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.”

MLKJr

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.

IMG_6909

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.

IMG_6932

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.

IMG_6935IMG_6928IMG_6921IMG_6913

At Walden School, we believe in building intentional communities in our classrooms. We experience the power of collective wisdom when teachers and parents work together to support our students. At each of Walden’s three Back-to-School Nights, teachers presented an overview of expectations for the upcoming school year, shared some curriculum highlights, and answered parents’ questions.

At each Back-to-School Night, Director Matt Allio welcomed parents in the Toby Hayward Community Room, before parents visited classrooms. Read Matt’s Director’s Note published earlier this week to learn more about his address on finding our way.

Matt often talks about creating safe and predictable environments for Walden students, in order that the children may thrive. Part of that predictability comes from parents understanding the routines and rhythms of their child’s classroom. Back-to-School Night is one way for Walden teachers to share with parents what goes on in the life of a Walden student each day.

IMG_6709IMG_6716IMG_6736 IMG_6738IMG_6412 IMG_6416

Specialty Core Night

February 19, 2015

Walden School parents gathered recently for Spanish tapas, stories, group games, science experiments, and musical instruments while learning about their child’s experience with each of the Walden Specialty teachers. Specialty Core Night is an interactive and informative evening hosted by the Walden Specialists.

Nurturing a child’s natural wonder, Walden’s curriculum is full of opportunities for exploration. The program is dedicated to broadening each child’s learning experience through authentic exposure by offering a variety of Specialty classes at each grade level. These classes include Art, Music, Storytelling, Spanish, Science, Dance, P.E., and Library Skills.

Rooted in a commitment to Renaissance learning, Specialty classes provide an opportunity for depth in content and for relationships with Walden’s experienced Specialist faculty. Walden believes a student’s insight into their own personhood is enhanced through this education — as are language acquisition, cognitive development, critical thinking ability, and social skills.

A Specialist teacher serves as a role model in their field of expertise, embodying what it means for students to live their passion. Capitalizing on the unique opportunity to engage with students throughout their entire developmental trajectory (nine years) at Walden, Specialist classrooms offer a safe exploration of the various disciplines, resulting in an integrated and sequenced program specifically designed to meet the needs of students from Pre-K to 6th grade.

Over time, Specialty classes often become a home or “hub” for Walden students. This continuity of content and relationship nurtures creativity and risk-taking, and allows students to gain a sense of their place in the world and what they offer to it.

DSC_0890 DSC_0889 DSC_0888 DSC_0887 DSC_0886 DSC_0885

This article by Mark Dynarski posits that studies comparing test scores between one set of public schools and one set of private schools (actually parochial Catholic schools which are different than accredited independent schools like Walden School) may not be asking the right questions.

In 2012-13 Walden School’s tuition was $17, 763 while LAUSD was spending $19, 070 average per student enrolled for the same year. Pasadena Unified spent less on average per student – only $8,759.

If all schools could learn how to deliver an excellent education for all students at a reasonable cost, would not we all benefit?

19th century education advocate Horace Mann argued that the path to an informed citizenry is through universal education. Early 20th century educational theorist John Dewey argued that the purpose of education is for each student to realize their potential and use their education to make advances in society for the greater good.

At Walden School, we believe that each child has a gift and it is our job to nurture that gift and to support a child’s development as they acquire their “voice” and help them make a larger contribution to our world. Through a Walden education, students learn reflective practices that help them navigate the challenges of living in the 21st century while at the same time ask thoughtful questions that challenge the status quo. At Walden School, the questions are just as important as the answers.

Read more here from NAIS President John Chubb in his critique of “The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools.”

Professional Development

October 9, 2014

“We know that in order to teach,
we must be learners first.“

Have you ever wondered how we do what we say we do at Walden School? Director of Studies Terra Toscano says, “We know that in order to teach, we must be learners first.“ Without an ongoing commitment to professional development, the work that we do at Walden could not take place.

Similar to how we teach, Walden teachers engage in personal inquiry and collective inquiry to grow in their practice. Every year, each teacher maps out specific goals to improve professional competence, to keep abreast of the latest research in education, and to nurture their interest in lifelong learning.

Our curriculum partnerships often come with a person or group that facilitates dialogue around the latest body of knowledge within that discipline, and works alongside teachers to bring it to life in their classrooms. In a partnership, our teachers have the opportunity to contribute to the growing body of knowledge while learning. This leads to empowerment and ownership of their teaching.

An example of this: Walden is just wrapping up a 30 month partnership focused on differentiation in mathematics with USC Rossier School of Education, and our USC trainers are now asking Walden teachers to present their findings at a national conference.

This year, our partnership continues with Teachers College Columbia University focusing on Reading Workshop, as well as a study with the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning that began with sending seven faculty catalysts to a conference in Washington D.C. over the summer.

Walden faculty want to increase their understanding of how children learn, how best to teach children, and how to transform the latest research into actual curriculum. Professional development through case studies, in-services, conferences, workshops, partnerships, formal coursework, coaching, mentoring, reflective supervision, consultations, and other facilitated learning, is an important expression of how we do what we say we do.

First Day of School

September 4, 2014

IMG_5360

South Yard playground before school

“Perhaps I should give some account of myself. I would make education a pleasant thing both to the teacher and the scholar. This discipline, which we allow to be the end of life, should not be one thing in the schoolroom, and another in the street. We should seek to be fellow students with the pupil, and should learn of, as well as with him, if we would be most helpful to him.” [Henry David Thoreau to Orestes Brownson, 30 December 1837]

 

School teachers were happy to be back together this fall after a busy summer of professional development conferences, in-services, and workshops. On the First Day of School, returning and new K-6th grade students eagerly gathered early on the Walden playgrounds to greet their teachers on this cool September morning. The Pre-Kindergarten students will begin their school year a few days later on Monday.

 

Walden faculty traveled to summer conferences focused on social-emotional learning, writing and reading workshops, Responsive Classroom, math skills, mindfulness, and many other topics. Walden School believes that teaching students to be academically capable, insightful, and passionate learners requires teachers to pursue their own interests with passion and determination. As teachers model mastery of traditional academic skills, they can better guide students to apply newly acquired skills to a variety of situations in creative and discerning ways. As students discover the interrelatedness of what they are learning, along with their teachers, they are inspired to find deeper answers to their questions.

 

IMG_5394

North Yard as students line up for first day of classes

IMG_5469

Headed into the classrooms

IMG_5479

IMG_5497IMG_5512

 

IMG_5396

Parents look on as North Yard teachers begin leading students into classrooms

IMG_5536

K/1 Assistant Teacher Matt Little high-fives one of his students

K/1 Lead Teacher Joe Braxton shares a laugh with Walden parent Dwana Willis

K/1 Lead Teacher Joe Braxton shares a laugh with Walden parent Dwana Willis

 

IMG_5548

First Morning Circle

 

 

%d bloggers like this: