The heart of learning at Waynflete

Last week, the New York Times published an article by David Brooks entitled “Students Learn from the People They Love.” A Waynflete parent shared it with her children’s teachers, with a kind note of acknowledgement. The article quickly went viral among Waynflete’s faculty and staff. Brooks’s piece affirms what so many of us appreciate about Waynflete and what makes the school unique: the relationships. Teachers and students “learning to learn, side by side.”

It has been such a pleasure for me to give tours of the new Lower School this year. Prospective families appreciate the beautiful space as much as we all do! Seeing students and teachers in action in purposefully designed classrooms allows parents who are considering Waynflete to see how their children will spend their time: exploring, playing, questioning, connecting, thinking, and learning in relationship with the materials, the space, the teachers, and one another.

But the magic of Waynflete is not about the buildings. The magic is about the relationships.

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Let’s talk Lower School mathematics!

On Wednesday night a group of parents, Lower School math teachers, and Admission staff gathered to engage in some math puzzles and activities and to talk about Waynflete’s elementary school math program.  

Lower School Curriculum Co-Coordinator and 4-5 teacher Kai Bicknell shared a classroom video of a Number Talk, a classroom technique used to build mental math skills, encourage flexible thinking, and develop a better conceptual understanding of the math we do every day. Students demonstrated six different approaches to the computational problem 5 x 19—all without pencil and paper!

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Storytime for young readers

PRINT: A Bookstore again hosted Waynflete faculty and a group of pre-and early readers to enjoy an afternoon of stories and activities.

Three books were highlighted at the event: Melia and Jo by Milly Aronson, Off & Away by Cale Atkinson, and What in the World: Numbers in Nature by Nancy Raines Day. Children made book marks connected to the books’ themes and enjoyed a Scavenger Hunt to explore the store and find cut-out characters from the books.

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Codebreaking at PRINT

A group of Waynflete faculty, the staff from Print: A Bookstore, and a group of eager elementary and middle school students enjoyed an afternoon of coding activities together. The book Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II served as the catalyst for this event. “Coding is something that captures all kinds of minds—the artist, the mathematician, the scientist, the historian, the engineer,” said Lower School Director Anne Hopkins. “There was something for everyone at this event.”

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Kids’ Choice in 2-3

“Kids’ Choice” in Waynflete’s 2-3 program is a thematic study that emerges from students’ suggestions about subjects they would like to explore in greater depth.

Medieval Times

There were several highlights! One of the students’ favorite classes was when we studied the early castles, which mostly consisted of a “keep” on a “motte” with a “bailey” surrounded by a “stockade” and “ditch.” After learning these key terms and their functions, we went outside on a beautiful sunny day and built these early fortresses in the snow with partners. They had to build each part and label it.

Another favorite day was learning all about how to attack and defend a castle.  We split the class in half—the attacking army and the defending army—and turned tables over to create a castle wall.  We acted out using a battering ram, catapult, trebuchet, and siege tower to undermine the castle wall.  The defending army acted out using archers, flaming arrows, hot sand and oil, siege towers, and the structural defenses like the drawbridge and the portcullis.

Lastly, we made catapults using tongue depressors, rubber bands, and a plastic spoon. We had a great time using our catapults to launch jumbo marshmallows at block towers to try to knock them down.


We spent the month studying snakes (taxonomy, characteristics of reptiles, snake anatomy) and had several special guest speakers. Kate Ziminsky came in twice, bringing in snake parts from Chewonki to share with us and then returning with Avi’s dad Alex and their pet snake, a Columbian red-tailed boa.  We also had Denise Cieri of Herp Haven Reptile Rescue come to show us six different live snakes. We saw a 25-pound blood python, a common boa, a royal python, and three corn snakes in different morphs (colors.)


We learned about the internal and external anatomy of sharks and spent some time talking about the largest living shark (the whale shark) and the smallest shark (the dwarf lantern shark). We also learned more about the now-extinct Megalodon, the highlight of which was measuring it’s length (49 feet), longer than one of the 2-3 classrooms! The culminating event was a trip to the UNE Biddeford Marine Science Center, where graduate students showed us spiny dogfish sharks from the Gulf of Maine. We got to touch a shark —her name was Lynette—and and learn more about them. We also got to see and touch different shark jaws and teeth.


Students were introduced to a brief history of robotics, including what the science is and how robots have been and are being used today. Students practiced using specific command language to guide other students to construct exact copies of simple designs without any visual clues. Next, they explored commanding Sphero robotic balls with iPads; using a coding app, they then programmed their ball to navigate a large floor maze. Finally, everyone designed, built, and operated a simple drawing machine that created various scribble designs on paper.