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2019 Commencement Speaker Shares Advice from Graduates

June 04, 2019
By Susan Trower

2019 Commencement Speaker Shares the Wise Advice He Received from the Graduates


The class of 2019 in the staging room before graduation - Mark Gsellman photoWest Sound Academy's Class of 2019 came to the House of Awakened Culture in Suquamish on May 24 for an evening of graduation and celebration - the school's 18th annual commencement. School faculty and staff and many family, friends, and fellow students came to share the evening with the graduates. Head of School Barrie Hillman reminded everyone that the purpose of commencement was to acknowledge the personal achievements of each of the graduates - these seventeen individual journeys coming together for this celebration.

The graduates come marching in - Mark Gsellman photoMargaret Johnson, Chair of West Sound Academy's Board of Trustees, then introduced John Boyd, the commencement speaker. Boyd is superintendent of Quincy School District in Quincy, Washington, and is in his twenty-seventh year as an educator, working in a variety of settings. A few weeks before commencement Boyd came to West Sound to meet with members of the Class of 2019 to get to know them, then asked each of them this question, "What advice do you have for me when giving this speech?”

Read more >>>

Posted in Academics

Announcing! College Destinations for the Class of 2019

May 23, 2019
By Susan Trower

College Declaration Day for the Class of 2019


Tina Peng, '19,  declaring for University of ConnecticutCongratulations are in order for students in the Class of 2019 as they celebrate college success.  They were accepted at 40 four-year colleges and universities in the United States and Canada and were offered $2,191,802 in grants, awards and scholarships.

Following commencement exercises on May 24 at the House of Awakened Culture in Suquamish, these newest WSA alumni will be going in many different directions as they begin their undergraduate education at schools in Washington, Oregon, British Columbia, Colorado, and the East Coast. Max Morningstar declaring for Tufts University

On Thursday, May 23 - College Declaration Day at West Sound Academy - the members of the Class of 2019 announced their decisions to WSA students and staff and signed the pennants of the colleges where they intend to enroll. Others in the class have decided to do a gap year or apprenticeship first, and there were special pennants for them to sign as well.  The banners will hang in Parke Hall, serving as inspiration for future WSA students.


Where WILL our seniors be heading once they leave WSA?    Read more >>>

Posted in Academics

What's That Green Stuff? Seniors Complete Their Independent Biology Experiments.

January 07, 2019
By Karen Mattick

Initial phytoplankton culture for a senior’s Biology project - Karen Mattick photoOf all the experiments running in the Life Science classroom during the seniors’ biology experiments, the bubbling beakers filled with something vividly green received the most attention. That green stuff is Nannochloropsis phytoplankton. The experiment investigated the effects of salinity on the photosynthesis rate of these microscopic plants. The student made use of a dissolved oxygen sensor from our growing collection of electronic sensors in order to measure changing photosynthesis rates.

This experiment is one example of the fifteen student-designed investigations created this year as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program’s Internal Assessments. Read more >>>

Posted in Academics

The Class of 2018 Celebrates College Declaration Day

May 17, 2018
By Susan Trower

WSA Class of 2018Students in the Class of 2018 are celebrating college success!  They were accepted at 44 four-year colleges and universities in the United States and abroad and were offered $1,901,730 in grants, awards and scholarships.

After commencement exercises on May 25 at the House of Awakened Culture in Suquamish, the newly-minted WSA alumni will be going in many different directions as they begin their undergraduate education at schools in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.

On Thursday, May 17 - College Declaration Day at West Sound Academy - the members of the Class of 2018 announced their choices to WSA students and staff and signed the pennants of the colleges where they intend to enroll this fall.


