By Stephie Meadows, Kindergarten Teacher at The Langley School

Writer's Workshop publishing parties are among the most exciting milestones for our kindergartners. Our classrooms buzz with excitement as students eagerly await their turn to wiggle onto the share stool and proudly present their published book to the class. The writing they share has been carefully selected after weeks of brainstorming, peer editing, re-reading, and "fancying up" for this anticipated event. Our kindergartners are guided through the true writing process and learn to successfully plan, edit, and prepare an original piece of work that is then bound into their very own book.

I'm always struck by the growth I see from one publishing celebration to the next. Students begin the year sharing a simple story with scarce letters on a page and transform within just a few short months into confident, capable authors. Our end-of-the-year party reveals five- and six-page "how-to" manuals that students have thoughtfully constructed to serve as a teaching guide for their friends. Students listen carefully as their classmates' books teach topics such as how to make a pizza or how to be a sneaky little brother. These stories elicit many oohs, ahhs, and laughs from teachers and peers alike.

But what resonates the most about these shared writing experiences is not the cognitive growth that is so evident across the pages displayed, but the relationships that are subtly referenced throughout these kindergarten stories.

Our kindergartners' books tell tales of the playground slide police, their music teacher's Halloween costume, their favorite fall field trip, and their best friend's polka-dotted birthday cake. But it's not only the school stories that remind me of the unique bonds these children have made within the Langley community. The books that refer to a super-tidy grandmother or a dog that's "actually more like a brother" highlight characters and events we already know so well. All year, we've chatted over juice boxes and Band-Aid applications. We've listened to exciting weekend accounts during Monday morning meetings. We've shared stories and gotten to really know one another all year long.

A kindergarten student's "how-to" book in September

Same kindergartner's "how-to" book in April

It's during these publishing celebrations, while listening to our kindergartners interact with each other through their writing, that I'm reminded of what makes these students' kindergarten experience unlike any other. The magic of Langley's kindergarten takes shape in one powerful word – relationships. Our students' immeasurable growth blossoms from the careful fostering of profound bonds all year long.

At Langley, we believe in utilizing kindergarten to ensure our students are ready for what lies ahead in their many academic years to come. In our classrooms, we watch children transform from timid observers into active participants, eagerly engaged throughout the school day. But what sets us apart is actually quite simple – our students are known.

We know the apprehension over that first soccer practice after school. We know the excitement of waiting for a favorite cousin to come for a visit. We know when learning to write the number 12 is overshadowed by the loss of a beloved goldfish. We know when rest time simply can't occur until the "I lost my tooth!" announcement has been made. In kindergarten, our days are guided by our deep respect for childhood and the many marvels it holds. We see self-assurance develop, curiosities ignite, and independence take form. Our team strives to savor each step of that journey with every child who enters our door.

As my students wrap up another writing unit in the coming weeks, I will again be reminded that the stories in their folders are far more than a writing assignment. These stories are the very reasons their year will be remembered – these are the stories that make up these kindergartners. These stories, whether they tell of a new puppy or a sick mother, are the threads that weave our classroom community together as one.

At Langley, we know our students – exactly where they are. This fundamental knowing provides the ability to construct a unique and intentional path that leads each kindergartner to his or her highest potential. Here, it's the relationships that hold the wonder of this vital year in every child's life.

What exactly is the "Hour of Code?"

The Hour of Code started as a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify "code," to show that anybody can learn the basics, and to broaden participation in the field of computer science. It has since become a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with one-hour coding activities and expanding to all sorts of community efforts.

The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week, which is typically the first week of December. The Hour of Code has now become a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Langley students of all ages have participated in the Hour of Code each year since 2014. To learn more, visit

When is the best time to introduce a child to coding?

I believe we need to introduce students to computer science at an early age with minimal screen time. Surprisingly, there are many activities that teach students computational skills without the use of a computer or a mobile device. For example, we introduce the "Robot" game to students in the Primary School. The "Robot" game consists of one student acting as the computer and another student acting as the robot. The computer commands the robot to perform actions (step forward, hop, etc.) and the robot performs the command. This is just one of the many different ways that we introduce coding to students at The Langley School.

Further, based on my research on the gender gap in STEM fields, we need to expose girls early to the variety of job opportunities available to those with STEM-related degrees, such as computer science, to ensure we are encouraging girls to consider a future in a computer science field both during college and in the workforce.

