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.”
Student-led Genius Hour
Handcrafts & Architecture
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.
3 World Languages
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.
One of the most recognized attributes of Willow students is their ease and ability with public speaking. Children are encouraged to find their voice at an early age in classroom meetings, discussions, and Morning Gathering, where every student in every grade has multiple opportunities to ask questions, present insights from class studies and projects, and contribute ideas to a school-wide conversation.The benefits of the constant practice of communication is most evident at Graduation when each Grade 8 student delivers thought-provoking, powerful, and sometimes hilarious speeches reflecting upon their time at Willow.
Grade 8 Internships
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.
Recess 2X a Day
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.
In Lower School, students enjoy recess after their morning snack break and after lunch. Our 34 acre wooded campus is the ideal environment for imaginations to grow and develop. Willow students invent games, build elaborate structures from natural materials, and put classroom learning into action. Visit during recess and you may see students identify bugs or plants they are studying and race to tell their science teacher all about it. With some assistance from their teachers, recess also provides Lower School students the time and space to collaborate, compromise, and build other essential social skills.
Middle School students have a morning break and one scheduled recess each day. 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.