Students shuck corn at the Edible Schoolyard at MLK School in Berkeley, named of the country’s 25 coolest schools
Students shuck corn at the Edible Schoolyard at MLK School in Berkeley, named of the country’s 25 coolest schools

Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Middle School is one of the “25 coolest schools in the nation” according to Scholastic Parent & Child magazine whose annual list aims to showcase public schools that inspire.

The selection — which ranges from an elementary school in Wisconsin that’s using assistive technology to untap the potential of disabled kids to the nation’s largest online public school, based in Florida — also has an underlying agenda, says Parent & Child Editor in Chief Nick Friedman.

“We want to change the conversation,” he says. “There is so much negative talk about public education in America and the need to ‘fix’ public schools. That story is covered. We want to focus on the positive.” Friedman says the editorial team works to identify aspects such as community involvement and student engagement at schools which make them models for everyone.

King Middle School was cited for its pioneering School Lunch Initiative, launched in 2004

King Middle School is cited in particular for its School Lunch Initiative which was launched in 2004 after parents fought to eradicate the processed food that was being served to their kids. The school’s central kitchen now prepares fresh, organic meals for its students; it boasts the Alice Waters-funded Edible Schoolyard that is the basis for garden and kitchen classroom programs, and every student does a 9-week course on nutrition. King also delivers food to other local schools in the district. [Note: This paragraph has been rewritten to reflect a necessary correction on King’s food programs.]

“They really work it into the curriculum,” says Friedman. “It’s a very 21st-century way of teaching by bringing real life into the classroom.”

Friedman says the magazine reviews hundreds of schools before selecting a shortlist and then eventually its choice of 25. Parent & Child, which has a circulation of 1.3 million and whose core readers are parents committed to helping their kids through school and life, provides the coolest schools with a badge to include on their website and copies of the magazine. But the main consequence, says Friedman, is the justifiable sense of pride the students feel in being selected.

“There are so many lists of ‘top achieving schools’ and so on,” he says. “This is a unique list because it takes us to places we never dreamed of.”

Olympic star Natalie Coughlin runs to help King Middle School [05.17.12]
The Edible Schoolyard plant sale: A Berkeley institution [05.14.12]
King Middle School Principal Jason Lustig to step down [03.18.11]
Berkeley’s school lunch program is flawed say insiders [02.14.11]
Berkeley Bites: Alice Waters [10.22.10]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...