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What do you think of this new after school program?

Original post made by Janine, Walter Hays School, on Jun 5, 2008

This new after school program is starting in Sept. in Palo Alto. It sounds very interesting --- the teacher has the kids building model cities with legos and then governing them through city council meetings. The website is at

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Comments (14)

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2008 at 4:08 am

That website doesn't work. Here it is:

Web Link

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Posted by suspicious
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2008 at 7:17 am

As long as it is realistic, like the Sim City games, where increasing individual taxes causes people to leave which decreases city tax income, where rent control brings about urban decay, where over-regulation causes businesses to leave the town lowering the tax base ...etc.

Highly recommend Sim City for its realistic and economically sound game.

I suspect anything built with a person overseeing how things work will teach socialism and teach the kids that socialism works, when in fact it has failed the city or the state in every instance.

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Posted by Mama
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:55 am

I tried that website listed above and Anonymous has the correct link listed.

My child had Mr. Bowling for second grade and we were not impressed. He is very disorganized and unstructured. My child said they sat around doing whatever particular activity for what felt like hours and hours. He let them work on their own a lot and is very laid back. He certainly doesn't rush them. My child has felt that class time goes much faster with other teachers who are more structured.

They did the city thing in class all year (but with paper and blocks instead of Legos) and it sounded really interesting at parent orientation but then it wasn't all that great. My child was bored with it and thinks there wasn't much learning.

However, as a person, the kids really enjoy him and he is so patient with the kids (and parents). He is a really nice person, although not clean-cut in appearance. My child always wants to go say hello to him when he is visible on campus.

I know of a parent who really liked him and has disagreed with me on other teachers. But I know other parents who disliked him too.

Maybe you can sit in on one session before deciding.

Mr. Bowling also writes for the Palo Alto Weekly occasionally so you can see his photo in there.

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Posted by Sounds fun
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2008 at 12:39 pm

Suspicious...c'mon- this is for 2nd-4th graders.

This sounds like a really interesting program and for the age, the fun is in the lego building and the creation. If they take away any sense about the inner workings of a city- great...but bottom-line is fun right? Obviously this teacher is passionate about this since he started this on the side. I am going to check it out! Thanks for posting.

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Posted by Sounds fun
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2008 at 12:45 pm

Suspicious- ignore my comment to's Friday and I obviously did not read into the sarcasm ;-)

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Themed babysitting.

Whereas a program like this may have some benefits, I suspect that many of the kids enrolled will be adding this to a very scheduled life and it would be better to have them at home or hanging out with friends, or doing what they want to do as an afterschool activity. There are too many "good" programs and not enough kids being allowed to be kids.

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Posted by Ann
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 7, 2008 at 2:21 pm

I had to write in to set the record straight on Duveneck's Matt Bowling --- Mr. B to most. I would hate for the community to think that yours is at all a typical parent opinion. The truth is that Mr. B has become nearly legendary at Duveneck School. Parents of incoming second graders often spend the summer hoping their child will get him. Additionally, he is known for getting the most difficult behavior problems sent to his class because of his structure and ACEs system. The only way I can imagine you thought he was "unstructured" was because he wears long hair? His class is the epitome of structured.

And as one of the lucky parents who did have my child in his class, I honestly can't imagine how you felt the model city project "wasn't all that great." I think you must have really missed something. The project is as creative and educational a project as I have seen in a public school. It is even the subject of a column in the Daily News this week:
Web Link

Kidizens looks to be tremendous sequel to Matt Bowling's wonderful career at Duveneck.
"Mama," It's a shame that your terrible review of a truly great teacher has become part of the public record.

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Posted by Mama
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm


I know many parents who weren't impressed with his style of teaching and don't see the value in the city ordeal. "Epitome of structured?" No, that would be Hoover Elementary School. His teaching style is unstructured because the kids work on their own a lot and go to him when they need help. It is not the typical style where the teacher stands in front of the class and teaches for a good part of the time. My other kids went through Duveneck and your thinking that parents spend the summer hoping to get him as a teacher is inaccurate. Many parents comment that "the kids love him," but don't elaborate. The ACES program is where the kids are given points for doing something good and then they can cash in the points for "prizes".

