“It’s not where you go, it’s what you do there.” This is the advice of Dr. Denise Pope, Senior Lecturer at Stanford University and co-founder of Challenge Success, a non-profit affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. She spoke to our community earlier this month for a workshop on “A Healthier Approach to College Admissions.” With humorous anecdotes and an engaging PowerPoint presentation, as well as her perspective as a parent who has gone through the admissions process with her own children, Dr. Pope emphasized that fit should be valued over rankings. Keeping a level head during the college search process is key for the well-being, engagement, and sense of belonging of all K-12 students.
One of my favorite parts of the evening was when Dr. Pope handed out forms with a series of criteria for choosing a college or university to everyone in attendance. The form had 29 categories. For each category, we had to determine whether each was ‘‘not important”, “nice to have,” or “essential”. Here are just a few of them: 1. Diversity of the student body/faculty. 2. Community service opportunities. 3. Mental health services & supports. 4. Small class sizes. 5. Undergraduate academic reputation. It quickly became clear that no two people had the exact same marks or criteria. This brought home the ‘fit’ factor. What might be the right place for one student might not be the right place for another student. Dr. Pope also shared that popular college rankings, such as US News & World Report, used just ten factors to create their rankings, and by a show of hands it was noted that within our group very few present had prioritized any of those particular factors (Morse & Brooks, 2022).
Dr. Pope also told attendees about her experiences when she was touring colleges and universities with her son. After a long car ride, they had arrived at one of the schools that her son had identified as a top match school. But when he saw the small size of the town, and had done a little research, he realized that the town only had three restaurants. Being a foodie, he could not fathom attending a school in an area with such limited cuisine options. He told his Mom, “I will not go to this school.” Taken aback, Dr. Pope reminded her son that there were several reasons this school had made it onto his college list in the first place. But she could tell her son’s mind was made up; the school was not for him. They quickly crossed it off his college list, got back into the car, and drove away because a good fit on paper may not always be one in person.
When I meet with one of our WSP students, my goal is for the two of us to identify schools where they can see themselves being happy; academically, socially, intellectually, mentally, and emotionally. We map out a plan for future success, not just in college, but in life. No stone is left unturned. We look at average classroom sizes, retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, but we also look at schools that have a cappella groups or choirs if a student has a love for singing. For another student on the Walbots, WSP’s robotics club, it could be making sure a college has a similar student group for them. College rankings are never discussed; personal fulfillment and happiness is our chief topic of discussion.
Dr. Pope reminded me that while the college search process is not an easy one, there are so many reasons to be hopeful that a student will make the decision that is right for them. As my high school seniors receive many of their admissions decisions over the next few days and weeks, I am excited for what lies ahead for them. Their best days are still to come!
A new study published in the JAMA Pediatrics suggests yet one more reason to manage tech at home. “Tempting as it may be to hand them a smartphone or turn on the TV as a default response, soothing with digital devices may lead to more problems with emotional reactivity down the road, a new study has shown,” writes Madeline Holcombein in a recent CNN article [link].
“‘Even slightly increasing a child’s emotional reactivity, that just means it’s more likely when one of those daily frustrations comes up, you’re more likely to get a bigger reaction,’ said lead study author Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician.” Read the rest here.
Who hasn’t been there? Especially while trying to work and school at home during COVID. And if you haven’t, a long break from school filled with extended family and friend visits and extra tasks to complete might send you there.
Sometimes these habits can be hard to break. I recall when my, now 21-year-old, son was in kindergarten, a teacher telling us “A lot of televisions seem to ‘break’ during kindergarten.” Our TV didn’t actually “break,” but throwing a cloth over it did wonders. However, as we all know, it just isn’t the TV in the corner seeming to allure us for some temporary peace and quiet anymore; everywhere you turn there is a tempting device, especially if you turned to them during the last few years.
