Walden School’s Class of 2016 recently spent six days at Teton Science School in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Teton Science School was founded in 1967 as a non-profit educational organization with the goal of teaching students from all over the United States about natural and cultural history, while exploring the Greater Yellowstone Geo-ecosystem.

Walden students stayed in modern, dormitory-style buildings on the Jackson Campus. Each day, they traveled throughout the Jackson area to hike, ski, and snowshoe in Grand Teton National Park and Bridger-Teton National Forest.

The students had hands-on experiences in field ecology, including animal tracking, wildlife observation, ecological field research, alpine ecology, field journaling and sketching, and leave-no-trace backcountry ethics.

We posed these questions to different students upon their return from the 2016 trip.

When you get to be an adult, what will you remember most vividly about your trip to Teton Science Schools?

“When I am 18 or 21 years old, I think I will remember setting the fire alarm off! We had a humidifier in our dorm room to help with the dry, mountain air. The moisture from the humidifier was supposed to help our coughs so we could sleep. Instead, the moisture set off the fire alarm!”

If you could change one thing about Teton Science School, what would you change?

“If I could change one thing about TSS, it would be better food.”

What is something that made your class trip to Teton Science School special?

“We really got to know people there. Everyone at TSS was really friendly.”

Of all the things you learned on your trip to the Tetons, what do you think will be the most useful when you are an adult?

“I believe the skill learned on the TSS trip that will be most useful is the in-depth mindfulness. At Walden, we touch on this topic, but we don’t exhibit it in depth. In the Tetons, we learned how to be in the moment and appreciate our surroundings. This is a necessary skill for the enjoyment of the trip. Mindfulness is a way that we can actually step back and see/appreciate what we are doing.”

At Walden School, the teachers are also your friends. Were your TSS instructors also good friends? Why do you think so?

“At TSS I only got to spend time with the instructors for six days. So I really didn’t get to know them like I know the Walden teachers, because I have known them for years.”

How would the world be different if animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem could talk?

“I think the world would change for the better if GYE animals could talk because then the animals that have something un-explainable about them could explain the anomaly to us. Also, I learned a fact that some animals can live up to 270 years. So they might have seen history.”

If you could have some of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem animal adaptions, which ones would you want and what would you do?

“I think I want eagle eyes to see really far; wolf smell to track; and wings to fly. I think this would make the ultimate predator, other than humans. I would be able to survive the summer but in winter I think I would want an extra coat of feathers or fur to keep warm.”

What was the hardest thing about being a kid at Teton Science School?

“It was really hard watching a lot of the teachers having second servings of dessert and the kids only got one.”

Where is your favorite place in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?

“Taggart Lake was my favorite place. It was really beautiful and we hiked it on snowshoes. It was a great place to get to know our TSS instructors on our second day.”

If you could travel back in time three years (to Third Grade) and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?

“Bring a lot more layers for the carriage ride at the end of the trip on the Elk Preserve. It was freezing!”

What five words do you think most describe Walden’s 6th Grade trip to the Tetons?

“If I could use five words to describe the trip TSS they would be: fun; cold; beautiful; calming; and awesome. All of us really enjoyed the trip and it was nice to be away from all the stress of applying to middle schools.”

When was a time during your Teton trip that you felt lucky?

“I felt lucky when I found a unicycle. And I felt lucky to have the GPS job while out in the woods.”

If you could make one environmental rule that everyone in the world had to follow, what rule would you make? Why?

“The rule that I would make would be to that you can not leave a trail behind. For example, if you are on a hike and have a granola bar, instead of burying that wrapper, put it in your backpack and throw it away later. Other examples include not destroying habitats.”

Antiracist essayist, author, and educator Tim Wise recently spoke at Walden School as part of the school’s Parent Guild Parent Education Series. Open to the Pasadena community, the free event quickly sold out with over 100 people in attendance.

wise-speaking-picTogether with Director of Studies Terra Toscano and Diversity Coordinator Billy Christian, Wise also helmed a teacher workshop where he gave Walden faculty some new tools and resources to skillfully navigate an anti-bias curriculum. He will return later this spring to do more work with teachers, as well as visit students in Walden classrooms.

Distinguished Professor of Urban Studies, Queens College & the Graduate Center, CUNY Stephen Steinberg says, “Tim Wise is a spellbinding herald of anti-racism. His voice resonates especially with young people of all races who represent a generational shift away from the racial toxins and taboos that have been a blot on American democracy.”


Dozens of Walden School families brought their favorite board games to the Toby Hayward Community Room last night. Walden School Parent Guild hosts this annual event to encourage community building and provide a cooperative and collaborative environment for families to socialize together.


Parent volunteers Mark Krause and Cristin O’Callahan organized dinner for all participants. In addition to the main board game room, there was a Bingo Room and a quiet room for more reflective activities like reading together.


“Not everything that counts can be counted.
And not everything that can be counted, counts.”
– Albert Einstein


At Walden School, all parents are members of the Parent Guild. Walden Director Matt Allio thanked the Parent Guild for creating Family Game Night by noting that the school community thrives because of the extraordinary support of the parents. “We would be less of a school without the volunteer efforts of our parents,” Allio said. He went on to say that the all-school events provided by the Parent Guild, like Family Game Night, contribute to the strong sense of community at Walden.


Winter Sing

December 17, 2015


Walden School Sixth Graders hosted the annual Upper Core Winter Sing, by providing narrative context for the song selections, as well as introducing each performance. This year’s theme presented a history of music as far back as 200 BCE to present day 2015 in their one-hour show. No space suits were required.

