Wildwood School Viewbook: Brave Learners, Thinkers, and Doers

Wildwood School Viewbook: Brave Learners, Thinkers, and Doers


Wildwood School cultivates reflective scholars, bold innovators and compassionate leaders equipped with the skills, ethics and inspiration to transform their world.

TABLE OF CONTENTS 02 Both/And 06 Learning to take risks 10 A community for common good 14 Uniquely Wildwood 20 Elementary school program

26 Middle school program 32 Upper school program 38 Frequently asked questions 40 Wildwood by the numbers

Like parenting, teaching is an imperfect science and a gloriously creative art. We learn all that we can, jump in, figure it out, and fine- tune it along the way. Neither parenting nor teaching has one-size-fits-all solutions, which makes for unique challenges and incredibly rewarding opportunities. We are all driven by the ardent desire to shepherd children to becoming curious, honorable, kind, and hardworking people who—when all is said and done—will leave the world a little better than how they found it. At Wildwood School, my colleagues and I believe there is no end to our own learning, or to that of our students. We create an affirming and inclusive culture, thoughtful structures, and rigorous systems around that principle— and we keep working at it. There are teachers at Wildwood who have been honing their craft for thirty-five years. They are active learners, constantly improving their own practice, and they end every year thinking about how to make the

next one better. I also proudly count among my colleagues people who are relatively new to teaching. They have read, studied, and discussed the most recent research and are launching what I hope will be long and fulfilling careers, working side by side with their more senior peers and cultivating in themselves and their students that same commitment to relentless growth and learning. Of course, our students are at the center of it all. My colleagues and I learn both with and from them. That is the reason we teach, and that is why we believe so passionately that we must never rest on laurels. Wildwood’s commitment to innovation is exemplified in the research-based programs that are represented throughout this publication. I hope you enjoy learning about the important work our students, my colleagues, and I do each day.

Landis Green, Head of School


At Wildwood School, we practice a philosophy of both/and. A student can be both engineer and artist, writer and athlete, mathematician and activist.


A PLACE OF LIMITLESS POSSIBILITIES Wildwood students and faculty think across disciplines and find commonality in difference. Our progressive approach is structured and inventive. Here, two seemingly conflicting ideas can coexist.

STUDENTS AT THE CENTER Our faculty employ teaching methods supported by research and best educational practice, placing students at the center of their learning. Through individual and collaborative projects, innovative electives, and engaging seminars, students are given the tools and inspiration to soar.

Success at Wildwood isn’t a matter of simply learning how to memorize and recall information. It’s about being pushed outside one’s intellectual comfort zone.



“You never lose the kindergartener in you.”



Sometimes Lulu Valentino ’16 thinks of herself as a scientist who loves art. Other times she’s an artist drawn to science. The good news: at Wildwood School, she can be both simultaneously. A Wildwood “lifer,” Lulu still remembers her first day of kindergarten as magical. “The school planted the seeds of self-reflection in five-year-old me and helped them blossom,” she says. In 9th grade, faced with a dazzling list of electives, she chose painting. Then, in 10th grade, she switched to advanced topics in science. It was a chance to “lean into my discomfort and go my own path,” says Lulu, undaunted. In that moment, she adds,

“I realized who I was and I was proud.” She enjoyed having her thinking challenged daily and describes Wildwood as “transformative.” A multimedia artist, Lulu did her junior-senior internship at an incubator for collaboration between scientists and artists. She also spent a summer studying nanotechnology at UCLA. Her senior exhibition was a hydroponic garden sculpture representing her Mexican, Austrian, and Irish heritage. She dreams of creating a museum for the visually impaired, including an art piece about drought, which would take place in total darkness and appeal to all senses. Lulu gained early acceptance at Vassar College in New York and plans to major in biology and minor in art history. Throughout her K–12 journey, Wildwood remained a place where “you never lose the kindergartener in you.”


