Children painting at the Early Childhood Center

Building Lifelong Learners Through Exploration

By | ECC

The educational theory called social constructivism empowers even the youngest children to learn through independent exploration, reflection, and group discussion. 

In it, children “make meaning through play,” while teachers, rather than instructing from the front of the classroom, guide the conversation alongside students, asking questions, and encouraging children to make their own conclusions. 

Kelly Massey, Director of Early Childhood Education at WNS, brings this theory to life at the ECC where the environment is considered the “third teacher,” offering a nurturing, home-like setting with rich open-ended materials, natural light, and indoor/outdoor classrooms. 

Teachers create opportunities for children to explore their natural world, inside and outside. Joyful exploration is scaffolded through play and discovery in “The Wilds” – an outdoor oasis with a running brook, bridge, plants, and climbing structures. 

“Rather than memorizing facts, children start to deeply understand the world around them, building understanding through whole-body experiences,” Massey says.

As students move up in grade level, these building blocks evolve into project-based learning, and are interwoven into the curriculum. Children put their skills into practice by questioning and exploring, then creating from what they observe. 

At WNS, this comes to life in the form of cross-curricular projects. An example of this is a much-loved annual tradition at the school: a first grade project called WNSville. For this project, children spend time studying both local communities and main streets around the country, then in groups create and execute their own business plans, culminating in a showcase where families are invited to “shop” at their business or service. The idea is that children construct their own knowledge through experiences and reflection.

Stacey Koff, Assistant Head of School for Grades K-4 at WNS, says that this strategy “provides a sense of agency and empowers students to take charge of their own learning.” 

From a scientific perspective, this approach helps to create new neural pathways in children’s brains, and the brain becomes accustomed to repetition. Therefore, the act of trying new things and exploring new activities contributes to the formation of these pathways. 

Social constructivism in the classroom is centered around children engaging in activities with one another that encourage thinking, feeling, and doing. Children are viewed as innovators and protagonists in their own learning. They’re given the tools to explore, test, and question their world with a view to developing lifelong critical thinkers with a natural curiosity and love for learning. 

E-News 2/14/20

By | All School, E-News, ECC, Lower School, Middle School

Headline from Brad Zacuto: Upcoming Holiday and Important Work

We have an upcoming four-day weekend in recognition of Presidents’ Day and Faculty In-Service. There is no school and the office will be closed on Monday, February 17. 


Tuesday, February 18 is a faculty in-service day. There is no school for students but the office will be open. It is an important day of work for our entire faculty/staff to continue exploring Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives and how we can bring this back into the classroom to better impact our community. The nine teachers who attended the People of Color Conference will be sharing with other faculty and staff about their experiences and workshops and we will also have a faculty workshop on Neurodiversity. Teachers will also be given much needed time on Tuesday to meet in collaborative groups for curriculum planning. Having both a highly collaborative and project based program requires a significant commitment to faculty planning time, which days like these provide.


Classes will resume on Wednesday, February 19 beginning with K-8 Community Gathering in the MPR at 8:10am, and regular morning schedule in the ECC with the ECC Sing.


DEI Parent/Caregiver Workshop: Friday, 2/21

Following Community Gathering (8:45-9:45am) in the 5400 Building Conference Room

“The Importance of Embracing Anti-Racist Culture in Our Community”

In this workshop, we will be discussing culture and what is believed to be the “cultural norm.” We will begin to identify, name and deconstruct the cultural norms and standards – a first step to making room for a truly multi-cultural community that works toward social justice.



Sponsor the Gala

Great Opportunities Available! CLICK HERE. Sponsorships help underwrite the cost of this great event. Please consider our sponsorship opportunities and help make this a memorable event and a successful night for our school. 


Classroom Newsletters

Click here to view grade-level newsletters for this week. This year, teachers in grades K-5 are creating weekly newsletters to showcase what’s happening in their classrooms. Middle school sends out newsletters once per trimester.


Recent E-Blasts & E-News


Community Gatherings

This section of the E-News is to point your attention to the amazing presentations, performances, and community building that occur twice a week during Community Gatherings. As a reminder, unless noted otherwise, Community Gathering begins at 8:10am and generally concludes at 8:30am. It is located in the MPR of 5401 Beethoven (West Campus). All parents, ECC-8, and their family and friends are invited to attend. Parents must wear a lanyard and are encouraged to park in the back lot of 5401 Beethoven Street, but must move their car immediately following as PE classes begin immediately afterward. 


From time to time, we live stream Community Gatherings for parents to view remotely, through our school’s Vimeo account. This is the private URL to access it: and the password is: jets2019. To view an archive of the livestream events, use this link: and the password is: jets2019. If a Community Gathering is going to be streamed, an asterisk* will appear next to the date in this section. Please note, all Community Gatherings are subject to change.

  • Wednesday, February 19: African American Heritage Month Presentation; CAIS Choir Video
  • Friday, February 21: African American Heritage Month Presentations; Service Elective Presentation; Ella F. Plays Violin


Community News


Common Sense Media Tip of the Week

Though kids study history in school, they don’t always hear every important story or learn about all the people who changed the course of history. And when it comes to books and movies, we still have room to grow when it comes to surfacing media that reflects the lives of African Americans.


To deepen your kid’s understanding of history, you can check out books for little kids, tweens, and teens. And to introduce a critical conversation about racism, you can watch these movies together to get the discussion started. This list has a movie for all ages about a wide variety of African American experiences. But don’t stop there: Finding media that represents all kinds of people matters both to kids whose lives that media reflects and those who need a window into a world other than their own. So, take a little time to consciously diversify your family’s media diet, and keep your conversations going.


Parent Group


WNS Auction

DONATE NOW! Our big main Auction is scheduled for April 16-25, 2020. We are busy collecting items…so please donate now to help us make this the biggest and best Auction ever! Donate what you love to do or where you love to go! Restaurants, Hotels, Theatre Tickets! Be creative!

Main auction item donations are due by March 27, 2020. 


If you want to connect with the Auction Committee to brainstorm with you feel free to email

Auction Donation Link

2019-20 Auction Donation Letter


Party Book: Building Community One Party at a Time!

Have you signed up to Party Yet? Click Here now to register and sign up now! Look at what’s coming up that still has space available in February! 



Family Fun Event Movie Night: MOANA is Coming to WNS!

When: Saturday, March 7 from 4:00–6:00pm

Where: Our very own MPR “movie theater” at 5401 Beethoven Street

Who: All of the WNS community, including family and friends!

Come be our guest…there is NO CHARGE for this event! Just help us know you are coming so we can plan accordingly! CLICK HERE TO RSVP NOW!


Volunteering at WNS

Please go to Sign Up Genius and sign up NOW to volunteer for activities and events for the 2019-2020 school year!


Want to know more about the Parent Group? CLICK HERE