College Destinations for the Seniors, or, Where Will They Be Next Fall?    Read more

Posted in Academics

College Success for WSA Class of 2017

May 19, 2017
By Susan Trower

WSA Class of 2017 - Mark Gsellman photoThe Class of 2017 graduates on May 19, and then they will be heading in many different directions to colleges here in the United States and abroad.  Students and their families spent much time over the last couple years researching, visiting campuses, and consulting with Mrs. Freeman, WSA's College Counselor, then sent off applicaions and essays to colleges and universities last fall.  Some of the eagerly awaited acceptance letters and scholarship offers came in December, but most arrived in letters and email this spring.

On Monday, May 8 - College Declaration Day at WSA - the members of the Class of 2017 announced their choices to WSA students and staff and signed the pennants of the colleges where they intend to enroll this fall.

College Destinations for the Seniors, or, Where Will They Be Next Fall?

University of Washington

Samira Cao - University of Washington


California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Spencer Drewry- California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo


Grand Canyon University

Leanne Gimber - Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona


Central Washington University

Annika Hald- Central Washington University


University of Washington

Karsten Hald - University of Washington


Sheffield Hallam University

Wai Ching Kwok - Sheffield Hallam University in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England


Raffles Design Institute / Raffles College of Higher Education, Singapore

Kaiwen Ma - Raffles Design Institute in Singapore


University of Northern Colorado

Ryley Mercado - University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Colorado


Kaplan Singapore

Yucong Pan - Kaplan Singapore


University of Washington

Ben Silvernale - University of Washington


Washington State University

Maddy Solly-Tanner - Washington State University


Reed College

Espen Swanson - Reed College in Portland, Oregon


University of British Columbia

Eleanor Uyyek - University of British Columbia in Vancouver


The Evergreen State College

Alex Welch - The Evergreen State College



Students in the Class of 2017 were accepted at 37 four-year colleges and universities in the United State and abroad, including the ones shown below. Congratulations to our seniors - we're proud of you!

Arizona State UniversityChapman UniversityCreighton UniversityJohnson & Wales University, ProvidenceLewis & Clark College




McGill UniversityMontana State UniversityNeumont UniversityNorthern Arizona UniversityPortland State University




Sheffield Hallam University University at Buffalo, The State University of New YorkUniversity of ArizonaUniversity of California, DavisUniversity of California, San Diego




University of California, Santa CruzUniversity of DenverUniversity of East AngliaUniversity of IdahoUniversity of Montana




University of Newcastle Australia University of Puget SoundUniversity of South AustraliaUniversity of the West of England BristolWestern Washington University




Whitman CollegeWillamette University





Hey! We're the Class of 2017! - Mark Gsellman photo

Posted in Academics

WSA Accepting Applications for 3-Year Full Tuition Scholarship

April 14, 2017
By Susan Trower

POULSBO, Wash. - April 14, 2017 - West Sound Academy has announced plans for awarding the Ann Marie Frodel Memorial Scholarship, effective for the 2017-2018 school year.  The Ann Marie Frodel Memorial Scholarship honors an outstanding Kitsap educator and community leader.  Ann Marie Frodel was known throughout Kitsap for her hunger for knowledge, her love of music and art, her deep caring for others, and her enthusiasm for new experiences and deep appreciation for diversity.  

Reading Oscar Wilde in 10th Grade English classThe scholarship celebrates her legacy in education and community service by granting full tuition to one student based on merit and need to attend West Sound Academy in the class of 2020 (10th grade in Fall, 2017). The award is renewable each year until the student graduates from West Sound Academy, provided the student maintains good standing with the school and a minimum 3.0 GPA every semester of enrollment.

In order to qualify for the scholarship, an applicant must show evidence of merit and leadership qualities, demonstrate financial need, and be a United States citizen and a resident of Washington State. A non-related adult is required to first nominate an applicant for the scholarship.  After being nominated, students interested in applying for the scholarship need to submit an Ann Marie Frodel Memorial Scholarship application, a West Sound Academy Admissions Application, and a West Sound Academy financial assistance packet.

This scholarship is only available to a student applying to the school after the scholarship effective date of April 1, 2017. Currently enrolled students or applicants prior to April 1 are not eligible.

