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2 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

Fairfax County Times


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An independent school for girls grades 6-12 guided by the teachings of the Catholic Church

Portrait of an Oakcrest Graduate Oakcrest recognizes the vocation of women as trustees of humanity * and provides a culture of freedom and responsibility in which young women thrive. The joy that comes from knowing she is a child of God impels our graduate to positively impact family and society through: • An understanding of faith and a commitment to personal friendship with God • Academic excellence that drives her to pursue lifelong learning • The ability to recognize and articulate truth, and the courage to stand by it • Self-knowledge that informs her growth in virtue • A love for beauty in the world, and a sense of responsibility to sustain and create it • Leadership and a spirit of collaboration that inspire her to serve * Saint John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women, n. 30


Academic Excellence


Liberal Arts Curriculum: Tradition and Innovation where our students learn critical, creative and ethical thinking, problem solving, collaborative work, written and oral presentation skills for the XXI century. •12 Advanced Placement courses •84% of Oakcrest seniors were accepted early to at least one first tier school, as per U.S. News & World Report rankings •At least 70% of our faculty hold advanced degrees. •The student/teacher ratio is 6:1.

Fairfax County Times Private Schools is produced by Whip It Media's Sections, Advertising and Creative Services departments.

ON THE COVER: PHOTO COURTESY NYSMITH SCHOOL 8th grade Physics students Tarina A. and Anna N. collecting data for their Temperature, Matter and Energy Lab Report.

Every Oakcrest educator fully understands the transcendental value of shaping the minds and hearts of our students during the most formative years of their lives.

Character and Faith


•An education grounded in the teachings of the Catholic Church and the spirit of Opus Dei, a personal prelature of the Catholic Church. •We educate our students to be women who know that faith is a gift and a responsibility that calls for integrity and a compassionate heart. •Our students learn to be open to a healthy pluralism of opinions. We welcome students of all faiths or of no particular faith, respecting the religious freedom of all.

Through our mentoring program, leadership workshops and commitment to service, we offer each girl the opportunity to develop her intellect, will and soul: the three aspects of character.

Leadership and Service •More than 30 clubs and activities •17 athletic teams •2 theatre productions •2 student publications •Individualized college guidance support that starts in 9th grade


Peapod’s Kids Give Back Program is designed to teach students about nutrition, shopping on a budget, and how to use this knowledge to give back to local food banks. Online grocer challenged St. Timothy Catholic School’s 5th grade classroom to utilize a $250 donation from Peapod to create a delivery order of the most nutritious foods possible. The students used nutrition and budgeting lessons to put together a complete order that they helped unload from a Peapod delivery truck on Wednesday, February 17th at St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry.

Whether making lunches for the homeless, serving as a peer tutor, or volunteering to take on more responsibilities at home, Oakcrest students understand service as the basis for all leadership and learn to seize opportunities to serve others.

Find out more at

Moving to 1619 Crowell Road, Vienna, VA February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS




Flint Hill School encourages technology, but with a focus on actual utility


A lower school student uses a school issued iPad.


lint Hill School is one of many options to consider if you decide to take the private school route for your child’s education.

Located in Oakton, Flint Hill is a junior kindergarten through 12th grade school, with two campuses one for lower and middle school and one for upper school. Founded in 1956, the school has a faculty and staff of 250

people, able to accommodate a 5:1 teacher to student ratio in the lower school, and 6:1 in the middle and upper schools. “I think this is partially due to our size, partially due to our format in that we are a JK-to-12 school and partially just due to the caliber nature of the faculty and staff that we have a tendency to attract, but the way that our faculty interact with our students, the way that our families interact with the school and one another is something that is very special,” Angela Brown, the school’s Director of Marketing and Communications, said. “One side would be the community, it’s a very unique community in that we are a very down-toearth group of people and we also have ex-

4 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

tremely high standards for ourselves and for our students.” The school boasts 22 students, in their graduating class of 133, which are what Flint Hill calls “lifers.” These students have been at the school since junior kindergarten or kindergarten. Perhaps this ability to stick to the school is because the school focuses so much on fit when they are admitting new students and faculty. “So we want to look out for what’s best for the student and for the family. I think that even though this is going to sound kind of cliché, we try to find students who are aligned with our own mission, vision and core values. It’s the same with the way we recruit faculty

actually,” Brown said. “Our vision is take meaningful risks, be yourself, and make a difference. We changed to it to not just our vision but our vision for every student because that is what we hope that our students do when they leave us, no matter when they leave us. So if you leave second grade because you move or you leave us as a senior, that’s what we hope to instill in our students, but it is also something that I think we value in the new students that we bring in.” Aside from these community aspects, Flint Hill is unique in their dedication to technology. They are a one to one school, meaning every student has a technological device as part of their tuition. They are also

designated by Apple Inc. as the “Apple Site Visit School” for the State of Virginia. This means that other area schools can look to Flint Hill for guidance on utilizing technology in the classroom. They have also maintained the Distinguished School designation since 2013 from Apple. Their technology usage proved to be important during Winter Storm Jonas a few weeks ago. “The other thing too that’s timely, because of this commitment that we have to technology and to the services that are available to our students with the devices that we provide, even though a lot of kids stopped learning last week, ours didn’t,” Brown explained. “The vast majority of our kids, particularly in the middle and upper schools, were able to attend classes through virtual classrooms, they were able to collaborate with their classmates, with their teachers, because we make all of these resources available to us. Things don’t have to stop for us the way they might in another organization.” But they don’t seem to be using technology just for technologies sake. They use it with an eye for the future and making their students ready when they eventually join the workforce. “It’s about digital citizenship and teaching our students best practices, and how to harness the power of technology and all the access that we provide to them in a way that’s structured and meaningful,” she said.


