Teaching and Learning

This Week at Westside: May 22-26

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With less than two weeks left in the school year, student’s are working hard on their final projects and presentations for EOL, Spring Flings or Showcases, and also getting out to enjoy the sunshine! Here are a few snapshots from around our community this week.

To see more of what the students have been working on, come check out these events:

Tuesday, May 30
5:30-6:15 p.m. Seventh and Eighth Grade Exhibition of Learning (EOL)
6:30-7:30 p.m. Middle School Showcase

Wednesday, May 31
8:15-9:00a.m. Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Coffee in the Gallery
9:00-9:30a.m. Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten Spring Fling Performance

Thursday, June 1. 
6:30-7:30pm. Lower School Spring Fling Performance


Introducing London, the Westside Wolf

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Welcome to the newest member of the Westside family: London, the Westside Wolf!

London is currently a resident of Wolf Haven International, a Washington-based rehabilitation center working towards the conservation and protection of wolves and their habitats. Westside School began sponsoring London this spring, after the middle school Social Justice flex class held a bake sale to raise money for and promote awareness of the organization.

This is not the first time the Social Justice flex has stepped up to support causes they believe in. When the class started in January, students spent time researching current events, issues they cared about, and ways they could make a positive change in the world. A February roll back on protections for transgender students prompted our class to research support services for transgender youth in Seattle. We were inspired by the work of the Lambert House, and held our first “Food for Though” bake sale in March. The students baked rainbow themed goodies topped with inspirational, motivational, and educational notes. The result was amazing! We raised over $400 for this local institution, and spread a message of acceptance and love (with a little bit of sugar) in the process.

The Social Justice class ended in early March, but the students have continued meeting weekly to discuss how they can continue to make an impact in this community, and the world. After reading about the recent “War on Wolves Act'”, students decided to host another bake sale, this time to support Wolf Haven.

We are so proud of the work and dedication of this group, and we hope London can serve as inspiration to the rest of the Westside community to promote positive engagement!

London’s photo and biography will be on display at the front desk soon.
-Colleen and Kendra

Open Hearts and Open Minds: A Nicaragua Spring Break Trip Recap

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Mary Kratz, Sarah Path and thirteen 7th and 8th grade girls traveled to Nicaragua over spring break and have some incredible stories to share!

We traveled with a company called Global Works who organized a custom trip for us focused on cultural exchange and service learning.  We enjoyed a bit of sight-seeing, but spent most of our time interacting and learning from Nicaraguans about their country and culture-we had to use a lot of Spanish!  In Managua, the capital city, we toured the chureca and learned from a community organizer, named Yamileth Perez, about the struggle to move families off of the city landfill where families had been living, scrounging scraps of metal to sell and scraps of food to eat.  We toured the neighborhood with Yamileth, heard lots of stories of resilience and grassroots organizing and visited their community center called Podcasts for Peace.  At the community center, we learned about the programs they offer in healthcare, youth programming and the arts.  In addition, they make podcasts to tell and share the stories of members of their community and other marginalized groups in Managua.  While at the community center we got to meet a lot of the volunteers, hear some of their podcasts and videos and play games and read books with neighborhood children.

Next, we traveled northeast to San Ramon, a rural mountainous region of Nicaragua, where we met and worked with four women’s collectives who make and sell artisan crafts.  One group made jewelry from seeds, one made beads and jewelry from recycled rolled paper, one made stationary items like journals and cards from recycled paper, and the other group were weavers who used a loom and traditional weaving techniques.  With each of the women’s groups that we worked with, we got to learn about their artistic process and work alongside the women in their workshops making arts and crafts.  We also conducted interviews to learn more about how their groups started, what their goals are and the challenges they have faced.  We are currently working to turn our interviews into biographies about all of the women’s collectives in Spanish and English.  These will be posted on a tourism website for the region to try and help publicize the women’s work and bring them more business.

In addition, we had a lot of other incredible experiences including a bread making workshop, a visit to a cacao factory, a boat ride through the isletas of Lake Nicaragua, a tour of Granada and we swam in a volcanic crater!  Hard to believe all of this happened in a week!  The students brought to Nicaragua their curiosity, their full attention, respect, maturity, fun, open hearts and open minds.  On the last night, we reflected about what the students had taken and learned from Nicaragua.  The two biggest takeaways were 1) an awarenessand gratitude about our privilege, such as educational opportunities and access to clean water and healthy food and 2) the notion that money does not equal happiness, since we met many people in Nicaragua who told us and showed us that though they may be poor in money, they are rich in love and happiness.

Giving back in honor of MLK Day

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With an upcoming day off, why not make it a day on!

Spend the day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. by participating in a community service project. By lending a hand, you’ll help spread his legacy of compassion and service to the whole community.


Here are some suggestions of kid-friendly service projects going on in the Seattle area with links to websites that have more information about project details and registration.

1. City Year is organizing a service day at MLK Elementary School. In just one day, you will make MLK Elementary School a more vibrant and engaging learning environment where students can truly thrive. Service projects include painting educational murals, hands-on beautification projects, and participating in social justice conversations. Click here to learn more.