The school must receive all forms, including the nomination and the scholarship, admissions, and financial assistance application materials, by May 15, 2017.  The scholarship selection committee will review the applications, interview the top five candidates, and announce the award recipient by June 1, 2017.

Interested families can go to the Ann Marie Frodel Scholarship page to learn about the scholarship program and find links to the application materials.

Contact Lisa Gsellman, West Sound Academy's Director of Admissions, at or 360-598-5954 for more information.

Posted in Academics

How does your book start? Playing literary games with the IB Spanish class

March 05, 2017
By Julieta Vitullo

Julieta Vitullo's IB Spanish class plays Ficcionario“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” The sentence opens Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of the best-regarded works of Western literature and by all accounts the single most acclaimed contemporary novel in the Spanish language. Like the first scene in a movie or the overture in a symphony, the beginning of a story has to be captivating enough for readers to want to keep spending time reading it. Those first words, images or ideas will set the tone for what will come.

There’s a game called “Fictionary” that builds on the importance of great first lines by turning readers into writers and giving them permission to have fun manipulating words. In this game, participants need to come up with a believable first sentence for a given novel based on a quick look at the book’s cover, and on some basic knowledge about the plot and the author. Participants write their sentences on a piece of paper and give the paper to the person who picked the book. Then that person has to read all the sentences out loud, including the real sentence from the book, which is slipped into the stash of sentences so that nobody can tell that piece of paper has the real sentence. Participants then get to vote: which one is the actual opening sentence? They collect points when they pick the true sentence but also —and this is where the enjoyment lies, no pun intended— when their fake sentences get picked.

Playing Ficcionario: Spencer Drewry, Ruby Gsellman, IB Spanish teacher Julieta Vitullo, Ben Browning, and Ryley MercadoI must admit that I’ve been waiting for years to play this game with my students. For as long as I’ve been teaching at West Sound I’ve been hoping for the time my Spanish learners would have enough skills to play this game. That means, enough skills to write sentences that are not just sophisticated but also sufficiently well constructed as to deceive others into thinking that they were written by a famous writer. The time finally came and on Friday March 3rd the IB seniors and juniors set themselves to the task of judging books by their covers and writing sentences as compelling as to cajole their peers—or at least good enough to make them laugh.

Books used for playing FiccionarioThis time also coincided with our reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude. No, students did not get to read the 500-page volume in full but they did read more than the first sentence. They spent several classes discussing the context of the novel, building the vocabulary needed to understand the action in the first few pages of the story of the Buendía family and familiarizing themselves with some of the characters. The reading was not without struggles but students got through it. After oral discussions and written exercises, they wrote a news story based on some of the fictional events narrated in those first few pages of the novel. We ended this unit introducing other works of Latin American fiction and expanding the imagination by playing Ficcionario.

Now if you care to play, here is a small selection of some of the opening sentences that students wrote. Do you dare guess which are real and which phony? *

(Click here to find the answers after you are done.)

1. El limonero real (The Royal Lemon Tree) by Juan José Saer – It is the last day of the year and a family living on the wild islands of the Paraná river deals with the absence of two of its members.

a) “El limonero mira furtivamente a través de la ventana a la cocina”. / “The lemon tree sneaks up on the kitchen through the window.”
b) “Amanece y ya está con los ojos abiertos”. / “The sun rises and his eyes are already open.”
c) “El limonero que está en el centro del campo es la mejor parte del verano”. / “The lemon tree that is on the center of the field is the best part of the summer.”

2. El lugar sin límites (Hell Has No Limits) by José Donoso – Life is not easy for Manuela, the drag queen who runs the brothel of a small town near Santiago de Chile.

a) “La Manuela despegó con dificultad sus ojos lagañosos”. / “Manuela pried open her crusty eyes.”
b) “Cuando tenía seis años Manuela oyó: ‘Algunos universos son más grandes que otros’”. / “When she was six, Manuela heard: some universes are bigger than others.’”
c) “Su obra era su casa y su pincel era el maquillaje que todas miraban con interés”. / “Her work was her home and her brush the makeup that they all regarded with interest.”

3. Las reputaciones (Reputations) by Juan Gabriel Vásquez - The life of a political cartoonist feared and revered by the most powerful people in Colombia changes after he receives an unexpected visit.

a) “Sentado frente al Parque Santander […] Mallarino tuvo de repente la certeza de haber visto a un caricaturista muerto”. / “Sitting across from the Santander Park […] Mallarino was suddenly certain that he had seen a dead cartoonist.”
b) “Las personas dicen que la política no es cómica: en realidad es la farsa más grande de la historia del ser humano”. / “People say that politics are not funny: in fact, they are the biggest farce in human history.”
c) “El se sentó en su oficina, con todo el poder del país en su mano”. / “He sat at his office with all the country’s power in his hand.”

* While most of the books we used have been translated, the translations I provide here are my own.

Tags: IB, spanish
Posted in Academics

Marinas that keep BOTH boaters & the eels swimming under them happy!

December 01, 2016
By Karen Mattick

6th Graders Obi, Tyler, and Henri admire one of the marina projects in Marine Biology classIn 2001 I read an article in The Seattle Times about the expansion of the Washington State ferry terminal on Whidbey Island, designed to mitigate damage to the eelgrass beds under the proposed dock.  That inspired the Eelgrass Mitigation Project.  This is a culminating project at the end of the 6th grade Marine Biology unit about eelgrass beds.  Students design and build a model of a marina that would provide services to boaters and, at the same time, get adequate light to marine plants, prevent sewage pollution, and clean-up fuel contamination.

6th grader Sofia and one of the marina projects from her Marine Biology classDuring the unit, students learn about the value of eelgrass beds as a nursery for many juvenile sea creatures.  They learn about the adaptions of the many organisms who live in the grass.  They learn about photosynthesis and cellular respiration and about food webs in the eelgrass habitat.  They also design and carried out their own oil spill experiments, testing clean-up materials. Each student also collects water samples from local ponds, creeks, puddles, and beaches and tests for fecal coliform contamination, a possible indicator of sewage pollution. Finally, they used Puget Soundbook, by Jim Kolb, to learn about good boater practices.

Students presented their marina models in class today, and shared the websites, brochures, and slide shows they made to advertise their marinas and educate boaters.

Posted in Academics

College Declaration Day for WSA Class of 2016

May 23, 2016
By Susan Trower

WSA Class of 2016 - Espen Swanson photoWest Sound Academy seniors and their families researched colleges, went on campus visits, and consulted with Mrs. Freeman, WSA's College Counselor.  Applications and essays were sent off to colleges and universities during fall and winter of this school year.  Over the past few months the eagerly awaited acceptance letters and scholarship offers have been arriving in letters and email.

Now the choice:  where to attend?  Monday, May 23 was College Declaration Day at WSA, and the members of the Class of 2016 signed the pennants of the colleges where they intend to enroll this fall.

College Destinations for the Seniors, or, Where Will They Be Next Fall?

Savannah College of Art and Design
Xue Guo - Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia



Western Washington University
Megan Hall - Western Washington University in Bellingham



Oregon State University
Kwong Wa Lam - Oregon State University in Corvallis


Whitman College
Angie Mead - Whitman College in Walla Walla


Pomona College
Aidan Moore - Pomona College in Claremont, California


University of Washington
Liam Near - University of Washington in Seattle


George Mason University
Yongyao Peng - George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia



Willamette University
Sam Phillips - Willamette University in Salem, Oregon


University of Colorado, Boulder
Ce Qiu- University of Colorado in Boulder


Western Washington University
Joey Schmitt - Western Washington University in Bellingham



University of Oregon
Peter Silvernale - University of Oregon in Eugene


University of Vermont
Wenhui Tang - University of Vermont in Burlington


University of Washington
Ben Taylor - University of Washington in Seattle


Cornelia Thane - returning home to Vasseras, Sweden to complete her final year of high school
Montana State University
Taylor Thornton - Montana State University in Bozeman


Western Washington University
Conor Ultican - Western Washington University in Bellingham



Oregon State University
Zhaoyang Zheng - Oregon State University in Corvallis




Students in the Class of 2016 were accepted at 28 four-year colleges and universities, including the ones shown below. Congratulations to our seniors - we're proud of you!

