Family Profile (The Murphy Family)

We caught up with Jody and Jay Murphy this week to talk about raising a family in San Francisco and being a part of the Presidio Knolls community. The couple resides in West Portal with sons Nate (Grade 4) and William (Grade 2).

Q: How has inquiry-based progressive learning been a positive experience for your children?

I can't imagine education any other way. We loved the Reggio style in the PKS preschool. This transitioned nicely into the elementary school's philosophy as a progressive school. Our kids are certainly more motivated when following their own interests. They take ownership of their work. Having seen his brother do the traditional PKS self-guided Wonder Works project twice now, our younger son is excited about his Wonder Works project next year. His idea for a topic changes weekly. [Note: Students begin working on a Wonder Works project, or 奇思妙想工程, in third grade. They select a topic and ask questions about it. By fourth grade students invent something based on their topic, generate research, and present their findings in front of an audience in Mandarin.]

Q: Why did you decide to give your children a Mandarin learning environment?

We both loved learning a second language in middle school, and we were sorry we hadn't been exposed to it earlier in life. San Francisco is a culturally rich city -- we thought it should be normal for our kids to have another language at school. Mandarin is just one of the many languages you hear when you are out and about in the city - the utility of it is not remote or intangible.

Q: What have been the highlights from the Units of Exploration?

We enjoy the culminating project at the end of the units. The kids have regular opportunities to prepare something that is their own, and then discuss their work with other classes, teachers, and parents. [Note: Read about "My City," a recent second grade Unit of Exploration.]

Q: What was it like to be a pioneer family at the PKS elementary school?

Jay: In many areas it parallels the culture of Bay Area startups. It’s dynamic, collaborative and we all have a part to play in its success through participation. The pioneer kids (the first class of students in the elementary school) have blazed this path together and as a result they share a special bond. Their relationships have helped foster an engaged parent community that continuously works with the school’s administration to help shape the learning environment for all students. We’ve come a long way since our days in the Presidio and the journey has been an extremely rewarding experience.

Jody: I think I've been a room parent every year except one of the 8 years we've been here. I helped grow the New Family Welcome Committee when we transitioned from a small school on Lombard to the 10th Street SOMA campus. What an exciting time of growth!

Q: What excites you about the PKS middle school?

Our kids will love the new Maker space. [Note: The Maker space will be a workshop in the middle school where students can tinker, build, and create using a variety of tools and materials available. To learn more about the PKS middle school, click here]. I’m also excited for the new leadership that will be chosen to found the middle school.

Q: What do you think makes PKS a special place?

So many things. I think what is unique is the excitement we share with the kids, the other families, the teachers and administration about achieving new milestones. This is a growing school, and we are all a part of it.

Q: What advice do you have for prospective families?

If you don't speak Mandarin, it’s worthwhile to spend time learning some key words in order to communicate with your kids and help them with continuity between home and school. For instance, learn to pronounce his/her Chinese name and the teachers’ names correctly.

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