Cultivating Community: The Transformation of Our Los Altos Campus Garden

Cultivating Community: The Transformation of Our Los Altos Campus Garden

by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator

Amidst the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, the serene oasis of our beloved garden lies on our Los Altos campus. Our garden is an important part of the curriculum, as well as a community space, regularly used by our students, teachers, and parents. Frequent campus visitors may have noticed a lot of changes in the garden over the last couple of years. Our gardening teacher Claire has taken hold of the project with a clear vision, determination, and a whole lot of hard work. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Claire to uncover the journey behind this transformation.

It began with the realization that our older garden boxes were falling apart, prompting the need for a fresh start. However, after removing the boxes, instead of rushing into action, Claire took a step back to reflect on what the garden and our community truly needed. It was a moment of pause and contemplation to ensure that our efforts would be meaningful and sustainable in the long run.

One of the pressing issues Claire identified was the soil quality – predominantly clay, causing it to dry out quickly, especially during the dry and hot summer months despite having irrigation. It was clear that a fundamental change was needed to address this challenge. WSP parent Nienke had previously suggested the concept of Hügelkultur to Claire, at a time when implementation of such a concept was not possible due to the garden’s layout. However, after removing the boxes Claire revisited the idea and saw its potential to revolutionize our soil management. The Hügelkultur approach involved removing cubic yards of clay soil and replacing it with logs, compost, and topsoil. This innovative method will not only help the garden retain moisture but also improve soil fertility, laying a solid foundation for future growth.

Claire envisioned the garden as more than just a space for plants and her classes – she wanted it to be a venue for healing and community, which is another big change. Drawing inspiration from San Diego State University’s Healing Garden, she incorporated a circuitous walking route, providing teachers and students with a tranquil space to walk for reflection. She felt it is important to create an environment where everyone feels welcome. The clear delineation of planting areas and walking paths will help keep the plants safe from feet.

None of these remarkable changes would be possible without the hard work of her gardening students and our dedicated WSP parent volunteers. During the Wednesday morning and weekend Family Garden Work Days, the helpers have rolled up their sleeves and worked tirelessly alongside Claire, turning her vision into reality. Their contribution goes beyond mere assistance – it’s a beautiful expression of community spirit, and Claire is filled with gratitude.

As the garden’s transformation continues to unfold, there remains a need for additional support. Wednesday Volunteer mornings are still available to sign up for in Konstella, and Claire wants to make sure that all parents know they are welcome, regardless of which campus their child attends. She also seeks assistance in building structures and undertaking painting projects, offering a diverse range of tasks beyond traditional gardening duties.

Our campus garden stands as a testament to the power of vision, collaboration, and community. Under Claire’s guidance, it has blossomed into a vibrant, inclusive space where nature thrives, and bonds are forged. As we continue to nurture and cultivate our garden, let us remember that its beauty lies not only in its blooms but in the collective effort and passion that sustains it. Thank you to Claire for leading this vision, our garden volunteers, and to our Los Altos campus grades students for creating this beautiful space for the WSP community.

The Fit Factor: Finding the Right College

The Fit Factor: Finding the Right College

by Kevin Krasnow | Director of College Counseling

“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.

A group of people in a room facing a person making a presentation on a screen. Many of the people are raising their hands. 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!


Morse, R., & Brooks, E. (2022, September 11). How U.S. News calculated the Best Colleges Rankings – US News & World … US News & World Report. Retrieved March 31, 2023, from

15 Tech Alternatives for Winter Break

by Melanie Ingler | Communications Coordinator

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!

So, after you read “Giving your child a screen may hinder emotional regulation, study says. Here’s what to do instead”, here are some more media-free ideas for people of all ages to indulge in over break, and beyond:

  1. Make a big indoor tent/fort and read in it
  2. Visit the library
  3. Make a family tree
  4. Learn to play guitar or another new instrument
  5. Have a tea party
  6. Write a letter to a friend or relative
  7. Learn to play checkers or chess
  8. Write Thank You notes
  9. Go ice skating
  10. Plan a picnic
  11. Choose a new recipe to cook together
  12. Sing
  13. Make up a story together, two words at a time
  14. Take a walk or go on a nature scavenger hunt
  15. Visit the mountains


Simple Thrills

Simple Thrills

by Jennifer Britton | Business Office Assistant & Alumni Parent

Adults working around a wooden piece of Faire equipment with tools scattered about.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.”

A homemade castle wall and color wall of squares behind a group of adults with tools and painting equipment. There are some tools and paints scattered about the parking lot ground.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).

WSP’s Roots and Branches in Full Bloom on GrandFriends’ Day

WSP’s Roots and Branches in Full Bloom on GrandFriends’ Day

by Marina Budrys | HS Faculty and GrandFriends’ Day Event Coordinator

chalkboard drawing of an adult with grey hair and two children with their feet in a streamOn 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.”