Wildwood School believes that at the core of anything original, extraordinary, or innovative, you’ll find curious and brave learners. Our curriculum reflects the way the world is changing—our faculty challenges students daily to ask questions, take risks, get in over their heads, and then creatively find their way out.



REFLECTIVE SCHOLARS Fostering resilience in students echoes from the very essence of the Wildwood philosophy. Through the practice of reflection, students routinely identify what works and how to handle the detours along the way. Those inevitable challenges and victories cultivate the fortitude they need for success in college and beyond.

HONORING THE INDIVIDUAL Students feel safe to explore and grow. Low student-to- faculty ratios allow for personal attention and provide opportunities for children to stretch beyond their own expectations in a community that embraces diversity.

Wildwood students are thoughtful, grounded ethically and intellectually, and confident in their abilities to learn and lead.


LAB PARTNERS  / PROM DATES “Falling in love with learning.” RUBY ERDMANN ’07 AND SPENCER FERGUSON ’06 →


It wasn’t love at first sight, but close enough, when Ruby Erdmann and Spencer Ferguson met at Wildwood School when she was in 7th grade and he in 8th. Within two years, they were dating and attended prom together. Now, 10 years later, they’re engaged and planning their wedding. Each can trace who they’ve become back to Wildwood. For Ruby, who calls herself “a total nerd” in high school, Wildwood fed her project-oriented skills. She appreciated Wildwood’s tight-knit community that gave her the encouragement and space to think big. For Spencer, Wildwood’s advantages included classes that afforded him the opportunity to develop personal relationships with his teachers. He still calls on the Habits of Mind and Heart and says, “Wildwood gave me the infrastructure to excel.”

Ruby studied jazz, ballet, and modern dance, part of an early dream of becoming a contemporary ballet dancer. Then an unexpected passion intervened—“I fell in love with chemistry,” she says. Now she holds a bachelor’s in psychology and chemistry from Spelman College, along with a master’s in education in exercise physiology from Auburn University and a master’s in nutrition sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago. “At Wildwood, I gained the confidence to become the student I saw myself evolving to,” says Ruby, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Chicago, currently applying to medical school. Spencer played basketball and immersed himself in Wildwood’s hands-on engineering and arts programs. This creative fusion forecast his master’s degree in architecture at Hampton University, an urban design fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University, and a master’s in community and regional planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In his junior and senior years, Spencer did his Wildwood internship at OJMR Architects. His contact there recently led him to his new job as an architect in Chicago. It is, Spencer notes, “a classic full-circle moment.”



We know that the decision to join a new school community impacts the entire family. And we know that it’s important for both students and parents to feel welcomed and engaged.


BUILDING CONNECTIONS Wildwood parents are connected and supported in myriad ways throughout the year. We learn together at book clubs, parent coffees, lectures with authors, and evenings with parenting experts.

CREATING COMMUNITY Every parent is a member of the Wildwood Parent Organization (WWPO), and all are encouraged to participate in WWPO committees and activities. We have opportunities for all levels of volunteering—for working parents with limited time and for those who have more flexibility.

“Our whole family feels good when we are on campus. It is a place where we all want to be.” –Rachel K., Wildwood Parent




As a first grader at Wildwood, Rhys Dubin ‘11 was obsessed with sharks—so his teacher suggested he share his excitement in a presentation at the weekly All School Meeting, attended by students, teachers, and families. Rhys’ parents, Kim and Mitch, recall that moment as empowering for their son. “Looking back, I can see all these events, big and small, that moved him forward,” his mother says. Throughout Rhys’ K–12 experience, his father adds, “the school encouraged him to take risks, to explore, to discover what he was passionate about. Rhys thrived in that environment.” Before choosing Wildwood, the Dubins researched a variety of schools, public and private. “Every time we met a kid who was interesting, curious and kind, he or she ended up being a Wildwood kid,” Mitch recalls.