Upper School students take part in a robotics classes outdoors with instructor, Mike Snyder (center).

Flint Hill provides an exceptional education that celebrates innovation, a balance between academic and extracurricular pursuits and learning within a community that cares. Attend an upcoming admission event to learn more about our School: Upper School Feature Program Event – Fine Arts and Robotics Sunday, March 6, 2:00 p.m. Middle School Information Session Friday, April 1, 9:00 a.m. Lower School Classroom Visits and Information Session Friday, April 15, 8:15 a.m. RSVP online at or call 703.584.2314.

Flint Hill is an independent school for students in Junior Kindergarten through Grade 12 in Oakton, VA.

February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS



Katie Miller, a licensed clinical social worker at PHILLIPS Special Education Day School in Annandale has been named Related Services Provider of the Year by National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC). Miller’s passion for supporting children with special needs extended beyond getting an advanced degree and license to include getting trained to use a service dog named Ryder to inspire children. Miller and Ryder accepted the award at a ceremony yesterday in San Diego, CA. “Katie is deserving of this top honor. She is a special person that gives her time and gifts to shaping young people’s lives in ways that make a profound difference,” explained PHILLIPS CEO Piper Phillips Caswell. “She and Ryder have won the hearts and minds of our students, making school a magical experience for our kids.” After joining the PHILLIPS team, Miller took the significant step of applying for and receiving a helping dog with Canine Com-

panions for Independence in New York. After going through the 80 hour training, away from home and at her own expense, Miller returned to school this fall with her four-legged friend Ryder, an affectionate golden retriever mix. Using Ryder to reach out to the entire school population, Miller has provided a means of communication for children with limited verbal capacity; a loving connection to those who are reluctant to join with others; and an “in-school job” for students wanting to learn about responsibility and work. Beyond Ryder, Miller has a history of taking on extra challenges to better serve the needs of PHILLIPS students, including receiving specialized continuing education in sand tray therapy and play therapy to support younger children. She also received training to enhance her treatment of children and families with trauma issues. The NAPSEC Awards program is among the highest achievements for educators working with special populations of children. NAPSEC represents private specialized day


Social worker Katie Miller with friends, Ryder (dog), Ida Kahsay, Conner Mabry (wearing Starbucks shirt), and Amadi Sullivan (wearing University shirt).

and/or residential programs schools educating students with disabilities being served through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA requires that a continuum of alternative placements and services exist in order to address the individual needs of students with disabilities. 6 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

NAPSEC members provide educational therapeutic services to both publically and privately placed individuals that are not able to be successfully educated in the regular education environment. PHILLIPS Special Education Day School ~ Annandale is part of PHILLIPS Programs for Children and Families, a local nonprofit helping youth with a variety of challenges and qualities succeed. As a NAPSEC member, PHILLIPS serves students with special needs ages 6-22 who have significant learning and emotional challenges and for whom school has often been a place of repeated failure and frustration. For half a century, PHILLIPS has provided customized support and education through three programs, including: Special Education Day Schools in Annandale, VA and Laurel, MD; PHILLIPS Family Partners offering home- and community-based counseling and support; and PHILLIPS Building Futures, an onsite construction and building trades youth training program in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.



What do parents of toddlers and parents of high school students have in common? Both worry about paying for college. With the constantly rising costs of higher education, financial aid becomes more important than ever for making the dream of a college education possible. So if you’re interested in receiving financial aid, where should you start? “The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is your gateway to money for college from both the federal and state governments for most colleges and universities,” says Mark Kantrowitz, author of “Filing the FAFSA” and “Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.” “Filing the FAFSA correctly is crucial, as it has a direct effect on how much money you receive from various types of financial aid.” College Ave Student Loans partnered with Kantrowitz to offer top tips for maximizing your need-based financial aid for college:


When it comes to covering the cost of college, financial aid should be at the forefront of your mind, whether you’re ready to file the FAFSA right now or not. It’s best to save money for college in a parent’s name, rather than the student’s, as the FAFSA assesses money in the parent’s name at a much lower rate. Every $10,000 in student assets reduces aid eligibility by $2,000, while every $10,000 in parent assets only reduces eligibility by up to $564.


The earlier you file the FAFSA, the better. Right now, you should file the FAFSA as soon as possible on or after Jan. 1, but starting in 2017, you can start as early as Oct. 1. Ten states award aid on a first come, first served basis, and 12 have hard deadlines in February and March. Specific schools can also have specific deadlines, and students who file early may qualify for more aid. So, as a rule of thumb, file the FAFSA in January to maximize your eligibility.

3. MINIMIZE INCOME IN THE BASE YEAR Using income and tax information from a previous year, or base year, the FAFSA calculates the financial strength of your family. Because the formula is heavily weighted on income, it’s a good idea to reduce your income in the base year. If you can, avoid realizing capital gains. If you must sell stocks, bonds or other investments, try to offset capital gains with losses. Taking retirement plan distributions during the base year will also count as income.


