Learning at Westtown: A Joyful Spirit of Exploration
Experiential learning is an educational promise.
At the Lower School at Westtown School, a Pre-k through 12th grade Quaker day and boarding school near West Chester, PA, a joyful spirit of exploration prevails. The core curriculum in Lower School grows out of the fundamental beliefs that each child has special gifts and a unique voice, and that children learn best by action and collaboration. This student-centered approach inspires a lifelong love of learning, fosters literacy and communication skills, and nurtures community building. Academic readiness is built through innovative projects and experiential learning—students are encouraged to ask questions, seek answers, problem solve, think critically, and take risks. How does Westtown deliver on its educational promise in the Lower School? Here are just a few examples:
The science curriculum is grounded in active research, observation, and analysis. Students explore chemistry, physics, and biology over the course of their Lower School years. The curriculum is inquiry based and provides students with hands-on projects so they can make real connections with what they’re learning. Westtown School boasts a vast 600-acre campus which includes an organic farm, an arboretum, and a 14-acre lake, and it serves as a living lab for students. Through Farm + Forest, the outdoor education program, students spend time outside in every season observing and researching ecosystems, which helps them not only connect with, appreciate, and understand the natural world, but also to see their role in stewarding and protecting it.
Building solid reading skills and writing skills is an essential focus throughout Lower School. The goal is for students to develop into confident, independent readers and creative and persuasive writers. Skills are built upon each year, and by fifth grade, students engage in Writing Workshop in which students hone their writing skills through a variety of exercises and prompts, and focus on persuasive writing skills and personal storytelling. Reading Workshop, also a feature of the fifth grade curriculum, helps them become stronger readers and exercise independence in finding books at their “just right” reading level. All students spend time in the library and have access to a wide variety of literature that allows them to explore different perspectives and genres. Through the Library and Media program, literacy, research, and digital citizenship skills are built, readying students for healthy, discerning consumption of and participation in digital media.
There is an intentional focus on community, service, and character building. Students know that their voices matter, so they learn to use them. They also learn to listen to and respect the voices of others. They learn that healthy communities are ones that value and honor diversity, so there are a variety of celebrations of cultures throughout the year.
Westtown’s curriculum and community arise out of the Quaker values that are foundational to the Westtown education: simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, and stewardship, and the belief that there is a divine spark in each individual. Every aspect of the student experience in Lower School—from core subjects, to social studies, to music and visual arts, to Spanish, to service projects, to the playground—reflects those values. And it shows in their students who are deeply engaged, connected to their community and to each other.