A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Talking About Race with Your Children

Posted by Marissa Colston on January 10, 2020

When I was younger, as a child of color in a household with parents who were also of color, talking about race was so common I don’t remember a time when we didn’t talk about it. I remember feeling proud and empowered about my racial identity. When I was faced with discrimination or hurtful stereotypes, even though it was painful, the foundation my parents helped create allowed me to talk about the experience knowing that I was more than a stereotype.

I knew that I could find support at home, but it was hard to talk with my white friends about these incidents. They rarely, if ever, had similar conversations at home. Their lack of ability to talk about race made it almost impossible to have a productive or restorative conversation.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Let Books Herald A New Tradition

Posted by Lynn Clements on December 5, 2019

The Importance of ReadingFamily holiday traditions are important to give our children a sense of connectedness and history. This holiday season, consider creating a new tradition of building a family collection of holiday stories. The books can be packed away at the end of the season and tucked away until next year, so they become beloved, anticipated stories to share over the years. Perhaps you can start your tradition with one of these new titles:

The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper - With stunning illustrations by Carson Ellis, this book celebrates the winter solstice and our relationship with the Earth’s cycles.

My First Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz - With bright collage illustrations, this book is a good introduction to the celebration of the seven days of Kwanzaa.

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Topics: Inspiring the Best in Kids

Finding Peace (and Hope) at School

Posted by Westtown Lower School Students & Faculty on October 31, 2019

Quakers use queries in different ways to encourage self-awareness for individuals and the community, to gain clarity, and to guide decision making. The first query of the year for the Lower Schoolers at Westtown School focused on the Quaker testimony of peace. For several days, students reflected on the query through class discussions and journal writing. Below is an excerpt from the minutes of a special Meeting for Worship called a Meeting for Business where students and faculty shared their thoughts on how to describe peace and how to work through conflict respectfully.

Lower School students believe that peace is something to strive for. They describe peace in many different ways, such as:

Peace is joy, peace is friendship.

Peace is respect.

Peace is stars and fireflies at night time.

Peace is taking care of promises you have made to the people around you.

Peace in your heart is acting with kindness, patience, and empathy for all.

Peace feels calm, kind, and quiet.

Students shared that Meeting for Worship and Quiet Time are good times to find peace while at school. Several students spoke of the importance of helping others and sharing feelings openly with friends. By acting this way, you will feel warm and fuzzy inside, and not cold and prickly. Another way of sharing and spreading peace is to help people who are in need, the way the Lower School is by collecting food for the Kennett Food Cupboard.

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Finding Strength In Community

Posted by Westtown School on September 19, 2019

At Westtown School, we have found that the voices we most want to hear on graduation day are those of our students themselves — they are more powerful and evocative of the Westtown experience than that of any outside speaker. Each year, seniors write a personal reflective essay. Three essays are chosen to be read at Commencement by a committee of Upper School faculty.  Kavya Dayananth was chosen to read her essay for the class of 2019. Her words remind us of the strength of our supportive and empowering community.

On Sunday mornings, my dad begins to cook all the food for the week. The process takes up the entire day so it has to be done on his only day off of work. The kitchen is a mess of large metal vats filled with sambar and cutting boards piled high with chopped potatoes, chow chow, and carrots all waiting to be cooked. Open Tupperwares of cumin and chili powder scatter the counter. It’s a storm of Indian spices that make your eyes tear and your nose burn. There is no certain recipe to these dishes. Just observations my father made while watching his mother cook when he was young. Years of culinary knowledge passed down throughout generations of our family.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Student Life at Westtown

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