American University of ParisAmherst CollegeAuburn UniversityCentral Washington UniversityDickinson College




Istituto MarangoniLewis & Clark CollegePacific Lutheran UniversityReed CollegeThe Evergreen State College




University of IowaUniversity of MontanaUniversity of PortlandUniversity of Washington, TacomaWesleyan University




One last game of hide and seek! - Espen Swanson photo

Posted in Academics

New Student Blog for WSA Spanish Classes:  ¡Películaridad!, el blog cinéfilo 

May 17, 2016
By Julieta Vitullo

Julieta Vitullo and her Upper School Spanish studentsA lot of the work that I do in my Spanish classes revolves around real cultural artifacts such as songs, poems, news clips and articles. Rather than limiting the learning experience to using artificial and mechanical materials targeted at language learners, I like exposing my students to the actual productions of the cultures whose language they aspire to master. Real materials that connect with students' sensory experiences activate the affective dimension of learning and result in a high retention and absorption of meaningful content. That's why I love using films as a medium to strengthen all four skills--listening comprehension, speaking, reading and writing--while developing an appreciation for the traditions, idiosyncrasies, and historical and political processes pertaining different Spanish speaking countries. 

Las lengua de las mariposas por Taylor ThorntonFilms have allowed my students to explore a wide range of topics within the three core topics of the IB--communication and media, global issues and social relationships. Students have had the chance to learn, discuss, understand and produce written texts about the ways in which indigenous populations in Bolivia still suffer the effects of European colonization (También la lluvia), about the story of a Chinese man who lands in Buenos Aires without speaking a word of Spanish only to find a lonely and bitter Argentinian who decides to help him despite himself (Un cuento chino), about the experience of the Spanish Civil War as witnessed through the eyes of a child (La lengua de las mariposas), or about the happiness and hardships experienced by Cuban musicians migrating to New York City during the golden years of Latin jazz (Chico & Rita). Most of the films that we have watched in class explore universal topics such as love and friendship, which allow students to relate to the characters and engage in the language. Since film is a favorite form of entertainment among our students and humor is present in many of these movies, our discussions are not just interesting but fun.

Metagol por Max MorningstarAll of this background information brings me to the topic that I really wanted to present in this post: that the class of 2016 is about to graduate! Yes. It is hard to believe because it was only four years ago that I started teaching at West Sound and these wonderful seniors were starting the 9th grade. So as we are about to send this class off to their next adventure, I decided I wanted to compile some of the best film reviews written by them in our last four years of classes together and have them all in one place for anyone to access and enjoy. The idea was triggered by one of Liam Near's film reviews, in which he invented the name for an imaginary blog called ¡Películaridad!, a word pun based on the Spanish term película (film). After playing with the idea of a blog and asking students to submit revised versions of their highest graded film reviews, I decided I would also ask students in the mid and lower levels to try and write reviews that were worthy of publication. The blog now features reviews and other creative texts written by students in all four levels of Spanish and based on five different films.

The Inkless Link, WSA's site dedicated to student artwork and writing created by my journalism class in 2013, seemed to be the right place to host this blog. This site is in the process of being revived and redesigned to make it more accessible to all teachers and perhaps to clubs as well so they can host their own blogs. One thing that will not be changed in the site is the endearing logo created by Madeleine Bentley (class of 2015) when the site was first launched. Espen Swanson (class of 2017) will be working on revamping the site this summer as part of his CAS project, so talk to him if you have ideas and stay tuned to the upcoming developments.

