Westside Stories

Westside Student's Dream About Their Future
  • Teaching and Learning

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Westside's Librarian, Sylvia, read books to the lower school students about Martin Luther King, Jr. and his "I Have a Dream" speech.

When asked to dream about the world they'd like to see in the future, here's what our students wish for:

  • People can marry anyone, boys or girlsI Have a Dream Today
  • Girls and boys can do all the same stuff
  • You can feel like a girl or boy, like in that dresses book. Nobody can tell you what to feel.
  • Safe
  • Stop polluting the ocean
  • Peaceful world
  • Play and work together, no excluding
  • Children have rights
  • Equal rights for all
  • A world without judging people if they are different
  • Everyone has shelter and everything they need to live.
  • Everyone has a home. All the people in tents get homes.
  • Everyone is friends.
  • Bad guys become good guys.
  • No polluting
  • No bullying
  • Respect everyone, even if they are different
  • Peace for the whole world
  • Healthy world
  • The world could be more fair because of talking more nicely
  • Not hitting anybody
  • Everyone has a jacket so they won't be cold.
  • Everyone has a home and food and shoes and water.
  • No weapons
  • Everyone will have a house
  • You use less paper towels and then there will be more water
  • Everyone can be who they want to be and feel who they want to be on the inside and not be forced to be one way.
  • Stop making weapons. No weapons in this world.
  • Don't laugh about how people look or talk.
    Don't put garbage on the street- a clean world.
  • Stop building so many buildings so the rain can get into the earth- respect the earth.
  • No wars- a peaceful world.
  • Stop killing people. No one will be killed.
  • No killing animals. They have feelings too. 
  • Everyone is nice to everyone- a kind world.
  • Help each other, like in a team.
  • All children have a loving home.
  • Full bellies every night for everyone.
  • No stereotyping people by their race.
  • Be happy.
  • Be kind.
  • Hold on to love.
  • I have a dream that global warming will end.
  • A leader that cares about the planet as a whole.
  • World peace.
  • Everybody has a home.
  • That someday soon everyone will be equal.
  • That racism will no longer exist.
  • An end to sexual discrimination.
  • Treat people how they want to be treated.
  • Everyone should be kind to each other.
  • Everyone will be equal and loved. They will also have houses.
  • Everyone will have someone to snuggle them

What do you dream about for our future?

Looking Ahead to 2018
  • Staff & Faculty

The theme for Wolfpacks today is "Looking Ahead to 2018." Groups are gathering to make a timeline they can use for the rest of the year to celebrate and acknowledge each other's birthdays, important holidays, and the beginning and end of the school year. Read more about Westside's Wolfpacks here.

In conjunction with this week's Wolfpacks theme, our staff and faculty share what they are looking forward to in the year ahead at Westside...

"We've been talking about having a garage sale at Westside for a while and this year the WPA has decided to make it happen, so I'm looking forward to that. Also, the auction is going to be at a cool new venue this year so that's exciting." - Shoshannah, Community Development Officer

"I'm looking forward to the 5th Grade Olympics. It's something new at Westside that Mike and Mary K are collaborating on." - Susannah, Middle School Head

First Grade Visiting Daystar Retirement Village

First Grade Visiting Daystar Retirement Village

“I’m looking forward to going back to Daystar with the first grade classes.” - Ildi, 1st Grade Instructional Assistant

“I’m excited to watch our salmon grow and to go on an overnight trip with the 4th grade. I’m also looking forward to starting my Masters of Education classes.” - Nick, 2nd Grade Instructional Assistant

“The second half of a school year is always the time I get to see kids come into their own much more than the first part of a year together presents. I'm looking forward to witnessing continued academic and social growth within my 7th and 8th graders!” - Kendra, 7th/8th Grade Language Arts Teacher

“I’m excited to see how all of our Project-Based Learning projects play-out. I’m looking forward to seeing how Westside comes together this year and grows as a community. Also, I love volleyball season so I’m excited that that’s about to start.” - Amy, Assistant Head of School

Colleen kayaking with students

Colleen Kayaking with Students

“I’m excited for the auction, and also getting to know all of the new families coming in next year. I’m also looking forward to making sure Westside & Steve de Beer have a seamless Head of School transition.” - Nicole, Director of Advancement

“I’m excited about planning some outdoor adventures over the summer for Westside students.” - Colleen, Outdoor Education & Experiential Learning Coordinator




and outside of Westside...

