Special Programs at West
Conflict Mediators are 4th grade students who have applied to serve as a leader at West. Conflict Mediators are on the primary playground everyday at lunch. Conflict Mediators are a resource to students who might need support with solving a problem on the playground, talking to a friend or making new friends. Conflict Mediators are trained by the West school counselor.
“Families” is one of the ways West School gives opportunities for student leadership. The entire student body is divided into families that contain a student from each grade level, with the 5th grade student being the “lead” for the family. The 5th grade students are coached by their teachers in order to prepare them to lead their families through different projects and activities. When we meet, each classroom holds three families, which we call a neighborhood. We meet once a month at varies times during the day.
At West, every 3rd, 4th and 5th grader has the opportunity to compete in a national math contest. The contest is run by a company called Educontest, who provide the practice and testing materials, as well as administer the scores, which can be accessed on their website. Each team practices once a week in Room 11, to be ready for the 4 contests per season. (As of this writing, the company has not announced this year’s test dates, but typically there is one in late October, one in late November, one in February and one in March.) Each competition consists of 25 problems, which must be completed in 30 minutes. The problems are typically a bit harder than grade level (with the exception of 5th grade, which is substantially above grade level.) While the company supplies information and awards based on straight scores, here at West we place the most emphasis on improvement scores and supplement with awards of our own in this area. Students are building their advanced math skills while participating in this program; but above and beyond math, they are practicing the essential skills of problem solving, flexible thinking, effective communication, risk-taking, failure management, self-reliance, self-direction, responsibility and grit.
West continues to look for cutting edge research. We believe Mindfulness is at the foundation of the Essential Outcomes, Habits of Mind and Pillars of Character. Teaching children to be mindful of their thoughts and actions allow for positive student learning outcomes. The West Faculty continue to explore how to integrate the Mindfulness research into our daily routines.
At West, a crew of fourth and fifth graders work to keep the MPR functioning at lunch time. After applying for their favored positions, members of the Crew work one day per week for an entire trimester; currently, there are 71 students working in this capacity. The hiring process repeats every trimester, after which a new Crew takes charge. Typical tasks include: helping other students (especially the younger ones) with lunchtime needs; sorting compost and recycling from garbage; assisting other students with food selection; keeping the lines orderly and flowing nicely; helping with dismissal and clean-up; managing the Crew; identifying problems with the system and piloting possible solutions. While on the job, students are accomplishing much more than the tasks listed above; they are practicing the essential skills of effective communication, flexible thinking, problem solving, self-reliance, self-direction and responsibility.
Fifth Graders are invited to participate in a volunteer position as advisors to the principal. They meet once a month to discuss the climate of the school and determine projects that will support a positive, respectful school culture. They also have the responsibility of the morning traffic duty. Each morning a “Traffic Team” of Principal Advisors stand in the front of the school and greet students by opening car doors during the morning drop- off procedures.
Potential Advisors apply at the end of their fourth grade year and they serve their entire fifth grade year.