2. Nature Consortium is hosting an eco-work party in the Duwamish Greenbelt. You and your fellow volunteers will participate in fun, hands-on conservation work led by Nature Consortium staff. Restoration work includes removing invasive plants, planting native species, and mulching new plantings. Work parties are often accompanied by live musicians, bringing the arts and nature together for our enjoyment! Click here to learn more.

3. United Way is partnering with many organizations to lead a wide variety of community service projects in neighborhoods all over King county. Click here to learn more.

4. Help create a healthy forest at Cheasty greenspace. Join EarthCorps and the Green Seattle Partnership as they continue working in this 43 acre green space. MLK Day of Service participants should expect to learn a brief history of Cheasty Greenspace and an overview of Seattle’s urban forests and participate in forest restoration work. Click here to learn more.

Growing professionally in the New Year

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On Tuesday January 3 Westside School faculty came back to school for a day spent on professional learning. Specifically, teachers worked in their multi grade level Professional Learning Community (PLCs) teams. These PLCs provide the framework for working together to strengthen the Westside curriculum and provide a professional growth experience for teachers. Our PLCs are focused on the theme of providing the highest level of student engagement and meeting the needs of each student in our school. PLC’s are grouped by the following topics: reading, writing, math, positive school culture, documentation of student learning and re-imagining the role of an instructional assistant.

PLC’s are the key to help us have an aligned curriculum built on research based best practices in education applied by our teacher. By collaborating in multi-grade level teams the PLC’s allow teachers to explore what a truly cohesive student experience can and should be for a Westside student. We are very excited about the work we are doing and are looking forward to how it will impact the Westside student experience in positive ways.

Civil Discourse

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Rabbi Aaron Meyer and Westside School Interim Head Ted Kalmus

Fifty people gathered in Westside School’s theater on the Monday before Thanksgiving to talk about Civil Discourse and how we talk to children following a complicated, adversarial, and sometimes unkind election cycle. Thanks to all who participated in the evening.

Last night’s conversation felt particularly important. To me it served an important need we have as community – to share space and co-engage the complexity of the world our kids our in, think together about how we process confusing information or adversity, and what kind of language to use with our children.

The discussion between Ted and Aaron gave important words to feelings that people were having. Perhaps even more importantly, the breakout conversations gave people the opportunity to connect both personally and as parents.

One message that was striking was the conversation about what kids need in the future workforce. Research shows that building emotional intelligence and empathy is increasingly important, and connection to family through storytelling is a prime indicator of both social and professional success.

– Sydney Calvo, parent of fourth grade student Sally


One of the things that really struck me last night is there is a big variance among us in terms of our comfort with talking with each other and our kids about our experiences, especially when they are uncomfortable or even unattractive. So, many of us are exploring how to do that now. Maybe that’s because of our distance or our privilege or the directness of impact, but whatever the cause we need to find ways to connect.

There was good discussion about what are “developmentally appropriate” ways to talk with our kids and how that maps out in terms of messaging and even action.

What are the ways we might actually put ourselves into Civil Discourse? Certainly we surround ourselves with common thinking, but how do we actually engage a broader diversity of people and thought with the intent to understand and not just the desire to change their minds.

I am struck by how many of us just want to tell our kids “it is okay.” Our goal should never be just to assure our kids but to help them be part of the struggle to make it true. Everyone has something they can do, which ultimately is a more empowering message than “it’s okay.”

– Rene Hawkes, parent of fourth grade student Donovan and seventh grade student Sophia

Creative Exploration at Westside School

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Annual giving allows Westside School to invest in core elements of our program that promote creative exploration for all students


Westside School believes creating is an intrinsic part of learning. That’s why all of our classes provide opportunities for inquiry, discovery and expression, from core subjects like math and science, to dedicated classes in technology, and performing and fine arts. Outside of class, enrichment opportunities like robotics, drama, and art allow students to continue creating as they nurture their emerging passions.

Snails 2.jpg

Last year, students connected creativity with math by having some fun with snails. You may have heard an ant can carry something that weighs hundreds of times its own body weight. In pre-algebra, students asked a similar question about snails: How much can a snail pull, relative to its body weight? Each group harnessed a land snail up to a cup, lured it forward with lettuce, and gradually added weight until the snail could no longer pull the cup. They then weighed their snail and how much it was able to pull. Later, students used their knowledge of ratio and percent to determine which snail was the “strongest” relative to its body mass, and figured out how much a human could pull if it had equivalent snail-strength! (Eighth grade algebra students also got to take part in the fun!)

Art Projects


In second grade, students used their creativity to study animals using art. Students went above and beyond in imagining, designing, collaborating, and constructing this artistic and interactive set. Using their knowledge of nocturnal animals, students imagined their own nocturnal creatures and brought them to life in the form of puppets. The second grade students used their gift of storytelling to create backgrounds, scenarios, and puppet show prompts, all included in this set. The ten team-built puppets are housed in an easy to carry and easy to store embellished vintage valise.

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