Middle School Studying Abroad

Each morning this week, I eagerly awaited Instagram posts from our Grade 8 teachers and students in France and Spain. Today, our Grade 7 students leave for Italy, and our Grade 6 students head to Utah on Saturday. Since announcing these trips in last weekend’s Sunday Night message, several parents have asked me for more specifics about our Middle School Study trips.

Our study trips have deep roots here at WES and are one of the distinguishing elements of our experiential learning approach. The program has evolved over the years, but has  always focused on enthusiastically introducing our students to new learning experiences that are relevant and engaging–all while building community and students’ confidence. In addition, our program encourages our students to continue to be inclusive, curious, and appreciative of one another and our greater world by immersing them in cultures, traditions, and histories.

I invite you to look inside each of our middle school study trips below. I think you will be amazed, as I was when I first arrived at WES, by the thoughtful construction and the depth of experience each unique trip offers our middle schoolers.


Grade 6 – Utah and the Desert Southwest

Students in Grade 6 spend six days visiting some of the country’s most renowned National Parks, including Zion, Bryce, and the Grand Canyon. The academic focus of the trip is field study in ancient and indigenous cultures. Students view petroglyphs in Valley of Fire State Park and along the Colorado River, and learn about the area’s agricultural history and how it contributed to growth of communities. Grade 6 also studies geology before the trip and experiences prime examples of weathering, erosion, rock formation, and geological history at places like Antelope Canyon, Glen Canyon Dam, and the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. This trip is a first-of-its-kind experience for many students, where they can cultivate and celebrate friendships at a starlit campfire and practice independence and responsibility while traveling for a week with their teachers and classmates. 

Grade 7 – Classical Italy

Grade 7 students combine their knowledge of ancient cultures and their developing understanding of classical cultures and literature (Latin, Religion, English, and Geography) to experience the treasures and highlights of both Classical and Renaissance culture across Italy. In addition, students refine their growing artistic skills and appreciation for art and architecture with sketching studies and journaling assignments tied to major sites such as the Duomo in Florence, St. Peter’s Square and the Colosseum in Rome, and the medieval towns of Todi and Orvieto. The Italy trip introduces the idea of students as citizens of the world, providing opportunities for students to develop a growing confidence in that role. 

Grade 8 – Cultural Immersion (Spain or France)

Grade 8 students travel by groups to either Spain or France, depending on the language they take here at WES. These smaller groups travel extensively through a native-speaking country to immerse themselves in the languages and cultures of the different regions: Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga in Spain, and Paris and Normandy in France. Students bring all of their learned skills and talents to this trip – journaling in the native language, sketching at sites of historical and cultural significance, and practicing their speaking skills while shopping, dining, and meeting local hosts along their travels. A final study trip before their graduation in June, this trip is an important  opportunity to demonstrate both their academic and personal growth before they step into the larger world of high school and beyond.

 Among the reasons for investing time and resources in the Middle School Study Trips is this: the high schools I visit yearly often remark on how unique and powerful the trips are in forming the young adults who graduate from WES. They are not just sightseeing trips but study experiences that integrate with and complement the curriculum, expand students’ cultural competencies, and open their minds to the vast possibilities in front of them.


Danny Vogelman
Head of School

Finding the Right Future

Our alumni and their parents tell me, believe it or not, that there is life after WES. And the schools that welcome our graduating students attest that our Dragons enter high school with preparation and positive energy, confidence and — of course — kindness.

Just as our students work to hone their craft in problem-solving, presentation, composition, analysis, mathematics, and more, WES uses great care to help families find the right “next school” for their children.

I am thrilled that every WES Grade 8 student has been accepted by and taken a spot at one of the dazzling variety of excellent schools in the DC area (see the list below).