Seven easy tips can help you prepare your student for college.

4. REDUCE REPORTABLE ASSETS Minimize your money in the bank by using it to pay credit card and loan debts. This not only makes good financial planning sense, but may help you qualify for more aid. 5. MAXIMIZE THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN IN COLLEGE AT THE SAME TIME Something as simple as having more than one child in college can dramatically increase your changes of receiving more financial aid. While you can’t change the ages of your children, you can use this impact on aid eligibility as a deciding factor when determining whether to allow your child to skip a grade. 6. Seek generous and low-cost colleges There are many generous colleges, including some in the Ivy League, which implement “no loans” financial aid policies. This means they replace loans with grants in the student’s need-based financial aid package. Additionally, in-state public colleges are likely to be your least expensive option, especially after subtracting gift aid, grants and scholarships. 7. ORGANIZE YOUR DOCUMENTS AND INFORMATION Filing the FAFSA is all about the details. Pay attention and stay organized to get the job done right, starting by filing the FAFSA for the correct year and staying on top of deadlines. Make sure to use the right Social Security Number, date or birth, marital status and correct financial information. Follow the instructions and fill out the forms as carefully as possible to get the most accurate results. Once you receive your financial aid award letter and assess your savings, you’ll have time to consider taking out a loan. If you need it, find a simple option that works for you, such as College Ave Student Loans. Navigating the world of financial aid can be tricky, so follow these tips to maximize your eligibility and make college a reality. For more information and resources, visit

a creative campus for children

Full Day Private Kindergarten • Focus on Literacy, Math, Social Studies, Science • Small Class Sizes with Individualized Instruction • Degreed, Experienced Team of Educators

WESTFIELDS CAMPUS 5003 Westone Plaza | Chantilly, VA 20151 703.961.8222 February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS


KNOWING HOW TO APPLY KNOWLEDGE IS THE BASIS FOR A SOUND EDUCATION ‘How do you know?’ just as important as ‘what do you know?’ says BASIS Independent McLean school head. BY TIMES STAFF

Some say that a true learning community is not defined by what adults do for their students. It is defined by the problems that students learn to solve for themselves, and by the choices the school has prepared them for in their future lives. It is the students’ education after all, they say. The opportunities are all theirs to be invented and seized. “It’s what I love about my work as an educator. When I taught Logic, I would always jump from asking “what do you know?” to the real question “how do you know?,” said Head of School Sean Aiken. “At the heart of the BASIS Independent McLean curriculum is the intellectual drive to understand how we arrive at the insightful question and the celebration of the generous curiosity that distinguishes what it means to learn in a community.” Aiken went on to say that most important to any definition of academic mastery is the ability to explain how you know. “That just might be the essence of our curriculum: We seek to create a learning culture where students are challenged and tested in an environment of informed thought and collegiality,” he offered. Aiken says students must also be prepared to productively navigate the uncertainty of the 21st century landscape. Working and raising families in a time in which we all find the familiar landscapes of our lives, our jobs and our aspirations in flux requires a broad view of how to pursue this goal. To build a rewarding career today confronts us with the adventure of continual re-definition. New skills must be developed and competencies deepened to sustain the analytical and creative values we bring to current and future employers. “Despite our constantly-changing society, the true core of a freedom-granting education has never altered: mathematics, humanities, science, languages and the arts.  Even the topics named in ancient times resonate today: arithmetic, geometry, music, science, grammar, logic, and rhetoric formed the first curriculum, remaining relevant throughout the centuries,” he said.  According to the school, BASIS Independent McLean, teaches a liberal-arts based, STEM-focused curriculum. It is our way of supporting students in all academic pursuits at high levels across the board. “I maintain this


Two BASIS students are engrossed in their science project.

standard at my school because I know that teachers who love teaching, teach students to love to learn—and students, when they love to learn, have the skills and knowledge to build their own futures,” Aiken goes on to say. “Beginning at the earliest stages in our program, students learn Mandarin and study principles of design within engineering courses. Visual, musical, and performing arts are all mandatory, as is a scenario-based, problem-solving course called Connections. Math is learned as the language of science, and history drives the enrichment of reading, writing, listening and speaking.” Students then continue their high levels of learning into the middle-school grades with Latin courses and one class each of chemistry, biology and physics. World history spirals

8 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

throughout while algebra, logic, and world language mastery grows. In eighth grade, all students take an economics course focused on foundations scarcity, consumer choice theory, and micro, macro, and international economics systems. The goal is always to teach students so they have great choices ahead of them. As students prepare to graduate high school and enter the real world, they take Advanced Placement courses in all core disciplines: literature, calculus, history, sciences. College counseling begins in ninth grade, and eventually becomes a graded class in senior year. This leads them to research-based postAP classes and the Senior Project, a 3-month independent research project. “By authentically engaging with a variety of global perspectives, our students are em-

powered to make their own decisions about how to navigate their lives in a dynamic world,” Aiken says. “We ask them difficult questions, support them in the struggle, but ultimately we trust and respect them enough to make the right decisions for themselves. Not just for college or career: the cultivated power of clear judgment is the true gift of the Liberal Arts at BASIS Independent for the 21st Century,” he adds. “The original, incredible idea—the aspiration of being a more complete agent in whatever world you happen to encounter—is still so compelling, still so urgent today. What the Liberal Arts intends, and precisely what we at BASIS Independent McLean offer, is an authentic Liberal Arts education that grows with the person beholding it.”

