by Thad Falkner, Head of School
You knew, of course, that this day would come. Your child’s very first day at Wilson, when you walked up the front steps holding her tiny hand, you hoped that this was a place where she would grow, and growing means changing. Learning to read and write (not just in English, but in French, too!), becoming more independent and resourceful, among so many other things; these were the goals. Not only that, but your sense that it would happen in a better and fuller way at Wilson than at any other school; that’s why you were here. Sure enough, it began to unfold: She not only became one of the kids whose classroom is downstairs, and who has a little buddy rather than a big one, and whose math homework frankly is a little tricky to help her with, she became someone who is both prepared and excited to move on to a new challenge. So here you are, on that day you knew would come, yet are still surprised by.
Even for those of us who have had the privilege of serving the Wilson community for many years, this transformation never loses its wonder. We delight in every part of your child’s time with us and take pride in their growth and progress at every stage, just as you do. We work diligently to make every year your favorite yet, so that it becomes impossible to choose. Still, there’s nothing like seeing a 6th grader step confidently up to the podium to give his graduation speech in front of 200 people, when you remember him as a shy four-year-old who had to be encouraged to raise his hand in class. When you read our “Portrait of a Wilson Graduate,” you will see that we expect a lot from our students as they leave. We state that our graduates are: Curious, Poised and Confident, Creative and Collaborative, Open Minded and Kind, and Ready for the World. That’s a lot to hope for from a twelve-year-old! The crucial difference is that we don’t just hope for it; our faculty and staff, in concert with our wonderful parent community, strive for mission-driven excellence every day in every grade to nurture, challenge, and support our students toward these outcomes. Growing up is hard work, but we remain firmly convinced that there is no better place to do it than at The Wilson School, and we are committed to you being convinced, as well, when you leave.
So, here you are. Of course you knew that her hand would not always be so tiny, and that one day she would walk up not only the front steps, but also the steps onto the stage with her graduating class. Still, there is surprise: The surprise that she grew in ways you couldn’t have even imagined that first day; the surprise that you could feel this proud. And though we may not be surprised by all of this, we share in your joy just the same.
by Thad Falkner, Head of School
Is there anything more exciting than discovering that a cherished dream could actually become a reality? Recently, Wilson students got to do just that, through a meaningful workshop with three accomplished children’s authors. Thanks to librarian Amanda Dressler’s relationship with local bookshop The Novel Neighbor and funding by Wilson’s Excellence Program, three OMG (Oh Middle Grades) Bookfest authors worked with our 1st-6th graders for the afternoon. Angela Dominguez, Vashti Harrison, and Courtney Sheinmel shared their inspiration and experiences as authors and illustrators in an interactive assembly with the school. The fun and learning only began there, though! Following the assembly, each class had the privilege of doing a break-out session with one of the authors on a variety of topics. For example, in first grade, Ms. Dominguez demonstrated her artistic skills by drawing characters at request, and in 6th grade, students used the elements of plot discussed by Ms. Sheinmel to craft their own short stories. Additionally, Ms. Harrison was kind enough to meet with a student who aspires to be an illustrator. Our Middle Grade dreamers saw first-hand that it is possible to pursue what they love, whether it is writing, illustrating, or something different entirely, through their time and collaboration with three successful women who have done it themselves.
This in itself would have made for a special day for any child, but this is Wilson, so there is more to the story. Many aspects of this thoughtfully-planned opportunity for our students made it unique to Wilson and to our mission.
Arthur Ashe once said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” By giving our students experiences like this one with our Visiting Authors, we are equipping them with the confidence and skills they need to begin making their dreams a reality even now.
by Thad Falkner, Head of School
If you have had the pleasure of seeing Wilson’s new mural by our visiting artist Cbabi Bayoc, you may very well have focused on the product (that is, the finished piece itself). And why wouldn’t you- it’s truly engaging! Energy and joy radiate from the depiction of key aspects of our unique Wilson community. Certainly, if the “product” needed to stand on its own, it could. And yet, there’s something beautiful and important going on beyond what you can see: the process that led to its creation. At Wilson, we are intentional about process-focused learning and this, combined with our deliberately small-sized community, leads to distinctive opportunities for our students.
In this case, students were involved at every stage of the process, from choosing the concepts to helping with the painting. Not only did this give them a first-hand experience with art as a process in itself, it also gave them lots of practice in collaboration with very different people: their peers, their teachers, and a gifted professional artist.
