Westtown School and Christa Barfield, owner and operator of FarmerJawn Agriculture, are proud to announce a new partnership. Effective January 1, 2023, Barfield will lease 123 acres of the school’s campus to create an organic farm with an unconventional model.
Both stewardship of the land and the educational potential of Westtown’s 600 acres has long been a focus of the school. This intentional work is prioritized in the school’s Strategic Vision alongside a commitment to fostering equity, access, inclusion, and belonging.
A portion of the school’s land has been leased for farming use since 1996. Upon the announcement of current farmer Pete Flynn’s retirement, the school began a search for a partner with a commitment to a reciprocal, regenerative, and restorative relationship with the land. The school created a Farmland Task Force and commenced a months-long search for a mission-aligned partner. Head of School Chris Benbow shares, “The task force was impressed by Barfield’s experience, approach, and strong alignment with the school’s mission and Strategic Vision and is pleased to invite her to campus as our new partner.”
Barfield is a dynamic entrepreneur and a passionate advocate for healthy, organic food and for regenerative farming practices, with a vision to restore access to farmland and farming for Black farmers. She currently operates two Philadelphia-area businesses—FarmerJawn Agriculture and Viva Tea Leaf. Her organization includes a retail and garden learning center in Germantown, a community-supported agriculture (CSA) business, and five acres of farmland in Elkins Park. Barfield shares, “FarmerJawn is excited to expand our regional network to Westtown School to create a just food system that perpetuates regenerative and organic health for people and the planet.”
Barfield will farm half the land and use it to stock the farm market already located on the premises. The farm market will operate under a new name and will eventually include a CSA, prepared foods, and other locally grown and sourced products. The remaining acreage will become a “farming incubator,” comprising five ten-acre cooperative farms operated by a cohort of Black farmers. This incubator model will offer educational development opportunities and a “pathway to entrepreneurship” via sales at the farm market.
Quakers and Working Toward an ABAR Community
By Louisa Egan Brad, Dean of Equity, Justice, and Belonging
At a parent speaker series talk and at a faculty/staff Opening-of-School session this fall, I opened with the following quote from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). After you read it, I’d like you to guess what year it was written.
The need for [action beyond nondiscrimination] derives from the fact that discrimination is embedded in our societal patterns of education, housing, employment, social interaction, and political participation. These patterns are so pervasive that frequently neither their perpetrators nor their victims realize when and how discriminatory acts are being committed. AFSC is part of this society and has, generally unwillingly, fallen into some of the very activities and behavior patterns it seeks to avoid in itself and to change in others. In these circumstances, policies of nondiscrimination alone are inadequate to achieve inclusiveness and full participation. Special efforts and procedures to reach out to previously excluded groups are necessary…AFSC believes that the greater inclusiveness which is the goal of [action beyond nondiscrimination] is necessary for us to do our work effectively as a Quaker organization seeking to understand and address questions of oppression, empowerment, justice and peace…The objective of the plan is to change those patterns which have not so far produced the inclusiveness we seek and to try new ways to reach long established goals.
When do you think the text above was written?
Click here to see the answer:
American Friends Service Committee “Affirmative Action Plan” 1978
To me, this statement reads as though it could have easily been written sometime after the murder of George Floyd. The recognition of discrimination throughout American society, the acknowledgement that individuals may participate in and perpetuate discrimination unconsciously, the appreciation that inaction itself reproduces societal inequities–all of these ring true as realizations that have dawned on many in our country only since the summer of 2020.
And yet, Quakers stated these truths plainly over 40 years ago. Is this simply an accident of history? The introduction of the affirmative action plan indicates not, stating that “Implicit in both Quaker faith and practice is the belief that God is an active force, using men and women as instruments in order to bring society to a more perfect state…To be instruments of Divine Will, men and women need to be free of the weight of oppression and harmful discrimination.” Such sentiment underlies a long history of Quaker social activism–while certainly not every Quaker has always been on the right side of history, Quakers have been trailblazers with respect to social justice, with respect to abolition, women’s suffrage, gay rights, and other issues.
