WES Takes Home Top Honors in 2022 ‘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 four categories, and to have taken home top honors in two categories in the 2022 Best of Bethesda.

Readers’ Pick: Best Private School – Lower School
Readers’ Pick: Best Private School with a Religious Affiliation
A Top Vote Getter: Best Preschool/Day Care
A Top Vote Getter: Best Summer Camp

Bethesda Magazine Best of Bethesda 2022 - Best Private School & Preschool

What is a Traditional School?

From the Director of Admission.

In the age of micro-schools, homeschooling, online schools, and more, some parents ask me what traditional schools look like these days. Are they the schools that many of us attended—teachers presenting information at a chalkboard and students sitting in rows taking notes? My answer to this question is both “yes” and “no.”

Education books typically define traditional schools as teacher-centered delivery of instruction to students with a focus on having students master academic core subjects, including math, reading, writing, science, and social studies. A majority of schools in the U.S. fall into this category. At Washington Episcopal School, we provide a thorough grounding in the core academic subjects as well as augmenting the curriculum with a robust enrichment program filled with foreign languages, physical education, fine arts, performing arts, social-emotional education, executive functioning skills development, and more. Instruction incorporates a variety of methods and best practices to ensure the school day is engaging and relevant content is acquired and key skills developed. 

As you walk through our building, you may see students sitting at their desks and taking notes, but you will also find students doing a variety of other activities, including:

  • Working in groups to identify and explore core concepts in a text
  • Building models to bring math concepts to life
  • Utilizing PowerPoint and other multimedia technology to present research project findings to their teachers
  • Testing science concepts through hands-on labs and experiments
  • Listening to experts discuss their work and process via Skype

You may even see empty classrooms—at least four times a year WES students take study trips to local sites, and, in Middle School, our students go abroad to Utah, Italy, France, and Spain to apply and further develop classroom learnings. 

The benefit of our students learning through a blend of traditional and innovative instructional practices is that our graduates are prepared to succeed in a range of D.C. area, day, boarding, private, and public schools. During their time at WES, our students discover what type of learners they are and what methodologies and learning environments engage and motivate them. By the time our students apply to high school, they know what kind of school suits them best. Currently, we have 135 students at 30 different high schools. In the past four years, we are aware of only two students changing schools for reasons other than moving.

Below are five questions to ask on a school tour to determine if it is the right fit for your child:

  • What type of learners do best at your school? Are there any types of learners for whom you would not recommend your school? 
  • What schools do your graduates attend?
  • How do you monitor and assess a child’s progress?
  • How easy is it for children who transition in the older grades of your school? 
  • What percentage of students leave your school before graduation, not including families who move out of the area?

More and more schools are differentiating themselves through new instructional practices. Attending a Nursery—Grade 8 school grounded in traditional instruction and curriculum and enhanced with confirmed research-based best practices is a great way to ensure that your child develops a love for learning and is prepared for high school and beyond. By knowing your child and asking the right questions, you can be confident that you are on the right path to finding a school that fits your child and family’s needs. 

Nonna’s Gnocchi

Growing up, I would spend every Christmas Eve with the Italian side of my family. We would get together for what is called The Feast of the Seven Fishes. This is an Italian-American tradition of having a large meal to celebrate this special holiday. The meal is meatless because in the Catholic tradition, many families abstain from eating meat on the eve of certain holy days. In our family, this would be our traditional Christmas Eve meal before attending midnight mass. The several hour-long dinner consisted of various fish dishes and a few pasta dishes. 

As a child, I wasn’t very keen on seafood, especially the boccala and smelts which seemed to be menu staples year in and year out. Knowing this, my Nonna would make me my favorite dish – potato gnocchi with marinara. Since I was always the first one to her house, she would wait until I arrived so she could make them in front of me. She would roll the dough and potato mixture into long logs then cut them every half-inch or so. My favorite part was watching her use her thumb to roll each piece into a perfect pillow-like shape. The gnocchi was always served with her homemade marinara and a generous sprinkling of pecorino romano. My mouth is watering as I write this 🙂

During the height of COVID, I decided to try my hand at Nonna’s amazing dish. While I have yet to replicate the exact texture of her gnocchi, I still love watching the process. However, instead of watching Nonna, I now watch as Sandy rolls out the dough mixture I made, and Ethan, Jace, and Trey take turns cutting and thumb-rolling each one. One thing that hasn’t changed is the warmth I feel each time I enjoy homemade gnocchi.

