February 5, 2016
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.”
January 29, 2016
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.
Together 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.”
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.”
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.
October 23, 2014
adapted from Director’s Notes written by Matt Allio in previous years
The standardized testing experience at Walden School is novel because our faculty looks for depth in skills and content and not simply repetition of the covered material. As a progressive school, our students are the center of gravity and not the text or tests. Standardized tests are a significant departure from how we view learning at Walden. The concept of expressing one’s knowledge of reading comprehension through a 35-minute timed test, where short passages are silently read, and 45 bubbles are filled in with a #2 pencil is a novel experience for Walden students.
Walden students in the 3rd to 6th grade take the CTP4 (Comprehensive Testing Program) standardized tests published by ERB (Educational Records Bureau). Each morning of one week in the fall, students complete a battery of tests: verbal reasoning; writing mechanics; quantitative reasoning; vocabulary; mathematics; and reading comprehension.
How do the roots of the progressive school movement align with standardized testing? Tracing the history of progressive education takes us back to the dawn of the 20th century when educational philosopher John Dewey took action against the established practice of achieving cultural conformity and dutiful citizens through education. Dewey believed that, with the decline of local community life and small scale enterprise, young people were losing valuable opportunities to learn the skills of democratic participation, and he concluded that progressive, experiential education would need to make up for that loss.
Dewey founded the Laboratory School at the University of Chicago, where he experimented with some of his ideas about deliberate, reflective practice. Dewey’s progressive ideals of learning through direct and applicable experience preceded the standardized test movement of a few decades later. Colleges began to use the SAT in 1926 and by the 1950’s the average public school student took three standardized tests before graduating high school.
As a progressive, experiential school we work at Walden to align ourselves with Dewey’s theories; however, our students will take tests that may be considered traditional in that they are timed, the content is set, they classify and stratify students by scores and norms, place content above process, and do not place value on creativity or critical thinking.
Walden School Director Matt Allio believes strongly there is important value to these tests. Each year, we do an item analysis on the collective scores and we identify areas in which a class did well or poorly. This data enables teachers to plan more effectively for the remainder of the year and is why Walden students take the test in the fall.
Additionally, exposure to the tests, we believe, is enlightening to our students. There is value in students understanding the CTP4 is one of many measures that determines what they may have learned. There is value in teachers understanding the CTP4 is one way to look for areas of limitation and strength in our academic program.
While the tests might not be the most compelling measuring stick for what a student learns, they can provide an overview of skill sets of students and grade levels. For more information about CTP4 testing at Walden, please contact Director of Studies Terra Toscano.
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.
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.