The Joy of Learning at Whitby

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead

At Whitby we are incredibly proud of the fact that we've become the first school to blend Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs in our early years (through Grade 2). These programs combined amplify our ability to develop confidence, self-awareness, self-management and curiosity in students. But that's not the only secret to our success.
 
If you're a reader who doesn't live and breathe teaching like us, you may not be familiar with terms such as Essential Elements, PYP Exhibition and Transdisciplinary vs. Interdisciplinary Learning (to name a few). And that's okay - you may very well use your own work "language" on a daily basis that would be foreign to us. That's why we've taken a step back to deconstruct and reexplain our program in a way that is more accessible to all
 
We believe that when teaching and learning is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, students will develop a true passion for learning. And this passion will encompass every aspect of learning and growth - physical, social, emotional, intellectual and moral.
 
These are the overarching themes that guide teaching and learning at Whitby. Now let's break down these concepts even further:
 

Learning is Significant and Relevant

Meaningful, Real-World Connections

Schools that associate academic rigor with test taking, hours of homework and rote memorization of facts are preparing students for success in the last century. At Whitby we expand far beyond rigor to provide our students with opportunities to explore real-world concepts and issues, challenge assumptions, think critically and acquire skills that they will need to apply throughout their educational and future professional journeys.
 

The Visiting Committee commends the faculty and staff for its long‐standing commitment to its mission that embraces a culture of continuous improvement and for its exemplary educational program. - Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Reaccreditation Committee

 
All classroom engagements are designed to make meaningful, real-world connections that help students absorb the content, connect the dots across subjects and promote deeper learning.

Global Lens of Learning

By exploring topics such as sustainability, conflict, cultural identity and technical innovation through a global lens, students learn about perspective and how their lives are interconnected with others.
 
 

Service Learning

Dedicating time to serving others both inside and outside the school community helps students expand their view of themselves and the world, develop empathy, humility and leadership skills, and come to understand that through their individual actions they can improve the lives of others. Service learning is woven into the curriculum in Grades 5 - 8 at Whitby, providing students countless opportunities to challenge themselves and make lasting impacts on our world. 
 
By involving students in Community Service initiatives on an ongoing basis, you will empower students to be agents of positive change and discover the impact they can have on campus, within the local community, and beyond.

Learning is Engaging and Challenging

Continual Self and Teacher Assessment

Assessment is an integral part of teaching and learning at Whitby. The word assessment stems from the latin word "assidere" which means "to sit beside." We view assessment as an opportunity "to sit beside" your child to help them understand where they are at in their progression of learning. Continual self and teacher assessment affords students the time they need to reflect on their learning and progress. They also learn how to self-manage their strengths and areas for improvement.

Approaches to Learning

Integrating key skills into the curriculum helps students become better learners as well as better people. The International Baccalaureate PYP and MYP Programs calls these Approaches to Learning (ATLs) and they include critical-thinking skills, reflection skills, organization skills, collaboration skills, affective skills, information literacy and media literacy skills. ATLs facilitate student learning in a variety of areas such as how they manage time and tasks effectively, how they work with others, how they manage their state of mind and how they use language to communicate. These ATLs also help students become more aware of the learning process and understand their strengths and challenges as learners.

Cocurricular Programs

Cocurricular programs provide students with opportunities to step outside their comfort zones and engage in a wide array of after-school classes that extend beyond core subjects. We know that learning is more meaningful when students can make connections across subject areas so we've structured our cocurricular classes to complement the programming of our academic day.
 
We also recognize that camaraderie and being part of a team are both important parts of a middle schooler's life so we've purposely designed this program in a way that celebrates students’ diverse interests and encourages new friendships. From Robotics to Model UN to Theater, each of these activities are enriching experiences that bring real-life meaning to their learning, and are a great opportunity for our students to explore new interests or develop existing ones.
 

Student Centered Learning

A student-centered classroom moves the focus of instruction away from teachers and back onto the students. This educational strategy helps students to deeper their understanding of their own strengths as learners, empowering them to love learning.
 
