Exploring Wintry Themes in Early Childhood Learning

I learned a curious fact this week – supposedly I am not as tall as a polar bear. While I am not so sure about the veracity of this statement, I had a wonderful time joining our Pre-K students as they measured the length of the polar bear and took turns comparing their heights against that of this rather large arctic mammal. 

It is a joy to see the active, engaged learning currently happening on campus. In NPK, each grade level studies different aspects of winter for their social studies units at this time of the year. Our Nursery students enjoyed a pajama day on Monday, as they learned about hibernation and then snuggled down for their own dormant nap. Next week, they will continue this theme as they go on a bear hunt around the WES campus. 

In Pre-Kindergarten, students are currently happily immersed in the wonders of Arctic life. In addition to honing their mathematics skills through counting, measuring, estimating, and comparing the height of polar bears against themselves and others, our virtual learners built igloos made out of marshmallows today and our on-site learners will test their own sugary engineering skills next week.  

Our Kindergarteners are in the middle of a multifaceted study of penguins. Last Friday, they were learning about how blubber helps penguins stay warm. First, they dipped their hand in an icy cold water bucket and then they put on a blubber glove and tried it again. I tried this experiment and found myself wishing I had a pair of blubber gloves, too! Each student was also assigned a different type of penguin to study. After researching their penguin, they created posters about their species and are now in the process of presenting them to the class. Their posters are incredibly impressive – but even more so is the poise in which they present their research and all of the questions they are able to answer from their classmates!

I have greatly enjoyed observing their smiles and delight as they engage in these wintry explorations.

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

WES’s Global Fair Turns Virtual

Did you know that the WES community comprises families from at least 34 countries around the world and dozens of states across America? As we continue to welcome the new year and celebrate our community, we want to continue our school’s tradition of celebrating the families and many different cultures, heritages, and backgrounds that make up our community. In years’ past we have celebrated this kaleidoscope of diversity at our Global Fair. In lieu of an in-person event this year, we invite you to celebrate all of the wonderful cultures and traditions our Dragons enjoy by taking part in our virtual exploration of WES family traditions.

In February, NeWES will begin posting cooking demos, cultural dance performances, art/craft projects, read-alouds, language lessons, fashion shows, music performances, and more! Every Thursday, new videos and links will be posted in the NeWES of our Dragons sharing their cultural heritage.

February is coming soon!! Start brainstorming ways to showcase your favorite family dish (gumbo, bread, best meatball recipe, etc.), dance (two-step, waltz, fist-pumping to U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, you get the gist), break out your favorite clothing to strut the runway, start tuning your instruments, and practice rolling your “Rs” for language lessons! We look forward to celebrating what makes WES such a special place to learn and grow.

As we look to highlight what makes each WES family a special part of our community, you can sign up HERE so that your family may share a part of your family’s traditions.


2021 STEM Challenge for Middle School Girls

All girls in Grades 6, 7, and 8 are encouraged to participate in an exciting STEM event hosted by Foxcroft, a school for girls in Middleburg, Virginia.

This year’s virtual event features two ways for individual girls to participate! Compete for prizes and learn about coding and cybersecurity through their custom trivia game, which opens on Monday, February 15, and closes on Friday, February 19. Then join them on Saturday, February 20, for an interactive virtual session hosted by Foxcroft students and engineers from sponsoring firm Stryker, featuring games, challenges, and prizes.

Ms. Earle highly recommends what promises to be a fun and rewarding – and challenging! – competition. She has been taking teams of Grade 8 girls to the in-person events for several years, and the experience has been consistently excellent: interesting and thought-provoking, scientifically and mathematically rigorous, and highly relatable to current issues. Plus, they give out great prizes!

Let Ms. Earle, cearle@w-e-s.org, know if you intend to participate and/or if you have questions.

First Friday February: Cookie Connections

All Dragons are invited to participate in First Friday February! For this month’s community service project, we will be baking Valentine’s cookies for residents of two local residential care facilities, Sunrise and Seabury’s Friendship Terrace. After the cookies have been delivered, we will join the communities for a special “Meet the Baker” event on Zoom! You can participate in either the cookie-baking or the Zoom alone, or join us for both. We are so excited to show some love to our neighbors!
Here are the details:
  • All families who sign up to bake cookies will receive a special cookie kit with treat bag supplies and a heart cookie cutter.
  • Cookies need to be delivered to WES on February 12 by 4 p.m. They can be dropped off at student drop-off or pick-up or at the COVD testing station.
  • You can choose either or both of two times for the Zoom event. We will be talking with Seabury residents on Monday, February 15 at 2 p.m., and with Sunrise residents on Tuesday, February 16 at 4:30 p.m.
  • Please sign up to help HERE by January 29! It’s important that all participants fill out this form so we can get information and supplies to families.
Thank you, and if you have any questions, please contact Community Service Co-Chairs Tiffney Brockway and Kristen Pitts.

Author Christina Soontornvat Discusses the Thai Cave Rescue

Award-winning author Christina Soontornvat, whose works range from fantasy to narrative nonfiction, held three talks with students yesterday as part of our Virtual Book Fair. With Grades 2 and 3, she discussed the writing process and how she develops her ideas.  With Grades 4-8, Christina captivated the students while discussing her latest book,  All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys Soccer Team.

I sat in on her session with the Middle School students and noticed  many themes that were especially timely for today. The rescue of the 13 children trapped in the Tham Laung cave network made international headlines two years ago, and our students were on varying levels of familiarity with the story. Ms. Soontornvat detailed the harrowing experience the boys underwent for 17 days while waiting to be rescued, sharing photos and experiences from her research for the book. Our students brainstormed their own rescue ideas, and Ms. Soontornvat explained why the officials chose to have divers take them out one by one. 

She also touched on lesser-known aspects of the rescue, such as Coach Canthawong’s Buddhist faith and how he led the boys in meditation to help them remain calm during such a frightening time. Many attribute the boys’ survival in part due to the meditation, which not only helped preserve their mental health, but also enabled them to use less of the cave’s limited supply of oxygen. The boys endured near total darkness for almost 10 days, using their flashlights only when someone needed to go in search of water to drink. 

Another aspect shared was that there’s a phenomenon that happens to the human brain when someone is facing such extreme conditions — they often begin to imagine things. Although the cave was too far underground for the boys to hear what was happening at the surface, they believed they heard the sound of helicopters and chickens. This was enough to give them hope–they believed that people were searching for them and that they would, in fact, be found. 

As I listened to Ms. Soontornvat, words like perseverance, teamwork, ingenuity, and hope continued to come to mind– all traits that have helped and will continue to help us endure and overcome our current circumstances.

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

WES Wins Top Honors in Best of Bethesda

Bethesda Magazine‘s annual Readers’ Poll honors the organizations that have served our community well. We are humbled to have earned recognition in three categories in 2021:

Readers’ Pick: Private School that did the Best Job with Distance Learning
A Top Vote Getter: Best Private School for Academics
A Top Vote Getter: Best Private School for Music & Arts

The Readers’ Pick award reflects the dedication of our incredible faculty, who pivoted quickly and completely transformed their teaching models to meet our students’ needs during exceptional circumstances. Whether it was re-teaching entire lessons for students who missed classes due to technical issues, having one-on-one storytimes to maintain their connections with our youngest Dragons, or hosting drive-by socially distanced dance parties, they continued to serve their students’ needs and build the nurturing connections for which WES is known.