The 4/5 classes performed “Bagatelle” from Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young, a collection of 43 songs that he wrote for his three daughters in 1848.

The next piece was by one of the most famous Baroque composers of all time: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. Students played “Spring” from Vivaldi’s series of concertos called The Four Seasons.

Antonin Dvorak’s most well-known piece, “Largo” from his New World Symphony was performed as an example of Nationalist Music.

Because of the number of sharps notated in his music, students joked that Mozart was using hashtags before it was cool! They played “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.”

It is said 16th century composer and music printer Tilman Susato published books to encourage young people to try something new through music. Walden’s 4/5 “Canada Lynx” were inspired to try his “Canterbury Dance.”

The big surprise for the evening was American experimental composer John Cage’s three-movement composition called 4’33” written in 1952. The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed. Cage believed that life creates a symphony around us everyday, and was quoted saying, “the sound experience that I prefer to all others is silence.”

Walden’s Class of 2016 concluded the instrumental program with their original composition “Minimalisma II” inspired by the works of Steve Reich and Terry Riley.

The Upper Core Choir rounded out the evening by singing the oldest surviving example of a complete musical composition, including notation, from anywhere in the world, “Seikilos Epitaph.” The choir also sang “Dona Nobis Pacem,” “Greensleeves,” and “Ode to Joy.”

Walden School Book Fair

December 11, 2015

Once Upon A Time, the nation’s oldest children’s bookstore, partnered with Walden School for their annual Book Fair. Once Upon A Time is committed to offering quality children’s literature that “spurs imagination, whimsy, and a passion for reading.”


Walden believes that everybody has a story, and by sharing our stories we can learn with and from each other. Presenting a diverse range of intelligently curated books, Once Upon A Time gave Walden families the opportunity to purchase books for the whole family.


The Book Fair’s activities included an afternoon reading by Walden’s Director Matt Allio, classroom book talks by Once Upon A Time staff, and a visit from author and illustrator James Burkes during Family Night.


Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten/First Grade classes purchased books to share with their reading pals at New Heights Charter School in Los Angeles.


A portion of the sales was generously donated back to Walden by Once Upon A Time.

I Offer You Peace

December 3, 2015


Walden School parent volunteers made over Walden’s campus into a “Twisted Fairytales” Halloween Carnival with game booths, a dance party, and a Haunted House. This annual event is attended by current and alumni families, with lots of food and activities for costumed revelers of all ages.

Pre-Kindergarten students hung out in the Chill Yard where storytelling and music were not quite as scary. Older students were treated to volunteer actors in the Scary Haunted House and a costume parade finished the night’s activities.

Walden wishes to especially thank Halloween Carnival Chairperson Peter Aperlo and the dozens of parent volunteers who made this fall’s carnival a success.


Walden students are taught that math begins with informed thinking, and that we all can develop positive mathematical identities and become powerful mathematical learners. Stressing “thinking like a mathematician,” Walden students intentionally follow a sequence of skills and concepts based on the findings of effective developmental theories. Walden teachers strive to ensure that all students are actively engaged in the “Concrete to Pictorial to Abstract” approach to instruction.

In every core, math lessons begin with building concrete understanding using manipulatives, tactile experiences, games, and student practice of skills. Utilizing students’ natural curiosity, teachers guide students to the abstract algorithms of “elementary mathematics.” It is through this structure and repetition that Walden students become confident, and develop planning skills and perseverance to explore creative ways to arrive at an answer using numbers and symbolic manipulation. Equally embedded in the delivery and design is the development of metacognition-the ability to think about one’s thinking, consider alternative ways of solving problems, and express solutions to the class.


With that being said, Walden recognizes that all math programs have strengths and limitations. This is what prompted their recent partnership with the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education to understand, explore, and implement effective methods of differentiation for all learners. A two year study of Universal Concepts, Depth and Complexity prompts, the newly revised Standards for Mathematical Practice as developed by National Council of Mathematics, and Meta-Math, which explicitly teaches students to think about their thinking when practicing the discipline of math has helped enhance Walden’s math faculty instruction.



Walden School’s Pre-Kindergarten program helps children become confident learners and independent thinkers, while fostering social and emotional skills. “We want them to learn how to do things on their own and feel proud of their accomplishments,” says Pre-Kindergarten Director Tina Riddle. “They’re also learning how to be responsible members of the community, how to take care of one another and the environment.”


Both sections of Pre-K at Walden School are multi-age classrooms with children aged 3, 4, and 5 in each class. Teachers pay careful attention to a child’s readiness to learn new skills, challenging them when appropriate but not pushing them to master things they’re not yet ready to learn. This promotes both confidence and enthusiasm for learning.

At Walden, the outside environment is as important as the indoor classroom in terms of learning spaces. The playground offers a balance between natural and constructed areas in activities ranging from free play on outdoor equipment to painting, gardening and other pursuits.

And a focus on creative thinking and scientific inquiry permeates all aspects of learning. “Whenever we have class discussions, it’s not about finding a single, right answer,” says Riddle, “It’s about being creative and using our minds – thinking about why things are the way they are or why we think they’re a certain way.” Building confidence starts with these conversations, as a class group, one-to-one, and in small groups. When children are able to express their needs, and live out self-help skills, they gain independence that in turn contributes to their budding confidence. Whether interacting with academic materials or practicing social skills, at Walden School, Pre-K students discover confidence.


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