Parents are always looking for "fun" ways for their children to learn. Kidizens may offer more than brainless daycare, but don't think it will be life-changing, as the Daily suggests. It all looks much better on paper and the author interviewed people who were enthusiastic about the program, not the others who don't think much of it.

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Posted by Tyron
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Well said Ann!

I completely agree with you. Both my kids adore Mr. B and me and my wife can really see the jump in their academic development. There is a before and after Mr. B in both of them. Not only do they enjoy school now but they love math (thanks to Math World, another one of Mr. B's creative approaches), read at least 6 levels above theirs and write just because they found the value of it in Mr. B's class.

You just need to take a look at mattbowling(dot)com to realize that Mr. B is not your average teacher. He is not only innovative, intelligent and passioned about our kids. We are really going to miss him around here, I'm sadden my youngest one won't get him in 2nd year but she will sure go to kidizens!

Janine, don't take anybody's word for it (although every single parent I know will tell you how fantastic he is), go check out the websites and sign up your kid, you won't regret it!

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Posted by CP
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jun 7, 2008 at 10:31 pm

My child had Mr. B years ago. He does love kids but I didn't think he was the fantastic teacher that those two others were raving about. Maybe because he does things differently, it seems refreshing to them. I think his teaching style is better for the independent kids who can accelerate without having to wait for the rest of the class, because that is the main difference between him and other teachers.

They seemed to spend too much time on the city when they could have been learning other more important things relevant to 2nd grade. I volunteered in the classroom a lot so I saw what was going on.

People have nothing to lose by trying his program, except a lot of money, and PA has no problem with that. There are plenty of working parents who would like their kids to have something to do for two hours after school. But your child would not miss much if he/she isn't in the program.

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Posted by Laura
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Jun 9, 2008 at 12:52 pm

I'm very surprised to read anything positive in this forums about anybody so I'm persuaded and I'll sign up my child. It is refreshing to hear parents refer to a teacher with such passion. As for the detractors, I think it tells a lot that their kids still think of and greet the guy everytime they see him... maybe kids know best this time.

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Posted by Kath
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2008 at 5:15 pm

I just hope Mr. B never ever reads those negative comments about him and his class. If he does I hope he knows that the vast majority of us feel nothing but gratitude for what he's done for our kids both in and outside the classroom.

Kidizens will be a great success and he deserves it!

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Posted by Harry
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:36 pm

The fact is that there are a small minority of parents who would, if they could, program every teacher to satisfy every imagined whim that their child's needs. These are the parents who make teaching within PAUSD stressful. They're obsessive selfishness, and the stress that it causes, infects the entire system, and takes time away from other children - whose parents are normal in their demands. Welcome to Mama's world.

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Posted by Vienna
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 10, 2008 at 10:09 pm

I am the older sister of two of Mr. B's students and the sister of a student who was in the "buddy class" for Mr. B. (Yes, those are three distinct people.)

Honestly, I have to say that Mr. B was the best teacher my brothers could have had. My nine-year-old brother had him a few years ago, and would come home raving about how much fun the class was. He now loves math and says he owes a lot of it to Mr. B's Mathworld adventures. My seven-year-old brother has Mr. B right now, and like Ann said, my parents were hoping that he would be assigned to Mr. B's class. He was a little bit of trouble in kindergarten and first grade, but under Mr. B, his behavior is drastically improved. Mr. B has "laned" reading groups, which address the academic needs of and individualize the curriculum for each student. This approach is probably a lot more work than others that he could have chosen, to be sure. I don't know if all teachers do this, but I hope so...

My dad has volunteered for probably hundreds of hours in Mr. B's class while my brothers had him, and has nothing but good things to say. (And by that, I mean that when I asked him for any criticism, he couldn't think of anything at all.) Mr. B is among the very best teachers at Duveneck, and I know that he is definitely considered very desirable. In his class, students learn responsibility and the value of hard work. All of his students and (to my knowledge) all the the parents respect him highly.

P.S. My youngest brother is already enrolled in Kidizens. :]

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