I always found rather than taking something away from my children, it was easier to instead give something new or different. Even waaay back when I was a child, my mother had a plastic tub of rice with cups, measuring spoons, and sieves in it; kept away only for rainy days. I may not have enjoyed that if it had always been available, but it certainly made the rare indoor rainy day very exciting!
by Jennifer Britton | Business Office Assistant & Alumni Parent
As a twenty-something-year alumni parent, volunteer, and current staff member, there are still moments when being in this community fascinates me or brings me unexpected joy. Two most recent ones come to mind. The first was on a recent Saturday when 1st, 4th, and 6th grade parent Leyla initiated a parent work day to do, what for me has been a long-term dream, a rehabilitation of our well-loved Winter Faire games infrastructure. There were coffee, baked goods, paints, buckets, rags, bins, prizes, drills, sand paper, batting, moss, tiny trees, strings, and more! The parking lot was transformed into an elves workshop (which used to be the name for our crafting workshop back in the earlier Faire days!!). Moms, dads, dogs, and kids all chipping in to make each game look brighter and more appealing to future games players. You’ll have to wait until Faire day to see the results but anyone who has been to the faire in the last four years or more will notice the upgrades. This makes me want to sing the folk song “Simple Gifts.”
The second experience involved goose bumps, the arrival of which one cannot control. I was in a junior/sophomore math class and the seniors were gone so the class was gifted with a special lesson on a fun applied math activity with Ms. O. She had mentioned that this had been shared with the faculty once and that added to my intrigue, plus she alerted me that it was about gerrymandering. It was fantastic, not only the actual manner in which she explained the history and set up a very relevant, hands-on application for it (we got to play with “stacking” the districts for a fictitious state legislative race) but also how the students engaged in it. I’m a huge verb fan and one of my favorites that I wish for us all is engagement. The students picked up on the assignment right away (asking fewer questions than I, by the way) and began feverishly to draw their district salamanders. The level of chatting was delicious as they went through three rounds of drawing their sacred lines of demarcation. But the debrief, the “why” and “what could happen if…” and “what else could be done instead?” series of questions and answers was gobsmacking to listen to. Students really grasped the shortcomings of this system and one student who was familiar with elections, current elections, in Israel chimed in with insights about an alternative used there that has parties so disparate that it has its own level of mayhem, confusion and ineffectiveness. Just another day in a Waldorf math class. Commence goosebumps (another fun verb, commence).
by Marina Budrys | HS Faculty and GrandFriends’ Day Event Coordinator
On the night before the Los Altos campus GrandFriends Day, I woke up many times. I’m no diagnosed insomniac but I definitely struggle to sleep when big events or new responsibilities are on the horizon. To my sleep-deprived 3AM self, welcoming 80 guests to our campus after a two year hiatus suddenly seemed totally crazy. I checked the weather and saw, to my dismay, that rain was predicted. How had I not thought of a contingency plan for this?
Fast forward a few hours, several raindrops fell. And that was it. Guests snacked on scones and croissants from Midwife and the Baker. Introductions were made. Conversations started. What followed was a lovely coming together of young and old. Generations met one another on the playground, in a circle, partnering for mathematical equations, and creating props for a play. I peaked over the nursery fence and saw GrandFriends holding hands with little ones, singing. My heart filled. What a special and unique experience this was. What an expression of what our community is. The following morning in Mountain View was just as special. GrandFriends reflected on their experiences being in the classroom. Some of their observations included the words joy, empowered, community, respect, super, and wisdom.
We are more than individual faculty, student, and parent. We are an extension of every community of which we are a part. Inviting and hosting the important roots and branches of our community allowed me to realize that this school is an ever shifting and living organism. Instead of a rigid structure, it reflects and is what the community is. My favorite quote from Rudolf Steiner is an oft used one but also appropriate for reflecting on this moment: “A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.”