¡Películaridad!, el blog cinéfio
     ¡Películaridad! logo design by Angie Gangi

So here is the link to ¡Películaridad!, el blog cinéfilo or "the film lovers blog for WSA Spanish classes." May the legacy of the very talented and creative class of 2016 continue and may the current and future classes keep our blog interesting and vibrant!

Posted in Academics

WSA Awarded 'Book Grant' from the Washington State Library:  Collection of 50 STEM Titles

February 11, 2016
By Susan Trower

Spencer found a book that look's interesting:  The Toaster Project, by Thomas ThwaitesOn February 9 some juniors from Karen Mattick's Biology class came up to the library to help with one of the more fun library tasks - not dusting shelves or putting books in Dewey Decimal order - but unpacking new books.  Lots of new science books (54 to be exact) that came as part of the Washington State Library (WSL) "The Future STEMs from Reading' grant to West Sound Academy.

The grant from the Washington State Library came about as a response to the need for school libraries to update their materials in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM).  An advisory committee of teacher-librarians worked with WSL to put together STEM book collections aimed at elementary, middle, and high school students from lists of award-winning books. The program was funded with support from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists A competive grant cycle was held for the 230 STEM collections available for public and nonprofit private school libraries: 120 for elementary, 55 for middle school, and 55 for high school. West Sound Academy was awarded one of the high school collections, and the boxes of books arrived this week.  

After cataloging and labeling is done, the books will be ready for use in classes or for some recreational nerd-reading.  WSA science teacher Karen Mattick contemplated using one of the books, The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science:  50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists in her classroom.  "As long as they aren't too catastrophic, this one could work," she ruled.

Posted in Academics

Let’s answer the question ‘Why?’

December 18, 2015
By Lisa Gsellman

If you know me, you know I love this school. If you meet me, you will find out shortly that I really love this school. But when asked “Why?” Wyatt and Kai asking 'Why?'I sometimes find myself fumbling for words to describe what makes West Sound Academy so….lovable.

What is it that we have here that seems to be working so well? Is it the faculty? Is it the students? Families? IB? The peaceful campus? I find myself asking more questions than answering!

We are an International Baccalaureate School and the IB learner profile fits us like a glove. We are not guided by it but it comes to us organically simply through our own curiosity. We are inquirers. We are open-minded. We are risk takers. We are reflective. We all are caring. That is the sweet spot. That is the ‘why.’

I’d like to share a short and inspiring Ted Talk by Ramsey Mussallam with you about why ‘Why’ is so important in our classrooms.

Students here are transformed by their own curiosity and their search to find the answers. Inspiration flows between teachers and students as they work together exploring solutions. Kindness, encouragement, and inquisitiveness have become the culture of West Sound Academy. When I see those bright smiles from grasping a difficult math concept, or writing a great essay, or nailing a guitar solo, I am absolutely filled up with love and inspiration for this school.

Posted in Academics

Tips for the College-bound Senior

October 16, 2015
By Catherine Freeman

The college admissions process is in full swing at West Sound Academy. Students are working hard to find schools and complete applications. This week alone the school has been visited by representatives from Hampshire College, Whitworth University, The Evergreen State College, and Marlboro College and many students took advantage of  PSAT testing day on October 14 to visit schools on their own.  Here are some suggestions for seniors and their families on important aspects of this journey: the search, the application, the financing, and communication with colleges.


Looking for a School:


With thousands of options for higher education narrowing the list can be a daunting task. The following websites (listed here in no particular order) can be useful for searching based on grades, scores, location, interests, or other attributes.


The Essay:


Many schools require a personal statement. Generally one essay can be modified to fit the prompt for most schools however it is imperative that the essay fits the prompt. While a great essay will not guarantee admission, a poor essay can severely decrease your chances. Essays are the student’s opportunity to add his or her personality to all the other information that has been supplied.