Kim and Mitch appreciated the school’s focus on brave learning and its willingness to experiment with new ideas, along with the Habits of Mind and Heart, designed to cultivate lifelong learning. By 12th grade, Rhys was an avid and eclectic reader, writer, violinist, jazz aficionado, and rock climber. His senior project was a solo ascent in winter on Mt. Whitney, following the Mountaineer’s Route. Kim and Mitch found Wildwood equally welcoming for parents, and they made lifelong friends among other families. “You have a voice,” Kim says. “As much as the education was inspiring for Rhys,” Mitch notes, “the community was inspiring for us.” Rhys attended Deep Springs College in Nevada before graduating from Yale University in spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in humanities and a concentration on Middle Eastern politics and history. With interests in foreign service, he has received a Yale fellowship to join the English-language newspaper, Beirut Daily Star , in Lebanon. “He’s following the challenges Wildwood put in front of him,” Kim says. “That’s where it began.”


→ Wildwood School is joyful. It’s a place where students and faculty share a love of learning. We delight in each other’s successes and support one another when inevitable challenges arise.



(Far left) Curious learners achieve together.

(Left) Lifelong friendships begin on the elementary campus.

integrity, perseverance, and a sense of humor are central to the curriculum and are as valued as academic development. Habits of Mind and Heart: At the core of Wildwood’s middle and upper school program are a set of values and skills that serve students within and beyond the classroom. The Habits of Mind and Heart guide students’ growth as learners and responsible citizens.

All assessments are based on standards related to the Habits: • The Habit of Convention • The Habit of Perspective • The Habit of Evidence • The Habit of Connection • The Habit of Collaboration • The Habit of Service to the Common Good • The Habit of Ethical Behavior

Project-Based Learning: Throughout our K–12 program, individual and group projects engage, push, and embolden students, calling on them to collaborate, incorporate other perspectives, and build something relevant together. It is a real-world education. Life Skills: Our elementary program supports the intellectual, social, and emotional growth of each child. Life Skills like flexibility,


(Right) Gateways and Senior Exhibitions are

hallmarks of a Wildwood education.

(Far right) Each student’s advisor serves as a link between home and school.

their teachers, administrators, family, and peers. Students demonstrate fluency and mastery by evaluating and describing their strengths and stretches for each subject area.

Advisory: Our internationally recognized advisory program begins in 5th grade and continues through 12th grade, combining daily academic coaching, multicultural activities, self-reflection, and community building.

Gateways and Senior Exhibitions: In 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, students present an oral analysis of academic work and personal growth from the previous two years to


“A Wildwood education is extraordinary and whole thinking. The school is preparing our kids for the changing future.”  –Zachary K., Wildwood Parent

Multiculturalism: Wildwood’s renowned multicultural program invites students from kindergarten through 12th grade to reflect on their identities and consider the impact of difference. Guided by adults who are trained to have complex conversations, students explore multiple perspectives

related to gender, ability, sexual orientation, religious practice, socioeconomic background, age, and other cultural identifiers. Our inclusive culture can be seen in our academic and advisory curriculum, faculty training and professional development.

In hallways and classrooms,

you can find collaboration everywhere.


“I value Wildwood’s relentless pursuit of my personal best. I

Athletics: Our courts and fields are extensions of the Wildwood classroom where student- athletes learn the values of commitment and teamwork. Wildwood athletes are expected to carry themselves with dignity and grace both on and off the playing fields in a program that begins in 5th grade.

Community Involvement: Wildwood students learn early about their role in the broader world by seeing themselves as engaged citizens in their communities. We see each student as a leader who can make a difference in the world. As such, we build time for service work into the day and into the curriculum.

spent these past four years loving, laughing, and learning because I knew Wildwood wanted the best for me.” –Rachel Hansen ’15

Wildwood students are connected to each other and the greater world in profound and measurable ways.

Students develop their athletic abilities as they compete to win.


Joyful music and theater performances

foster talent and bravery onstage.

