Annual Report 2020-2021
From the Board Chair
Dear Walden Community,
As we navigate another school year, we do so against the backdrop of a world that demands the kind of inquisitive, empathetic, and creative minds that Walden is committed to nurturing. As I reflect on our many successes last year, I am so proud of the way our community not only persevered but thrived! Despite incredible adversity, Walden celebrated its 50th anniversary, our 6th graders matriculated to a wonderful array of middle schools, we achieved record-setting Walden Fund support both in participation and in total funds, our fiscal health is strong and stable, and we welcomed 56 new students following a very strong admissions cycle. Walden would not be where it is without your support. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, thank you!
Ours is a learning community like no other, and I am excited to introduce myself as your Board Chair. I am now in my fifth year on the Board and through that time have gained a deep and sincere appreciation for the Walden mission. When Jaime, Natalie, Emily and I joined the Walden community, we knew it was a special place but I didn’t expect it to resonate so deeply with our family. Through Natalie, who graduated this past spring, our family has witnessed the beautiful journey that is a Walden education. We are thrilled to remain part of the Walden experience as Emily immerses herself in the Ponderer traditions and all that 4th grade has to offer.
Now that our students have returned to campus and we have begun to greet one another in-person again (many for the first time), we celebrate the unique and special learning that happens within Walden’s community. This year, we will continue to navigate the pandemic as we re-introduce many of the programs that define a Walden education. We also look forward to the accreditation process facilitated by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS). That process will serve as a springboard for our work developing a new 5-year strategic plan. Walden is a strong, resilient, and compassionate community, and I look forward to all that the year has in store.
Chair, Board of Trustees
Reimagining Curriculum for a Pandemic Environment
Walden faculty’s intrepidness and creativity during the reopening of school amid a global pandemic crystalized what we celebrate when we think of Walden’s longevity: that in a community with a common mission, we can do anything.
We held fast to our belief that maintaining steady learning communities creates the stability that allows children to learn, grow, and take risks. Families chose a pathway: the remote learning Walden@Home program or the Enhanced Hybrid program, which participated in a phased reopening according to public health guidelines. In either program, students were thoughtfully placed in small cohorts that remained consistent for the entire school year.
The Pre-K program returned to in-person learning first and led the way in the re-opening process. While implementing new practices such as individualized and physically distanced activity stations, they maintained the hallmarks of Walden’s Pre-K: developing student autonomy and honoring their “work,”which is play.
K-6 teachers trained in online pedagogies for our Bridges in Mathematics curriculum and Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop. We adopted Zoom, SeeSaw, and Microsoft Teams as online platforms in ways that fostered connection, engagement, and critical thinking. Specialists took on a new three-week block schedule and rose to the challenges of several changes throughout the year, moving from teaching students online at home and in classrooms to teaching in outdoor spaces on campus. At the beginning of every new block, homeroom teachers and specialists alike designed, planned, and assembled Boomerang Bags filled with learning materials for the upcoming weeks.
Our sense of community thrived through virtual curriculum and community events as well as weekly assemblies with guest speakers, classes, authors, and activists presenting.
Through all the changes of the year, we maintained our commitment to a child-centered program that nurtures wonder and inspires global citizenship. Pre-K students made hands-on discoveries in a new design thinking curriculum, and K-6 students engaged in real-world problem solving through Imaginative Inquiry units that centered themes of environmental and social justice.
The north star for our work this year was that we wanted children to remain intact. Teachers centered on student wellbeing and brought fun, ease, and a strong sense of identity and community into their cohorts. They provided opportunities for students to share, be listened to, and connect with their peers. Through their tireless work and commitment, they carried forth Walden’s mission of nurturing children’s natural sense of wonder in this new landscape.
Class of 2021: Sonoran Bumblebees
6th Grade Mentor Assembly Performances
Faculty and Staff Spotlight
As we commemorate 50 years of Walden, we also celebrate the people who make it such a warm and wonderful place for children to learn and grow. Billy Christian, Sophia Hamilton, Carolyn Hancock, Grace Park Cubas, and Daphne Trager are some of the faculty and staff members who have shaped the Walden mission and program for more than 20 years.
Walden families come in many forms and configurations. What they all have in common is this: they are essential to the fabric of our community and the success of Walden's mission. In this Annual Report, meet a few of the families who have made powerful contributions to our community by making Walden one of their philanthropic and volunteering priorities and modeling for our students that we all have stewardship for the world in which we live.