How does computer science connect to the STEAM program at Langley?

Technology is one component of STEAM education that has the power to accelerate and amplify student learning. And, within technology, one aspect is computer programming or "coding" which is simply telling machines what to do. As we continue to move forward in the digital age, it is becoming increasingly important for students to acquire knowledge in computer science to gain a better understanding of technology and how it's shaping our world. Learning how to code also helps to develop computational and critical-thinking skills which are applicable in both math and science. Finally, coding allows for students to be creative when designing projects or solving complex problems.

What is Langley's curricular approach to coding?

Students in all grades learn about computer science by programming robots at developmentally different stages. For example, in the Primary School, Mrs. O'Grady uses Bee-Bots with junior kindergarten students to practice skills such as directionality, counting, sequencing, and problem-solving.

In the Lower School, Mrs. O'Grady also introduces computer programming to third-grade students with WeDo LEGO Robotics. Students work in teams to build and program a robot to perform different actions such as moving in directions, flashing lights, and making noises. Our fourth-grade students learn about electronics and computer science by designing and programing an interactive monster during an integrated STEAM project. The students first design the monster from felt, conductive thread, and electronic components. Then they program a Lilypad Arduino board to create their own unique blinking pattern for their monster's LED eyes and compose a short tune for their monster's speaker to play.

In the Middle School, I teach students to design and implement computer-based solutions to problems. Sixth-grade students learn computer science and continue to develop their basic computer programming skills using Scratch. Our seventh-grade students learn how to use the JavaScript language and the ProcessingJS library to create fun drawings and animations. I also use LEGO EV3 robotics with seventh-graders to teach computer programming. During this unit, students must first build a more advanced robot and then program the robot to solve complex problems such as navigating a course by using motion, light, and sound sensors.

Beyond these curricular activities, we intentionally integrate computer science into the curriculum at every grade level to promote problem-solving skills, logic, and creativity. We also provide a multi-platform program to support student learning on different machines and operating systems in order to teach students how to work on multiple devices.

At The Langley School, we are able to offer innovative teaching and learning opportunities that provide our students with essential technology skills, knowledge, and thought processes that will fuel their future academic and career success.

Learn more about Langley

by Kristi Graninger, Langley parent and PALS (Parents Association of Langley) Speakers Committee Member

This is just one of many questions parents are asking themselves these days. As parents of digital natives, technology has introduced so many "firsts" for us to navigate as our children get older and gain independence.

As part of the The Langley School's commitment to parent education and partnering together as we raise children, we were fortunate to have Dr. Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive (and Survive) in Their Digital World and founder of Raising Digital Natives, speak to parents last week. Dr. Heitner talked about how digital habits are formed when children are young and what we can do as parents to ensure healthy behaviors now and into adulthood. Below are just a few of Dr. Heitner's tips from the session that we wanted to share.

Tips from PALS Speaker Dr. Devorah Heitner (excerpted from her recent newsletter)

  1. Set respectful rules of engagement.

Sharing pictures of your kids takes control away from them. The same goes for updates about them in your Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter feed. Luckily, there's a simple rule: Ask their permission! Asking your kids before sharing teaches them that you respect them and their privacy. What's more, this practice brings up the opportunity to discuss boundaries with your children. Set up some rules. Every single member of the family should be on the same page about posting or sharing images of other family members.

  1. Create unplugged zones.

Not every room in your house has to have a TV or "second screen." Make sure that the comfiest, coziest spots in your home are not taken over by media devices. Everyone needs some offline time. These unplugged times offer different kinds of engagement – and this variation and the ability to take pleasure in a variety of activities will support your child.

  1. Mentor more than you monitor.

If you want to know what your kids are doing on their devices, start by talking with them. Have empathy for their experiences, and ask them what would make their texting and social media encounters better, easier, or less stressful. If you are tempted to use spy software to see what they are doing, consider having them give you a tour of their accounts as an alternative. Before they download a new social application such as Instagram, have them show you how other kids are using the app, and ask them to show you both positive and negative examples. It is a great way to hear them explain their own discernment process.

  1. Structure transitions to minimize screen-monster syndrome.

Use habits and routines to minimize post-screentime tantrums and flip-outs. Don't let screentime be the unstructured time that fits in around everything else. If your kids love Minecraft, let them have specific "Minecraft times." Try making a calendar. Plan what they will do AFTER their immersive screen experience, too. If they turn into "screen monsters" and act unpleasant when it is time to unplug, let them know you'll be dialing back their time in 15-minute increments until you find the increment that does not transform them into monsters. Let them take some responsibility for their mood and behavior.

