Art as a Personal Journey

I walked into our newly expanded ceramics studio today and noticed that the shelves were lined with a flower pot that looks like a penguin, a mug etched with a floral design, vases, bowls, and so much more. Our Grade 8 students are about to complete their ceramics unit on functional art, where they explore hand-building techniques to create art you can use. 

Their work was truly impressive–much of it looked like it belonged in a store! But the process behind it goes much deeper than making objects of beauty. 

Our art program consistently gets rave reviews for the way it combines the study of important artists, cultures, and movements with the acquisition of technical skills in drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, sculpture, and ceramics. But there is also so much learning happening outside of these core skills. 

Ms. Yirenkyi recently gave a presentation to our newly accepted families about how Grade 8 has been exploring art as a personal journey while refining a range of skills, including observation, proportion, shading, composition, and balance. They began the year by creating a realistic drawing of their own eyes, surrounded by a collage of maps and magazines representing their families and personal interests. Next, they advanced to realistic drawings of their shoes working in the graphite medium. However, there was an extra challenge to incorporate a word, phrase, or symbol of something someone would learn about them if they walked a mile in their shoes. Our Grade 8 Dragons have continued their personal reflections during their current ceramics unit, carefully selecting which piece of functional art they would like to create. 

As part of our commitment to help each individual child thrive, we look for projects that have a low floor and a high ceiling, meaning we meet each student where they are and challenge them to progress as far as they can into the work. Our art program exemplifies this beautifully, as our faculty teach our students that progress is a result of process, encourage them to bring their best effort to the work, and provide a medium for our Dragons to reflect deeply on their identities and how they view the world around them. 

As always, I am grateful for our incredible teachers and am constantly learning new things from their commitment to their craft. 

Danny Vogelman

Head of School

The Power of Collaboration

We will be transported to the Polynesian Islands this weekend, as our Grade 6 students sing and dance their way through two smashing productions of Moana Jr. 

The Grade 6 Musical is always a highlight of our students’ Middle School experience–we often hear that, for some, it’s their favorite memory from WES. 

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of observing one of their rehearsals. Standing mid-court of the Deighton Alleyne Gymnasium two hours after classes ended, our gym was alive with energy and collaboration. One of our alumni was teaching choreography to a group of students, sharing the staging techniques she had learned since her own graduation from WES. 

Two students from Grades 7 and 8 were huddled in the back of the gym, building a complicated set piece. Next to them was a student learning the music cues and running the tracks for the rehearsal. On the gym floor, a few feet from the stage, were current eighth-graders working and experimenting with lighting design, as they set the mood for the scene that was being rehearsed. 

As I turned to the back, I saw two Grade 8 boys working hard to set up our brand new wireless microphone system, and two of our lead actresses from our 2020 musical Frozen, Jr. assisting the current Moana actresses in memorizing lines and lending some acting tips along the way. 

Let’s also not forget about the donation of strawberry-banana smoothies from a parent to provide a little energy for our hard-working actors and crew 🙂 Or the colorful and detailed costumes designed by Nurse Bailey, the vocal training provided by Alicia Knox, the set-building expertise that our facilities team lended, the support from Jon Marshall and Barbara Burkhardt (our Grade 6 homeroom teachers), or our dedicated Performing Arts Director Ron Valenzia, who makes the magic happen year after year. 

Typically when we reflect on the Grade 6 musical, we speak about its role in building confidence and public-speaking skills in our Dragons. But it’s also a beautiful reflection of our community, of the power of collaboration. Working together, our students, faculty, and parents are creating a meaningful work of art as well as memories that will last decades for our students. 

Our students enjoyed a preview of the show yesterday and today, and I invite you all to join us this weekend for one of our two inspiring performances.


Danny Vogelman

Head of School

Of Grit, Grace, and Competition

As the weather begins to warm and buds begin to sprout on campus, spring also carries the promise of new sports! Our lacrosse and track and field teams have begun training to get ready for the spring season. 

Many of our Dragons will be learning something entirely new–they may not have ever tried the long jump before or cradled a lacrosse ball. But they’re willing to explore something different and take risks, which is incredibly important to their development both as student-athletes and as lifelong learners. 

Some researchers actually believe that “grit” is a better predictor of success than intelligence. That’s not to say that grades or academic performance are unimportant. But it’s the ability to get back up and persevere–even after challenges and setbacks–which is a critical marker of high-performing individuals. 

Our Athletics program is one way we seek to build resilience, character, and sportsmanship in our Dragons. Our coaches challenge our student-athletes to perform at their personal best, to work collaboratively as a team, and to display grace both on and off the court, no matter the outcome of the game. 

Our coaches play a critical role in our Dragons’ growth as human beings as well as athletes. If you want to learn more about this fantastic team, please check out this profile of our coaches from the winter edition of The WES Magazine

Danny Vogelman

Head of School