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.”

 

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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.

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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Walden School hosted Neuropsychologist Dana Chidekel, PhD to talk with parents last night about raising children with Emotional Intelligence (EI). As parents recognize that the success and happiness to which they aspire for their children depends on their children’s ability to navigate successfully in the world with others, Dr. Dana focused on how parents influence their children’s brains.

“Parents, you must tolerate your child struggling. Develop resilience in your parenting and you will be okay,” said Dr. Dana. “There is empowerment in saying ‘no’ and your child’s creativity will not be squelched. Tolerate your own struggle and teach appropriate Emotional Intelligence to children as citizens of the world.” Along with an overview of how emotions are processed in the brain, Dr. Dana talked about setting healthy, loving boundaries to create a consistent environment for children AND parents.

Earlier in the afternoon, Dr. Dana gave a professional development lecture to faculty and staff.

Dr. Dana shared her definition of EI as an ability to use emotions as a guide for thinking and behavior. Her book, “Parents In Charge” highlights how parenting casts light on the parent’s childhood memories and experiences, and it explains the differences between the cultures of early childhood and adulthood. Vivid examples of the differences in how children and adults experience time, language, and consequences kept both audiences chuckling in recognition and relief.

For more information about Walden School Parent Education, please visit www.waldenschool.net/parenteducation

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.

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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