Metal Moose Motors To Worlds
After the FIRST Robotics game was revealed on January 7, the Metal Moose robotics team got to work designing and constructing their robot. After many iterations and trials, they landed on their final designs. These systems combined to form “BAMI,” their robot for the 2023 FRC Season.
At their first competition in March, over thirty members of the team participated in a 3-day district qualifying competition. They were finalists (losing the tiebreaker in a close match), came home with two performance trophies, and qualified for the district championship. They won the Autonomous Award for the robot that best integrates environment sensing with robot performance through programming; the other award recognized their ascent to the finals.
On a weekend in early April, there was another 33-hour marathon event and the Metal Moose won the competition as well as the Excellence in Engineering Award for “design elegance and engineering robustness, performance, and full-machine integration.” They were ranked 8th in their district and 88th in the world among 3,297 teams. The intense work, focused collaboration, and iterative progress these students have taken this year now place the Metal Moose in the top 3% in the world.
By the end of the district championship, they had moved up to 7th in the district, 87th in the United States, and won the Quality Award which “celebrates machine robustness in concept, design and fabrication. Building the robot is only part of their success and the judges recognize them as a quality example to others.” This performance also qualified them for the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] World Championships once again and they headed for Houston. After three exciting days, Team 1391 and their alliance partners made it into the semi-finals, where they performed well but ultimately did not qualify for the finals. Now back home, finishing in the top 7% of all teams in the world, the team is meeting to review the year, identify systems for improvement, and set goals for next year, which include aspirations for another trip to the World Championship in 2024. Well, done, Metal Moose!
Check out the galleries of student photos from their competitions here!
Visiting Artists Share Their Talents with Our Students
Recently, Philadelphia-based artist Tim McFarlane came to our Lower School to teach as the 2023 Candace Freeman Artist-in-Residence. Along with the students, he created four panels that will hang in the Lower School hallways. Tim’s paintings and collages include vibrant colors, layers, and expressive marks, or “glyphs,” that are representative of a unique visual language that Tim has developed over time. The Visiting Artist Program began over thirty years ago and focuses on bringing professional artists to Westtown’s Lower School who embrace a child-like approach to exploring their own creativity. The opportunity for young artists to work alongside a professional artist to learn about abstract art and explore varied art media is a valuable and an important piece of our arts curriculum. Enjoy the gallery of photos from McFarlane’s visit!
Thanks to the McLear Artist in Residence Fund, Westtown welcomed ceramicist and sculptor Kourtney Stone to Stephanie Wilhelm’s Upper School ceramics classes. Stone worked virtually for a time with Upper School art students teaching how to sculpt eyes and mouths on clay tiles. Then, during her week-long residency on campus, she worked with students on making silicone molds of their tiles and instructed them on pressing and molding techniques to make multiple clay casts. Through this project, students learned about close observation, creativity, and the unique history carried within every person. You can see examples of student work and photos from Stone’s time on campus here. Stone’s work, along with the work students did with her, will be featured in an upcoming show in the gallery. She will return to campus for the opening reception on April 28, and will once again visit Wilhelm’s classes.
Black History Month at Westtown
In the Lower and Middle Schools, celebration of Black History Month centered on the themes of Black joy, Black Excellence, Black Achievement, and Black families. Kelly Yiadom, Director of Equity, Justice, and Belonging for Lower and Middle Schools, engaged students in a series of activities throughout the month around these themes. Students learned about Black inventors and entrepreneurs—Frederick McKinley, Granville T. Woods, and Dr. Patricia Bath, among others—as well as the achievements of Black Americans. Fifth graders visited the Archives to learn about Black history at Westtown. Students in each grade read a variety of works from the poetry of Amanda Gorman and books like Hair Love and Put Your Shoes on and Get Ready by Raphael Warnock. Primary Circle students had a special visit from 8th grader Ryder Tookes, who read I’m Loving Me, which was written by his aunt and uncle, Dr. Clarissa Henry-Adekanbi and David D. Henry II. In addition to readings, third graders listened to music, watched StoryCorps videos and Hidden Figures. All of these activities across the grades led to robust discussions among students. Queries in Meeting for Worship in both divisions centered around why celebrating Black History Month is important. In addition to readings, discussions, and classroom activities, Middle School students learned about the incredible life of Thurgood Marshall in a one man-show at the People’s Light Theater.
