Teaching and Learning

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

Beetle races make algebra move

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In eighth grade algebra, students began a unit on linear functions by looking at things moving at a constant speed. In this lesson, the thing that is moving is a darkling beetle! Each group got a beetle they let run on a piece of paper, recording its path and noting it’s position in five-second intervals.

Students will measure this path, build a data table, make a graph, and — ultimately! — figure out which group had the fastest beetle!

Game Masters deconstruct board games

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As part of our Middle School curriculum, students select a variety of Exploratory classes over the course of the academic year. Classes include options such as drawing, dance, yoga, rock climbing, and baking.

Students in Game Masters have begun deconstructing some of the world’s best board
games as they prepare construct their own new ones. Each student has
begun mapping out key and recurring themes, mechanics, and design flaws.
These insights have informed some great conversations on what board
games have represented, and continue to represent, about the way people perceive the
world around them. Everyone’s excited to see what new world’s will be
created in the week’s to come!

Creative connections to real-world challenges

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Inspired by the recent news of the rerouting of the Dakota Access Pipeline, third grade students designed, built, and tested their own pipelines.

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Using straws, tape, wood sticks, and cups, they were challenged to create a pipeline with as few leaks as possible. When three straws were attached to the starting point, they were asked to build around sacred ground to get to their end point.

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Water was poured from one end and had to travel to the other end. Each group presented their pipeline by identifying what they thought would work well and where the potential weaknesses were located.

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There were many different styles of connecting the pipes and ways of using gravity to make the water flow.

The Westside School Fund supports Professional Development for our faculty

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Westside School believes one is never finished learning. Because of funds raised during the Westside School Fund, faculty and staff are given opportunities, away from school, to engage with education professionals and leaders and bring the knowledge back to school.

In February 2016 Michael Le, Director of Technology, and Susannah Muench, Director of Literacy and Technology Integration, attended the EdTech Teacher Innovation Summit, where they were encouraged to think about “what’s next.” Over three days EdTech leaders from around the world came together to share ideas on how to transform student learning and address the challenge of how to best innovate education.

“Half way through the summit, I realized Westside School has a unique potential for education through technology and it was within my grasp to use my newfound knowledge to propel us far into the future. Through a number of hands-on workshops, such as iPad use, tech coaching and leadership, I developed the skills to enhance the use of tech school-wide, from students to teachers to families. I look forward to building on our tech program and making Westside School a pioneer in technology education.” – Michael Le, Director of Technology
“One of the most inspiring things I learned at the Innovation Summit was that with so many technology initiatives available, you can’t expect to do them all. Rather, you need to step back, look at the big picture, where you want Westside School to be, where you want your students to be and what aspects of technology will help further that vision. As such, Michael and I came up with the slogan ‘Create & Collaborate.’ Our driving force as the Tech & Literacy Program develops is to integrate technology in a way that enhances collaboration between students while engaging their creatives minds.” – Susannah Muench, Director of Literacy and Technology Integration

Annual Giving makes it possible for Michael, Susannah, and other Westside School teachers to attend important conferences and workshops every year.

Make your gift today!

The worthy endeavors of Outdoor Education

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We choose to start each academic year with trips not because it’s easy, but because it is a worthy endeavor. By spending our first full week of school out on trips, we send a powerful message to ourselves, our students, and our community about what we value.

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We value community – trips make it easy for the ‘new kid’ to become just another member of the class much more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

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We value connection – trips provide opportunities for teachers and students alike to share new, often challenging experiences.

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While teachers are often perceived as ‘experts,’ trips in particular provide opportunities for teachers to show that they, too, are also learners.

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We value the development of a sense of place – throughout Middle School, our students explore and experience a wide variety of local environments and outdoor pursuits, from Mt. Rainier to the Salish Sea.

This fall, our fifth grade students explored Mt. Rainier, including visiting Paradise and the Grove of the Patriarchs.


Our sixth grade students learned to rock climb and went hiking in the North Cascades, our seventh grade students backpacked to a variety of alpine lakes, and eighth grade students enjoyed team building and sea kayaking at Camp Orkila!


Sarah Path, Director of Outdoor Education

Expeditionary Foundations

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In the first weeks of school, we are all working on laying the foundations for a strong learning cohort – creating the systems for working effectively together, communicating with one another, and noticing our environment in even more sophisticated and meaningful ways. Whether inside the classroom, outdoors or on field trips, we draw on some of the principals of expeditionary learning throughout the year – one’s own responsibility for learning, empathy and caring, connection to the natural world and the importance and value of self discovery.


Indeed, why do we launch all our Middle School year with extended outdoor education trips? Expeditionary learning lays the groundwork for a year of deep collaboration with a cohort of peers whom we have traveled beside. It’s the trust and familiarity built on these trips that helps us challenge and support each other to be our best. Here’s a 30 second video (with music!) about the design principles of Expeditionary Learning.

Ted Kalmus, Interim Head of School

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