February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS






he award winning Nysmith School in Herndon is a family owned and operated private school with over 550 students from three years old - 8th grade. The Nysmith educational philosophy is based on low teacher/ student ratios, loving teachers, creative problem solving and individualized, accelerated programs for reading, math, daily science, computers, logic, foreign language, and much more to make learning exciting.

The Nysmith School is best known for its unusual common sense approach to education. The school uses a 1:9 teacher student ratio, engaging and fun curriculum, minimization of repetition and homework home work, to teach children up to four grade levels above grade level. “When I walk with visitors through the school, they are struck by how much fun the children are having, yet at the same time, they are amazed how advanced the concept is that the children are working,” said Principal Ken Nysmith. “At The Nysmith School , we work hard to teach each child to their potential, to make school fun and stimulating. You can have advanced academics without pressure.” The Nysmith School features four computer labs, 5 science labs, two gyms, and 48 light filled classrooms on over 13 acres.

Located just minutes off the Dulles Road at Exit 9A (Chantilly/Herndon) in Herndon, it is convenient to both Fairfax and Loudoun County residents. Established in 1983, the nationally recognized program has been named a Top Ten School in the World by Johns Hopkins 2015 CTY talent search. In 2014, Nysmith was awarded the Tommy award from TJ for the “disproportionate” achievement of Nysmith Alumni at TJ. The Nysmith School offers personal tours daily as well as monthly Open Houses. Come see for yourself why parents from all over the Country have relocated their families to attend The Nysmith School. Limited enrollment is available. 1) Nysmith maintains the unique and somewhat controversial policy of giving very

10 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

world in the most recent “Odyssey of the Mind” event against students from China, Japan, Korea and many others. •Nysmith students earned top statewide, national and international honors in such prestigious events as the National Science Foundation Spelling Bee, the “You Be The Chemist” Competition, the American Computer Science League and the MathCounts National Championships among many others. 6) The highly-regarded Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (Va.) recognized The Nysmith School for “Excellence in Education” by presenting it with a Tommy Award that had never before been given to an educational institution. 7) In the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills—the standardized tests designed to measure specific academic skills and help with choosing curriculum and instructional planning—Nysmith’s fourth and sixth grade students achieved percentile rankings of 99 in Reading, Language and Math, which I understand is equivalent to the scores from the average high school senior. 8) Nysmith’s academic model and methodology is often imitated but never duplicated. A contingent from William & Mary visited and concluded the school’s approach is “the right way to teach.” Always looking to improve, founder Carole Nysmith and teachers traveled recently to Harvard and other top universities to learn what’s new in teaching—and to reconfirm that Nysmith’s philosophy of mixing “exceptional academics and serious fun” continues to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. 9) Growing from its humble beginning—opening with 55 kids and six teachers at the Reston (Va.) Visitor Nysmith student Arman M. shows off his science project. Center in 1983—The Nysmith School’s standing as one of the country’s top private schools is a testament to little or no homework and minimizing classroom Carole Nysmith’s vision of challenging students at the repetition. level they are ready for intellectually. It also is the story of 2) In response to what many educators consider her crusade to convince local parents of the wisdom of a national crisis when it comes to our young people her proposed approach, validating her passion to create a competing on a global scale in Science and Technology, new way of teaching that would capture those kids who Nysmith’s STEM curriculum is unmatched in the were “turned off by education” because they were being area, challenging students as young as kindergarteners taught things they already knew. to apply themselves to learning in these fields. 3) The most recent Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth report included Nysmith as one of the Top 10 Schools in the World, and honored 27 Nysmith students for achieving highest honors in their completion of a rigorous, above-grade-level test given to academically talented 2nd to 8th graders. 4) Aside from being the largest fully private school for gifted children in the country, Nysmith students consistently place in the Top 1% in the country in each category of the standardized tests, including math, reading and language. 5) Individual students as well as teams from Nysmith frequently compete and record remarkable results in national and worldwide competitions. A few examples: • A five-member team of Nysmith students won the National Youth Cyber Defense competition, outperforming close to 200 teams from around the country in identifying and resolving cybersecurity vulnerabilities in simulated business environments. • Two Nysmith teams finished in the Top 10 in the

