Middle School Students Win Honors in Foxcroft’s STEM Challenge

Congratulations to Gloria ’22, Arohi ’22, and Finley ’22, who successfully represented WES at Foxcroft’s STEM Challenge on Saturday, earning recognition in two categories:

•They placed first in the biology event, where they assessed various plastic materials for their impact on marine life.

•They placed second in two different math events, one involving coding and the other performing calculations about sea water salinity and pH.

Arohi ’22 also won a raffled $50 Amazon gift card thanks to her trivia knowledge! Foxcroft, located in Middleburg, VA, draws participants from at least 20 mid-Atlantic schools to this highly challenging and fun event. A special thank you to Katie Meyer, who drove the team to the competition.

Math, Computational Thinking, and Spy School

I was feeling vaguely uncomfortable earlier this week, as if I was being watched. As I looked up from my Zoom meeting, I noticed a small robot in the corner of my office. It approached me, bearing a message reading, “Hello, You probably don’t know who this is, but don’t worry we are watching you! P.S. We request a Pajama Day.” Alarmed, I sent a message in reply, “Who are you?” as I wondered which clever member of our staff was spying on me. 

Upon inquiry, I discovered these sly sleuths were none other than our Grade 3 students who went to spy school this week during their STEM: Applied Concepts, Innovation and Entrepreneurship class. 

As part of their unit on telecommunications, our Dragon spies learned about different types of codes and how to decode them, as well as the binary codes that make up computer programming. This week, their challenge was to use this newfound knowledge to program an unmanned robot to send me a top-secret message while the students hid in the Extended Day classroom. There was a tremendous amount of math and measuring of degree angles involved in this assignment, as they planned and tested their mission in the hallway outside the Dragon Innovation Lab.

And just when our Dragons were preparing to graduate from Spy School, they discovered I needed their help. Two of my dragon figurines, as well as the golden key to the school, had gone missing. Luckily for me, our newly minted decoding experts eagerly accepted this next challenge. Help was just around the corner! 

Our stealthy students decoded the messages, programmed the robot to go on this dangerous mission, and safely secured all of my priceless belongings. 

This was such an exceptionally fun way for our Dragons to apply some of their newly learned telecommunications skills to the real world. Using math and computational thinking, they solved a challenge as a team, collaborating and problem-solving together along the way. They learned about new viable career pathways, as well as how rescue robots are saving lives right now in the real world. Oh, and a word of warning: watch out for our newly minted spy school graduates! I promise you, you won’t even know they are there. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

The Power of Our Parent Community

This weekend will be our first Maui Wowi food truck event, generously hosted by the WES Parents Association. No matter the weather, the PA never fails to come up with fun ideas and events that bring us together. 

It is wonderful how our parents partner with us in so many ways to enrich our school and community life. Our Parents Association is at the nexus of much of this work and has three areas of focus:

Parent Education: The PA helps select and hosts various speakers of interest, most recently Dr. William Stixrud talking about communicating with young people.

Community Building: The PA helps keep us connected to one another and creates opportunities for parents to make new friends. The Moms Club and the Fathers Club meet on a regular basis, and the PA also hosts opportunities such as the Maui Wowi food truck, outdoor yoga, etc, to provide chances for parents to socialize with one another. 

Faculty Appreciation: The PA has been wonderfully generous throughout the years to remind our faculty just how much they are valued, through snack carts, special meals, and more. 

Parents also play a key role in the life of the school through volunteering. Our Book Fair in December was a huge success thanks to the parents who set up and staffed the event, bringing so many wonderful titles to us just in time for holiday presents. 

I would be remiss if I also did not mention the small army of volunteers who are currently working on this year’s Auction Gala, Under the Tuscan Sun. Every year, they transform the gym into a beautiful and exciting venue and create an opportunity for our parent community to gather under one roof to dance, make new friends, and support the life of the school. 

Thank you, parents, for all that you do to create a vibrant school community. I’m deeply grateful for the time and talent you contribute on a regular basis. And I hope you will all join us at this year’s auction on April 9, as we celebrate all that we have accomplished together this year. 

Danny Vogelman
Head of School

Asking Important Questions

At WES, our goal is to ensure our students do more than just acquire knowledge: They should build critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, and learn how to ask important questions. Our Middle School Robotics team is doing just that right now, as they enter the Maryland State Qualifier for the First Lego League competition this weekend.

A few changes were made to the competition this year, which previously has been held in person. Our DragonBots had to send videos and documents in advance for the judges to review, and they will interview with a panel this weekend. Every year the teams are asked to create an innovative solution to a real-world problem. This year’s challenge was “Cargo Connect;” students were asked to think about how goods are transported around the world. 

Our Dragons were ambitious in their topic choice and decided to tackle congestion at the Port of Los Angeles. For their solution, they created a hyperloop to take containers to distribution centers, alleviating traffic congestion as well as carbon emissions. They submitted three videos today: one about their innovation project, another with their robot completing as many missions as it can in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and lastly one discussing how they worked together as a team. They also had to document their robot design, explaining why they made the choices they did and what programs they created to operate their robot. 

They will be evaluated by how well thought-out their solution is. Is it thorough? Whether it costs $10 or $10 billion, does it improve our world and how it operates?

While the judges will be focused on the process behind their approach, I am truly proud of our Dragons for addressing such a crucial challenge. They have proven that they are not intimidated by complex questions; they have the confidence to engage with difficult topics. As they continue on their journey as learners and doers in life, they are well-prepared to make contributions in their communities, addressing some of the most pressing problems of their day.

We will learn how they did next week. Fingers crossed! Most importantly, kudos to the Robotics team for the tremendous tenacity, ingenuity, and creativity they displayed while working on this year’s competition. 


Danny Vogelman

Head of School