We are uncommonly invested in helping our students discover and explore their interests, talents, and sense of purpose. We know this, our alumni know this, and our students and their parents do as well; now it's time to make sure the rest of the world does too. In the coming months, you'll start to see more messaging from the school using the phrase "purpose illuminated" - stay tuned! These words and accompanying language were developed in-house to articulate the special, distinctive approach Westtown has to cultivating leaders and stewards of a better world. But don't take our word for it, listen to what our Upper School students have to say:
Thanks to all who came out for a fun day of music, food, games, hayrides, and more at FallFest 2018. Thanks, also, to event planner Megan Schlickmann and the 117 (!!) volunteers who made the celebration possible. Here is a gallery of photos that includes images from the Alumni/Community soccer game!
Westtown’s school psychologists, Dr. Maria Alonso and Dr. Jessica Morley, led an informative discussion on the social emotional brain on November 5th at the Malvern Buttery.
In our latest blog post, Dr. Alonso discusses the importance of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). She writes, “While psychology research has shown that SEL competencies are positively correlated with academic success, it is important to note that these competencies also contribute to helping our children lead more satisfying, healthy, and happy lives.” She also stressed that ideally, parents and schools partner in this task and ensure that children develop and refine these SEL competencies and related skills throughout childhood and adolescence. The staff and faculty at Westtown work hard to be sure this partnership occurs.
Raising Their Voices
Sometimes curriculum evolves to fit the times, and from current events there arise opportunities to teach. Such was the case in third grade recently. For several years, third grade teachers Vicki Shelter and Marc Dear have spent a significant amount of time on their Community Unit in which students learn about who and what makes a community. They learn about resource and waste management, what kinds of jobs support communities, how local government works, how various religions worship, how infrastructure is maintained. Then they are challenged to work collaboratively to imagine and design an ideal community of their own. It’s a multidisciplinary undertaking that includes geography, civics, design thinking, research, writing –and kindness and empathy.
In the past, as part of their community studies, students were asked to write a newspaper about community helpers. The teachers felt that the the kids didn’t connect well to that aspect of the assignment so this year, they asked students to interview family members about their stories - their roles in their communities, their histories. Many students encountered immigration stories.
As these stories were unfolding, Shelter heard about the Raising Our Voices campaign from her writer/illustrator friend Judy Schachner. The project and website were created by artists who were inspired by Senator Dick Durbin’s call for postcards welcoming migrant children from Mexico. Prominent illustrators and artists donated images to be used on these postcards. Shelter decided this would be the writing component of the unit, because it had a connection to current events, to the immigration stories being read to them during writing and library and the fact that some of the students were learning about their own family’s immigration stories from their interviews. It was a way to connect their learning with real children. And it was a natural way for the kids to practice empathy and show kindness, a recurring theme throughout Lower School curricula.
The students took great care with the cards, practicing in their writing journals first. The students, understanding that the migrant children might not speak English, put some of their Spanish words to the test. “The kids were quite thoughtful about this project and about what to write. It was a great thing to watch,” says Shelter. The cards were collected and sent to an organization in Washington, DC which then disperses them to other organizations that are working with families and children that enter the United States. It is a small act of kindness, but one that the third graders took very seriously.
The Raising Our Voices project is a voting campaign as well, so the third graders also wrote cards to family members and neighbors encouraging them to vote. As part of their Community Unit, they had a field trip to the Tim Kearney's campaign headquarters. He is the mayor of Swarthmore and was running for state senate. (The kids were delighted to find out later that he won.) The students met his campaign manager who explained about campaigns and the voting process. They also learned that how a person votes is private, which is why their postcards should not contain political messages or candidates, simply an encouragement to vote.
These community and civics lessons had a significant impact on the students this year, and their acts of kindness and encouragement to adults to vote helped them to understand that their voices – and their empathy – can make a difference in their communities and in the world.
By Margaret Haviland
What sort of house do chickens need? Does adjusting seawater pH counteract the effects of global warming? How do I amplify the voices of young women who are agents of change? How might my students experience the arctic environment from Westtown?
These are just some of the questions Westtown students and faculty have asked themselves over the past few years. Sometimes our students and faculty need a little money to help answer those questions. In 2016 Westtown School received a $50,000 EE Ford Foundation matching grant which, with help from alumni class gifts, brought the fund to $100,000. The grant was written with two goals: to support faculty professional development in the areas of Design Thinking and project-based learning, and to provide incubator funds for student and faculty ideas. As we wrote in the grant proposal, project-based education “connects Design Thinking with our unique commitment to salient student inquiry that drives student agency as change makers in our community and beyond...[our hope is that] our students can learn to successfully navigate open-ended challenges in school and beyond.”
