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.

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Competition and Sports

February 5, 2015

How do we teach competition during sporting events at Walden School? PE Teacher Billy Christian talks to students about what it feels like to win and what it feels like to lose. Is it okay for a winning team to gloat? How do we express pride in our victory without gloating?

Conversely, is it okay for a losing team to pout? How do we help our students reflect on the moments in the game that went wrong and how do we persevere and practice our skills to improve over time?

Lower Core teachers see the innate competition that flares up during impromptu soccer games at recess. The North Yard is home to several simultaneous games being played competitively by many different groups before school and at lunchtime. How do we talk to students about navigating these intense emotions that come up during competitive games?

Practicing respect and teamwork, along with technical skills, helps build good sports conduct. At the end of the day, Billy reminds us that games are just that – games! Games are supposed to be fun!

Resources to talk to your children about competition:






Family Game Night

January 29, 2015

Walden School families brought their favorite board games to share with other families in the Toby Hayward Community Room. This annual free event is fun for all ages, and included dinner sponsored by Walden School Parent Guild.

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Educators and parents know that important life lessons are learned and practiced while playing board games. From learning to take turns, to analyzing upcoming options, to respectfully and gracefully winning and losing – many habits valued in society can be instilled in children through board games.

DSC_0494Often, a board game reinforces math and reading skills, too. Old standards like Scrabble and chess have been enjoyed for generations, while new games like Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride are challenging and entertaining at the same time.

Special thanks to this year’s organizers, Mark and Kristin!

Mark and Kristin organized Walden School's 2015 Family Game Night!

Mark and Kristin organized Walden School’s 2015 Family Game Night!

Watch this video to hear what life in Upper Core is really like:

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.

The Value of Camping

October 2, 2014

Have you ever wondered why thirty-eight million Americans went camping in 2012[*] for a total of 516.6 million days? What motivates modern urban dwellers to leave the comforts of home in exchange for rustic cabins and tents?

One study in New Zealand found that campers like to go back to basics. “They felt there was a lot more like-minded people around who were family oriented. It’s a real communal lifestyle, because it’s an environment in which you bump into people more,” University of Otago researcher Jonathan Ryan said.

The American Journal of Public Health released a study in 2004[†] which concluded that “Green outdoor settings appear to reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual, residential, and case characteristics.”

At Walden School, the Ponderers’ annual camping trip gives students in grades 4 through 6 the opportunity to spend time together in fresh air scented by trees and ocean breezes. Socializing in multi-age Ponderer groups, the Upper Core enjoys learning and bonding that contributes to healthy and happy peer relationships.

Camping activities are designed to be both physically and intellectually stimulating. Beyond the obvious benefit of exercising through hiking and swimming activities, Ponderers also experience challenges and have time for reflection that can reduce the stress of everyday, scheduled life in the 21st century. By working together to put up a tent, a sense of accomplishment and confidence is fostered. Taking turns to cook communal meals together also cultivates teamwork and trust.

And getting a good night’s sleep in a tent with your friends after a fun-filled day of camping endeavors feels really good! The Ponderers’ annual camping trip is experiential in nature, and provides opportunities for leadership and risk taking. In promoting environmental sustainability, the Ponderers demonstrate their shared commitment to the value of being responsible expeditioners.

Click here to watch a video of the 2014 Ponderers’ Camping Trip. 

[*] http://www.outdoorfoundation.org/pdf/research.camping.2013.pdf

[†] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/

Written by a Guest Blogger from PreK Cheetah class:

Some people find [school] hard to do. I don’t find work hard. I’m four and four-year-olds can do anything! Well, when you’re four, you like to play and almost always don’t take a nap. Because, well you are old and you want to play with your friends and stuff. I don’t really know how I’ll feel when I’m five.Image

Writing matters

November 17, 2011

Every other week, Walden staff come together for a Faculty Writing Workshop.  As a community of learners and a community of writers, we believe that practicing our own writing in a collaborative setting prepares us to better support the student writing process in the classroom.  A Walden teacher is equally expert and learner. We are empowered to lead by example both in and out of the classroom.  This growth mindset not only informs our teaching, but also reinforces our core value of life-long learning.

This week, we brainstormed a list of Big Ideas that we know about children:

Children see themselves as writers.

Everyone has a story.  One can discover own self through the process of writing one’s story.

Write what is inside you….it matters!

We are teaching children skills to make choices in their writing.

Children want to share their ideas as writers.  We are not fixing their stories.

Teach them when they are ready.  We meet children where they are.

Being a courageous writer – being brave! – can change people.

Children have endless ideas and we are giving them the tools to express their best selves.

Readers are Writers. Writers are Readers.

The pen is mightier than the sword. Writing is powerful – promotes peace through expanding viewpoints.

Writing is a reflective practice – and a processing tool.

For over 40 years, Walden School has challenged the 19th century notions of the school paradigm.  We continue to expand opportunities and access to learning in a process of life-long learning.

“The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” (John Schaar)

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