Eighth grader Jamila Burgos was invited to compete in a Black History Month oratorical contest at Penncrest High School. Jamila competed against five high school students and took home the grand prize with her performance of her original poem which was inspired by Nikki Giovanni’s Rosa Parks! Congratulations to Jamila!
Upper School students, faculty, staff, and families came together for our Black History Month Community dinner. The Black Student Union worked with the Dining Room staff to coordinate the dinner, decorated the Dining Room, and planned a delicious menu that included sweet tea, mac and cheese, greens, and sweet potatoes. It was a joyous event that included singing, shared poems, and dancing together in celebration of Black culture at Westtown. Enjoy the gallery of photos here (photo credits to Coco Chen ’25)!
The Upper School wrapped up Black History Month with an assembly featuring a performance by Amari Rebel and the Movement which honored Black culture and celebrated the history of Black music. Students and faculty were singing and dancing to this lively, lovely performance in the Barton-Test Theater! Our thanks to DeVon Jackson, Director of Equity, Justice, and Belong for the Upper School, for bringing this talented group to campus! See images from this performance here.
The assembly was a joyful end to the month that also celebrated Black love in Community Collection, and Meetings for Worship that centered around the five senses of Black excellence. In collaboration with DeVon Jackson, each of the Black affinity groups—Black Women Affinity Group, Multicultural Student Union, In the Know (young men), and Black Student Union—presented queries at a Meeting for Worship aimed at sight and touch (identity, being seen), taste and smell (cultural cuisine, scents), and sound (the impact of Black music). Within these Meetings were also queries about Blackness at Westtown, the impact of Black women in our daily lives, the ways in which Black men impact our lives, and considering which achievements or stories from Black history resonate with us individually.
Middle School Play: The Story Store
Congratulations to the cast and crew who staged the awesome Middle School production of The Story Store by Lana Haehnel! The play takes place in the near future where there is a service that helps you craft the narratives of your life, from the casual (“What do I say when people ask about my family?”) to the world-changing (“Who should I vote for?”). What does this service mean when it comes to digital privacy, individual thought, and the nature of truth? Roughly 52 Middle School students were involved with the production both on and off stage. Well done, students! Check out the gallery of photos here!
This year’s third grade African Dance performance marked the 21st anniversary of the African Dance program at Westtown and the partnership with Jeannine Osayande and the Dunya Performing Arts Company! The African Dance performance is a culmination of an extensive unit of study on the continent of Africa and its countries, cultures, and arts and a six-week residency of Osayande and the Dunya Performing Arts Company (DunyaPAC) during which they teach students West African dances and Capoeira. Osayande, Dunya PAC, and the drummers are professional performers whose mission is to teach children about African culture and its diaspora. During Osayande’s and DunyaPAC’s residency, third grade teachers Vicki Shelter and Kristin Hayman lead the students through this exploration of the countries of Africa, and art teacher Kelly Nicholson worked with students on creating their batik costumes while learning about West African adinkra symbols. Third graders did an excellent job in their performance, and so did parents and teachers, who joined in the dancing at the end of the show. Enjoy the gallery of photos here!
Students: Learners and Teachers
Teachers often seek ways for cross-divisional work among students, so that older students can teach younger ones, or students with proficiency in one area can tutor those developing skills as exemplified in the math and English peer tutoring programs in the Upper School. Recently, Upper School students who are native Spanish-speakers (students from Spain, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico) visited Upper and Middle School Spanish 1 classes to help students practice their conversation skills. Spanish 1 students interviewed the Spanish speakers about their homes, and drew pictures based on their conversation. This is just one of the ways our students’ varied experiences and gifts enrich the classroom experience for all.
Additionally, back in February, the youngest members of our community, Primary Circle, joined faculty and students in Upper School for a special visit to the Science Building! Initiated by chemistry teacher Rose Koenig and supported by her science colleagues in the Science Department, students got a taste of chemistry, biology, and robotics in the Upper School. They made giant bubbles, elephant toothpaste, looked through a microscope, and got to try their hand at operating the robots of the Metal Moose, our robotics team. These “crossovers” are reminders that students are teachers, too!
Enjoy the full gallery of photos here.