Teachers or students may apply. For teachers the proposal must involve working with kids in the current fiscal year. Students must have a faculty sponsor. Each group or person is expected to submit a brief written description of the project including a budget. Then they present to the grant committee. This cross-divisional, cross-program group asks the grantee to explain how the grant will help them realize their vision. At the end of the year, each grantee returns to share with the committee how their project went, what they learned, and what the next steps might be.
In our first year awarding grants, fifth grade teacher Marion Dear used her grant to create a Mindfulness Corner in her classroom. As she wrote in her grant application, “sometimes students need to take a moment to gather themselves or think through an idea in a space without distractions.” She created a space with a comfortable chair, a plant, and noise canceling headphones. Amanda Huskey and Susan Proctor requested funds to buy virtual reality viewers so that second grade students could go on “field trips” to the Arctic, space, and coral reefs without leaving the classroom.
In year two, we awarded grants to help Sabrina Schoenborn ’20 bring her website for The Girl Narrative into being. The fourth grade students Joey Burns, Melissa Freeman, Sean Kramer, Quinlan McLear, and Teacher Hilary Simons requested funds for their project to design a better chicken coop. Thoughtful and prepared, these students ably answered questions and made a successful case for support for their prototype. Then-seniors Yiheng Xie '18 and Omelet Theeranantachai ’18 requested funds for their Smart Chicken Coop Project. This proposal was separate from – but in partnership with –the fourth graders’ project. The SCCP project included using solar panels to power the coop doors, fans and heat the water in the evening.
This year grants helped a group of Upper School students join the LaunchX program; Nick Cavalieri ’19 used his grant to purchase two aquariums and equipment for his study of coral reefs, pH, and climate change. Lulu Cossich, the Lower School music teacher, will use a grant to help underwrite a first-ever trip for 5th grade students to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and the New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert Series at the Lincoln Center. And Middle School math teachers Erin Salvucci and Kenn Sirinek received a grant to help underwrite their Algebra I project-based learning unit focused on students exploring the social, environmental, and economic impacts of retail business. The students with the best project design and proposal will receive funds to bring their T-shirt enterprise to reality.
For the students, this entire process mirrors experiences they will have as future scientists, authors, engineers, designers, entrepreneurs–anyone looking for financial and institutional support or investment. They will need to develop their idea to the place of plausibility, including a budget and timeline. They will need to be able to write succinctly and convincingly about their idea and why it merits the attention of funders. They will need to meet with potential investors or grantors and answer questions about their project and defend its merits. Each step of the process involves experiential learning in service of Westtown’s mission and real-world skills.
Thanks to Director of Sustainability TJ Costa, Westtown’s fire circle and outdoor classroom space has been recently renovated and is ready for use! The new benches were made from local White Oak and Black Locust logs. They are sturdy, rustic, and - quite simply - beautiful! This space, often used for Meeting for Worship, is also available for classes, advisory periods, teams, and the weekend program. Nestled among the trees near the lake, it is a secluded, peaceful location perfect for reflection and community building whether there is a fire or not. Lower School recently had their first Fire Circle Meeting for Worship, pictured here. Thank you, TJ!
The Campus Kitchen club here at Westtown partnered with CandyCare, a locally based grassroots organization entering its 20th year of successful candy drives. What started out for CandyCare as children giving to children has now spread to businesses and local communities and schools collecting candy that is then donated to homeless shelters, food banks, and other organizations working with those in need.
The Campus Kitchen Club in the Upper School asked the entire Westtown Community to donate any extra candy that they did not want or need immediately after Halloween. They collected 133.5 pounds of candy, and the Upper School Service Network students delivered it on November 14.
In their history class, Teacher Sue Gold's sixth graders have been studying archaeology, which is a subsection of their study of material culture. They trekked out to the woods to excavate the trash middens. The students will use the artifacts they found to contribute to the telling of Westtown’s story, as artifacts will be given to the Archives. Students have found fragments of medicine bottles, dishes, toothbrushes, and many items associated with life at the school in the distant past.
National Merit Commended Students
Congratulations to Chloe Moffitt '19 and Joe Seyedroudbari '19, Commended Students in the National Merit Scholarship Program!
The Fall Play was a different undertaking this year as students collaborated to create Brainstorm, a play about the teenage brain. It was a powerful work that was enhanced by the unique set design and staging. If you were not able to see in the theater, we highly encourage you to watch it online.
Visual and Performing Art Chair and Director of Theater Arts Will Addis, who directed the play, describes it like this: "Inside every adolescent brain, 86 billion neurons connect and collide to produce the most frustrating, chaotic, and exhilarating changes that will ever happen to us. Brainstorm is a unique theatrical investigation into how teenagers’ brains work, and why they’re designed by evolution to be the way they are. Brainstorm is a devised theater piece, meaning the cast has collaborated to write it themselves, based on their own stories and cutting edge research into the teenage brain. This is the first in a year-long series of contemporary plays that give voice to the inner thoughts, ambitions, hopes, and fears of today’s teens, part of the art department's school wide exploration of the teenage voice."