Artistic Pursuits: Music and visual and performing arts allow students to explore their artistic talents at the highest level. Our program nurtures both beginners and their more advanced peers. Students can participate in a variety of offerings, including 5th grade chorus, 6th-12th grade musical productions, and our vibrant

student art gallery. Many of our students perform and share their art at public venues. Sharing Best Practices: Wildwood’s Outreach Center works with peers from across the nation and the globe to improve education for all. We believe that inspired, progressive, research-based

teaching and learning can be part of every school, public or private. Led by Wildwood faculty, the Outreach Center offers professional development workshops for new and established schools. Wildwood has been named a Leading Edge institution by the National Association of Independent Schools.


“Every day when I’m waiting in carpool, my kid comes out with this huge smile. What more could a parent want?” –Stephanie D., Wildwood Parent



Rigorous structures coexist with opportunities for students to innovate, discover, and enjoy creative collaboration. Our project-based, hands-on approach encourages children to learn by doing—to read, write, research, and make things. Bottom line: Wildwood students learn to think critically and creatively.

Wildwood’s elementary program lays the foundation for academic success in our middle school, upper school, college, and beyond.



The Pods Students in kindergarten and 1st grade are in multi-age classrooms. In this nurturing environment with a low student-to-teacher ratio, children build academic skills while learning to mentor and model for their peers.

Dynamic Curriculum Innovative teaching includes Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) math, information and computer literacy, inquiry-based science, and multicultural programming. Faculty refine their craft and stay abreast of current educational trends by participating in and helping to lead professional development workshops.


Systems Thinking Introduced as early as kindergarten, this approach to learning encourages children to see how systems influence one another within a whole and connect us all. Students are able to analyze and understand their world in a framework that is empowering and leads to social responsibility.

Outdoor Learning Research supports the idea that outdoor learning is essential to the growth of the whole child. As such, our outdoor classroom, garden, and Big Yard Woods serve as stimulating venues for interdisciplinary teaching, critical thinking, and play.

Tec D.E.C. (Discover, Explore, Create) Our maker studio encourages design thinking and entrepreneurship. Students develop their imaginations and their technical skills to become creators— not just consumers— of technology.

“It’s good to have friends. There’s always somebody to share with if you’re stuck. We help each other learn.”–Angus O., 2nd grader



“We’re a community of learners.”



Every year, Wildwood Pod teacher Tahnee Muñoz finds “some new challenge to dive into,” such as creative ways to teach writing. “I’m growing constantly,” she says, “as a teacher and a human being.” The explanation is simple. “We’re a community of learners,” Tahnee says, and she doesn’t just mean the students. Wildwood provides its staff with a host of professional development opportunities, she says. “We’re constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas, all with an eye toward best practices.” In the Pods, which combine kindergarten and first grade, each child is at once learner, peer, and mentor. At this early level, Tahnee and her associate teacher introduce innovative curriculum such as Systems Thinking—the

interconnectedness of ideas and things. Life Skills are woven into the daily fabric, and students draw pictures of moments when they showed “grit” or bravery. “We’re honoring the fact that children have deeper thoughts about their world than people sometimes give them credit for,” Tahnee says. Tahnee “stumbled into law school for a hot second,” then changed course to become what she’d always wanted to be: a teacher. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Asian-American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her master’s in education at California Lutheran University. Each day at Wildwood brings a new delight—including the student who struggles with reading but perseveres to complete an entire book for the first time. “This,” Tahnee says, “is a happy place to be.”


“The day after I got here, I was sitting next to new friends having lunch.” –Dylan V., 7th grader



Wildwood middle school students cultivate an ability to examine and understand complex concepts, investigate and build evidence, and present findings.

Middle school academics are rigorous. Our program offers every student both intellectual and creative opportunities in a dynamic learning environment where adolescent development is understood and supported.



Into the Wild This yearlong capstone project for 8th graders is an independent student-driven exploration of a topic of personal interest. With the guidance of a mentor, students embark on a brave and reflective journey that has them building autonomy, mastering new skills, applying the Habits of Mind and Heart, and strengthening their sense of purpose around learning through a single long-term project of their choice.

