning meeting was a social club, not a class. In case people wonder if perhaps my son had a poor experience because he is not a strong student, he is now at Cleveland earning A's and B's. His younger brother is at Mt. Tabor with text books, microscopes, and consistent teaching.
We adored SES under the watchful care of Sarah Taylor. Current Principal Amy Kleiner & her cohort Rebecca Wagner are systematically changing all that was amazing and inclusive at SES...weekly MS field studies, those famous all school spring musicals, personal fundraising to bring down the (sometimes prohibitive) cost of field trips & overnighters, open communication between parents & administration... Sad. This WAS a fantastic opportunity for our kids, but we (along with MANY others) are transferring our kids next year. Hands on learning, kindness, focus & community are all but extinguished under the new regime.
SES is a school where chaos seems to reign & every day there is at least one event happening that belongs in an episode of "Portlandia". From the escaping chickens out front, to the pig they 'housed' early this year (without a permit), everything seems haphazard at best. Despite the principal's "vision", she is very hands-off, & spends much of her time in developing countries working as a lay midwife. The priorities do not seem to be in guiding the school toward excellence. There is an "anything goes/ it's all good" attitude & as a parent, I can see why kids like it. As a parent who wants accountability, it has been very detrimental for my kids' sense of what is acceptable for finished projects & behavior. I would not recommend this school beyond (perhaps) the first grade level, altho' there are several lower grade teachers who are very committed. The overall atmosphere lacks any structure.
SES is an amazing school. Our child LOVES going to school every day and the quality of education is outstanding. The direction on academics is progressive. You will not see worksheets or textbooks at the center of any curriculum. These children learn by doing and not just by reading about this world. This school stretches far beyond the basics. The teachers are some of the hardest working people we've ever met. They consistently go above and beyond for their students. There is true caring at this school! We feel blessed to be a part of this school.
My child just entered kindergarten this year at Sunnyside. The experience thus far has been outstanding. My child has been safe and has developed a true love for schools and learning. I am relieved that my daughter will be at this school for her k-8. Not only is she excelling in reading, writing and math, she gets to leave the brick walls on a regular basis and see the world outside.
Sunnyside offers holistic, hands-on education that focuses on sustainability and community. Students are well prepared to be future leaders and compassionate well rounded people.
I attended sunnyside for 6th-8th grade and i loved it. The parents say we didnt learn anything, but i took so much away from SES. There is a community and a sense of belonging that you can't find anywhere else. I had a incredible math and spanish teachers my last year at SES and now am in honors. All my teachers were amazing all 3 years. I can say that without a doubt that sunnyside made me a stronger, confidant and more involved person than before. It has made me concious of the challenges we face and given me the desire to make a diffrence. Most every student took valuable life skills away from SES. Im not saying SES is for everyone, its not. im in High school and i've had no trouble at all
I was very excited for my daughter to attend SES initially, especially since it took me two years to get her in. I have been very disappointed with my daughters experience at this school. There seems to be a lack of structure in every department. The curriculum is very weak and I feel as if my daughter has regressed academically. I feel the school is disorganized, that reflects in the execution of the courses. I am very sorry to say I actually regret sending my daughter there. I will be honest, there are some good courses there, as well as great field trips (if you can afford them), but all in all again, hate to say it, but I am very disappointed.
Sunnyside has a great community of teachers, parents, students, and neighbors. It has a wonderful curriculum with outdoor learning, field projects, gardening, and community service.
I went to Sunnyside for seventh and eighth grade and it totally changed my life. I have been more confident and more able to navigate the rest of my school career because of the base they provided for me.
My wife and I transferred our daughter into Sunnyside Environmental in 6th grade. She has just begun her 7th grade year. I first want to say that this school is not for every child or every family. It requires a child who is diligent, self-starting, adventuresome, and creative. With that said, our daughter loves the school and is thriving there. The faculty is exceptional, the principal and her administrative staff are caring and expose the children to curriculum, field studies, volunteer projects, and art in a way that cannot be experienced in any other school in Portland. I should also point out that my wife and I have two other children enrolled at Winterhaven School (math and science magnate) and feel it is also an exceptional school and is a very good fit for them. Sunnyside is not for every child but if you have a child with a lot of creativity who loves to read, write, explore their surroundings, and collaborate to find workable solutions to big problems, then you should visit Sunnyside to see if it is a fit for you and your child.
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