Andrew & Jennifer's Engagement Photo

Congratulations, Andrew & Jennifer!

“We’re getting married!” - Jennifer, Kindergarten teacher, and Andrew, Business & Operations Assistant

“I'm looking forward to Vietnamese/Chinese New Year.” - Michael, Director of Technology

"Jeremy and I have been talking about doing a West Coast road trip for a while, and I think this may be the year it actually happens!"-Laura S, Front Desk Coordinator.“I’m also looking forward to potentially delivering a presentation at ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) in New Orleans, and a STARTALK in Hawaii, where I'll be presenting on the way we use self-directed learning and meaningful tech integration in the Mandarin classroom.” - Jeremy S, Middle School Mandarin teacher

“Getting out and hiking! I’m also taking a trip to Tucson that I’m looking forward to.”- Laura A., Business and Operations Manager

“I get to go home to England and see my sister get married.” - Richard, Learning Support Specialist

“I'm looking forward to my son's baseball tournament in Omaha. The baseball part. We'll see about the Omaha part (with apologies to anyone from Nebraska!)” - Ted H, Director of Admissions

“I’m looking forward to selling our house in Burien and moving to the Mt. Baker neighborhood, and sending my daughter off to college!” - Heidi, 3rd Grade Instructional Assistant

“We just got a new puppy, so I’m excited to watch her grow and learn new things. It’s also so cool to watch our older dog interact with her and sort of show her the ropes. I’m also really looking forward to the “Dear Edwina” musical and our other 2018 performances!” - Bryan, Performing Arts teacher

Erin H with 4th Grade Cross Country Runners

Erin H with 4th Grade Cross Country Runners

"Of course I'm looking forward to meeting my daughter and becoming a mom! Right now it feels pretty surreal and it's hard to picture what the future will be like, but I'm excited!" - Erin H, 4th Grade Instructional Assistant

What are you looking forward to this year?










We Should Have the Right to Think for Ourselves
  • Middle School
  • Teaching and Learning
Student reading a bookWe should have the right to think for ourselves;
these words, while simple, are the cornerstone for a unit on censorship that seventh graders have been exploring in Language Arts. In an age where finding truth can be difficult, helping students realize the power of thinking for themselves, gathering information, and forming their own opinions are powerful skills they are hopefully gaining.

From learning about books from their childhoods that have been challenged to reading books that have been banned from classrooms across the United States, seventh graders have been working hard on expressing their viewpoints through debates, spoken word poetry, visual art pieces, and action plans taking place throughout the Westside and West Seattle community.
One group of students decided to raise awareness about banned books by creating a website to share information and opinions on the books they have read.



We invite the Westside community to check out the school library for information; the little free library at the top of the stairs in the front of the school which now holds a few banned books with explanations; and the documentaries and websites that have been created to document journeys, which students hope to connect in blogs and on Westside screens soon. In the larger community, students have been writing formal letters to districts and libraries that are banning books; putting banned books in their local little free libraries, reaching out to public libraries to speak to librarians, and posting flyers around West Seattle to bring awareness, to name a few. 

Did you like learning about banned books? "Totally. I think it’s important to learn about these things. If you don’t learn about these views as a kid then maybe you’ll grow up and think these books are totally horrible and maybe your kids won’t have the chance to read them. That’s a missed opportunity and some of these books discuss themes that are really important and that we all should all be talking about."

It has definitely been a few enriching weeks and seventh graders have really risen to the occasion to deeply examine censorship, develop their critical thinking skills on the matter, and share their thoughts with their community. The hope is, of course, that they leave this unit with a newfound understanding and skill set that can benefit them beyond the walls of their Language Arts classroom.

-Kendra Dixon, 7th & 8th Grade Language Arts Teacher

Posters on Bulletin Board
  • Middle School
  • Teaching and Learning

Pop-Ups shows are in your face and force the viewer to stop, look, and interact. A Pop-Up show is a temporary happening where artists experiment by placing their art in unexpected places. They can be spontaneous and are used to draw attention to the artist's message.