At Westtown, our Quaker identity and mission guide our equity, justice, and belonging work and our commitment to working towards an anti-bias, anti-racist (ABAR) community. This work for us is not a digression from our purpose or a mere reflection of broader American culture in our time. Rather, it is central to the work and privilege of teaching and learning in a Quaker school.
Art and Faith Exhibit
This fall Westtown’s Center for the Living Arts Gallery hosted the “Art and Faith” Exhibit to mark the 70th anniversary of Fritz Eichenberg’s Art and Faith Pendle Hill pamphlet, which considered the role of art at Westtown School. The exhibit featured original prints by Eichenberg from Westtown’s permanent collection, and works by Quaker artist Todd Drake, students, and faculty.
In 1954, Fritz Eichenberg, a German-born committed Quaker—and one of the most prominent visual arts educators of his time—visited Westtown’s campus to speak about the arts as an extension of the school’s essence. Two years prior, Eichenberg published his thoughts in a Pendle Hill pamphlet, Art and Faith. This is the 70th anniversary of that radical little work.
Fritz Eichenberg (b. 1901, Cologne, Germany; d. 1990, Rhode Island) was a popular German-American illustrator, speaker, and educator. Eichenberg held prominent posts at the Pratt Institute in New York City and the University of Rhode Island. He fled the rise of Nazism in 1933 and was involved in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project during the Great Depression. A committed Quaker, Eichenberg’s art often focused on social justice topics. As a writer, Eichenberg composed radical pamphlets for the nearby Quaker education and retreat center, Pendle Hill. As a teacher, Eichenberg was well-known for his “The Art of Teaching Art” lecture. Perhaps, though, Eichenberg is best known as an illustrator of classic novels and for Dorothy Day’s The Catholic Worker radical newspaper. In the 1950s, Eichenberg visited Westtown’s campus as part of his ongoing participation in The Society of Friends and arts education.
Todd Drake (b. 1961, North Carolina) is an American interdisciplinary artist, activist, and educator who lives in New York City. The recipient of multiple grants and fellowships, Drake has traveled globally to facilitate social justice-oriented arts projects. Alongside his wife, Drake is the co-operator of a Quaker intentional community in Manhattan, Penington Friends House. Drake’s most recent solo exhibition was “Rising,” a series of prints and pen and ink drawings dealing with the issue of Global Warming. His surrealistic imagery links his experiences growing up on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with his concerns for what will be lost due to the rising tides of the Climate Crisis. Recently, Friends Journal published Drake’s “The Leading of Hope.”
Director of Visual and Performing Arts Alex Ates was instrumental in bringing this exhibit to life, and the idea came to him during his visit to Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and conference center. “The exhibit was inspired when I read Eichenberg’s Pendle Hill pamphlet Art and Faith while I was on retreat there,” says Ates. “I was stunned by the clear and vigorous way that Eichenberg connected Quakerism and art. I was further surprised to learn that Eichenberg has strong ties to Westtown, as the school invited him to speak on campus in the 1950s and purchased several of his prints for our permanent collection. When I visited the pieces in Westtown’s Archives, I was struck by the fact that Westtown has been exploring the relationship between artistic creativity and faith for quite a long time—and the past can help embolden our future as we continue those conversations today. And, it just so happened, this year marked 70 years since Eichenberg’s pamphlet was published! Immediately, I knew to pull in my colleague Lizzy Oxler, who just completed her doctoral research on Folklore, to support this exploration as curator.”
The Art and Faith exhibit ran from September 16 through October 22, 2022. The exhibit’s opening celebration included remarks from curator English teacher Lizzy Oxler, Head of School Chris Benbow ’90, and Pendle Hill Executive Director, Westtown trustee, and parent Francisco Burgos, along with an original piano composition entitled Looking for the Light, by Mandy Zhao ’24. During the exhibition, students from across divisions had interactive experiences with the work, from an image scavenger hunt and question series for Lower School students to reflective writing prompts for Upper School English classes.