WSP hosted a FIRST® Tech Robotics Qualifying Tournament on the Mountain View campus earlier this month. The STEM group that convenes the event is named First—but the event was a first in other ways, too: until now, WSP had never hosted a public tournament before. (Shout out to WSP senior and Walbots captain Lysander Schmidt and faculty team-sponsor Dr. Lea Fredrickson for spearheading!)
By 8:15 AM on a chilly Saturday morning, competitors from 16 local middle schools had arrived. As the hosting robotics team, WSP’s own Walbots joined nearly 80 other WSP volunteers to serve as judges, referees, scorekeepers, videographers, commentators, and runners, to name just a few of the many volunteer roles. High school senior Zoe Wheatonfox helped kick off the competition with a gorgeous rendition of the national anthem.
Here are three things I, and many other participants, didn’t expect to see at a robotics tournament:
1. Chickens on the loose We’re guessing it was the first time many of the 320 participants had seen a chicken at a robotics tournament. “Pepper” and “Turbo” were roaming the garden as students wearing safety goggles would stop on their way to and from the competition hall (aka the Eurythmy room) to exclaim, “Is that a chicken?!”
Yes. At WSP, chickens roam alongside Silicon Valley’s next generation of engineers. No big deal.
Students took breaks not only to sit in the garden and hold the chickens but also jump on tree stumps, play tetherball or ping pong, and enjoy the rope swings hanging from a nearby tree.
“It was wonderful to see the students from the other teams getting so much genuine joy from our campus,” said WSP parent (and lead scorekeeper) Brent Ingler. “Witnessing their excitement over things that we, as a school, may otherwise take for granted was heartwarming.”
2. “A well-oiled robot” That’s how a visiting robotics team mentor who’s attended these tournaments for years described this event. Or as a student participant said, “The whole event had a fun, chill, vibe and was so much fun.”
Thank the incredible flow within the WSP team for that.
“Every problem that came up, we actually resolved very efficiently, and that’s what made it overall a successful event,” said Lysander. “In our community, there are a lot of people with ingenuity and initiative. We had so many volunteers who could do whatever was needed.”
To allow spectators to cheer on their teams, despite COVID restrictions on numbers of attendees, all 9 hours of the event were live-streamed by a crew of WSP students led by Pierre Laurent, WSP’s School Administrator. (Catch a few highlights of their footage here.)
3. Real-time innovation Competitors spent the day troubleshooting, tweaking, and adjusting their robots. The team “pits” looked like chaotic workshops, with students darting in and out.
WSP parent and event judge Neil Overmon, who designs systems for Level 4 self-driving trucks, was inspired. “I was genuinely impressed with the student competitors,” he said. “They were working with concepts that I don’t always see even at the professional level. I was inspired to brush up on a few topics when I went home that night!”
Watching the teams work was also a master class in problem solving and collaboration.
“What you think is going to happen and what actually happens a lot of times is not the same,” said WSP 11th grader and Walbots team member Stephen Lee. “That’s applicable not just in a robotics club but also in real life.”
He also saw the value of standing by your vision. “If you want to present ideas to people who don’t think it’s going to work, you just do it.”
Interested in joining or supporting the Walbots Robotics Club at WSP?
“The club is open to anyone who is interested,” says Lysander. “At its core, it’s just a group of people doing some things. If you want to animate something, that’s robotics. If you want to work on finances, you can do that in robotics. If you want to make a website, draw some art, or even design clothing, it’s all part of what we do.
It’s also truly student-driven. As WSP parent and longtime Walbots supporter Christopher Schmidt explains, “we’re quite different from a lot of FIRST Tech Challenge schools. We draw the line. Neither Dr. Fredrickson nor I ever tell the students what the decisions are going to be in building the robot. Also, at our school, we have the right balance of time commitment. At our school, the people in the robotics club are also the people who are doing theater and track. It doesn’t need to take over your whole life. And that makes it even more fun.”
The club is always looking for sponsorship and support. Reach out to high school faculty sponsor Dr. Fredrickson or Team Captain Lysander Schmidt for more information.