The goal is to craft an essay that accurately reflects your qualities and character so it is a smart idea to give your essay to your parents and friends to read so you can make sure it accurately reflects you and your personality.

The following links can be helpful for providing further guidance for the essay:




An acronym for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, this application is based on the financial records of parents and becomes available January 1. Using the information provided, the family’s expected contribution is calculated and sent to schools. Aid is given out in a first-come-first-serve manner so completing the FAFSA as close to January 1 is very important.

Here are some FAFSA websites for more information:

Federal Student Aid -


Communication with Schools:

Schools want to see students who are capable of navigating through the application process by themselves, without a lot of extra assistance from parents. Calling schools and asking for guidance and information can be very helpful, but it is important to remember that the application is the student’s responsibility. If parents call schools to ask for information and indicate that they are completing the process for their student, the schools are much less likely to be helpful. Parents, if you do need to make the call, consider tempering your role by saying, “Robert and I were working on your application and we have a question…” College admissions offices are staffed by real people and a good deal of charm can go a long way.


Other Scholarships:


While not always in large sums, there are scholarship opportunities from local organizations such as the North Kitsap Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis. Generally deadlines are in March and most scholarships ask for similar things like an essay, letters of recommendations, and transcripts. Some scholarships require interviews. While not necessarily for large sums of money, they do add up. I will be working to make students aware of any scholarship opportunities to which I am alerted.


No Two Searches the Same:


This time in the senior year students need to combine self-reflection  with solid research on post-secondary opportunities that match them on a range of factors.  No two college search processes are the same and students should look beyond the latest “ranking” and “name-brand” to find more meaningful measures of college fit.

Schools where WSA's Class of 2015 are enrolled:

The American University of Paris

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Lewis & Clark College

Michigan State University

Mount Holyoke College

Reed College

University of California, Santa Cruz

University of Portland

University of Washington

Whitman College

Willamette University

Posted in Academics

What's in a Block?

September 30, 2015
By Barrie Hilllman, Head of School

Blocks have many uses at school but what everyone is talking about at West Sound Academy this week is the new modified block schedule. For the past several years, students have had each class four days per week with one extended block period. After much research and analysis, it was decided that this year classes would be taught three days per week with two extended block periods.

The pedagogy behind this move was primarily to reduce transitions that students and faculty make each day as well as each night when addressing homework. Brain research conducted by Carol Dweck from Stanford University reveals that the time it takes for the brain to fully transition from one area of thinking to another (or in this case subject to subject) is roughly 15 minutes.

maddy s-t leanne-g bunson burner 2015

 It also requires a great deal of executive function to be able to make those same transitions from homework assignment to homework assignment.  Thus with fewer transitions, the brain is working more efficiently.

mark gsellman 03052015 julieta and stuart

Prior to the school year the faculty participated in professional development which included collaboratively reading several books on block teaching as well as meeting with colleagues from Annie Wright Schools who also utilize a block schedule. The developmental differences between middle and upper school students within the block schedule were also discussed.

After the first week, it seems reviews of the modified block schedule are favorable. Students are realizing they have more flexibility on how to arrange their homework time.  Teachers are finding their rhythms with the new pacing requirements of the classes and emphasizing organized plans. Building in more physical movement into the classroom without losing time for engaged learning is being done with subtle and creative methods.  However, everyone anticipates a shakedown period while both students and faculty get their bearings!

Ellie, Sparky, and Leanne working on an outdoor physics lessons

On Mondays students meet with their classes in Periods 1-6 and so this will naturally be a heavier homework due date. Parents can support students by helping them to utilize their time wisely over the course of the week rather than doing assignments the night before they are due. Tackling all or parts of homework on the night it is assigned can help alleviate late Sunday nights.

I am excited to hear more from students, parents and faculty over the course of the year about the effects of the modified block schedule!

Posted in Academics


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