As highlighted in the exhibit’s opening note: “Eichenberg wrote that while he lives in the Age of the Atom ‘under the shadow of the Terrible Cloud,’ he remains hopeful at the promise of art and what art can do, noting that art itself ‘has survived all cataclysms.’ In our own community, we reflect on our own version of the ‘Age of the Atom.’ We continue to live in a world of nuclear volatility and political vulnerability. And, not to mention the ever-present hum of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we came together during Meeting for Worship, we still created productions; those practices continued and they can live together—they do right here, right where you stand. This exhibit is a timeline of the progression of these twinned spaces of art and faith, a meditation on the relationship as perceived by members of the community.
The arts have flourished at Westtown. We live in a space where art and faith are intertwined and cohesive. Bold arts education will grow at Westtown because the seeds have already been planted. So, we invite you to look forward to our past and our present.” Please enjoy photos of the exhibit here.
Serving the Community
At Westtown, service learning is an integral part of curriculum and all students have a variety of opportunities to engage in service projects throughout their school careers. In the Upper School, Service Network, a co-curricular offering, provides regular and ongoing projects for students. This fall, students in Service Network and a group of upper-level Spanish students took on some special community projects.
Last spring, Service Network students worked with Farmer Bill on the Chester County Food Bank farm (grown on the Westtown School farm in partnership with Farmer Pete Flynn). They planted kale, beets, and a variety of greens—about 900 plants in total. Just before Thanksgiving this year, the plants were harvested providing quite a bounty for the CCFB.
The Service Network’s partnership with Cradles to Crayons has also continued. Students recently spent an afternoon at the Philadelphia location to rehabilitate and clean used shoes to be distributed to children in the area. Service Network Coordinator Lara Freeman shares, “The work was tedious and required much elbow grease but the students were joyful and committed to the task!”
Throughout the fall, Service Network offered donation boxes around campus collecting items in support of the West Chester Food Cupboard. Students drop off donations a couple times each season. So far this year, over 150.5 pounds of food and personal care items have been donated. If you’re on campus and would like to contribute, there is a box on the East End of the Main Building.
Service Network co-curricular students also provide tutoring for the New Directions Program at the Melton Center in West Chester twice a week, they work at the SPCA in Brandywine once a week, and they make regular visits to volunteer at the Habitat ReStore on Saturdays to support the fundraising leg of Habitat for Humanity. Upcoming service opportunities will include a build project with Habitat for Humanity and a seed sorting project through the Cooperative Gardens Commission in which students will sort and make small packs of seeds for individual gardeners that will be sent to Seed Hubs around the country. Last year, this volunteer-led effort provided food for 20,000 people.
Beginning in September, 10 students have participated in a unique service partnership at the Iglesia Buen Samaritanos in West Chester. The members of this church are primarily Spanish speaking and a number of them wanted to either improve their English or begin to learn English for the first time. Students involved in this project are: Alena Zhang ’24, Luke Cogswell ’24, Dane Clunk ’23, Noah Bay ’23, Chloe Costa-Baker ’23, Melanie Flynn ’23, Antonio Ubiera ’25, Bailey Tuckman ’25, Helena McConatha-Rosle ’24, and Maya Jain ’24, all of whom have completed Level 4 or above of our Spanish program and wish to practice both their linguistic and cultural competency in Spanish in the local community.
Each Monday evening, these students met with Spanish teacher Cynthia Voorhees to reflect on the previous week, and make their lesson plans for the week. On Tuesday evenings, they went to the church to teach English from 7:00-8:30 p.m. Voorhees stresses that this is a significant time commitment for students on top of their regular course work.
Eight students were paired with adults or children at the church to teach them English, and two students also taught a basic technology skills class to the Spanish-speaking adults in the community. These classes were to help adults become more comfortable with creating gmail accounts, sending emails and files, and creating Google slide presentations. All teaching in this program was done in Spanish. The tech class has now concluded, but the English classes will continue through mid-January. In February, our students will be volunteering as child-care givers while adults in the church community are engaged in another course at the church.
Voorhees shares, “The mutually beneficial partnership that we have formed with this church is truly a beautiful thing. We are serving them, but they are also serving us by allowing us to learn more about their culture, practice our Spanish, and to grow as teachers and care-givers. Some really beautiful friendships have evolved between our students and the folks at the church. I love that our kids are making friends outside their age-bracket, socio-economic bracket, and their own culture.” Just before Winter Break, students gathered with the members of the church enrolled in the English program for a holiday dinner sponsored by Lara Freeman and the Service Network program.
