A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

(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

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

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

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

Summer: Keep Moving Forward!

Posted by Westtown School on June 20, 2018


At some point during the summer, many parents worry about their children losing some of the knowledge they gained during the school year or worse - falling behind. With this in mind, we have asked our in-house reading and college prep experts to share a few tips on how to keep children (of all ages) moving forward.

Students of All Ages:
Betsy Swan, Librarian for Westtown’s Upper & Middle Schools reminds us of the importance of reading. Swan shares that some of the most empowering advice we can give children is that – with the exception of books assigned for classes – if you don’t like a book, you don’t have to finish it. Kids will read more independently and happily when they find a book they want to read, so encourage them to sample.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Gifts You Will Not Want to Put Down

Posted by Lynn Clements on November 29, 2017


Whether you are just starting to think about holiday gifts for your children, or you are looking for ideas for those last few gifts, books always make a wonderful gift!  A book that makes an engaging family read-aloud over the holidays can become a beloved tradition, and one that your children will begin to anticipate each holiday season. Time to relax and read together also provides some much-needed rest for everyone in these long days of winter.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Homework - Help Your Middle Schooler Succeed

Posted by Nancy vanArkel on November 14, 2017

Getting your Middle Schooler to focus on academics is one of the great challenges of parenting. Friends, social networking, sports, video games, and even just staring blankly in the mirror can all hold more interest. Here are six things I’ve seen great parents do to help their children focus on learning.

  • Act as if your child is already the responsible person you hope they will become. Our kids rise – and fall – to meet our expectations. Whether we say them out loud or not.
  • Be interested in your child’s learning – and share your own. Instead of just asking what she learned in school today, share what you learned at work or on the news. While your children work on homework, set aside your own time for reading, writing in a journal or learning to do something new. Communicate through your actions that you value learning as a life-long activity, not just to get good grades in school.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, Help with learning

Reading: There Are No Rules

Posted by Betsy Swan on July 6, 2017


I didn’t read when I was a child.

This is a strange thing for a librarian and former English teacher to admit. I hid this fact for years, ashamed, but becoming a librarian helped me understand it.

Reading is an act of many parts –  a desire to consume information or story; the physical act of eye movements; concentration, recognition, decoding – and as a society we attach not-so-subtle judgements to how we perform these acts. Many children struggle with reading, and they respond to the judgements without being able to parse the act of reading and figure out why there is no joy in it for them. This is where librarians (parents, teachers, big siblings too) need to don our super-hero capes and step in.

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Topics: Help with learning, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Design Thinking…Empathy in Action

Posted by Alicia Zeoli on January 5, 2017

Empathy and action are at the heart of Quaker education. These attributes are also central to design thinking (DT), where students are asked to discover and understand needs, and then collaborate to meet them. They are asked to empathize, to interview, to dig deeper, and to ask Why? or How Might We?

Developed by Tim Brown of Stanford University, design thinking is both a mindset and a process. We begin by modeling the mindsets of design thinking: curiosity, creative confidence, fail up/fail fast/fail often, just make it, embrace ambiguity,empathize, iterate, and optimism, or a “Yes, And” attitude. As students engage in design thinking, they develop these mindsets.

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

Vote for Books!

Posted by Lynn Clements on October 20, 2016



Election seasons are good opportunities for conversations about democracy and politics with your children. As your family talks about the upcoming election, consider children's books that answer questions about a complicated process, provide open discussion about the importance of voting, or offer a light-hearted look at the office of the President. Here are a few suggestions for your family :

So You Want to be President, by Judith St. George, was the 2001 Caldecott Winner, with watercolor illustrations by David Small. This book has been updated and revised several times and includes information about each president, accompanied by Small’s wonderful artwork. All ages.

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Topics: Help with learning, Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids