WHPS Blog

Diversity & Inclusion #SelfieStation

Written by Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal on .

 

In our most recent Coffee & Conversation, we discussed some ways to raise kind kids and how to help our children grow into adults who will strive to make the world a better place. One of the main topics discussed was Inclusion. Often, the concept of inclusion/inclusivity is oversimplified to to mean including students with special needs or learning abilities outside the normative range in a classroom. However, our school's concept of inclusivity is really about valuing each individual’s personal beliefs, values, and cultural identity. To be inclusive means that you believe everyone has value and significance, even if they are very different from you. One of the greatest drivers of children’s academic success is the extent to which they feel a sense of belonging and significance as a member of the school community, and here at WHPS we strive to help our students feel this way each and every day.

To foster inclusivity in your child, one of the first big steps is exposure. So often parents aim to shelter their child from the overwhelming world around them. For example, when you see a homeless person on the corner asking for help, what would you do? I would encourage you to have a conversation with your child about that person versus simply telling your child not to look at them. If you see someone who looks different and your child has questions, answer them! A good rule of thumb is if your child is asking you about something, they’re already thinking about it, and you should answer their questions open and honestly in an age appropriate manner. Not doing so can indirectly send the message that something is “bad,” “taboo,” or “not to be talked about.”  Fostering this communication early will lead to your children growing into teenagers who communicate more openly with you.

This December, we are working on a school-wide collaborative art project to honor the wide variety of cultures and differences in our school community. This inclusive project will be put on display as a #SelfieStation when we return from winter break. 

On the morning of Friday, January 4, our leadership team will be outside at the Oxnard Street campus to greet and welcome everyone at the Diversity  Inclusion #SelfieStation, and we will have goodies and information to share with you about some very exciting events that are happening in January and February. We invite ALL parents and caregivers to stop by for some Coffee & Conversation the morning of January 4

Hope to see you there!

 

A Unique Skillset & Mindset

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

Over the past few years, we have been talking a lot about all these “21st century jobs that haven’t been invented yet.” The Labor Department as well as many employers now predict as many as 85% of the jobs today’s preschool and elementary students will eventually hold have not yet been invented. Any school worth their salt can recite (or probably has somewhere on their website) the 4 Cs, which have been identified as the most critical skills for our children’s future success: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking. If you are a parent (or teacher) in our school, no doubt you can rattle off the list of skills, but have you stopped to think about these yet-uninvented jobs? What will they look like? How are they so different from the jobs we already have?  It turns out there are some clues about this in the news and current events. Some of these jobs are starting to be…well…invented.

Two of the most significant emerging fields that are already looking for the next thinkers, inventors and entrepreneurs are Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Genetics. These are precisely the kind of jobs that require the aforementioned 21st century skills. Look at these stories from the past month’s news.
  • Cars making life or death decisions! This is no longer about Alexa playing your favorite game or Amazon predicting what you will buy before you even click on it (which is admittedly pretty cool). Self-driving cars are coming! They have the potential to save many lives, but they also conjure life-or-death questions: Hit the pedestrian or veer off the road and potentially harm the occupants? Do you want your car making that decision for you and your children? Engineers think of this as a real-life example of The Trolley Problem, which ultimately challenges us to examine all the ramifications of each option and think outside the box when making an important decision. In these cases, there is no textbook to consult. Furthermore, different philosophical beliefs might lead you to a different conclusion. Might self-driving cars in a different country be designed to act differently than in California?    
  • Are there really going to be designer babies? Researchers in China claim to have used CRISPR/Cas9 to produce genetically altered twins, and it’s causing quite a stir in the scientific community. In this case, the intentions are good: Give these children greater resistance to HIV. Even so, many ethics questions are being raised. As one researcher explained: “Some families need the technology to have healthy children…enhancing intelligence or changing hair or eye color are not things loving parents do and should be banned.”  

SKILLSET
At the most basic level, sure, experts need to understand their field. The AI expert needs her knowledge of Coding, Programming and Robotics. The scientist or doctor needs a strong foundation in Genetics. Core knowledge matters, and in our program we believe knowledge of genetics, robotics and coding is non-negotiable. This is one of the reasons we have expanded to Robotics-for-all, instead of Robotics as an after-school option. Similarly, we strive to leverage the Animal & Nature Studies program to give our kids a basis in Genetics that we believe might someday inspire them to become a doctor, researcher or vet. But, what kind of people do we really want to entrust with these weighty societal decisions?