10) At the start of the current school year, Nysmith’s student body represented 55 different countries. I have to believe that no other school in Virginia can make such a multicultural claim. • Several youngsters from Nysmith have advanced to the Washington-area regional finals of the National History Bee. Those include: Herndon’s Vance Kreider & Anuraag Kashyap (both 7th graders) and Aaron Joy (5th) Great Falls’ Audrey McKnight (6th) Vienna’s Justin Ward (7th) Reston’s Casey Willard (7th Arlington’s Sean Bender-Proudy (6th) Ashburn’s Ishaan Kumar (8th) • Competing against students throughout the country, from Canada and around the world, a number of Nysmith students earned high marks in the recent Mathematical Association of America’s (MAA) “AMC 8 Test” for middle schoolers. Those receiving recognition include: Oak Hill’s Andrew Jing/8th Grade (“Distinguished Honor Roll”/top 1% of participants) Fairfax’s Ajit Kadaveru/8th Grade (“Distinguished Honor Roll”) Oak Hill’s Kirthi Kumar/8th Grade (“Honor Roll”/top 5%) Centreville’s Grayson Newell/6th Grade (“Achievement” level) Her ndon’s Anand Advani/6th Grade (“Achievement”) Vi e n n a ’s S p e n c e r H u a n g / 6 t h G r a d e (“Achievement”) •Two Nysmith students achieved great success at the DC Regional Scholastic Art & Writing Competition. 7th grader Kaien Yang of Chantilly’s memoir (“A Loving Journey in Neuroscience”) received a Golden Key Award, as did Oak Hill 8th grader Kirthi Kumar with his entry entitled “Entries Received From Innovator 6 Before Losing Contact.” Both students will be recognized at the award ceremony to be held March 6 at the Gala Theatre in Washington, D.C.



Fourth-graders Audrey B. and Maddie B. dissect a frog in biology class.

February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS




urke Lake KinderCare Learning Center in Burke has been awarded accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a leading professional organization for the early childhood education

industry. Accreditation is an intensive process, granted by an independent, third-party organization validating that KinderCare’s teachers provide meaningful and engaging daily learning experiences for every child. Research shows that children who attend exceptional early childhood programs demonstrate higher math, language, and socialization skills. Unlike licensing, which only ensures a basic threshold level of a center’s ability to provide care, accreditation is the gold standard in designating high-quality early learning programs. With less than 10 percent of early childhood education programs in the nation receiving accreditation, KinderCare is the only private provider dedicated to achieving 100 percent accreditation in their centers across the country. “The journey of quality starts every time a child walks through the door,” said Dr. Elanna Yalow, CEO of KinderCare Early Learning Programs. “Accreditation is a reflection of what Burke Lake KinderCare does every day on behalf of the children in their care.” Burke Lake KinderCare serves families throughout the area, accepting children as young as six weeks to 12 years old.


A typical KinderCare classroom setting


Your child’s school can be


At Langley, we take time to know every child as an individual, so we understand how your child learns best. More attentive learning means deeper engagement at every grade level. Thoughtful, personal interactions with your child allow our expert teachers to build on children’s curiosity and strengths. We invite your family to

live Langley with us.

To find out more, visit or call (703) 848-2782.

Where vital academics meet a deep respect for childhood Preschool through grade 8 in Northern Virginia

12 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

EXTRACURRICULARS, EXTRA-WORK Tips on finding the right after school programs for your student



inding after-school activities for your kids can be a challenge. In Fairfax County there seems to be endless options and you may be asking the question of where to look or even how to go about looking. I talked to Rebecca Goldin who is the President of the Fairfax County Association for the Gifted. FCAG is a non-profit organization aimed at helping parents support their advanced academic students. Usually they focus on summer programming, but Goldin is an area mother and George Mason math professor who has become well versed in finding these answers for herself. “In terms of resources, they are really quite scattered,” she lamented. “I don’t know of any central depository for after school resources.” Goldin always suggests music and chess from the onset. “Those are things that both help you learn some of the things that help you be really successful and academic later in life. Like discipline and strategy at the same time being phenomenally fun and engaging to do, they’re not like daycare. It’s not like watching a movie, which is kind of passively engaging in the activity,” she said. “But both for chess and music, you need a lot of focus and concentration to do them. So they’re really awesome activities to do after school because they are learning activities but they are not the same feeling as school.” However, if you’re kids aren’t into these two activities, Goldin shared some tips and things to consider when dealing with these problems. §§ Know what type of extracurricular your child is interested in and know what you want them to get out of it (like leadership language skills): “Part of it is a function of what the parents are after and what the kids feel are neat for them when they ask that question. But I feel truly the best after school thing is something that the kids are excited to do. So you want to start with, what are their interests,” Goldin explained. “Because you can have a chess club that is really fantastic and really opens their minds, but you can also have a chess club that is demoralizing and a bad culture.” §§ Understand how much time you have and how much time you wan to invest: Some parents just need a place to drop off their kids, which requires something different then a parent who can drop off their

kids at music lessons or sports practices that aren’t located at the school. “There are a lot of differences there as well in terms of what you might do, and how it fits in your schedule. How much time the parent has to be guiding the kids and spending the time with them is huge.” Some clubs, especially science and engineering focused ones, also request parent volunteers. “Part of the difficulty, is if you are looking for an activity where it’s drop your kids off, they have a good time, then you pick them up, that’s not an option for some of the most engaged science things. They are looking for parents to run them. And they’re very labor intensive.” §§ Do your research, it isn’t easy: Goldin recommends to always check to see what parent associations and the schools have to offer. If that doesn’t work, remember what is offered in the community (like at community centers or recreation clubs) and you just might need to do some intense Googling. “You’ve got to look around and find things. It takes a lot of time to find the information unfortunately,” she lamented. “It’s all sparse.” Based on Goldin’s recommendations here are a few places that might get the ball rolling: §§ Chess: §U.S. § Chess Center: §Silver § Knights Chess Company §Music: § §Potomac § Arts Academy §Bach § to Rock https://www.b2rmusic. com/locations §Theater § and visual arts: §Acting § for Young People http://www. §Workhouse § Arts Center http://www. §§ Leadership: §Girl § Scouts http://forgirls.girlscouts. org/ §Boy § Scouts Youth.aspx §The § Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington fairfax/ §Science § and technology §Children’s § Science Center http:// §AviationEd § §Sports § §Fairfax § County Sports Organization Directory http://www.fairfaxcounty. gov/ncs/athletics/sportsdirectory.htm §FitKids §


According to Rebecca Goldin, chess club is a great after school activity for students.