Into the Mountains
Director of Outdoor Education Chris Costa, along with trip leaders Elson Blunt, Fran de la Torre-Shu, Justin Boyer, Jodie Driver, and Melinda Janofsky, traveled to the High Peaks Region in New York’s Adirondack Mountains with a group of 23 students during the long winter weekend in February. Costa reports, “We had early mornings and very full days! Students were fully engaged in programming from Friday morning through Monday night. They worked well together and learned a lot about themselves, one another, and the pace and rhythms of traveling together in the mountains. They unplugged while at camp, engaged in family style meals and joined in the work of making our expedition run smoothly.” They hiked, skied, snowboarded, played games in the evening, and shared campfire s’mores. Costa adds that it was not an easy trip, and that was largely by design. Students faced challenges such as those presented by living in rustic accommodations in the winter, practicing the patience required to travel in a large group, learning to ski and/or snowboard, and shifting their relationship with technology. “They displayed resilience and flexibility and reflected in our closing ceremony about ways that they would bring their experience back to their life at Westtown.” Experiences like these are natural team builders, as well as opportunities to be in and learn from nature. Check out some photos from the weekend here!
Lunar New Year Celebrations
The annual Lunar New Year Community Dinner in the Upper School did not disappoint! Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai students worked hard to bring this event back to its pre-pandemic style. Delicious foods, from a menu created and prepared by the students alongside kitchen staff, were served at the dinner which was accompanied by music, student performances, community sharing, and, of course, the Lion Dance. After dinner, students were invited to visit “cultural stations” in classrooms along Main Hall where they could learn about various cultures, play games, and do activities. The wonderful video below, made by students Eric Li ’24 and Coco Chen ’25, captures the joy and excitement of our Lunar New Year Community Dinner.
Lunar New Year 2023 from Westtown School on Vimeo.
In Middle School, 8th grade volunteers supported the Lunar New Year activities throughout the week. All students in Middle School learned about Lunar New Year celebrations, and teacher Jie Song and Mandarin language students created this video below of songs and well wishes for the Lunar New Year.
Students in Lower School learned about Lunar New Year through books, activities, and from parents of Lower School students who came to share how they celebrate the Lunar New Year in their cultures. Students learned about Chūnjié, Seollal, and Tết – thanks to our parents! Have a look at the gallery of photos from this special week of activities!
Winter Dance Concert
Elements Dance Company’s and the Upper School Winter Dance Ensemble’s Winter Dance Concert, entitled Movements on Equal Rights, was a celebration of those who fought for equity, justice, and belonging. Created collaboratively by dance teacher Amy Grebe, student dancers, and guest artist Inaijah Meaux, the pieces in this concert were inspired by lesser-known activists as well as Westtown’s own archival journalism; the work responds to decades of The Brown & White articles documenting the real-time reactions to equality movements by Westonians of the era. You can enjoy photos from their wonderful performances here and here. Photo credits go to students Eric Li ’24 and Dylan Precious ’24, respectively.
Arts Awards and Accolades
This winter, seven Upper School students were honored with 20 recognitions from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers!
Priyanka Acharya ’23: Gold Key for “Alone” (Visual Art); Gold Key for “Evolution of Change” (Three-Dimensional Visual Art); Gold Key for “Generational Change” (Visual Art); Silver Key for “Family Line”(Visual Art)
Chloe Baker ’23: Gold Key for “Striving in the Souls of Black Folk: Resisting Humanization” (Critical Essay); Honorable Mention for “Ending an Epic: What Modern Retellings of The Odyssey Get Right” (Critical Essay); Honorable Mention for “Disgust, Desire, and the Transfeminine Body” (Critical Essay); Honorable Mention for “Ouroboros” (Flash Fiction); Honorable Mention for “Pondscum” (Science Fiction and Fantasy)
Coco Chen ’25: Honorable Mention for “May God bless you” (Digital Art)
Peishan Huang ’24: Gold Key for “Enemy” (Short Story); Gold Key for “Jiajia” (Short Story)
Eric Li ’24: Gold Key for “Surveillance” (Photography); Silver Key for “Forgotten Home” (Photography); Silver Key for “Mother” (Photography); Silver Key for “The Builder” (Photography); Honorable Mention for “Ferry Terminal” (Photography); Honorable Mention for “Moon at Dawn” (Photography)
Jacob Liu ’25: Honorable Mention for “An Elegy of Home” (Poetry)
Tina Zhu ’25: Gold Key for “self-portrait” (Visual Art)
In other Upper School visual and performing arts news, carved ceramic tiles by Karah Blunt ’25 were selected by the National K-12 Ceramic Exhibition out of 1,300 entries nationwide, and percussionist Milo Salvucci ’23 and flutist Ella Cook ’24 ranked as the top and second musicians respectively in our district of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Honors Festival. They joined the District Band Festival with tubist Solveig-Michael Daniels ’23.