Student-driven projects such as Grade 4 PYP Exhibition, Grade 8 Project and Genius Hour empower children to take action and make significant impacts within the school or local community.
 
Through hands-on learning opportunities and ongoing assessments, students feel a greater sense of responsibility for their learning, allowing them to take the lead in their learning and develop creative problem solving skills. When students feel they have a role in decision-making, they are empowered to know that their thoughts and actions can make a difference. 
 

The Visiting Committee commends the students of Whitby School for being active co­-creators of their academic experience, positive participants in their own education, and joyful ambassadors of their school and its program. - CAIS Reaccreditation Committee

Inquiry-Based Learning

Inquiry-based learning fuels our students' motivation and investment in their education.  During our classes, educators constantly challenge students to ask "Why?" and then encourage them to find the answers.
 
In inquiry-based classrooms, students are constantly sharing their inquiries with teachers and peers. Then students can form interest groups to research answers and teachers can plan learning engagements that are relevant to students. This results in students having a voice in curriculum planning, gives them a choice to pursue their own wondering, offers them opportunities to work collaboratively with peers, and connects their learning to personal interests.
 
By leveraging children's natural curiosity about the world around them, inquiry based learning transforms education from something children "have to do" to something they enjoy.

Secondary School Placement Process

In Nursery through Grade 8 schools, the Secondary School Placement process provides graduating students with a voice and choice in finding their best fit high school. Simultaneously, this better prepares them for the complexities of the college process and job applications.
 
What does "best fit" mean? Secondary School counseling should be highly individualized to each student as everyone has unique strengths. Throughout this process, academic and extracurricular interests, optimal school community, size and location are all explored. SSAT prep, interview training and guidance through entrance essays all ensure that students are prepared for their next steps.

Connecting Every Aspect of Learning

At Whitby, learning encompasses physical, social, emotional, intellectual and moral growth. Through the framework of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO)'s IB Learner Profile Traits, we are always working to develop internationally-minded people who recognize common humanity and share guardianship of the planet, helping to create a better and more peaceful world.                                                                          
 
Our aim is to nurture well-rounded students who continually aspire to be:
 
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Thinkers

We use critical and creative thinking skills to analyze and take responsible action on complex problems. We exercise initiative in making reasoned, ethical decisions.

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Caring

We show empathy, compassion and respect. We have a commitment to service, and we act to make a positive difference in the lives of others and in the world around us.

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Balanced

We understand the importance of balancing different aspects of our lives—intellectual, physical, and emotional—to achieve well-being for ourselves and others. We recognize our interdependence with other people and with the world in which we live.

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Inquirers

We nurture our curiosity, developing skills for inquiry and research. We know how to learn independently and with others. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning throughout life.

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Communicators

We express ourselves confidently and creatively in more than one language and in many ways. We collaborate effectively, listening carefully to the perspectives of other individuals and groups.

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Risk-takers

We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination; we work independently and cooperatively to explore new ideas and innovative strategies. We are resourceful and resilient in the face of challenges and change.
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Knowledgeable

We develop and use conceptual understanding, exploring knowledge across a range of disciplines. We engage with issues and ideas that have local and global significance.

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Reflective

We thoughtfully consider the world and our own ideas and experience. We work to understand our strengths and weaknesses in order to support our learning and personal development.

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Principled

We act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, and with respect for the dignity and rights of people everywhere. We take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.

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Open-Minded

We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of others. We seek and evaluate a range of points of view, and we are willing to grow from the experience.

 Through the lens of the above traits, we can support the development of students who will be able to adapt, perform and thrive within an international community and workplace.
 

The Outcome:

Blend all of these elements together and you'll have students who are organized, articulate, confident about who they are as learners, and advocate on behalf of themselves. These are skills that are key for high school, college and beyond, and fuel a passion for learning that will last a lifetime.
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Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead

Sarah Mead is the Director of Marketing & Communications for Whitby School. Sarah's mind is a stirring pot of thoughts and ideas on content marketing, blogging, photography, videography, storytelling, social media, and website optimization. Working at Whitby has inspired her to reeducate the world about education, and to spread the passion, wisdom and expertise of the school’s talented faculty and staff.