Because a Great Education is not just about What They Learn. It’s about Who They Become. We invite you to visit our unique village-style campus in Middleburg, VA to find out more.

“Play is the highest form of research.” Albert Einstein Serving students in Junior Kindergarten through 8th grade since 1926. February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS





ith climate change and the increasing awareness of human’s interaction with the environment, it is important to think how we can reduce our impact on the world. So why not start these lessons in the classroom? Ultimately, I have never met a kid who doesn’t like cool new school supplies. Well, I was certainly that way at least. 1. CAMELBAK KIDS’ EDDY™ Drinking water from single-use water bottles is overrated. Not only is it an excessive use of plastic there is also a huge environmental impact from just manufacturing the water bottle. So don’t spill and don’t waste; water bottle recommended for ages 3 through 8. $13.00. But check their website for other sizes, styles, and prices. http:// cl_1350 2. HORNS ROSEWOOD WEEKLY PLANNER Get a neat-looking and stand-up planner made on 100 percent chlorine and acid free paper. Not only is it reusing paper, the undated planner lets you fill in the dates and start your year whenever you want. $16.00 php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=30479#. VrPA5tUrLIU 3. RECYCLED PAPER CLIPS Holding your paper together is a pretty common practice, but holding your papers together is way cooler when you have 100 percent recycled paper clips. 1000/pack, $6.99 at Staples. D=7104257&storeId=10001&AID=10428703&SID =skim38395X1023511Xb31c1ed842bd6a6d4624995 b26473744&cm_mmc=CJ-_-7104257-_-7104257-_10428703&CID=AFF%3A7104257%3A7104257%3 A10428703&CJPIXEL=CJPIXEL


CamelBak Kids’ eddy™


Converter Solar Backpack

14 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

4. DESKTOP TO DO BOARD This whiteboard kind of looks like a clip board, but because it’s a white board you aren’t using paper. And it is made out of bamboo that is sustainably harvested from New Zealand. Not a bad combo. $13.00

5. CONVERTER SOLAR BACKPACK Backpacks are great and very useful, but they just hold your stuff. This backpack has a solar power battery pack with 3.5 watts of energy. So instead of using energy at the house to charge laptops, phones, and tables, students can just use their backpack. $129 6. GLOB COLORS This is not a specific product, but Glob Colors sells art supplies (craft paints and dyes mostly) made from fruits and vegetables. Products are natural, recyclable and biodegradable. Prices vary. 7. TO-GO WARE: KIDS UTENSIL SET Stop giving your kids plastic utensils when packing their lunches. Instead, give them bamboo. Reusable, BPA Free and Phthalate-Free. $9.99 8. ITZY RITZY + JU-JU-BE: SNACK HAPPENS™ Reusable Snack and Everything Bag While you are ditching the plastic forks; get some reusable bags along with it. Washable, BPA Free, Lead Free, PVC Free, cotton exterior. $9.99$20.00


Rock Paper Journal

9. ECO PEN/ HIGHLIGHTER Part pen. Part highlighter. All recyclable. All biodegradable corn plastic. Awesome. $8.59 PHOTO COURTESY ITZY RITZY

Itzy Ritzy + Ju-Ju-Be: Snack Happens™ Reusable Snack and Everything Bag.

10. ROCK PAPER JOURNAL Buy a journal made out of the hardest paper on earth… Because it is made out of rock. These recyclable and biodegradable notebooks are made out of limestone, so no trees deforested and no post production waste.


Itzy Ritzy + Ju-Ju-Be: Snack Happens™ Reusable Snack and Everything Bag.

Westminster School

Established 1962 A CLASSICAL EDUCATION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY Presenting Challenge | Building Character | Instilling Confidence

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February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS


TACKLING EDUCATION’S STATUS QUO Breaking up with traditional class scheduling

fear bad grades, or we learn because we’ve made a fantastic connection with that favorite teacher. We know more about multiple intelligences and learning styles and how they play out in the classroom. We know that often learning is incomplete unless one can apply the lesson to solve a concrete problem or to create something new.



here is much talk in the education arena about disruptive innovation. Due to technology, examples of disruption to the status quo abound in the world around us. Just look at what has happened in the music industry when streaming made records and CDs obsolete, in higher education with the advent of MOOCs, in the movie industry with Netflix. Other disruptions also come to mind: Uber, with its challenge to taxi services, Airbnb, with its threat to traditional hotels and travel agents. The list could go on endlessly, as it continues to change seemingly daily. Against this backdrop, it is interesting to see that K-12 education has changed little since the traditional school model was instituted to fit the needs of the industrial revolution. Many schools still adhere to the timetested schedule in which classes meet for 45 minutes a day every day; some have gone to block schedules that allow for longer periods, but still adhere to a traditional five-day week. Some schools schedule semester courses, others go for trimesters. As educators, however, we are often loathe to change the status quo and take the risk of trying something different that might yield better learning. Some of us adhere to the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or fear losing enrollment if we are perceived by parents as experimenting with their children. Although parents want the best education available—and they want innovative approaches that allow their children to thrive — they do not want their offspring to be the guinea pigs for experiments in learning. As the year 2000 was being ushered in with fireworks and fanfare, talk in educators’ circles turned to “educating our students for the 21st century.” This has become a tagline for attempts to be more progressive, and fifteen years into this new century we are still talking about “educating for the 21st century.” Meanwhile, college ratings and the common application have made the race to gain admission to big name centers of higher education an end in itself. The competition has generated anxiety among parents and