Teacher Leslie Barr's Chemistry 2 Advanced class made Chemistry Cookbooks to show the chemical reactions involved in creating a meal, from executing the recipe, to the cooking process, to the digestion process. They taste tested their way through a delicious learning experience. The students were given an evening in the kitchen as well, where they cooked dinner for the boarding community using the recipes from their project. The cookbooks are available on a website so that others can create these foods and know the science behind what they are eating.
The annual International Festival, held on December 2, celebrated our international community. Art and artifacts, music, information, and foods were offered in this fun (and delicious) celebration of cultures! There was representation from: Japan, Italy, Bhutan, South Korea, China, Germany, Ethiopia, Palestine, Iran, India, Bermuda, Australia, Ecuador, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Sweden, Mexico, Argentina, and Spain - a testament to the rich diversity of our community! Enjoy the gallery of photos!
Honoring A Pioneer
At the the boys varsity basketball game on November 17, Westtown School and the Athletics Department recognized Hal Weaver '52 for his lifetime achievements, presenting him with a basketball signed by the current team members. As an athlete at Westtown, Hal was not only a standout but also a pioneer. He was the first African-American named Best All-Around Athlete; the first African-American captain of the basketball team; and, the first African-American all-Philadelphia soccer player. He has continued to be a pioneer throughout his life as the founding Chair of the Department of Africana Studies at Rutgers University, and the founder of the BlackFilm Project, BlackQuaker Project, and China-Africa-Russia Project. He is currently an Associate at Harvard University's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. He is the author of two books, Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights and Facing Unbearable Truths, and is working on his third. As Head of School Tori Jueds noted in her presentation, “Hal has been unfailingly supportive of Westtown School, and stands as a figure of inspiration to all of us who love Westtown Athletics, and the community of Westonians who prize inclusion, diversity, and equity.” Indeed!
Our fall teams and student-athletes gave us memorable and record-breaking performances this fall season. Two teams went undefeated in the Friends Schools League (FSL) regular season play, and we had multiple student-athletes garner All-League Honors. You can view the roster of Westtown's All-League athletes and Honorable Mentions here.
The girls varsity soccer team won their second consecutive FSL Championship this season, finishing with a 9-0-0 record in FSL play for the second consecutive year. The team also made it to the quarterfinals of the PAISAA playoffs. They finished their season scoring a total of 44 goals and conceding only 6 goals. Sara Oswald '19 set a new school scoring record with 81 goals, breaking her previously held record of 68 goals. Natalie Neumann '19 also set a new career shutout record with 37 shutouts for her career. Awesome job, girls soccer!
The boys varsity soccer team went undefeated this season in FSL regular season play and earned a finals appearance in the FSL championship game. They finished their season with an overall record of 10-2-6, scoring a total of 50 goals while conceding only 11 goals.
The boys and girls cross country teams both had memorable seasons. The girls finished third in the FSL, and the boys finished second. Both teams had multiple runners named to the All-League teams. The boys also finished second in the PAISAA State Championship, bringing home the first PAISAA cross-country medal in school history. The team also returns all its runners for next season.
Girls field hockey finished their season with a 5-9 record and were Quaker Cup Finalists. The team also had multiple athletes named to the All-League roster. Girls tennis finished with a 6-5 record and Claire Burke '20 was named to the All-League team.
College Counselor Marje Ireland submitted a proposal to the Pennslyvania Association of College Counseling (PACAC) 2018 Conference Planning Committee entitled: As Counselors, How Do We Talk About Diversity, Access, & Inclusion? She invited a diverse panel of high school college counselors and community-based leaders to be on the panel. The session addressed how college counselors, access counselors, and professionals who work with students can have conversations with all students and families regarding diversity, access, and inclusion in college. How do we talk about diversity in college on the secondary school side? Why is it important for students to continue that dialogue and be empowered to want to understand the importance of the conversation. This academic year College Counseling, and the Director of Diversity, Access, and Inclusion, as well as some key faculty members, will work on creating space for students to discuss diversity, access, and inclusion in college.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
You may remember Penny Wilson from her tenure as a Westtown Lower School art teacher. Over 50 years later, Teacher Penny still has a bright sparkle in her eyes and a smile as large as the “Big Sky Country” in Montana that she loves so much.
