Celebrating Our Identities

We all got our hands a little dirty yesterday, as we came together to celebrate Unity Day’s message of kindness, inclusivity, and belonging. Tying into this year’s theme of “growing together,” our Dragons planted more than 300 hyacinth, crocus, tete-a-tete narcissus, and daffodil bulbs around the campus. Our students also painted kindness rocks for a coming installation on our new back patio and heard a special chapel talk from ES and MS Counselor Meghan Keller, reminding each of us that we are an important piece of the puzzle of our community. However, the lynchpin of the day was a special “Who Am I?” collage.

Each student was asked to make a collage representing their identity.  Like many of you, my family had many conversations around the dinner table this week about what that word truly means.  My wife, Sandy, and I encouraged our sons Jace and Trey to think about the different parts of their background, their hobbies, and their favorite memories. We discussed ways we could visually represent those ideas in their collages. These conversations were a nice respite from the normal, “How was your day?”, “Good” that sometimes dominate at the end of a busy day. 

Yesterday, as I walked around and talked to our students about their collages, I was so intrigued by the reasons our Dragons chose certain artifacts and the stories that went along with those artifacts. The works the students began to create yesterday will be framed and displayed around the school and will highlight the rich and varied identities that make up our school community.

Helping our students understand and embrace their identities is a critical component of helping them become kind, confident, and prepared.  Each of our students brings their own gifts and heritage to our community, and we want our students to celebrate the parts of their identity that make them unique. Our Dragons shared how much they enjoyed this project, because they had the opportunity to learn more about themselves and also the chance to share this information with their classmates. 

This is an ongoing process. The collages will be finished during the course of the next several weeks, but our work to help our students understand and embrace their identities will continue throughout this year and years to come. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

Olympian Claire Collins ’11 Speaks to Students

Claire Collins ’11, our first-ever Olympian alumna, returned home with a message for our Dragons: “Dream big, because I was just like you.” Claire helped propel the U.S. women’s rowing team to a 7th place finish in the women’s coxless four event last summer at the Tokyo games.

We think Claire is an extraordinary example of one of our kind, confident, and prepared alumni. While at WES, she was known for her kindness and perseverance. You can learn more about her visit in these stories in Bethesda Beat and Montgomery County Media.

The Meaning Behind Inquiry

Our Kindergarten students blew me away this week. I had the pleasure of joining a class in our new science lab. Our Dragons learned about the scientific method and then applied the process to a magnetism experiment.

Our Dragons learned the basics of this fundamental process: 

  • They ask a question.
  • They make an educated guess, or hypothesis. 
  • They collect their data to see if their guess was correct. 

The students stacked varying numbers of magnets to explore how the height of the magnets affected the strength of the magnetic force produced. 

Our Dragons exhibited strong scientific thinking as they conducted their experiments–beyond what one might expect from such young students. And as our students grow older, they continue to learn new concepts and deepen their thinking. 

Tomorrow our Grade 8 students will also apply the scientific method as they use water rockets to observe projectile motion in their current unit on Newton’s laws of motion. They will be asked to predict how long it will take the water rockets to go up and to come down. Next, they will collect their data as they launch the rockets. They will then graph their data, using the graphs to analyze their hypotheses and draw conclusions about the accuracy of their predictions. 

Learning how to make observations and then ask questions based on those observations is a skill that extends far beyond the science lab. As students build knowledge, they start to become more curious, wondering about the implications of that information. Engaging in meaningful inquiry, across subject areas, builds critical thinking and reasoning skills that will serve our Dragons well as they transition into high school, college, and adulthood. 


Danny Vogelman

Head of School

WES Declares Claire Collins ’11 Day as Olympian Returns Home to Speak to Students

Claire Collins ’11, an alumna of Washington Episcopal School (WES) who made Olympic history this summer, will return to her alma mater on Friday, October 15, at 1 p.m. to speak to its students about setting big goals, being a good teammate, and having fun. Last summer, for the first time in Olympic rowing history, there were an equal number of women’s and men’s rowing events, as the women’s coxless four (Ms. Collins’ team) replaced the lightweight men’s four in the rowing program.