Note: Don't be surprised if your children or spouse let you know when you have become a screen monster. Make sure to take responsibility for your mood and behavior, too!

  1. Use "independence milestones" to determine when your child is ready for a cell phone.

If you are feeling pressure from your child or other parents to buy him/her a phone, remember – this is a big deal and it is still your decision. You might feel particularly intense pressure to buy your child a device around milestones such as birthdays or holidays. Instead of a date on the calendar, consider independence milestones, ways for your child to demonstrate that she's ready. Does she make her own lunch? Walk home from school on her own? Spend a short time home alone? Can he babysit a younger child for short windows of time or take public transit by himself? Is he responsible with his allowance or other money/savings? Is she organized with her homework, or putting away her own clothing? If so, maybe your answer will be, "Yes, she is ready." Maybe you can even set progressive milestones so that your child has to work toward the responsibility and demonstrate readiness.

Another indicator that your child might be ready (or not) for a phone is his social decision-making ability. Is your child impulsive? Quick to feel angry or excluded? Good at apologizing if she has made someone feel bad? If your child has not yet had the opportunity to demonstrate some of these life and social skills, you may want to hold off on a personal device.

Give your child a chance to learn, let him practice making plans via text message on a family or shared device, and let him know which skills are most important to demonstrate before you buy him that phone.

Up Next: On January 24, PALS and The Langley School will welcome psychologist and parent specialist Rachel Bailey who will present "How to Foster Internal Motivation (Without the Nagging!)."

By Dr. Sarah Sumwalt, Director of Social and Emotional Learning at The Langley School

What's all the buzz about SEL?

The term social-emotional learning (SEL) has become ubiquitous in the field of education. SEL also dominates the mainstream media, with articles peppering news sources about the role of SEL in the classroom. Just last week, the D.C. Schools chancellor, Antwan Wilson, argued that students need to feel "loved, challenged, and prepared" and shared his vision for bringing an increased focus on social-emotional learning into the District's classrooms.

Despite the intense current interest in the topic, the term social-emotional learning is not new. In fact, it has been a widely used term since the late 1990s. Definitions of the term typically include references to intrapersonal (e.g., self-awareness and self-management) and interpersonal (e.g., social awareness and relationship skills) competence. However, there is not one agreed upon definition and many differ on exactly what skills SEL entails.

A recently published NPR article perhaps captures this issue best in the title: "Social and Emotional Skills: Everybody Loves Them, But Still Can't Define Them." SEL has been referred to as "soft skills," "non-academic skills," "non-cognitive skills," and "life skills." More recently, terms such as "grit" and "growth mindset" have also caught on. Other terms such as emotions, empathy, relationships, and responsible decisions are frequently mentioned in discussions of SEL. Although all of these skills and constructs are clearly important, their inclusion in formal definitions results in a lack of clarity regarding the overarching meaning of what SEL really is and why it's so important for success.

So, how do we make sense of what SEL really is?

At the Institute of Social and Emotional Learning's recent conference, one of the speakers read the following quote: "SEL is not a detour from academics. Rather, it is the on-ramp." This got me thinking...perhaps what definitions have previously lacked is clarity around the destination or the resulting outcome that we are working toward by teaching social and emotional skills in school. According to developmental research, resilience and adaptability are at the core of how we cope successfully with everything life throws us. Furthermore, authenticity, our ability to express our true internal experience, is essential to our happiness with ourselves and with others. I believe it is these constructs that truly illustrate the essence of SEL.

We need to intentionally teach, through explicit lessons and discussions and through studies of literature and history, skills and strategies that help our children understand their own and other's internal experiences, appreciate differences, make healthy decisions, and persevere so that they can be resilient, adaptable, and authentic adults.This, I believe, is the heart of SEL. -Dr. Sarah Sumwalt

At The Langley School, we also strongly believe that focusing on SEL work actually furthers and propels academic success, not the other way around. This is why we are deeply committed to the work, as evident in our strategic plan.

Why is SEL so important in 2017?

There are a number of concerning societal trends that call attention to the importance of this work for our current children. First, there is a striking trend in the workforce that is the result of automation. As machines and computers become more sophisticated and efficient at tasks, the automation of clerical, engineering, and factory jobs has grown exponentially. As a result, job growth across many fields has decreased.