All five of Penny’s daughters attended Westtown, and she has never lost touch with the school. Penny has a strong interest in preserving buildings, and she has demonstrated her commitment to improving our campus over the years. For decades, she has donated to buildings projects, the Westtown Fund, financial aid, and the endowment. She was a generous contributor to Westtown’s Athletic Facility improvement project in 2006 and a lead benefactor for the Science Center expansion and renovation in 2012.
Penny is involved in myriad causes in Chester County and across the country. She co-founded Historic Sugartown, Inc., an authentic 19th-century village in Malvern, Pennsylvania, in 1983, and she remains a board member to this day. Penny’s philanthropic interests include education, art, historic preservation, land conservation, and health. She has served on many boards, including The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bennington College, Moore College of Art and Design, Chester County Hospital, and the Chester County Art Association – just to name a few!
With a deep affinity for architecture, Penny appreciates the special needs of historic construction and the importance of updating buildings while honoring the character and history of their surroundings.
We are extremely fortunate to have Penny Wilson as a friend, and she continues to make her mark on Westtown. An advocate of open spaces, she realizes the unique nature of Westtown’s beautiful 600-acre campus, and she is very involved in projects that she supports.
Head of School Tori Jueds says, “Penny is a truly great Westonian. Not only has she been remarkably generous to the school, but she also represents the best of Westtown in her keen mind and intelligent heart — not to mention her great sense of humor. We are deeply appreciative of her many gifts.”
Thank you, Penny – Westtown is fortunate indeed to have a champion like you!
Westtown’s Parent Speaker Series Presents IndiFlix Originals
All parents are invited to come view two IndieFlix Original documentaries. We will host a morning and evening viewing of each film in the Lower School Gathering Room. On Wednesday, January 9th at 8:15 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., parents are invited to come view Angst which was designed to raise awareness around anxiety. The film includes interviews with kids, teens, educators, experts, parents and a very special interview with Michael Phelps. On Tuesday, January 15th at 8:15 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., parents are invited to view LIKE, a documentary that explores the impact of social media on our lives and the effects of technology on the brain. The goal of the film is to inspire and help equip us to self-regulate our social media use.
Interested in connecting to the wider Quaker community? Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) is the regional organization of 100+ Quaker meetings and thousands of Friends in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Maryland. PYM hosts programs for Children & Families, Middle School Friends, and Young Friends (high school) throughout the year, welcoming Quaker and Quaker-friendly youth and families. PYM is excited to reach out to the Westtown community with the invitation to attend upcoming programs, including the Winter events listed below. Questions? Visit the PYM website or contact the PYM Youth Engagement Coordinator, Melinda Wenner Bradley '88 at MWennerBradley@pym.org.
Winter Family Overnight for K-5 Families --January 5-6, 2019 at Camp Onas (Ottsville, PA)
Hosted by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting Children & Families Program, for families with children in Kindergarten-5th Grade, the event is designed for family schedules: the fun starts in the afternoon on Saturday and we head home before lunch on Sunday. Join Quaker and Quaker-friendly families at Camp Onas for a one-night sleepover with lots of fellowship, games, communal cooking, hot cocoa and bedtime stories, and all-ages meeting for worship on Sunday morning! Here is a link to the event page. Please register here.
Middle School Friends Winter Gathering: January 25-27, 2019 at Medford Meeting (Medford, NJ)
MSF (Grades 6-8) will gather in the cold of winter and stay cozy with games, fellowship, workshops, and fun!
Young Friends Winter Gathering: February 8-10, 2019 at Green Street Meeting (Philadelphia, PA)
Join Young Friends for a weekend of community building, games, and spiritual exploration. We’ll share free time, different kinds of worship, and games. Hope to see you there! Young Friends gatherings create a fun and vibrant community of high-school-aged Quakers and Quaker-friendly folks! Come join in the weekend of fun and community with Young Friends!
Golf & Tennis Outing
On Tuesday, May 21, Westtown School will host its 15th Annual Swing for the Students Golf & Tennis Outing at Applebrook Golf Club and Westtown Stadium Courts. This wonderful event last year raised over $95,000 for Westtown School's academic, athletic and arts programs, financial aid and other programs vital to the success of our wonderful community! The Outing is a fun-filled day of golf, tennis, cocktails, live music, dinner, live and silent auction and so much more. We hope you will come out and support us on May 21. Visit our website to learn more!
Students aren't the only ones leading the way in activism! Our alumni are civically engaged and activists, too. Two such alumni, David Hartsough and Alonzo Smith, both from the Class of 1958, have dedicated themselves to the Poor People's Campaign. David is also the author of Waging Peace: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist which describes his work with the first Poor People's Campaign and his connection with Martin Luther King Jr, which began when he was still at Westtown.
They share why they are involved in this important work, and how what they learned at Westtown impacted them. Read their story here.
Stay up-to-date on alumni news! Like the Westtown Alumni Facebook page.