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Why Westerly? I'll tell you.

October 10, 2018
By Dr. Plant

Dear Families,

As we are about to open our 2019-2020 admissions season, I have found myself working to articulate what exactly makes Westerly so special and unique as a Kindergarten-8th grade school. I have come to realize that Long Beach intrinsically does not have an independent school culture in which families embrace the vitality and impact of the experience of an independent school like Westerly. Instead, the norm here for many Long Beach community members is that LBUSD's schools are many families' initial and sometimes only choice for a school experience for their children. And so, the onus is on us to communicate what we believe here and what we uphold as the best practices for developing our children's passions, creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, empathy, and all the skills needed to be the next generation of leaders and citizens of the world.

Beyond the spectacular co-curricular program, the trusting and supportive relationships between the teachers and the students, the beautiful campus at which the students get to learn and thrive, and the tremendous parental community involvement, I want to focus on our academic program--both as I communicate with all of you, and as I reach out to our external community as well. Here at Westerly, our curricular philosophy and pedagogical practices focus on an inquiry-based approach. Let me be clear: this type of learning is not the traditional approach that many of us are used to when we think of our own classrooms; teachers don't give the answers if the students don't "get it" right away, they don't hand out endless dittos or rely on rote memorization of facts. Instead, inquiry-based learning stems from asking questions and working to solve problems. Our curriculum--including Readers & Writers Workshop, Singapore Math, and lab-based science--is a student-centered approach which allows students to "actively discover information to support their investigations." According to one study out of Rutgers University, "[inquiry based-learning]...allow[s] students to learn in complex domains [which] address important goals of education that include content knowledge, epistemic practices, and soft skills such as collaboration and self-directed learning."

While I don't want to fill this article with my "eduspeak," I did want to give the holistic view of the how, what, and why we teach at Westerly: we are building problem-solvers who know how to ask questions and work to find solutions. These are the lifelong skills our children need in today's world and to address tomorrow's challenges.