“Last summer, WES ‘lifer’ and graduate Claire Collins ’11 did something no other alumni of our school has ever done: she added Olympian to her name,” said Danny Vogelman, head of school at WES.  “We have proclaimed this Friday, Oct. 15, as Claire Collins ’11 Day to celebrate her homecoming.”

Friday’s schedule of events will be as follows:

  • 1 p.m.: Ms. Collins arrives on campus and is greeted by WES Athletic Director Bill Isola and cheering students on the colonnade at the front of the school.
  • 1:05 p.m.: Ms. Collins tours the school and visits former teachers in the WES Admissions Suite.
  • 1:25 p.m. Ms. Collins proceeds to the Turf Field and speaks to the students. You can view the event live via Zoom HERE. (In the event of inclement weather, Grades 5-8 will attend in the Gym and the rest of the students will view via Zoom in their homerooms.)
  • 2 p.m.: Conclusion of the program. 

“My journey to become a U.S. Olympic Rower started long before I even knew about the sport of rowing,” Ms. Collins said. “Athletics was definitely a passion of mine from the time I was young, and WES provided opportunities for me to learn how to balance my competitiveness with being a good teammate. Also, the creativity I learned in the arts, the collaboration I learned in the intimate classroom settings, and the exposure to new ideas through WES’s study trips set me up to become a leader and become confident in whatever pathway I was going to pursue.”

While at WES, Ms. Collins played on three sports teams in Grades 5-8 (soccer, basketball, and lacrosse), played the violin and trumpet, and was the recipient of the Spirit Award, the Dexter R. Davison Music Award (band), and the Coaches’ Award. After she graduated from WES in 2011, she attended Deerfield Academy, where she was on the volleyball, swim, and rowing teams for all four years. She went on to Princeton University, graduating in 2019 with a degree in economics. She received Princeton’s 2019 top female athlete award and was a three-time All American and four-time All-Ivy recipient, also earning medals in the World Rowing Championships for Princeton. 

The Power Behind Professional Development

We have our first professional development day of the school year this Friday, which is why there will be a noon dismissal. We are a community of learners, students and teachers alike. Professional development helps us improve our craft, utilize best practices, and grow professionally. 

Here are the topics we will be addressing in this week’s professional development:

  • Social Studies Review: Consultant Allison Zmuda will lead a group of faculty through a process of  reviewing our social studies curriculum. As part of our efforts to implement the most relevant and engaging curriculum, we participate  in regular reviews and revisions of what we teach. We plan to launch new social studies curriculum units in the fall of 2022.
  • Early Childhood (EC) Literacy Session: EC Learning Specialist Angie Myler will work with our EC teachers to explore the science of reading and how it influences instructional practice.
  • MAP Report Overview: ES/MS Learning Specialist Jacquie Hunter will lead separate sessions with our ES and MS teachers to dig into MAP Growth Testing results, to help teachers utilize these test results to inform their instruction. 
  • Specials Teachers Planning Meeting: Our specials teachers play a unique role in our program, teaching across division levels and working with a wide variety of Dragons. This time enables them to collaborate around team goals, engage in curriculum planning for vertical alignment, and discuss best practices around each aspect of the specials program. 
  • Goal Setting Preparation: The WES Professional Growth System (PGS) supports our commitment to every student being taught by a great teacher and every faculty member having the opportunity to grow professionally in a supportive environment. Teachers will work on setting their professional growth goals for the year during this time. 

In the future, we will continue to dig deeper into some of these topics, as well as address diversity, equity, and inclusion; Responsive Classroom; and a wide variety of other areas. This invaluable time helps us offer the best educational experience possible for our Dragons.


Danny Vogelman

Head of School

Honoring Our Facilities Team

We are thrilled to share that one member of our facilities team, Ms. Maria Viera, recently received the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal Schools Association (MAESA) Stewardship Award, which is given to individuals who embody the qualities that Episcopal schools hold closely: integrity in daily life and work, respect for all people, equity and justice in words and actions, and love and hospitality toward neighbors. I invite you to watch this two-minute video above where you can learn more about her contributions to our community.