What did you learn about your identity through working on this project?
"I found I'm really creative and I like sharing my ideas with others. I have inspiration from things around the school that others have put up, and now it feels good sharing my art work and adding to our community to maybe inspire others too." -Lucian, Class of 2020
In sixth grade, visual and digital arts classes collaborated to create six pop-up shows around the school. The work exhibited is all about student identity. Anna’s visual arts students created self portraits in graphite while Camille’s digital arts students created triptych photographs and videos inspired by the prompt “A day in the life”.


The students’ created the work, chose the location and installed the shows all while working together in mixed groups from both classes. Through this project, students experienced the real world pressure and excitement of creating and installing their own art shows. We hope Pop-Up shows continue to amplify students’ powerful voices both in class and in our greater community.

Westside's Successful Inaugural Soccer Season
  • Athletics
  • Lower School
  • Middle School

Westside is wrapping up our inaugural season of soccer. It's been a very successful start, with all four teams learning how to play together, showing good improvement and growth, and fostering community.

Our 4th grade girls have had an excellent season, going from playing in a bunch and following the ball around to showing really good spacing, playing set positions, and having a really good idea of offensive and defensive concepts. Our 4th grade boys have a very talented team and worked through the season to incorporate all the players in the game plan and get contributions from everyone. Both of our older teams have had excellent seasons and both are poised to make the playoffs.


"It's fun to play for a Westside team because you play with different grades and you get to know a different group of people and you get really close- like now we have a 'Westside soccer family.'" -Miranda, 6th grade

The 6th/5th boys team and the 7th/6th girls team have both looked really good when at full strength, and have had some games when our numbers were limited and all of our players got ample touches and opportunities.

"Coaching is really cool because I am able to hang out with a group of kids outside of the classroom and outside of second grade." - Nick, 4th grade boys soccer coach & 2nd grade Instructional Assistant

We are anticipating that both of these teams will make the playoffs, with playoff games starting potentially as early as this coming Sunday, the 29th. We will hear by Saturday night and will post any games on the school calendar and post to Facebook Saturday night.

Thanks so much to our coaches. Nick, Mike, Mandy, Scott, Mark, Chris, Kyle, Justin, and Greg have worked tirelessly and made our first soccer season a big success.

-Mike Thomas
Director of Athletics

To learn more about our Athletics program, visit our website here.

"I feel like I know my community a lot more than I did before." 5th Grade Outdoor Trip Recap
  • Middle School
  • Outdoor Education


On this trip, my favorite memory was hanging out with my friends. This trip really helped me get to know my community. I feel like I know my community a lot more than I did before. - Meta, Westside Class of 2021







5th grade spent 4 days exploring Mt. Rainier National Park. During this time students built basic outdoor skills of camping, hiking, and teamwork. Students also got an opportunity to experience and learn a bit about watersheds and weather through guided hikes, play, ranger talks, and the Paradise museum. Most of all, this trip was an opportunity for our fifth graders to step outside their comfort zone, build relationships with their peers and teachers, and set the tone for the next four years of their middle school experience.








What I loved most about spending a week with the 5th graders at Mt. Rainier was hearing the students reflect on their own growth as a result of the experience. From students declaring that they are determined to someday climb Mt. Rainier to realizing they have overcome homesickness and now know that they can therefore go on longer trips to saying out loud, "I kind of feel proud of myself for hiking this much today!" Hearing students speak confidently and with a sense of accomplishment is one of the most valuable aspects of being a teacher! I am so proud of these 5th graders! -Keliko, 5th/6th Humanities Teacher

"I learned about a whole new side of myself..." 8th Grade Outdoor Trip Recap
  • Middle School
  • Outdoor Education

"On the fall trip I learned that when I have no fear, I feel free. When I hung out with new people, I discovered a new part of myself! "- Daniela

Kendra, Susannah, Ted and Daniella had a fantastic time with the 8th grade class during their week in the San Juan Islands. From completing kayak flip tests in cold Puget Sound water to challenging themselves on high ropes courses, giant swings, and ziplines, this class showed what they were capable of with resilience, tenacity, and some really great senses of humor. It was definitely a memorable week!