Middle School Director Kristin Cuddihy and I, with the wise counsel of our Middle School faculty, take great care to work closely and often with every family to assure an optimal outcome. We start with a meeting with all Grade 7 parents in the spring, explaining the timeline of the coming year. The first individual step is an individual meeting that summer with each family, to which we all bring ideas. We continue this conversation in September, meeting as regularly as parents would like, while Kristin initiates meetings with individual students.

Grade 8 families arrange fall visits to school open houses, performances, or other events, as well as appointments to take entrance exams (the SSAT and the HSPT, for diocesan schools). By Thanksgiving break, we will have helped families complete a final list of schools, and begin collating transcripts and recommendations so that applications are made promptly. Then, Kristin and I visit each school to which our students applied and speak with the admissions team about each WES applicant — one of my favorite and proudest duties as Head of School.

Through this process, our ultimate goal is clear: we prioritize finding the right school for each student so they begin high school in the environment that will best enhance their gifts as well as challenge them with new opportunities. And it is thrilling that our Grade 8 students have the maturation to invest genuinely in this process and decision. Their voices typically show great discernment in imagining the next phase of their lives.

Here is the list of the divergent and discerning independent schools that accepted this year’s WES Grade 8 students, along with the outstanding area public schools, with asterisks indicating the schools our students will attend next year. 

  • Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School*
  • Brewster Academy 
  • British International School*
  • Bullis School*
  • Edmund Burke School
  • The Field School
  • Georgetown Day School*
  • Georgetown Prep*
  • Georgetown Visitation
  • Holton-Arms School
  • Landon School*
  • The Madeira School*
  • Maret School*
  • Miss Porter’s School *
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel*
  • Proctor Academy*
  • School Without Walls
  • Sidwell Friends School
  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal School*
  • St. John’s College High School*
  • St. Stephens/St. Agnes*
  • Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart
  • Washington International School
  • Winston Churchill High School*
  • Walt Whitman High School*
  • Walter Johnson High School*

Danny Vogelman
Head of School

WES Students Recognized at the 2023 MAESA Scholars’ Fair

WES gathered with other area Episcopal schools at St. Patrick’s Episcopal School for the Mid-Atlantic Episcopal Schools Association Scholars’ Fair last Friday. The Scholars’ Fair provides an opportunity for students who have excelled in science, geography, spelling, and art. The fair inspires, motivates, and celebrates our students on their learning journeys. 

Our WES Dragons did very well this year! Congratulations to the following students who received awards:

Science, Grades 5-6 Category:
1st Place: Evie ‘25
3rd Place: Owen ‘25
Honorable Mention: Everett ‘25

Spelling Bee, Grades 7-8 Category:
3rdPlace: Joey ‘23

Geography Bee, Grades 7-8 Category:
2nd Place: Thacher ‘24

2-D Art, Grades 7-8:
1st Place: Kate ‘24
2nd Place: Maria Olympia ‘24
3rd Place: Ava ’23

3-D Art, Grades 7-8 Category:
3rd Place: Maria ‘23

Collaborative Art, Grades 5-6 Category:
1st Place: Jess ‘26, Sophia ‘26, Mia ‘26, Vigo ‘26 (group submission)


We’d like to congratulate ALL of our MAESA Scholars’ Fair participants for their excellent representation of our school today. We are so proud of our Dragons!

Grade 4:
Grace ‘27

Grade 5:
Jess ‘26, Sophia ‘26, Ross ‘26, Mia ‘26, Vigo ‘26

Grade 6: 
Alexandra ‘25, Owen ‘25, Alec ‘25, Evie ‘25, Everett ‘25, Charlotte ‘25, Jane ‘25, Ken ‘25, Indi ‘25, Bella ‘25, Jace ‘25, Trey ‘25, Eliot ‘25

Grade 7:
Maria ‘24, Cara ‘24, Kate ‘24, Thacher ‘24

Grade 8:
Ben ‘23, Jack ‘23, Ewan ‘23, Ava ‘23, Rex ‘23, Maria ‘23, Cole ‘23, Ale ‘23, Joey ‘23