At Sea Crest School, you’re likely to spy kids in lab glasses, grasping circuitry in one hand and paint brushes in the other, likely in the midst of some community-based project, but almost certainly having a blast. What may appear to be a play-based science museum is actually a fully-accredited, high-performing independent school. “Sea Crest is a place where children are excited about Mondays,” says Dr. Tekakwitha Pernambuco-Wise, Head of School.

Founded in 1996 by four parents who sought the optimum classroom experience for their children, Sea Crest nurtures students’ academic and personal growth. Through hands-on instruction and project-based learning, they offer a foundation of core academics supplemented with dynamic enrichment programs. Reflecting its Coastside setting and proximity to Silicon Valley, the school fosters innovation as well as a reverence for the natural environment. Their goal is that students leave as civic-minded scholars who approach the world with curiosity, courage, and respect for others.

ENGAGING PROJECT-BASED LEARNING

Sea Crest employs service and project-based learning that actively engages with the Coastside community and beyond. Learning is seldom confined to inside classroom walls. For example, Sea Crest sixth graders recently partnered with We Share Solar to build solar suitcases—portable energy sources—to power a partner school in Kenya. Beyond constructing the sizable devices, the task required students gain a thorough understanding of how solar power works. A parent who works at Tesla volunteered his time to assist the students. In the end, the project combined hard science, community service, and collaboration. In another example, first grade students constructed their own home or business as part of a large model of Half Moon Bay after learning about residential and commercial neighborhood development from a city planner.

Sea Crest sixth graders at work on their Solar Suitcase project
Sea Crest sixth graders at work on their Solar Suitcase project

INNOVATIVE SPACE FOR INNOVATIVE KIDS

With an enrollment of roughly 300 students—up from its initial class of 24 students in 1996—classroom size hovers around 15-18 to lend an individualized approach. “Our teachers are students of our pupils, studying each child so that his/her learning is personalised,” offers Dr. Pernambuco-Wise.

From science to Spanish, classrooms have a workshop feel. No lecture halls here. Instead, teaching is participatory with flexible learning spaces. Each day, modular furniture is arranged to suit lessons and projects. In the art room, students move about freely, nabbing a colorful assortment of supplies from the ubiquitous bins and shelves that envelop the room.

The Innovation Lab, or iLab, is a dynamic workspace that brims with 3D printers, power tools, and art supplies. All grades—from kindergarten to eighth-graders—are presented with a grade-appropriate challenge and asked to offer a design solution via a process of researching, sketching, fabricating, and gathering feedback. Recently, younger children designed game console circuit boards fashioned with everyday objects, while middle school-aged students helped teachers achieve more functional classrooms with handbuilt storage units.

Students at work in Sea Crest School's Innovation Lab
Students at work in Sea Crest School's Innovation Lab

Outdoor space is just as innovative. Soon, the school anticipates transforming its open yard and blacktop space into multi-tiered, outdoor classrooms and play areas with a plant and vegetable garden, amphitheater, and a nature space for students to explore and create along the adjoining spring-fed creek.

A RESPECT FOR THE COASTSIDE

Sea Crest seeks to nurture the whole child, treating social-emotional development with equal importance as academic growth. Two mantras seen and heard throughout campus are “I Leave It Better than I Found It” and “We are Each Other’s Keepers.” The school helps students fulfill these two axioms in numerous ways, including community engagement.

Sea Crest honors its place within the spectacular—and precious—coastal environment of the Coastside. The bulk of the school’s energy is covered by gymnasium solar panels, and in a partnership with the City of Half Moon Bay, students “adopted” nearby Poplar Beach, performing regular beach clean-ups. Plus, the school has engaged the residents of a neighboring senior housing development with regular storytelling and oral history projects. The seniors are also regular audience members for the school’s many concerts and performances.

Two mantras seen and heard throughout campus are “I Leave It Better than I Found It” and “We are Each Other’s Keepers.”
Two mantras seen and heard throughout campus are “I Leave It Better than I Found It” and “We are Each Other’s Keepers.”

Each year, Sea Crest participates in a holiday Adopt-A-Family program offered by local nonprofit Coastside Hope. Recently, 6th graders expanded that partnership by developing an annual Hygiene Drive to gather toiletry items for Coastside families in need. Their full-size gymnasium not only hosts the school’s award-winning sports teams—a by-product of a nurturing K-8 physical education program that emphasizes competence over competition—but also numerous Coastside community group events.

Sea Crest also maintains a strong connection to local farms with early grades touring the aquaponic produce at Ouroboros, participating in educational projects at HEAL Project’s organic farm, and cavorting with goats at Harley Farms. You’ll also see Sea Crest students each year at the popular Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, staffing a popcorn stand and waving from atop their parade float. As Dr. Pernambuco-Wise says, “Sea Crest pupils are explorers who want to leave the world better than they found it.”

ENROLL FOR 2018-19

Sea Crest is fully accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and an active member of the National Association of Independent Schools.

The school is admission-based and offers tuition assistance for qualified students in need. They are currently accepting applications for the 2018-19 year. For more information on programs and the application process, please visit seacrestschool.org.

Garrick Ramirez is a freelance writer and photographer who loves sharing compelling destinations within California. As a native, he has yet to tire of exploring the many cities, small towns, and natural splendor found throughout the state. His travel guides have appeared in the SF Chronicle, Via Magazine, and The Mercury News among others. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and son.