A recent Washington Post article titled "This Silicon Valley Start-Up Wants to Replace Lawyers with Robots" quoted an estimate that 35% of all professional tasks can be automated. There was also mention that JP Morgan recruited developers to build software to accomplish in seconds what it would have taken lawyers 360,000 hours to do. In contrast, jobs that require social skills, teamwork, and emotional intelligence (skills that can't be automated) are on the rise.

In the New York Times article, "Why What You Learned in Preschool Is Crucial at Work," the author states, "...skills like cooperation, empathy, and flexibility have become increasingly vital in modern-day work. Occupations that require strong social skills have grown much more than others since 1980, according to new research. And the only occupations that have shown consistent wage growth since 2000 require both cognitive and social skills."

Second, there are striking and worrisome trends with our current youth. In her newly published book, "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood," Jean Twenge argues that iGen'ers (individuals born between 1995 and 2012 almost all of our elementary and middle school students!) are reporting lower levels of satisfaction with their lives and themselves. They also report feeling more lonely; in fact, Twenge notes that 31% more students in grades 8 and 10 reported feeling lonely in 2015 than in 2011.

The Langley School

Furthermore, iGen'ers may be emotionally unprepared for dealing with such emotional complexity. For example, with increased time on social media, iGen'ers are not practicing their in-person social skills as much as other generations did. Twenge states, "Life's social decisions are still made primarily in person, and an iGen gets less experience with such situations. In the next decade we may see more young people who know just the right emoji for a situation – but not the right facial expression."

Now, what should we do about it?

I have always deeply believed in the mission to infuse SEL into the fabric of schools. And, as described above, now is a more important time than ever. The good news is that there is a huge push to integrate SEL into schools, particularly with comprehensive programs such as the RULER program out of Yale, with the goal of creating an emotionally healthy school climate that then funnels down into classroom lessons and curricular components.

Source: Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence

At The Langley School, we have not only begun to infuse the RULER program into our curriculum, but I have also been given the exciting opportunity to create a comprehensive program for Langley that integrates skills across three domains central to development, with the goal of producing graduates who are resilient, adaptable, and authentic. These domains are: Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Responsiveness, and Health and Wellness. This type ofintentional work, that infiltrates the curriculum and the school climate, is essential in order to help our children develop resilience, adaptability, authenticity, and the confidence to go forth into the world. I am excited to develop the program in collaboration with the faculty and parent community at a time when this type of work is very much needed.

Current Langley parents, please join me on Wednesday, October 11 at the first PALS meeting and speaker series of the year to continue this discussion and learn more about the unique SEL work that we will be living and experiencing. Prospective parents, we hope you will join our upcoming webinar, also on October 11. Register today to learn more about Langley and this exciting work!

Dr. Sarah Sumwalt is Langley's newly hired director of social and emotional learning. Dr. Sumwalt is a clinical psychologist who previously spent four years in private practice. She has long been dedicated to SEL work and the ways in which we can best support children's social and emotional development in the academic setting. Read Dr. Sumwalt's bio

By Brent Locke, Dean of Students

As our 75th school year begins, our hallways are once again filled with the laughter of children, the gifts of friendship, and the comfort in knowing we have a joyous place to learn and grow each and every day. Of course, these happy emotions can be hard to reconcile with the helplessness we may feel in our inability to act and in the guilt we may feel in our abundance as we watch so many in our country and around the world battle the destructive and unrelenting forces of Mother Nature. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the earthquake in Mexico have wrought untold devastation in the Caribbean, Mexico, Texas, Florida, and much of the south. The needs are many and urgent as families, businesses, and schools are trying to survive, regroup, and rebuild. It is in these times that Langley shines brightest as we come together to help those who most need our support.

 Dr. Jane Goodall at The Langley School
Dr. Jane Goodall, former Lower School Head Ghetta Hirsch, and former Head of School Doris Cottam speaking to students about the Roots & Shoots service program which Langley still uses for service learning today.

Langley's history is steeped in the tradition of serving others and supporting those who are most in need. Founded on cooperative partnership principles, parents have been integral to the success and generosity of the school. In 1946, on the heels of the most catastrophic war the world has ever known, Langley parents banded together to collect canned meats, powdered milk, medicine, clothing, soap, and other supplies. The parents sent these items to an organization in Seine, France, that cared for orphans, and as Europe slowly rebuilt, continued to send donations for years to come.

