"The purpose of school is not to get good at school." - Grant Wiggins

Welcome from the Head of Middle School

Dear PKS Families (present and future),

Our school is entering a period of growth and maturation. We are already well into changes to our physical plant that, when finished, will leave us with the most beautiful, cutting edge (not to mention second largest) private school campus in San Francisco. We continue to hone our progressive, child-centered curriculum. And, of course, we are preparing to open our middle school program in August 2018.

This transformation of the school is a perfect reflection of what the children who enter our middle school program will experience. Middle schoolers go through profound cognitive, physical, and emotional changes; in fact, the metamorphoses that typically occur from around eleven to fourteen are matched only by the changes that occur in the first 18 months of life. But unlike babies, pre-teens are (painfully) self aware. Their job, in many ways, is to push parents away, to challenge limits, and to dive into a new identity.

In other words: get ready to welcome an entirely new person into your life.

As a small, family-focused, progressive school, PKS is the perfect place to help kids and families navigate the hardest and most wondrous moments of these crucial years. The Chinese phrase for puberty is 青春期, which literally means “clear spring period.” We love the positive connotations of 青春期 because we believe puberty should be a time of growing clarity, and should be a time of verdant, life-affirming growth. But too often, middle schoolers feel possibilities closing rather than opening.

At PKS, we believe that during middle school it is more important than ever to instill children with a growth mindset, to keep them open-minded and connected. Our middle school program will be a place that ensures every child is confident and humble, as well as embraces challenge and tries again and again.  Above all, it will be a place where every child loves learning.

Please explore our website, give us a call, or drop by for a visit. We look forward to meeting you!

In friendship,


Read more about Mike Levy.

Philosophy and Approach

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Middle school is a unique and critical time of development for all children. At the PKS Middle School, students will develop a strong, positive sense of self through meaningful relationships and real-world connections. Our graduates will transform the world as curious and compassionate global citizens, capable of drawing connections in multiple languages and building bridges between the two countries that will most profoundly impact the 21st century.

We understand middle school students need real-world learning contexts and novel experiences. Our Middle Schoolers will connect with diverse people and share their perspectives in authentic ways. We understand that during these early adolescent years, children start to transition from childhood to adulthood, and research shows that (1) after infancy, this is the greatest and most sensitive period of cognitive growth; and (2) outside early childhood, this is the only other period in which our brains experience a pruning period -- our sense of self, our understanding of our relation to others, and indeed our sense of purpose become largely hard-wired in middle school. 

Our program is built upon these neurocognitive realities. We embrace the social, emotional, personal, academic, and physical journey of all students with a developmentally-appropriate, rigorous, and interdisciplinary approach to learning.

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Guided by these core beliefs and our school’s mission, we have built a joyful, inquiry-based immersion-learning experience that will allow young adolescents to discover their voice, passions, and confidence. 

The process of creating this program began in the spring of 2016. Our Middle School Planning Committee embarked on an extensive learning tour to understand the current landscape of progressive, immersion, and middle school best practices, challenges, and innovations. Building on the learning from school visits, we integrated neuroscience of adolescent development and research on effective learning environments to define the core design principles for our middle school program. With these pillars in place, we focused on finding a unique leader to join and lead our journey a year before our launch. And in July 2017, we welcome experienced educator and thought leader Mike Levy as our founding Head of Middle School.

As a new school, we are unencumbered by legacies of the past. We are able to bring to life a program based on all that 21st century research has to teach.

Program at a Glance

  • August 2018 launch with Grade 6
  • Grades 6 to 8 with 120 students at full enrollment
  • Mandarin Immersion: 50% of the academic content will be in Mandarin and 50% will be in English

The middle school curriculum at PKS is designed to ensure that every one of our graduates is prepared to lead, innovate, and find their place in the 21st century. It pushes all students to communicate across geographic and cultural divides, both inside and outside of the classroom. It instills curiosity and comfort, particularly in diverse groups. It emphasizes depth in content knowledge, and is assessed through authentic, frequent feedback.

  Above is a snapshot of the 6th grade curriculum,  download  it for a deeper look at the outline. While the details are subject to change-- in response to world events and student passion-- this will give you a sense of the depth and direction of our planning

Above is a snapshot of the 6th grade curriculum, download it for a deeper look at the outline. While the details are subject to change-- in response to world events and student passion-- this will give you a sense of the depth and direction of our planning

Our curriculum does its work through interdisciplinary, inquiry-based projects that push students to deepen their reading, writing, research, speaking, and listening skills in both English and Chinese. We ask big, messy questions and give students the time and space to discover their own answers. How did the Silk Road look to both those who travelled it, and those who lived on it? Why did the Industrial Revolution first occur in Western Europe rather than somewhere else, and what were the global consequences? Was Steve Jobs a latter-day Da Vinci, or should this praise go instead to Jack Ma? Learn more about our projects here

  This is a sample "day in the life" of a PKS 6th grade

This is a sample "day in the life" of a PKS 6th grade

PKS graduates will be unlike those from any other school. They will have gone through a rigorous immersion language program, and will be highly academically proficient in English and Chinese. They will have experienced years of progressive, inquiry-based education, and they will know how to ask the right questions. They will have seen their classwork extend into fieldwork on multiple continents (learn more about our international travel program, PKS东南西北). They will be confident and curious in every setting. They will have studied global history, geography, demography, art, and culture in two languages, allowing each of them to be culturally rooted while staying nimble in a quickly changing world.

Visit our Admissions page to learn more about the middle school admissions process and future events. Please email pks.admissions@presidioknolls.org or call us at (415) 202-0770 with any questions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Read the Frequently Asked Questions about our Middle School.