Pilar Cabeza de Vaca, Head of School at Madeira

their children, who have come to believe that the ticket to a good college is taking as many AP classes as possible, filling resumes with as many clubs and activities as they can fit into their day, participating in elite sports clubs on the chance that they might receive a Division I scholarship (and admission to a prestigious college or university), and ultimately arriving at college burned out, depressed, anxious and ready for a break. Is this what educating for the 21st century is all about?

A NEW UNDERSTANDING OF LEARNING Brain research and neuroscience have flourished in the past decade and have provided much more insight into how we learn, what environments are most conducive to long-term retention, and how the structures that surround learning can have an impact on the results. Elements like time, space, environment, light, stress, emotion, even color can contribute to making a learning experience more or less effective. We now know that some stress is good, but too much stress stands in the way of learning. We also know that some students learn from having someone lecture in front of the classroom, but many more learn by being engaged in different ways through simulations, role-playing, creating, cooperative learning groups, Socratic discussions, and the Harkness method. We know that emotion is a significant factor in learning, whether we learn better because we

16 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

At our school, we began to question whether the structures that had been in place for decades were what our students needed to learn to work collaboratively. We examined whether the five-subject-per-day schedule (including a full day per week for experiential internships) was the right model to allow students and teachers to explore a topic in depth, and to allow time to add more creative projects and assessments in addition to

traditional paper-pencil testing. We looked at some of the exciting interdisciplinary programs that colleges like Bryn Mawr (my alma mater), University of Pennsylvania, and others are putting together. We visited and looked at programs offered in highly successful private and public schools. We analyzed what we were doing successfully ourselves, and how we could add value to the areas where we were already excelling, while bringing in much needed innovation to other areas of our program. Innovation is difficult in school cultures, and it takes not only time but also buy-in from faculty, students, parents and alumni. It requires divergent thinkers who will engage in thoughtful processes, and movers and shakers who do not fear taking calculated

see STATUS QUO on page 18

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A new survey shows that campus health and wellness offerings may play a significant role in where prospective students apply to college.




new survey conducted in October 2015 by Harris Poll on behalf of the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) among over 400 high school students finds that campus health and wellness offerings may play a significant role in where prospective students apply to college. Based on the responses of high school students planning to go to college, nearly 1 in 5 (18 percent) would be likely or extremely likely to change their decision to apply to a certain college or university based on the health and wellness offerings on campus. “From academics to campus culture to cost, high school students have a lot to consider when applying to college,” said PHA CEO Lawrence A. Soler. “We are pleased, but not surprised, to see health and wellness ranking as one of students’ priorities.” In particular, students noted the importance of campus recreation facilities and quality oncampus programs like physical fitness classes, cooking classes and wellness education opportunities. Nearly 1 in 4 (23 percent) believe that access to these services and amenities were absolutely essential when deciding where to apply. The survey results also show that just over half (51 percent) of female high school students planning to go to college find access to healthy food options in campus dining facilities either absolutely essential or very important when deciding where to go to college. Since physical wellbeing and the availability of nutritious options is a growing concern for incoming freshmen, many colleges and universities have joined PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative (HCI) to make healthier choices easier for students, faculty and staff. By joining as a partner of the HCI, each campus has committed to meet 23 guidelines – developed in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading academics, experts and thought leaders on campus wellness – around food and nutrition, physical activity and programming. “These findings only help to underscore the importance of PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative and we look forward to expanding the effort in the months and years ahead,” said Soler. The program was launched in 2014 and now serves more than one million students, faculty and staff across the country. For more information on PHA’s Healthier Campus Initiative, visit


This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of A Partnership for a Healthier America from October 13-23, 2015 among 1,133 youths ages 8-18, among which 458 are currently in high school, and 442 plan to go to college. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Sara Scheineson at