MINDSET
There are a lot of smart people in the world, but smart ≠ ethical. If decisions about AI or gene editing are going to be made, the people I would entrust with these decisions are ones who can think critically and creatively (outside the box). They don’t just shrug their shoulders and accept that life is full of binary choices. In our school, we focus a lot on the 7 Habits of Happy Kids; we call this Habit 4: Think Win-Win. We try to teach children to look at problems through multiple lenses for a third solution. I know this might sound quite simple in school when it’s about sharing toys or solving conflict between kids. But in fact, it leads to much more sophisticated thinking as children get older. In the two examples above, you can also see how the 21st century skills of Communication and Collaboration are vital. Imagine if we had a 1-person team programming our AI or tampering with our genes. This is, again, why we are avid believers in group work and Accountable Talk, which are critical components of our school.

TOOLSET
WHPS is certainly not the only school to use Responsive Classroom, Columbia's Balanced Literacy Model, Inquiry-Based Learning, Emergent Curriculum, The Leader in Me, or to have a strong STEAM program that emphasizes Robotics and Genetics (though we are one of very few schools with our own barnyard). But, when you merge these carefully selected programs into one school, they work in concert to offer children something I would argue very few other schools can: A unique skillset and mindset to carry through life.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL VISIT
Other schools are starting to take notice of our unique combination of social-emotional and academic curriculum, and several schools have inquired if WHPS can offer professional development for their staff. This January, we are hosting our first international delegation of teachers and administrators from Kang Chiao Schools in Taiwan and China. Kang Chiao is a well-established school that serves over 12,000 children in preschool-12th grade. Even though we are nowhere near the size of Kang Chiao, they are coming to Los Angeles to observe our program and learn from our teachers. Their visit will be focused on:

  • Columbia's Balanced Literacy Model
  • Technology Integration
  • Character Education/SEL
  • Project-Based & Inquiry-Based Learning
  • STEAM

Last Night's Tragedy

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

WHPS community,

No doubt you woke to the news broadcasts and Facebook posts about last night’s nightclub shooting in Thousand Oaks. Our deepest sympathy and hearts go out to all of those affected by this tragedy. When events like this happen, it can strike a chord in us that goes deeper than just knowing there’s not any credible threat to our school community. These are raw and valid feelings that parents, children and teachers may be experiencing.

While violence and death are incredibly sensitive topics that each family will ultimately decide to address in their own way, we wanted to share a couple resources that we utilize as educators in deciding how to talk to children when they have questions.

WHPS article from earlier this year: TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT SCHOOL SAFETY

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) article: TALKING TO CHILDREN ABOUT VIOLENCE

Moment of Silence: In the Elementary Division, we also held a brief moment of silence at Morning Assembly today to acknowledge the impact on the community.

Morning Meeting: During Morning Meeting, we also allowed older children to share what they have heard and ask questions. Throughout the day and week, if elementary students ask questions, we will continue to answer them honestly, following the guidelines outlined above.

Parents, if you are grappling with your own concerns, we are here to talk with you. Please do not hesitate to drop in.

 

WHPS Admin Team

Seth Pozzi, Head of School

Robin Gee, Preschool Director

Jacey Dexter, Elementary Principal

Ailin Sacks, Preschool Co-Director

Dr. Tracy Ewing, Preschool Director

Christine Chiche, Preschool Co-Director

 

The November Election!

Written by Seth Pozzi, Head of School on .

This year, our school decided to participate in Election Day in a new and special way. Elementary students voted on this year’s yearbook theme from the options: Obscura, Smiley and Wrigley.

We presented the children with a choice that is, in some ways, similar to the one parents faced today when going to the polls. We asked students to think about which theme best represents our school community’s values and what matters most to each individual student. We framed their choices in the following way.

THE CANDIDATES

Smiley: Represents bucket filling

We asked the students if bucket filling and kindness represents the most important value in our community. If so, they might decide to vote for Smiley.

Wrigley: Represents nature and the environment

We asked the students if our beautiful campus and the environment represent the most important values in our community. If so, they might decide to vote for Wrigley.

Obscura: Represents any other issue they find personally important

We asked the students if there is some other issue (besides bucket filling or the environment) that represents the most important value in our community. If so, they might decide to vote for Obscura.

 

The time is now 3:47PM on November 6, 2018. All Ballots have been counted by our WHPS poll workers. But, you will have to stay tuned for Morning Assembly on November 7 for the results. We can say, there was a landslide victory to the winner. Was it Obscura, Wrigley or Smiley? Find out tomorrow!