Not just kids. But other kinds of learners, and, lots of them. At least twice a month, Wildwood hosts educators curious about what we’ve got going on here. As the director of the Wildwood Outreach Center, I play host to these visitors, who come from public and private schools all over the world. Some of our visitors are from as nearby as neighboring schools on LA’s Westside. Others come from as far away as New England and New Zealand, Singapore and Brazil.
Each of these visits is an opportunity to showcase the Wildwood approach. That’s valuable, as Wildwood is deeply committed to exporting what works here—from advisory to project based learning. But each of these visits is also a kind of exchange, as we gain insights from a huge range of teachers and education leaders from all over who face many challenges and come to us looking for ways to do it better.
I thought you’d be interested to know that often we open our classrooms for observations. Last week, for example, three middle school humanities teachers from City Charter School in LA’s Pico-Robertson neighborhood visited with their 6th grade counterparts, Wildwood Humanities teachers Alexis Lessans and Becca Hedgepath. We’ve also hosted a group of math teachers from LA’s Camino Nuevo Charter Academy who came to watch and learn from two of our teachers, Lori Reardon and Arlën Vidal-Castro.
This fall I was honored when Asra Ahmed, an assistant High School Principal at the University of Chicago Lab Schools paid Wildwood a visit. Her school — which famously launched the progressive education movement in the early 20th Century—sent her to glean insights from Wildwood’s 21st century interpretation of ideas and practice. We talked about how Wildwood integrates Habits of Mind and Heart into the curriculum and our multicultural programming.
Others come looking for teacher professional development ideas. Michele Shannon is a doctoral candidate at Harvard on a year-long fellowship as an administrator in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She told me she’d heard about Wildwood’s reputation, and came to explore what we have to offer the LAUSD administrator corps to boost and focus best educational practices in schools throughout the city.
Both of the last two years the Outreach Center has hosted a contingent of teachers and administrators from Singapore American School, here to learn from, what they consider to be, one of the most innovative schools in the world—Wildwood. Other international educators seek out Wildwood as a laboratory, where they can see best practices at work. We’ve hosted such delegations of Japanese elementary school educators, and Heads of international schools, like Medbury School in Christchurch, New Zealand, or the progressive High Scope Schools in Indonesia.
All of these visits make for engaging conversation about what we do at Wildwood, why, and how. These visits are also an occasion to remind myself: our school is founded on meaningful conversations, both internally and externally. Last month I was fortunate to spend some time with Tom Little, the Head at Park Day School in Oakland, CA. His school is a like-minded progressive, independent school similarly situated to Wildwood. Tom spent time in several elementary classrooms and then sat down with me and Director of Elementary School, Katie Rios, to ask us some questions for a book he’s writing on progressive schools.
These visits are all part of a day’s work for me, but I’m not sure many people in our Wildwood community know about this constant flow of visitors who know and care about what we are doing. Thanks to our outstanding teachers and a genuine commitment to great teaching and learning, the buzz about Wildwood is real, and growing.
~ By Steve Barrett, Director of Outreach, Teaching, and Learning