February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS


STATUS QUO from page 16

risks. It demands clarity in outcomes and expectations. Finally, it takes the courage to rip off the proverbial Band-Aid to bring about a major change. Asking the right questions to inform the decision to change is an even more daunting task. We had a growing number of students taking medical leave for anxiety-related issues; students were having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and into the classroom; some students were overwhelmed with stress. Likewise, faculty were cramming in material as best they could, taking time away from conference periods and adding evening classes to be able to teach “the full curriculum.” With our 45-minute periods, it seemed we had just gotten into the classroom when it was already time to leave. There seemed to be no time to work on building collaboration skills, to have students critique each other’s work, to develop projects that served as a different way of assessing learning. Learning was taking place in figurative silos, driven by the needs of each individual department, and thinly spread. At the same time, we knew our students were leaving school with excellent writing skills; they were well equipped to handle stressful situations; and they had transformational experiences through their weekly internship day. We had a 100 percent admissions rate to college and, in our recent survey of young alumnae, 96 percent reported that they had finished their B.A. degrees within four years. The ultimate goal was to develop structures that would allow us to continue to deliver an intellectually challenging and rigorous college preparatory program, but to take it further to ensure we were truly preparing students for life beyond college and providing them tools for career success. A program that limits our students to absorbing content, then demonstrating knowledge through three-hour final exams, may make them excellent test-takers, but does not prepare them to work effectively in teams or to apply knowledge to solve reallife problems or create new solutions. Also, testing does not teach the coping skills necessary for success in a workplace that relies increasingly on the ability to work well with others, assume leadership roles, and continue to learn and renew oneself. We were clear in the outcome we wanted. We wanted our students to be lifelong learners, creative problem solvers, and confident leaders. We wanted them to be able to communicate effectively in traditional and new media, to be cross-culturally and digitally literate, and, furthermore, to be emotionally mature and healthy. We also knew that our expectations were similar to what most par-


The central Oval on Madeira’s campus.

ents and schools want for their students. The challenge then was to determine whether the process we were following to achieve those outcomes was as effective as it could be. There is enough research on adolescents and learning that validates a necessary shift away from teacher-centered to student-centered learning. The most effective teachers are no longer the “owners” of all knowledge, ready to transmit it to students; technology and easy access to all kinds of information make that almost impossible today. Instead, teachers are becoming facilitators and coaches. Learning, if it is to be deep and enduring, relies on active participation, inquiry, exploration and application. For students to be placed at the center of the learning process, traditional structures, including schedules, lengths of periods, furniture and building design, must be rethought. Since designing new buildings requires funding and time, the most logical place for us to start was to look at how we could structure our schedules to support studentcentered learning. We formed a curriculum leadership team that grouped together five faculty members with different approaches and who exemplified multiple intelligences: linguistic, logical, visual, musical, intrapersonal, kinesthetic, interpersonal and naturalistic. The team also brought together strong change agents who were not afraid to think outside the box. Together, they formulated questions, did research into best practices in teaching and learning, and explored options that would support our rigorous academic program while enhancing experiential, interdisciplinary and project-based learning. As a first step, they brought in a consultant who facilitated discussions and also

18 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

spent a year providing professional development to all faculty to ease the transition into longer teaching periods, which required a greater variety of teaching strategies in the classroom. The team also considered ways in which faculty could interact more closely with students outside the traditional classroom. They spent time with focus groups that included our internship sponsors, who played a key role in our ability to continue to offer our internships on Capitol Hill and in different offices and service organizations in the greater community. After several months of work and analysis, the curriculum leadership team came up with three proposals for consideration by the faculty and presented them at a general meeting for discussion, feedback and further analysis. Faculty were given several weeks to consider these proposals in view of our goals for the program within each department before they were asked to respond to a survey with their preferences.

THE FIRST STEP: A MODULAR SCHEDULE The resulting schedule broke from tradition in that the school year is now divided into seven modules, each lasting five weeks, during which students take three academic classes and one activity. Classes begin at 8:30 (a half hour later than the previous schedule), and periods last 80 minutes each. There is a 20-minute break between each period, and an hour break for lunch and advisory meetings; evening activities are limited to theatre, orchestra and chorus. Starting sophomore year, students spend one module, or five weeks, in an intensive internship. The next task was to communicate the

change in a way that parents and students would be able to visualize and understand, and then to actually implement it across the four grade levels. In the process, we considered the possibility of phasing in the changes, but determined it would be better for our students and teachers to go all-in and let them experience the full spectrum of the new schedule from the beginning. We took the calculated risk of ripping off the Band-Aid, expecting some bumps along the road, but had the certainty that we would still be able to meet our program goals. We were prepared for the objections of skeptics, but we were confident that our faculty had the preparation and wherewithal to rise to the challenge of teaching in a different way. One year later, we are in the process of fine-tuning some of the details, but firmly convinced we did the right thing. Students are continuing to learn and achieve at high levels, many exceeding our expectations. We’ve also noted that fewer students have missed days of school due to stress- or depression-related issues. More importantly, we have been able to effect a major change in our program by designing a new structure to support it. The next steps will be to tackle other structures: buildings and furniture. Having a program firmly in place to drive the design will certainly make the process easier. Most importantly, we have demonstrated that change can happen, even in cultures that are considered averse to it. Madeira is a Fairfax County independent boarding and day school that educates girls in grades 9-12. Madeira’s mission is “Launching women who change the world.” This article was first published in The Parents League of New York – Review 2016

WHAT IS MADEIRA? • An independent boarding and day school for girls in grades 9-12 • A beautiful 376-acre campus minutes from Washington, D.C. • An innovator in co-curriculum options that offer real-world experience • An expert in tailoring rigorous academic options to the individual student

For the long answer visit us online at 8328 Georgetown Pike • McLean, Virginia 22102 • 703-556-8273

February 2016 | Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS


20 Fairfax County Times PRIVATE SCHOOLS | February 2016

Profile for The Fairfax Times

The Fairfax County Times - Private Schools Section  

The Private Schools Special section from the February 26th Edition of the Fairfax County Times

The Fairfax County Times - Private Schools Section  

The Private Schools Special section from the February 26th Edition of the Fairfax County Times


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