On any given day, Lower School students at WT’s City and North Hills Campuses can be seen taking charge of their own learning: discovering physics in Kindergarten; creating systems for healthy communities in second grade; and launching new companies, writing proposals, and designing 3D printed prototypes in third grade. WT’s longstanding commitment to student-led inquiry positions students as chief architects and explorers of their experience.

“Our outstanding faculty do a lot of listening and observation to learn more about what drives our students’ passions,” explains Ashley Harper, Director of Lower School.

Placing children at the center of their learning is key at WT. It is also a founding principle of the Reggio Emilia Approach, the topic of an international exhibit at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center this fall. The approach holds that children are endowed with a ‘hundred languages’— they possess countless ways of self-expression and learning, and they learn and grow in relationship with others.

“The Reggio Emilia Approach is most evident in our student-led inquiry focus,” states Harper. “The root belief that children are strong, capable, and resilient is deeply embedded in the ethos and expectation of WT’s teaching. We recognize that children are innately creative thinkers and when the classroom opens learning to them, the sky is indeed the limit.”

“Students are encouraged to question, engage, and help design the curriculum at all grade levels,” affirms Laurie Vennes, Director of North Hills Campus. “Here, all of Pre-K’s themes are based on student interest. When Pre-K is ready to move on to a new theme, the students brainstorm ideas and vote. The classroom then transforms into whatever they are studying. For example, last year the students were interested in pandas. The classroom had student-made bamboo hanging from the ceiling, panda figures in the sandbox, books, art projects, stuffed pandas, and more.”

Those Pre-K students are only the newest generation of resourceful, creative thinkers to learn and explore at WT. The school has long been open to—in fact, was founded on— innovative ideas in education that complement and augment WT’s core values and mission.

“Our dual approach—a love of learning combined with a rigorous academic and knowledge base— makes us different,” notes Harper. “At our core is the belief that children are incredible thinkers and, when given support and direction toward the right resources, learn beautifully by doing.”