A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Messages to Take Back to School and Beyond

Posted by Maria Alonso on August 15, 2019


New beginnings are exciting! They become exciting to us because they offer the promise of hope, the anticipation of change in our lives, and the prospect that our dreams will indeed come true! 
Squire Rushnell, When God Winks on New Beginnings 

Indeed, there is a buzzing energy reverberating in the homes of school-aged children just about this time of year. Whether your child is embarking on the wonder and magical days of kindergarten or they are a senior in high school entering the “last first day” of a year of countless “lasts,” the beginning of the school year is full of hopes and dreams as well as the to-be-expected sensations of jitters and butterflies in the belly. 

With back to school in the air, familiar back-to-school tips are emerging on the Internet from myriad organizations. One of the most popular tips, of course, is the importance of establishing routines at home before the start of school by making sure there are laminated lists of bedtime and morning rituals to be checked off by the children, offering them a sense of agency and mastery. I thought I would share a few thoughts for  parents to reflect upon, ways to communicate to their school-aged children not just at the beginning of this school year but throughout the year. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

(Teacher Approved) Fun for Summer!

Posted by Westtown Lower School Faculty on June 18, 2019

School is out and summer is here! While students often crave a rest from their daily routines, their brains remain hungry for the “superfood” that active learning provides. Whether you’d like  to help your child avoid the so-called summer slide, or are looking for some creative ideas to fill downtime, this curated list of ideas from Westtown’s Lower School faculty can serve as a guide.

  • Create a mini book club for your young readers and their friends. It’s as easy as picking the same book and then meeting at someone’s home, a coffee shop, or even the pool. Kids get excited to do something adult-like and the opportunity to spend time with friends. Set a few dates for club meetings  in advance to keep the momentum going. Create a few index cards with questions that the kids can choose to get the conversation started when they meet.

  • Go Geocaching with your children and family friends! It’s easier now with the use of your Smartphone. Visit one of the geocaching sites (we recommend this one), or download an app to your phone, create an account, then start searching in your local community or when on vacation. 
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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

5 Things a Camp Director Wants You To Know

Posted by Brian DeGroat on May 14, 2019

Summer camp season is upon us. As you finalize your plans or are just beginning the process, Westtown’s Director of Auxiliary Initiatives and Camp Director, Brian DeGroat, has some tips to make your child’s camp experience one to remember – for the right reasons!

1.When researching camps, start with your child, instead of with your choices.  

There is no lack of camp options out there, from the highly specialized to the more traditional, all-things-outdoors. To find the best fit, start by having a conversation with your child and find common ground. Let their interests and goals take the lead, and good decision-making will follow.  

  • Do they want to stretch into new areas, or gain confidence from shining in their comfort zone?
  • Are there skills they’re hoping to build, like becoming a stronger swimmer? Stepping up to service or leadership opportunities?
  • Do they need something dynamic or would they prefer to focus on one theme per week?
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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

What Does Your T-Shirt Really Cost?

Posted by Alicia Zeoli and Erin Salvucci on April 9, 2019

(article excerpted from the Buck Institute for Education blog and edited for length.)

In elementary school, math is tangible and authentic. You count money or look at what fraction of a pizza you have left. Once students reach middle school, math loses its tangibility, moving from concrete to abstract. At the same time, it can lose its relevance in the real world. Teachers often wonder if they can make Project Based Learning (PBL) relevant in a math classroom.

Erin Salvucci is a middle school math teacher at Westtown. She has a passion for teaching social impact and equity. This summer at a Buck Institute PBL workshop, Salvucci set out to create a PBL unit that not only teaches her students about linear equations and cost analysis, but also about social and environmental impacts. Her project’s driving question was, “What does your shirt really cost?”

The process began with backwards mapping. The key knowledge and understanding 8th grade algebra students would learn had to be at the heart of this project. Students had to be able to: graph and write linear relationships given a rate of change and y-intercept; find and analyze the solution to a system of equations; analyze and defend monetary costs and profits based on their mathematical data; provide and defend social and environmental costs and impacts based on their research; and present this information graphically.

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Topics: Help with learning

AP Courses: Are They Necessary for College Admission?

Posted by Jessica Smith on January 25, 2019

This question comes up in our Admission office, College Counseling office, and even in our Lower School lobby. Parents and students alike worry about college preparation and bolstering transcripts. We asked our Director of College Counseling to shed some light on what colleges actually look for, what students need, and how a Westtown education prepares students for college.