Advertisement for a Langley play that raised funds for Masaai villages in Kenya to help purchase cows.

As the school has grown, so have our students who have become more engaged in service learning and community service. In the 1980s, Langley began collecting books to give to literacy programs across the Washington, DC, area, resulting in thousands of donated books and partnerships that have lasted decades. In the 1990s, Langley fifth-graders held pizza sales that generated over $5,000 in donations that they gave to several charities they supported throughout the decade, including the Juvenile Diabetic Association, Children's Hospital, Cerebral Palsy Association, Boarder Baby Program, Special Olympics, Stop Child Abuse Now Program, and women's shelters.

In the early 2000s, Langley supported several Masaai villages in Kenya, helping to buy cows and goats to improve food instability in the region. Throughout the years, students held bake sales and hamburger sales, milkshake and root beer float bars, and a fundraising dinner at Uno Pizzeria. The Drama Department also wrote a spring play around the charity called "Here Come the Cows," with a portion of the proceeds going to the fund. During the play's intermission, the cast served soup (which was part of the play) to the audience, and that money was also given to the charity. These incredible efforts have strengthened our roots, which are embedded in the tradition of giving, making our community so vibrant and caring over the last 75 years.

During this 2017-2018 75th anniversary school year, Langley is proud to launch a giving campaign that will contain three distinct giving events throughout the year. As we look to improve the lives of those around us, and nurture this tradition of giving in our children, we encourage you to get involved in any way you and your family are able.

Middle School advisory groups serve breakfast to the homeless at So Others Might Eat in 2015, a Langley tradition for more than 40 years.

Fall Hurricane Relief (Urgent):

We have chosen and vetted four organizations that will provide critical and urgent services to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as the earthquake in Mexico. While there are many deserving organizations, our list is simply an effort to provide a few choices as you look to offer support.

  1. Google Relief Fund (Hurricane Irma relief for everyone)

"Your donation will go directly to Network for Good and then will be evenly distributed to Catholic Relief Services, UNICEF, and the American Red Cross. These organizations are opening shelters, providing aid, and distributing supplies to people and communities impacted by Irma. Google will cover all processing fees so that 100% of your donation goes to where it is needed most." -Google

  1. SPCA of Texas (Hurricane Harvey relief for animals)

"The SPCA of Texas is putting every available resource behind assisting pets and people who have evacuated the Gulf Coast to the North Texas area right here in North Texas and beyond. In the meantime, we continue to rescue, heal, and find homes for the pets right here in our backyard." -SPCA

  1. Global Giving (Hurricane Irma relief that disperses money to local charities)

"This fund will provide relief to survivors in the form of emergency supplies like food, water, and medicine in addition to longer-term recovery assistance to help residents recover and rebuild. All donations to this fund will exclusively support any necessary relief and recovery efforts from this storm in the U.S. and Caribbean." -Global Giving

  1. Save the Children (Earthquake relief in Mexico)

"Save the Children's Mexico response team has quickly mobilized to ensure the children in shelters are protected and learning, with access to safe spaces to learn and play. The team is also delivering shelter kits and household supplies to help families rebuild their homes and their lives. Your generous gift is 100% tax deductible. Your support will help us protect vulnerable children and provide desperately needed relief to families." -Save the Children

Winter 2017 Holiday Drives:

Each year, Langley runs three donation drives across the campus to help support organizations that we have partnered with for many years. The Black Student Fund (BSF), Latino Student Fund (LSF), and So Others Might Eat (S.O.M.E.) have been integral parts of the Washington, DC, community for generations, and the Langley community's support has been vital to sustaining these organizations. Holiday donation items in the past have included: warm hats and mittens, new toys, and staple items like socks and toothbrushes for the homeless.

Spring 2018: New Initiative

We are thrilled to launch a new initiative this year. On Saturday, March 17, the school will be hosting the Langley Day of Giving. This is a culminating community service event to help celebrate a year of giving, tradition, and history. Our all-hands-on-deck activity will include the whole family, and will involve assembling food donations in the gym. This will be the finale of a week-long giving event during which students will plan different donation drives across campus to benefit organizations of their choosing. Current Langley families, mark your calendars for March 17!

As we joyously celebrate our 75th anniversary at Langley this year, we hope your family will join us in honoring Langley's legacy of service.









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