Opening of School
It is a marvelous thing when students return to campus each fall. Student return is incremental and happens in stages —athletes arrive for presesaon, then international students, then student leaders, then new students — until at last all students have returned; in all this year, 696 students!
The Opening-of-School process includes orientation sessions, team-building exercises, and fun events for students and families to get to know the school and one another, such as the Lower School Sneak-A-Peak and the Middle School Ice Cream Social.
In the Upper School, great care is taken to make students feel welcome and at home, especially those coming from great distances. This year we welcomed students from 21 states and 18 countries! Check out some of activities offered to students, from special orientation sessions for internationals students to team-building, to a special BBQ, to a night out at Ice Line for ice skating.
Lower School Mask Parade
During Lower School art classes, students have been working hard on designing and creating masks for our Halloween Mask Parade — a Westtown tradition that is over forty years old. Students’ families lined the parade route, cheering on our masked artists. While our parade coincides with Halloween, it is more than just a spooky surprise. The parade showcases our young artists and their creativity. See the parade of masks here!
Students in Middle and Upper School Mandarin Chinese classes learned to make one kind of mooncakes as part of the celebration of the Mid-Autumn Festival. In China, Mid-Autumn Festival is a celebration of the rice harvest and many fruits. Ceremonies are held both to give thanks for the harvest and to encourage the harvest-giving light to return again in the coming year. Mooncakes are offered between friends or at family gatherings while celebrating the festival. Check out the beautiful (and delicious) work of our students here!
7th Grade Canoe Trip
In September, 7th graders traveled to the Delaware Water Gap for their canoe trip. These annual trips have been a signature program in the Middle School for over 40 years, and students experience a trip in each grade of Middle School, with the challenges deepening as the students get older. The placement of the 7th grade tip at the beginning of the school year is intentional, as this trip is often a formative experience for students, resulting in deeper relationships with peers and faculty, an increased sense of self-confidence and a belief in their ability to overcome obstacles both individually and as a group. This canoe trip is also an integral component of community building as they enter their 7th grade year.
The students paddled a section of the Delaware River located in the beautiful Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area on the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They carried everything with them on the river and camped as they traveled downstream. All students were engaged in the meaningful work of: traveling as a large group down the river, tent setup, preparation and clean up of meals, fire building, packing and unpacking of canoes, etc. Students learned navigation skills and had several opportunities to practice leadership in small and large groups. Students also continued their understanding of Leave No Trace (LNT) wilderness travel practices that they began working on in their 6th grade Outdoor Education. Director of Outdoor Education Chris Costa said of their experience, “We had a fantastic time that included lots of animal sightings (Bald Eagles, too!), delicious food, just enough wind and rain to develop some resilience and grit, plenty of sunshine, and lots of laughs and community building!”
Enjoy the entire gallery of photos from this fun trip here.
Outdoor Education Hiking Trip
This fall, 10 Upper School students hiked 14 miles with heavy packs on steep and rocky terrain on the Appalachian Trail during the Outdoor Education Fall Backpacking Trip. Students carried everything they needed for the weekend on their backs, and learned how to live and travel in the backcountry, including how to work within a group to treat their water, set up camp, build a fire, protect their food from bears, and navigate with a map and compass. Chris Costa, Director of Outdoor Education reports, “Our overnight/morning temperatures were in the low 40s to mid-30s and students layered up and stayed positive. They spent time reflecting together and laughing a lot. They showed great leadership in their support for one another and their ability to meet and push their edges.” See more from their experience here.
Arts and Activism
In teacher Megan Rose’s Middle School class “Arts and Activism,” students explore artists who use their mediums for expressions of activism and to bring attention to social issues. They studied artists like Andy Goldsworthy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Michelle Angela Ortiz and others. They created their own stencils, posters, and natural art works inspired by these artists.
Some of the projects in this class supported Fairhill Burial Ground including field trips where students deepened their acknowledgement of Lenape culture and heritage.