Join us in congratulation these talented artists, writers, and musicians!
Middle School Artists Receive Honors
Delia Sanchez’s ’27 sculpture was selected as a Juror’s Prize by the Council for Art Education and the Pennsylvania Art Educators Association—the piece will be on exhibit in the State Capitol. Pieces by Maura Wiggins ’27 and Maitreyi Vadigepalli ’27 were included in the association’s Youth Art Month exhibit. These pieces were produced in teacher Marta Willgoose Salo’s art class.
Chesco Band Fest Nominees
Congratulations to the six Westtown students in 5th and 6th grade who were nominated to participate in the Chesco Band Fest: William Bromage, Norah Davidson, Felix Hopf, Hamilton Kreiling, Kayla Park, and Griffin Richards! These students participated in a one-day festival and worked with a guest conductor to rehearse and prepare music for an evening concert. This year’s fest took place at Owen J. Roberts High School and featured guest conductor Ken Kemmerer. We are proud of our young musicians!
Third Grade Celebrates Carnaval!
In February, the Lower School lobby was bedecked with a beautiful Carnaval display assembled by third grader Lucas Donatelli and his family. His mother, Tamara Rausa, also came to talk to third graders about Carnaval and Lucas shared a presentation about the famous Brazilian celebration, followed by a demonstration of instruments used in Samba. To finish, students danced Samba and had a Samba School Parade! You can see the gallery here!
Spring athletics are well underway, and here’s a quick look back at some of the highlights from an excellent winter season!
Girls Varsity Basketball Team Wins Friends Schools League and State Championships!
Double congratulations go to the girls varsity basketball team! This powerhouse team, undefeated in League play, won the Friends Schools League Championship in February, then went on to win the PAISAA state championship.
And, for the first time in Westtown School’s history, one of our varsity teams was invited to a National Tournament! Coming off of back-to-back PAISAA State Championships, our girls basketball team was invited to GEICO Nationals during the first weekend in April. This invitation-only event featured the best high school basketball teams in the country and included eight boys teams and four girls teams. Their game against top-seeded Monteverde School was aired on ESPNU and shown in the East Collecting Room, where students, faculty, and staff gathered to watch and cheer them on! The girls played hard, fought valiantly, and represented themselves and our school extremely well, ultimately falling to Monteverde 58-51. Given their young roster, including three eighth graders, there is no doubt this will be a team to watch for years to come.
Wrestling Team FSL Champions
The wrestling team, under the leadership of Jay Farrow, won its 25th FSL Championship this season! It was a storybook ending in which the FSL Championship meet between ANC and Westtown hung in the balance until the last match of the day. As fate would have it, the Westtown wrestler was a first year wrestler who had not won a match all season—and he was facing an experienced ANC foe. As you may have deduced, our novice wrestler was victorious, securing the win for Westtown!
Friends Schools League Honorees
Westtown had 17 student athletes recognized as FSL All League or Honorable Mentions this winter, more than any other FSL school! Join us in congratulating the following student athletes:
Boys Basketball: Matt Mayock ’23
Girls Basketball: Grace Sundback ’23, Joniyah Bland-Fitzpatrick ’23, Savannah Curry ’24, Jordyn Palmer ’27, Zahra King ’24
Wrestling: Titus Henderson ’23, Ryan Tookes ’24, Ryder Tookes ’27, Luke Holgate ’24, Sam Olojo ’24, Will Nangle ’24
Waring Award Winners
We also congratulate this year’s winter sport Waring Award winners. The Waring Award recognizes athletes who may not have titles and accolades, but who tirelessly strive for excellence, persevere through hardship, and elevate their teammates with their positive attitudes. It is for those who have devoted their hearts and souls to their teammates, their coaches, and their school. The recipients are: Santi Benbow ’23, Atlee Vanesko ’26, and Noah Fisher ’23!