 

You might already know that Westtown School offers over 50 upper school courses with advanced designations, but you might be wondering why Westtown doesn’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In 2005, after a vigorous two-year curriculum review, the school’s Curriculum Committee recommended removing the AP designation from all Westtown courses because, as they found, “[A] Westtown Education is a religious endeavor, is rooted in community, educates the whole child, fosters an appreciation of racial, ethnic, economic and religious diversity, calls for a variety of approaches to pedagogy and assessment, encourages interdisciplinary learning, allows time for the present moment, and empowers students to create positive change in the world...Our students’ growth as independent learners will be enhanced by teachers having room in their curriculum to create challenging laboratory and research experiences and to assign lengthy and difficult works of literature in English and in foreign language studies, to name just a few.” The committee found that neither AP nor International Baccalaureate (IB) programs allowed for the depth and richness Westtown prizes in its course offerings.  

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

It Would Be Better If...

Posted by Kristin Crawford on January 10, 2019


Happy New Year!  Otherwise known as a time of optimistic self-improvement.

One of the skills required of parenthood and teaching is the ability to identify areas for potential improvement in children. We can believe a little more of this or a little less of that would benefit our children greatly. But we often make such determinations from our own point of view. If only they did ____ everything would be better. And our children give us daily reality checks that what we deem needs improvement may not be what they recognize as worthy of attention. What we see as encouragement for self-improvement and growth, they could describe as nagging. Maybe rightly so. 

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Build, Create, and Discover Joy with These Holiday Gifts

Posted by Lynn Clements on December 12, 2018


Whether you are looking for just a few last-minute gifts or have a whole list, we have a few ideas for the young ones in your life. Here are some fun ideas for children who enjoy building, tinkering, creating, and coding.

Books

Beanz is a new bi-monthly online and print magazine about learning to code, computer science, and how we use technology in our  daily lives. The magazine is aimed for ages 8 and older. There is no advertising in the magazine. To subscribe: hello@beanzmag.com

DATA Set series, by Ada Hopper. This series of transitional chapter books is aimed at readers in grades 1-3. The DATA Set consists of three friends who use their interest in science and coding to solve mysteries created by their mad scientist neighbor, Dr. Bunsen. There are seven books in this high-interest series.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Empower Your Child, Empower Yourself

Posted by Maria Alonso on November 27, 2018


As parents, we are hardwired to want the best life experiences for our children. We know that life will present challenges and it is our role to help them thoughtfully respond to and even learn to embrace these situations. Social Emotional Learning (SEL), also known as Emotional Intelligence (EI), is an invaluable skill that, when developed and nurtured, empowers children and adults to respond to life experiences in a healthy and well-adjusted manner. SEL skills contribute not only to your child’s academic success but also to their future work and life happiness.

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is made up of five competencies including: self awareness, emotional and behavioral management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible and ethical decision making.  

I talk about SEL in my work almost every day and just last week I was at Barnes and Noble when I happened to notice a plethora of books on the shelves including:  Harvard Business Reviews Must Reads: On Emotional Intelligence; Show Up As Your Best Self and Mindful Leaders;  Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership; Get BIG Things Done and the Power of Connectional Intelligence,and more.In that moment, it occurred to me that these shelves, targeted for many types of organizations and businesses, were hyper-focused on the five competencies of SEL.

So how do we translate this to our everyday life?  What do these competencies or skills look like and how do we teach them to our children? Let me provide some real-life examples of SEL skills, how they show up in our adult life, and ways to nurture these skills in our children.  

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Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

The Power of Emotions

Posted by Kristin Crawford on October 22, 2018

In Meeting for Worship, a first grader was moved to share the message bubbling up in her. “Every day isn't always going to be cupcakes and rainbows.  Some days you have to pause and take a moment for your emotions.”

Emotions are a full-blown reality for children.  Happiness, frustration, anger, joy, silliness, excitement, disappointment.  They swirl around in their minds and bodies.

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Topics: Help with learning, Raising Resilient Lower and Middle Schoolers

How I Found My Authentic Voice

Posted by Westtown School on September 26, 2018

As a new ninth-grader at Westtown—a 14-hour plane ride from his home—Yiheng Xie was

once told his accent was hard to define. In this (abridged) reflection delivered at graduation, Yiheng explores the connection between voice and family history—the “grit and sand” in his words—and how every person and experience we carry with us, can leave its mark. 

Yiheng was awarded a Faculty Letter of Commendation, Westtown School’s highest recognition for achievement and citizenship, three years in a row. He currently attends Brown University.

My freshman-year proctor once said, “You have a unique accent.” It couldn’t be easily defined—it wasn't simply Chinese or American, refined or crude. Puzzling over why, I decided to trace its origin.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids, Student Life at Westtown