Willow has pioneered unique academic programs that support our philosophy and commitment to student-centered learning and achievement.
Universities and Fortune 500 companies use Systems Thinking, yet this discipline, which helps students understand and navigate a complex world, isn’t widely taught or used in schools. Willow students are engaged with Systems Thinking in elementary and middle school through interdisciplinary studies and projects. This way of thinking prepares them to be good problem solvers and effective citizens who know how to create positive change in the world. Here’s how Willow students practice Systems Thinking in our classrooms:
- When Grade 5 students study the Agricultural Revolution, they are tasked with formulating a sustainable innovation that would lessen the revolution’s impact on the environment.
- Grade 6 students create Systems Thinking maps during their in-depth study of the American Dust Bowl. The project deepens their understanding of the interdependent relationships among ecosystems during this period of history.
- Grade 8 students apply Systems Thinking to their analysis and understanding of slavery in Colonial America using the “Iceberg Model.”
Willow students become curious about their surroundings on our 34-acre campus. We use our streams to learn about the local watershed, our woods and native plant growth for the study of phenology, and our LEED certified buildings for math exercises like the graphing and prediction of energy consumption. Our attention to place-based education immerses students in the unique history, environment, culture, and art of our area and region, rooting lessons in meaningful experiences relevant to our lives.
If you want your child to work as productively as possible in school, then recess twice a day makes perfect sense. Rain or shine, Willow students go outside to play, explore, and learn to get along with one another.
Lower School students enjoy recess after morning snack break and after lunch. They use our 34 acre wooded campus to invent games, build elaborate structures from natural materials, and build essential social skills like collaboration and compromise. Middle School students have a morning break and one scheduled recess. Three days a week, students have Academic Focus, a 40-minute free period they can devote to studying, homework, group projects, or meeting with teachers.
We believe that meaningful exposure to multiple world languages is vital to forming global citizens who can communicate across cultures. French and Spanish are taught in Grades K- 2. In Grade 3, students choose to continue with French or Spanish until Grade 8. The progression of study includes fluency (speaking and understanding), proficiency (reading and writing), and cultural appreciation. Latin, the root of so many world languages, is required in Grades 6-8 in addition to French or Spanish. Grade 7 and 8 students have earned numerous awards in the National Latin Exam, a competition involving more than 150,000 Latin students throughout the U.S. and 20 foreign countries.
Willow students are engaged with some of the oldest art forms on earth, vital to their intellectual and physical development. Handcrafts are taught from Kindergarten to Grade 4. Weaving and knitting, for instance, mirror traditional methods of storytelling, which supports literacy and language arts. The tactile nature of the Handcrafts program also develops fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
Architecture begins in Grade 5. Students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through the process of design. Handcrafts & Architecture, in conjunction with core academic subjects, foster creativity, self-discovery, and higher order thinking skills.
Each spring, Grade 8 students intern with a business, non-profit, government institution, or other organization for one week. In recent years, internships have included law firms, animal shelters, county colleges, boutiques, corporations, doctors’ offices, and media companies.
The unique program provides a venue for students to put knowledge and skills to practical use, explore a potential career, and to demonstrate a tangible connection between their internship and Willow Virtues. Following the internship, students make a formal presentation of the experience to the Willow community at Morning Gathering.
More to Explore on Academic Innovations
How can we help children understand the complexities of identity? See how Willow's fourth-grade curriculum uses the skills of systems thinking and project-based learning to help students understand identity! Join our free webinar on February 25 at 4pm to see how...
Children want to grow. They are curious and driven to learn about the world around them. Your child’s first experiences at school can be a time when she first discovers how to channel that drive into a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning...or it can be a place...