Upper School International Festival
Sunday December 3, 2022 was our annual International Festival. This long-standing event celebrates our diverse community at Westtown. Our students, families, and faculty set up stations in Main Hall classrooms and offered snacks, games, presentations, and opportunities for connection and conversation about their cultural heritage. Our thanks to teachers Bei Zhang and Rose Koenig, International Student Coordinators, who made this event possible, and to all the students and families who shared their cultures, foods, and languages with us! Visit the gallery here to see more!
National Merit Scholars and Commended Students
Congratulations to our National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists (left to right): Sean (Zihan) Dong ’23, Milo Salvucci ’23, Eric Ochis ’23, and Chloe Costa Baker ’23! Each year, the National Merit Scholarship Program “recognizes individual students who show exceptional academic ability and potential for success in rigorous college studies.”
We also offer our congratulations to the National Merit Scholarship Commended Students, seniors Sahil Mitra, Taehyung Kim, and Sam Tan! These students are recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program for “exceptional academic promise demonstrated by their outstanding performance on the qualifying test.”
The Upper School production of Twelfth Night was amazing! This new, energetic adaptation of Twelfth Night — Shakespeare’s beloved comedy of mistaken identity, love triangles, music, and mischief — was a delight. Kudos to all the students, both center stage and back stage, who brought this play to life!
Westtown commissioned this original adaptation by the New Orleans-based writer and actor James Bartelle. Bartelle came to campus to have conversations with students about Shakespeare, acting, playwriting, and the process of adapting Twelfth Night. He stayed on campus for the run of the performances and engaged with classroom activities and events along with teacher Alex Ates, Theater Director and Director of Visual and Performing Arts. Our thanks to James Bartelle for sharing his time with our students!
Enjoy the gallery of photos from the production here.
Falling Back Into Dance
In case you missed the Fall Dance Concert, you can see a gallery of our talented dancers performing here!
Descendants of ancient watermelon seeds were cultivated by the Jordan family and shared with third graders this fall. This seed story actually begins in the last centur —and across the country. In the late 1920s, plant expert Art Combe was exploring a cave in Arizona’s Mogollon Rim. He found a small clay pot filled with watermelon seeds believed to be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years old stored by Native Americans in the area. Combe planted some of the seeds he found and the fruit the plants bore were small and crook necked, but very flavorful. Over decades, these seeds were cultivated and seed-saving preserved and propagated this particular type of watermelon. Fast forward to last summer when Upper School science teacher Steve Compton obtained some of the seeds descended from those found in the cave and gave them to Associate Director of Admission Samantha Jordan ’01 and her family who planted them. Sam and her son, Tommy ’ 32, shared some of their watermelon harvest with Tommy’s classmates in third grade earlier this fall. The students learned about these heirloom seeds, and Farmer Tim Mountz used the opportunity to teach the students about seed saving and heirloom plants. Finally, they all got to see the “big reveal” when the watermelon from the Jordan’s garden was cut open, and they all got to share in tasting it. Students reported that it was “very sweet, even though it was light pink inside.” When the tasting was complete, third graders collected the seeds from the watermelon to continue the seed-saving process for this unique variety of watermelon. Enjoy the gallery here!
Metal Moose Specialty Drive Team!
Back in September, a contingent of the Metal Moose Robotics team traveled to an off-season competition which featured all-women drive teams. Westtown’s Metal Moose ran the field and won the competition! Team faculty advisor Steve Compton says, “The event offered both returning and students new to robotics opportunities to learn to drive, operate, and fix the robot. The operators for this competition: were Liana Jimenez ’25, Lucia Sanchez ’24, Emily Kessler ’25, Aveline Heryer ’25, Jessie Wang ’26, and Zoe Malavolta ’23. Congratulations!!
5th Graders got back to their annual camping trip to Echo Hill Outdoor School, an outdoor education camp by the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. Students had a blast canoeing, attending ecology classes, learning survival skills, engaging in bay studies, and more. The experiences help them build independence, learn about themselves and classmates, and do things they may have never done before. Science teacher Amanda Jeane Strode shared some of the highlights this year which included: “kissing fish, night hiking, and weighing the S.L.O.P. (stuff left on plate) at each meal.” What a great trip! Enjoy the whole gallery of photos here.