Community/Alums Basketball Game
The annual Alums/Community Basketball Game had a great turnout this year, and we were happy to welcome alums back to campus! Jair Bolden ’16, founder of the Grey Rose Foundation, came back to play in the game, and provided the boys’ varsity team with Grey Rose Foundation T-Shirts for warmups on Saturday. It was great to see so many alums on the court! You can see more photos from the game here!
Enhancing the Collection: Pottery Donations to Westtown School
In September, Amy Hart, a 90-year-old former ceramics teacher in Swarthmore reached out to Westtown to consider donating a collection of pottery and other materials to the school. Hart is a prolific arts educator in the region and had friendships with major figures in American pottery and pedagogy such as Paulus Berensohn and M.C. Richards. Westtown was suggested as a potential home for these pieces thanks to the suggestion of Hart’s friend, retired Westtown ceramics teacher Joyce Nagata.
In this donation, Hart has gifted Westtown with pieces by Berensohn, Ruth Duckworth, and Karen Karnes. Further, to build on this donation, iconic Philadelphia gallery owners Rick and Ruth Snyderman have also donated a piece by Berensohn to Westtown. Berensohn has direct ties to Westtown, as he was an artist in residence in 1993. He worked with students in all divisions and delivered a lecture on his cutting-edge arts pedagogy.
In addition to the pottery collection, Hart donated a wide variety of classroom and research materials to Westtown. This donation included art books for the Lower School and Upper School libraries, 20 Native American rattles made of various materials, 22 carved spoons made of various materials, six Native American Zuni small stone fetishes, a large collection of minerals, fossils, ivory, shells and a completely intact ostrich egg on a hand-made ceramic base.
This donation comes at a time when Middle School art teacher Cindy Hodgson is conducting a project to consider the history of pottery at Westtown in collaboration with the Archives. Further, an anonymous donor purchased pottery by Joyce Nagata and current ceramics teacher Stephanie Wilhelm for the school’s permanent collection, as well as a ceramic piece by Cara Graver, former longtime Westtown art teacher. The donations honor a history connecting Quakerism and pottery in Chester County, as outlined in the book, The Potters and Potteries of Chester County by Westtown alum Arthur E. James.
“There is a thread connecting Quakerism, American pottery, Chester County, and Westtown School,” reflects Alex Ates, Director of PK-12 Visual and Performing Arts. “For example, Paulus Berensohn—who is widely credited for changing the course of American Ceramics education—was greatly influenced by Quaker mysticism and was a guest artist at Westtown. Amy Hart’s generous donation honors Westtown’s marvelous legacy of encouraging ‘the living arts.’ Indeed, these pieces will now live on campus with us, inspiring and teaching students for generations to come.”
You can explore the gallery of these wonderful donated pieces here.
WAA Board Approves Name Change
On March 29 at 6:30 p.m., the Westtown Alumni Association Board held a Called Meeting for Business to discern changing the name of the Westtown Alumni Association to the Westtown Alums Association. This change was proposed to match Westtown’s style convention of using “alums” in place of “alumni/ae/x” to simplify communications and be explicitly gender inclusive.
We are pleased to announce that our proposal was accepted at this meeting, and our official name is now the Westtown Alums Association.
On behalf of all of our members, the WAA board would like to thank everyone who attended the Called Meeting. If you have any follow-up questions, please email [email protected]
A Well-Lit Path Blog: New Post
Why does gender-inclusive language matter? Louisa Egan-Brad, Dean of Equity, Justice, and Belonging, shares her thoughts in this post on our blog.
Alum Visits History Class
Upper School history teacher Dan Burger-Lenehan, invited Andrew Richardson ’02 to a Zoom Q&A session with his 9/11 and U.S.-Middle East Relations classes. Burger-Lenehan shares, “Andrew is a counterterrorism analyst in the NYPD’s Intelligence Bureau. The students in my course just wrapped up a unit on terrorism that covered both 9/11 and the more recent surge in far-right domestic terrorism, so Andrew’s work is very relevant to what they’ve been studying.” Students enjoyed the presentation and had many questions for Richardson.
This is just one example of how alums’ experiences can enrich learning for our students. We welcome and invite alums to engage with our students, and to share their professional experiences. If you are interested, please be in touch with Domi Waldron, Director of Alums Engagement.