"I learned about a whole new side of myself after hanging out with some totally new people. The trips (especially the fall one) can really help you open up and set yourself up for the rest of the school year." -Raymond

This trip had two components- land and water. On land at Camp Orkila, students practiced archery, had dance parties, were visited by local deer, and took on the ropes courses, swings, and ziplines with confidence and courage. On the kayaking portion of the trip, students explored Sucia Island, had a campfire on the beach, and took in all the sights of the San Juans, including Orcas! On both portions of the trip, students ended each day with nightly journaling and appreciations.

"The fall trip was great! I hung out with new people and became closer with others. I got to see some beautiful views while kayaking and enjoyed the zipline and ropes course."-Ava



We truly believe the tone has been set for what will surely be a great eighth grade year for the class of 2018. We’re looking forward to it!

Colleen McCullagh
Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning Coordinator



"There is no rainbow without the rain"- 7th Grade Outdoor Trip Recap
  • Middle School
  • Outdoor Education

The 7th grade class had a busy week on the Oregon Coast! Jeremy S., Kristel, Ted H., Maggi, and Colleen, along with outfitters from Oregon River Experiences and Adventures Without Limits, joined the students on their coastal kayaking adventure. We ate delicious food, played soccer on the beach, jumped rope with bull kelp, taught each other about the plants and trees around us, and experienced the wonder, excitement, and tranquility of kayaking in Lake Meares and Nehalem Bay. Students worked together in teams to navigate their double kayaks through tall grasses, lily pads, along shores, and around beaver dams. They took time to make scientific observations about their surroundings and record the details of what they saw. They expressed their goals and hesitations both verbally and in writing, and they learned about the development and the history of the Oregon Coast. Each night, the 7th grade class met to reflect on the day and plan for the next. Each night, without fail, those circles turned from a place of information sharing to a place of love, acceptance, and appreciation as the students showered each other in support and gratitude.

This trip was not without it's challenges. After a last minute itinerary and activity change due to wildfires in Central Oregon, our trip to the Oregon Coast experienced the first major rains the region has seen in months - this irony was not lost on the students. Yet throughout the planning and the sometimes wet trip, the 7th grade class remained positive, gracious, and supportive of one another. If there was an award for contagious positivity, students of the 7th grade class would win, without a doubt.

Before each meal, our students gather in "Chow Circle" to share announcements, appreciations, and a "food for thought" quote. Before breakfast on the last day, a student shared the quote, "The problem is not the problem.

The problem is your attitude about the problem.". From day one to day five, the seventh grade class showed that with their collective attitude, there is no problem they can't overcome. They truly embraced both the quote above, and the quote shared at dinner on the very first day, "There is no rainbow without the rain".

-Colleen McCullagh
Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning Coordinator

Fourth Grade Brings Lower School Together for First Annual Wolfest
  • Events
  • Lower School
  • Teaching and Learning


Wolfest was inspired by work done during the Westside's faculty summer institute on Project Based Learning. As our 4th team talked about powerful projects, we started by thinking about 4th graders and what is meaningful and unique to them. We began thinking about the start of the year and how to make it engaging, inspiring and how we could help 4th graders see themselves as leaders in the lower school.

After many ideas were discussed and fleshed out we landed on the essential question that guided this project, "how can we create an event to build community in the lower school." As the project plans unfolded, it felt more and more like the perfect project, as it not only inspired and energized our 4th graders, but helped them develop key skills such as collaboration, communication, and self-management along with academic skills.

It also offered our students the opportunity to practice empathy by designing something for others.


We modeled our project after the design thinking process in order to help kids really think about the audience they were creating for and to practice receiving feedback in order to make their final product even better. Students started by brainstorming what events need. Then, we formed committees based on their ideas.

Each community worked together to create surveys to learn more about the needs and wants of the lower school students.

After analyzing their data and making graphs, the committees made plans and wrote proposals based on what they learned. They then presented their proposal to a group of experts including event planners and school admin.

They gave the students feedback which students then worked with teachers to incorporate into final plans.
Finally, students created all the posters, ads and supplies for Wolfest. In the end, students worked hard through the ups and downs of collaborative planning and put on an event that successfully met their ultimate goal, building community in the lower school.



















"The trust between everyone was unreal." - 6th Grade Fall Outdoor Trip Recap
  • Middle School
  • Outdoor Education

The 6th grade class had a fantastic first week of school on a rock climbing trip to Mt. Erie, near Anacortes.