Learning to Build Healthy Communities
Just before break, third graders gave presentations of their community maps depicting communities that they created that represented their ideal. Third grade teacher Kristin Hayman explains, “Our Community Unit started with the essential question, How can we make the world a better place? We started with discussions on perspective and map skills, including learning about map keys and the compass rose. Many picture books were read to the class to gain a better understanding of a variety of topics: imagined communities, clean energy, trash removal, and stories focused on diversity. [We talked about the] concepts of rural, suburban, urban, and the importance of sustainability. The students went on a field trip to Swarthmore where they experienced walking through and learning about community helper’s jobs, sustainability, and how a community can use their environment renewably. We also went on a field trip to Republic Services Conestoga Landfill to learn about how much trash people generate and what we are doing to handle the incredible amount of garbage created. [Groups of] students then created individual maps about what their ideal community would look like. They prototyped buildings and other structures, which led to the creation of 3D maps of their communities.” Art teacher Kelly Nicholson taught the students how to draw a geometric compass rose, which they illustrated and colored with watercolor pencils. Additionally, Science Teacher Amanda Jeane Strode taught a unit on electricity and circuits, which allowed the groups to “electrify” their maps using light bulbs and motors. At the presentation for their parents, each of the groups described their communities, read their “constitutions” and missions, and shared what they were most proud of on their community maps. You can enjoy the gallery of photos here!
Fall Sports Roundup
Congratulations to the girls varsity soccer team, Friends Schools League Champions! The team were also semi-finalists in the PAISAA State Tournament. We offer our congratulations as well to the Friends Schools League All-League honorees and Honorable Mentions (HM): Brianna Bartsch ’26, Olivia Bley ’24, Juliana Del Beato ’26, Lacey Jackson ’25, Berta Grohmann Llinares ’24, Camille Bley ’26 (HM), Lucy Smith ’26 (HM). Olivia Bley was also named an All-State and All Southeastern PA player!
We celebrate the following student athletes who were named Friends Schools League (FSL) All-League players and Honorable Mention (HM) in their respective sports:
- Grace Malavolta ’25, Grace Rhile ’23, Zoe Malavolta ’23 (HM)
- Josiah Moore ’23, Carlos Salazar ’25, Tee Johnson ’23, Leo Salvucci ’24 (HM)
- Jamilla Derga ’24 and Santi Benbow ’23
- Leah Stern ’23, Sasha Khalo ’24 (HM)
At the fall sports award ceremony, two students were given the Waring Award: Josiah Moore ’23 (soccer) and Mariana Ortiz ’24 (soccer). The Waring Award is given at the culmination of each sport season to the student athlete(s) who have dedicated themselves day in and day out, in service of their school, teammates, and coaches. This award is intended to lift up those who constantly strive for improvement, who persevere when things are tough, and who lift up those around them with their tireless effort and positive attitude. This award is for those who never took a drill off, always received constructive feedback with a smile, and poured their heart and soul into their sport and their team. The Waring Award is for those athletes who may not necessarily have the titles and the accolades but go out and grind for the love of the game. The recipient(s) of this award are nominated by their coaching staff and selected by the athletic department. Congratulations, Josiah and Mariana!
FallFest Was a Smash!
In September, hundreds campus to join us for FallFest 2022! There were games, activities, and food trucks, but most of all — FUN! We offer special thanks to our community of volunteers who helped make it all possible, and to event planner extraordinaire Megan Schlickmann!
Enjoy the gallery of photos here!
Campus Nature Walk
In November, we hosted the Second Annual Campus Nature Walk. The nature walk was led and curated by Chris Costa, Director of Outdoor Education, and Marta Willgoose Salo, Middle School faculty member and naturalist. Participants got the opportunity to learn more about the flora and fauna of our campus, and simply enjoy being together in nature. Thanks to all who joined us for this educational, community-building event! You can enjoy photos from the nature walk here.
Middle and Upper School Parents’/Guardians’ Days
It’s always exciting to welcome families to campus so they can get a taste of what school is like for their kids, sample classes, and meet teachers and advisors! In case you missed seeing the galleries on our social media platforms, here are the galleries of the Upper School and Middle School Parents/Guardians’ Days. Enjoy!