Nonna never wrote down her recipes, but THIS one will get you pretty close.

 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

Hands-On Learning in Middle School Math

I was visiting the Middle School Commons this week, and the walls were lined with fairly sophisticated cartoon drawings. However, this work was not the product of art class, but rather geometry!

Our Middle School math teachers are masters at bringing math to life through incorporating hands-on learning techniques. The cartoon drawings were part of a unit on transformations: the students learned about how shapes can change size through moving in space, and then they applied this learning to cartoon images. 

Our teachers incorporate these types of hands-on learning in every math level. In Math 6, students choose their favorite recipe and apply mixed number and fraction multiplication to experiment with different quantities. 

In Pre-Algebra, students are learning about variables, constants, coefficients, like terms, distributive properties, products, polynomials, monomials, binomials, and trinomials. (I don’t think I have ever used all those words in one sentence before!) Next week they will be given a choice on how to represent their knowledge by creating math problems then presenting their work either as a graphic novel, puzzle or matching activity, quiz and answer key, or Jeopardy or other non-electronic game. 

In Algebra, students explore the line of best fit through choosing two types of data to correlate through linear modeling and value forecasting. In the past, students have tackled data points such as leg length vs. how high one can jump, age vs number of saves in hockey (ouch!), and one’s happiness index vs. their geographical distance from the equator. 

Also in Geometry, students determine a marathon route based on a given distance on a coordinate plane. They practice midpoint and distance formulas through calculating water stops, restroom placements, and first aid stations. 

In addition to making math fun, these techniques also help students understand the real-world applications of math and how important it is in everyday life and work. Way to go Middle School students – we are excited to see your future math endeavors!

 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

Why Math Matters in Early Childhood Education

Sorting objects. Building with blocks. Playing with different types of shapes. If you wander into a WES Nursery or Pre-K room on any given day, you’ll see lots of these types of activities. It may look like play (and it is) but it’s also laying the foundation for algebraic thinking.

Research shows that early math skills are the best predictor of academic success later in life. When early numeracy is developed in our youngest learners it builds flexible thinking and problem solving. So what does it take to provide your child with a strong foundation for achievement? 

“Of course we teach the children their numbers and counting, but our mathematics curriculum is so much deeper,” says Mary Lee Nickel, director of the Early Childhood program. “Our approach to Early Childhood math lays the groundwork for future problem solving and logical thought. We are trying to build a strong number sense.”

So what is number sense, anyway?

The phrase refers to a group of skills that allow children to work with numbers. It includes:

  • Understanding quantities
  • Grasping concepts like more and less, and larger and smaller
  • Recognizing relationships between single items and groups of items 
  • Understanding symbols that represent quantities 
  • Making number comparisons 
  • Understanding patterns

Sorting, comparing, building, shape exploration, and counting are integrated throughout the day at WES, helping children build and expand this innate number sense. 

Children encounter patterns all around them from the time they are babies. They develop an understanding of these regularities from their environment, such as the uniform row of giraffes on a favorite baby blanket or the tune from a beloved nursery song mom and dad sing every night.  To build a strong number sense, children must move from recognizing patterns to understanding the structures and rules that make up a pattern. Once a child understands patterns, s/he is able to describe them, reproduce them, extend them, fill in the missing elements, and create new ones. 

The search for the structures and rules underlying patterns is one way children begin to engage in algebraic thinking even at an early age. A child may realize that each tower in a series of buildings increases by three blocks, so that the next tower must be X+3 and the next tower will be (X+3) + 3. Although the child is not writing anything down or using written symbolism, the child is engaged in simple algebraic thinking that expresses a general rule. This early learning provides the gateway to formal algebra taught in later grades. 

“In my Nursery class, we introduce these concepts through games; using blocks, pegs, and various counters; and measuring, estimating and predicting, just to name a few,” says Dawn Harding, Nursery teacher. “But no matter what we do, the most important thing is that the children have fun and know that they are loved.”

If you would like to learn more about the Early Childhood program at WES, please join us for our on site Open House on Saturday, December 11, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. You’ll meet school leadership, our passionate and nurturing educators, and current parents and students.

RSVP for an Open House