-Brainstorming- Even creativity needs to be practiced, and it often flourishes when we work with others. How does one’s own thinking grow and change through brainstorming with others? How do we handle our disappointment when our ideas aren’t chosen or used?
-Collaboration- Collaboration with peers is essential in building 21st century skills, even if it’s as simple as waiting your turn to paint. What about collaboration with adults? With adults who are very skilled at something you are not? How does that work and what do you learn?
These lessons and many more came together in this experience for our students. It’s a perfect picture (if you’ll pardon the pun) of Wilson: Love of art, but not just the product- learning from (and maybe even learning to love) the process. Seeing every work of art differently from now on, because you understand that much better how it might have come to be. These student outcomes are ones that we hope will be as lasting as our beautiful new mural.
by Thad Falkner, Head of School
“Our next Student Council Treasurer is ______.” Biannually I hear this announcement, and it usually goes this way: The crowd of students in the library waits quietly to hear the results of the election. The winner is announced, and a big smile fills her face. Those who lost are disappointed; Do they take away something positive?
Helping students grow academically, athletically, socially, and emotionally requires a breadth of experiences. Wilson’s Excellence Program provides resources for many opportunities for students, but perhaps one of its lesser known components is the support it provides for competitions. While it is a small aspect of the program, it makes a big difference for students, regardless of how they place. From Greek Mythology to creative improvisation to extramural sports to robotics, Wilson students tend to have strong outcomes, and it is fun to read the list of winners. However, in a bigger sense, taking home first place is not the only way for a student to win in a competition. That’s not to say we don’t celebrate victories, but rather that we recognize that children learn invaluable lessons in resilience and other important qualities through the process of competing and the experience of both winning and losing.
How do our students benefit simply by participating in competitions?
These experiences in themselves carry enormous value in a child’s development and provide encouragement for healthy risk-taking.
Of course, one of the risks is the question, “What if I lose?” We should challenge our students not to fear that question by emphasizing the process rather than the outcome. Along the way, and after the dust settles, parents and teachers can do this by:
Growing in grit, resolve, and persistence happens through repeated processes, not from a singular event. There’s a lot of truth to, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” By giving our students a chance to live out that maxim, they learn that being successful doesn’t just come from winning.
by Mara Goldschmidt and Kathleen Kavanaugh, Third Grade Teachers
Wilson School has great success with it’s educational approach, Integrated Learning. The crux of this method is connecting multiple subjects around a topic, challenge, or experience. Recently, our third graders had a day-long, outdoor learning activity where all of the subject matter connected around Forest Park and its Steinberg Savanna.
Although it started out a little chilly, we were dressed well and we warmed up fairly quickly. It turned out to be a perfect day for spending our whole day learning in the outdoors. So many subject areas were covered in our explorations.
In small groups, we took some mindful time to observe the beauty of the savanna in three different locations. Each student wrote some description that was then either assembled into a group poem or an individual poem. In the afternoon we had silent reading time curled up under or on our favorite mulberry tree.
The day began with P.E. Ms. Simpson joined us in the park for some warm up activities, a run around the park on some of the paths, and then some cool down stretches. We also did quite a bit of walking throughout the day.
Mr. Theo, one of the Forest Park naturalists, came to meet us in the wetland area of the savanna dressed in his wading boots and overalls. He explained how the presence of macro-invertebrates in the river signaled the healthiness of the river. With nets large and small, students collected scoops of plant and animal material from the river, emptied the contents into dishpans of water, and identified organisms such as mayfly larva, dragonfly larva, a leech, and mussels. We were surrounded by nature the entire day and made many observations of the plant and animal life. There were many different kinds of wildflowers, some gone to seed. It was amazing what a variety of seeds there are! We used field guides to identify species of both flowers and trees, including: smartweed flowers, asters, birch trees, catalpa trees, and redbud trees. We learned to recognize the difference between coniferous and deciduous trees. It was our good fortune to spot a great blue heron, a white egret, and a large frog submerged in the prevalent duckweed.
Many students took the time to sketch what they observed. They drew trees, flowers, and more.
We were even able to incorporate some history into our day. The footbridge on the trail was built in 1885, and was the main entrance into Forest Park. It is called The Victorian Bridge.
It was a day to remember for a long time to come!
Wilson in the News