Study Skills Course We provide 6th graders with the tools to understand their individuality as learners and the strategies necessary for greater independence as they execute their coursework. Students learn how to effectively take notes, manage their time and materials, plan ahead, and execute a presentation.


“Wildwood teaches our kids that we’re all connected–that there’s more to this life and world than just us.”–Sara P., Wildwood Parent

Digital Civilization This course takes a progressive approach to thinking about and teaching technology, beyond what most schools refer to as “digital citizenship.” Students explore devices and hardware, social media and networks, cyberwellness, coding and algorithmic thinking, online learning, and gaming—with the ultimate goal of teaching mindfulness around technology.

Electives Middle school academic and art electives expose students to a variety of subjects from digital 3D modeling to the history of rock music to avant- garde poetry. Students may choose a different elective each semester.



“They just want you to do you.”



When Emmett arrived at Wildwood School in the 7th grade, he didn’t know anyone. But he heard there were 3D printers in WISRD, the Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development, and so, he recalls, “I flew upstairs to the lab.” There he found lots of high-tech tools—a place he could apply his multilingual coding skills—and he found new friends. Within a few weeks, Emmett was staying overnight for a “Hackathon,” part of InnovatEd.LA, hosted by Wildwood. It was the creative, stimulating environment he’d been seeking. At his prior school, Emmett felt ready for more than the “tradition-based learning system,” he says, where “you only had to memorize something and spit it back.” In his

first few months at Wildwood, he realized his teachers were studying him. “They learned who I was, where I was strong, and where I was struggling,” he says. One of his first stretches was a pesky unit on viruses and bacteria. With some extra help, he conquered it. At Wildwood, each student is seen as an individual and is encouraged to pursue his or her passions. “They just want you to do you,” Emmett says. “They give you the resources you need to grow.“ He’s already working on an app to help students, parents, and school officials track bus schedules and safety. It may be the subject of his “Into the Wild” independent study in 8th grade, but he isn’t sure. “There are so many opportunities to choose from.” In the meantime, he’s found another place to explore and make friends as a member of the stage crew. He assists at plays, concerts, and open houses. Already a talented programmer and passionate theater tech, Emmett is busy gathering, he says, “all these cool experiences.”


“The education at Wildwood is not defined by a transplant of data from teacher to student. Rather, it consists of acts of cognition catalyzed by both the teacher and student in a dialogical collaboration.”  –Huck Phoenix ‘16



The upper school curriculum challenges students intellectually as they refine the skills to successfully transition to college.

Honors and advanced courses and independent studies are offered. Students are held to high academic and ethical standards as they learn to think critically, strategically, and find and use their voice.



Wildwood Institute Model Student-directed academic institutes bring together motivated scholars who develop their own learning outcomes alongside professionals and graduate students. The innovative model includes the Wildwood Institute for STEM Research and Development (WISRD).

International Community Involvement This program provides upper school students a unique opportunity to spend time traveling abroad where they live in local communities and engage in service learning, underscoring the value of an expanded worldview. Past trips include Nepal, Uruguay, Guatemala, and Vietnam.

Honors Courses Honors courses are offered for students who wish to challenge themselves and delve deeper into areas of interest and ability.


Senior Seminar Students have an opportunity to investigate the world through four different lenses and an integrated approach: Environmental Change; Government and Politics; Philosophy, Ethics, and Law; and Human Rights. They explore multiple perspectives and clarify their thinking through reading, research, and class discourse with the aim of creating evidence-based solutions to local and global problems.

Internship Our internship program, required for all juniors and seniors, allows students to gain professional experience in fields of interest during the school day. Students choose from more than 175 options and graduate with a real- world resume.

Electives Academic and art electives invite students to explore subjects ranging from debate and digital video production to psychology and

advanced topics in science. These courses nurture students’ talents and intellect.



“It’s a joy to teach here.”