Mary K, Erin B, Mike, and Colleen, along with climbing instructors from the YMCA's Outdoor Leadership Development Program, joined our students on their adventure.

The groups explored Deception Pass State Park, hiked to the top of Oyster Dome in the Chuckanut Mountains, and learned the technical skills needed to safely climb and b

elay at two different sites on Mt. Erie. We watched fog settle over the Salish Sea every morning, and witnessed it's retreat throughout the day from the tops of our climbs and from the beaches of Padilla Bay near where we camped, ate, and played. In our small groups, we saw the stars come out each night while we reflected on the day, our learning, and ourselves.

"My favorite memory on the 6th grade fall trip was belaying and climbing with my friends. For me, the trust between everyone was unreal. Even though not everyone was best friends, we all believed in each other. It was also really exciting seeing people I care about reach their goal or go even higher. I especially liked belaying my teacher because it meant that she trusted me with her life."- Eleanor

"I love traveling with kids. It's a way for months-worth of getting-to-know you to happen over the course of just a few days. Supporting kids in being vulnerable, silly, a bit uncomfortable, and independent, is such a fantastic thing to be a part of, especially in the first full week of school."- Erin, 5/6 Math Teacher

Students were challenged to create and re-establish meaningful, trusting relationships with their classmates. They were challenged to support each other, both emotionally through the trials of a week away, and physically, belaying each other on the climbing wall. They were incredibly respectful of the perspectives, emotions, and contributions of each of their classmates throughout the week. Students were able to draw on their STEM knowledge to recognize signs of landscape development and erosion in the San Juan Islands, and signals of weather changes throughout the week.

They practiced expressing themselves through meaningful and purposeful speech and sharing. They were urged to start thinking about the human body systems they were engaging in order to accomplish the physical tasks at hand. They recognized the importance of communication while working together on rope teams at Mt. Erie. They also played games! Capture the flag, 'everybody's it' tag, and hide and seek seemed to be the group favorites. We are already looking forward to another climbing trip this spring!

I made it to the top of the hardest rock climbing wall of the trip. This was my favorite memory because I’m proud of myself- Chester

-Colleen McCullagh
Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning Coordinator
"THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal."
  • Middle School
  • Teaching and Learning

Walk into 8th grade Language Arts today and you’ll quickly notice that something is… different.

Students are screaming out the words they are reading on papers in front of them while others speak in little more than a whisper. Some don blindfolds, others draw cartoons instead of using any words at all. One student is talking exclusively about bananas, another is taking exuberant stretch breaks every five minutes, and another is only speaking in alliteration.

The Handicapper General is walking around, dressed in all black and donning a whistle around her neck shouting orders. Her tone of voice and responses to questions are snappy and intense. The students are clearly out of their element.

Kendra Dixon, 8th grade language arts teacher (known today as the Handicapper General to her students), is leading an activity based on the short story “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut- a dystopian science-fiction piece that takes place in the year 2081;  the year where everyone is “finally equal in every way.”

"Students are learning about the power of influence, which is the year-long theme of the course, and have been exploring the control that can take shape as a result of it. As a way to capitalize on the discussion students were having about power, sameness, and equality, words that are used interchangeably in the text, they were confronted with “handicaps” in order to squash any competitive edge someone may have because they may have once been gifted with words or had a beautiful singing voice that could make someone feel bad...hence creating an equitably charged environment. This, of course, was not actually the case, as students were scrambling to try to work together, dealing with limited capabilities.  

"This was really fun. I know that the handicaps were supposed to make it difficult to complete the assignment, and it did, but it also made us work together and strengthen our relationships!"
-Dena, 8th Grade

"I really enjoyed the simulation. It was challenging, fun, and frustrating at the same time."
-Izy, 8th Grade


The goal for this activity was simple: to immerse students into the society they had been reading about in order to experience how difficult life could be if they were not able to be themselves and contribute authentically...and  maybe even have a little bit of fun while learning about it, too."

-Kendra Dixon (8th Grade Language Arts Teacher)



  • 8th Grade
  • Humanities
  • Kurt Vonnegut

To read previous blogs, visit our former blog here.