The Real Joy of the Holidays

I watched yesterday’s all-school chapel with a smile on my face. Of course, our children performed very well, but what really brought me so much happiness was hearing that our older students were incredibly complementary and supportive of our younger Dragons. 

Kindness. Community. Joy.

As we head into the holiday season, I see our values present in all that we do. Parents and faculty members have shared about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa in homeroom classes, reminding our students of the beauty in our differences. Grade 3 had a cookie exchange a week ago and also made sandwiches for the homeless. Grade 4 parents organized smores-making festivities using the fire pit on our new Exploration Playground. Our Middle School students decorated all the classroom doors during advisory, adding a little holiday spirit to the third floor. Grade 1 created beautiful ornaments out of cookie dough. 

Inclusivity. Thoughtfulness. Generosity. Fun. There is so much to celebrate about our community. 

Here’s a short video that we had a lot of fun making that we are sure will bring cheer to your family this season.

Holiday Video

Danny Vogelman
Head of School

WES Alumnus Featured in People Magazine

WES Alumnus Alexander Berko ‘21, is featured in People magazine for his wonderful artwork of the vice president’s residence. Vice President Kamala Harris selected Alexander’s artwork for this year’s Second Family’s Holiday Card. This is not the first time Alexander’s artistic talent is being recognized. During his 6th grade year at WES, Alexander designed the WES 2018 Holiday Card. We are extremely proud of Alexander and wish him the best in his future endeavors!  

WES Holiday Card 2018

Why Math Matters in Early Childhood Education

Sorting objects. Building with blocks. Playing with different types of shapes. If you wander into a WES PK3 or PK4 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 PK3 class, we introduce these concepts through games; using blocks, pegs, and various counters; and measuring, estimating and predicting, just to name a few,” says Katya ElKassem, PK3 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 10, at 9:30 a.m. You’ll meet school leadership, our passionate and nurturing educators, and current parents and students.

RSVP for an Open House


The Magic of a Good Book

Author and Illustrator Lauren Castillo spoke with our students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 this week about her thought process behind creating books. She even let our Dragons try their hand at drawing some of her characters, which they thoroughly enjoyed!

This is one of my favorite times of the school year, in part, because of the author visit and the corresponding WES Book Fair. There is nothing like the smell of a book and the excitement that comes when opening a new book that has piqued your curiosity. At WES, we want our students to find authors and books that capture their imaginations and their minds, and help them develop a lifelong love of reading. 

Our WES Book Fair is one way we do this. Featuring hundreds of well-curated titles ranging from nonfiction to adventure to graphic novels, there is something for everyone. 

I hope you can join us:

Wednesday December 7, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday December 8, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Friday December 9, 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Saturday December 10, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.

The students will also be visiting with their classes during the day, and you can find that schedule here. For those with some time on their hands, we would love to have volunteers for a number of roles, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, and anytime on Saturday. You can sign up here

And don’t forget! We have a surprise visitor from the North Pole who will join us on Saturday, December 10, at 11:30 a.m. for storytime. Perhaps we can all add a few titles to our letters to Santa. 


Danny Vogelman
Head of School