One day in his native Cyprus, Herach Danlyan’s favorite high school math teacher, who doubled as his soccer coach, showed him how calculus could apply to his favorite sport. “It was an ‘aha’ moment for me,” Herach says, “and making that connection for others became a passion of mine.” That passion and inspiration led Herach to Wildwood. An advanced upper school math teacher and coach of the middle school soccer team, he brings a guiding philosophy to both roles: “True education isn’t about what you remember about derivatives or other math concepts,” he says. “It’s about who you are as a person. In my 12 years at Wildwood, none of my classes have been the same.” The questions that students ask, and

the questions he poses, keep changing. Wildwood offers a safe environment for risk-taking and learning, he says, “not just for students but for teachers, too.” For Herach, math takes place everywhere — in the trajectory of a ball or a favorite recipe. Fluent in five languages and an ardent foodie, he uses a variety of approaches to reach his students. His top priority: “Students need to be problem-solvers. It’s something they’ll use lifelong,” says Herach, who earned his bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics at Stanford University and has completed graduate-level coursework at California State University, Northridge. Herach, who played soccer at the Olympic, college, and professional levels, now competes with a team of Wildwood alumni. A beloved advisor, he values most the relationships he builds with students and colleagues. “It’s a joy to teach here.”



averages (GPAs). Cumulative GPA is based on all coursework completed between grades 9–12. One additional point is awarded to honors classes and college courses. Students are not ranked. How does Wildwood prepare its students for college? During the upper school years, Wildwood’s seasoned college counselors guide students and parents to identify a list of colleges that will be right for them, supporting students throughout the process of applying. Wildwood has one of the lowest student-to-counselor ratios among peer Los Angeles- area independent schools.

College counseling begins in 10th grade, when counselors meet with students and families. In 11th and 12th grades, they regularly review coursework and plan for academic and leadership opportunities. Seniors attend Wildwood’s four- day College Boot Camp, where they immerse themselves in the college application process, in particular the essay and interview preparation. We proactively share Wildwood’s philosophy with

How does Wildwood assess student achievement? Wildwood is on the semester system. Narrative assessments function in the place of letter grades from K–8 and provide a clear, rich understanding of a student’s progress in each subject area. Standardized testing begins in 3rd grade with the ERB and continues through middle school. Upper school students take PSAT, SAT, PACT, and ACT tests as they prepare for the college application process. Beginning in 9th grade, narrative assessments are converted to grade-point

colleges and universities throughout the country.


During the school year, more than 100 college admission representatives visit our campus and meet with students. Our juniors also have the opportunity to go on a school- organized college trip to the East Coast. Wildwood students enroll in an impressive range of colleges nationwide. View the college acceptance list at www.wildwood.org/collegelist.

Does Wildwood offer tuition assistance?

What transportation options are available?

Wildwood has a flexible tuition program, setting tuition according to a family’s ability to pay. We believe all families have equal value in our community, regardless of what they pay. Families apply for flexible tuition through FAST (ismfast.com) and must submit a separate application along with their application for admission.

Families walk, drive, and ride bikes and public transportation

to school. Everyone is encouraged to carpool.

Wildwood offers a student bus program for middle and upper school students. Typical routes, which may change from year to year, include: West Hollywood/ Hancock Park, Pacific Palisades/ Brentwood, and the San Fernando Valley. Our middle and upper campus is a block from the Expo Line Bundy/Exposition station, providing easy access to and from school.

“We continue to marvel every day about the incredible opportunities that Wildwood provides our son.”–Andrea and Maurizio V., Wildwood Parents












Wildwood School was founded in 1971. We are an authentically progressive K–12 co-ed college preparatory school in West Los Angeles. To learn more about attending Wildwood School, visit wildwood.org

Accredited by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS)

ELEMENTARY CAMPUS 12201 Washington Place Los Angeles, CA 90066 310.397.3134 MIDDLE/UPPER CAMPUS 11811 West Olympic Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90064 310.478.7189


Wildwood does not discriminate on the basis of age, color, creed, disability, gender, marital status, national or ethnic origin, race, religion, or sexual orientation. This policy applies to all areas of the school, including admissions, educational policies, flexible tuition, and other school- administered programs.

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