Fifth Grader Organizes Road Clean-Up

Willow fifth grader Juliana Holmes organized and led the first annual Black River Road Clean-Up as her Passion Hour Project, a dedicated time for Willow students to design and pursue their own projects, related to what they most care about. Read more on Juliana’s clean-up from The Black River Journal below:

Juliana Holmes and the trash her team cleaned up.

“The Holmes family enjoy their walks down Black River Road in Pottersville, but during one family stroll they counted 650 pieces of trash. So, their oldest daughter, Juiliana, a 5th grader at The Willow School, decided to do something about it.

Not only did she organize a clean-up of the road with her family and friends, she is analyzing the litter to see what people are throwing out and will present her findings to her class when she returns to school in September, as part of her Passion Hour Project. According to her Dad, Rob, she has made some pretty astute connections. ‘Dad, these look like people are throwing out all their bad habits,’ she told her father. ‘There’s soda and alcohol and cigarettes.’

When asked how she felt to be making a difference, she said ‘I feel good about it … I don’t really feel like walking on a road with trash on it.’

‘Thank you!’ a driver yelled out as he passed Juliana and her volunteer clean-up crew.

See more photos on!


First Graders Build Model Town

The Willow School’s first graders built their own town on Willow’s campus as the culmination of their lessons on community on Friday, June 1. Willow’s Community in the Woods serves not only as a celebration of the students’ learning, but also as a fundraiser for Homeless Solutions, Inc. Students raised over $800 for Homeless Solutions!

“In the first grade, we study different communities, we start small with the classroom community, go to the school community and at the end of the year, we move onto the town and global community,” Willow’s first-grade teacher, Katie Lombardo, told the Courier News.

Over the course of this school year, first graders took field trips into town, experienced the neighborhood first-hand, and interviewed important community workers. Students met Peapack-Gladstone Mayor William Muller and visited the Peapack and Gladstone Police Department. They learned about money at the Peapack-Gladstone Bank, cashiered and decorated cookies at The Fresh Market in Bedminster, and learned about the local library system. At the Public Works Department, the students not only learned about maintaining a town, they also helped the PWD out by laying mulch at a local park!

As first graders studied Peapack-Gladstone and neighboring communities, they asked, “What is a community? What are some of the roles and responsibilities of community members? What makes a community successful?”

First graders also visited Homeless Solutions, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Morristown that offers supportive housing to homeless and low-income families and individuals. The visit prompts students to discuss what responsibilities the members of a community assume to support those in need. Tamala Reynolds, a volunteer manager at Homeless Solutions, told the Courier News that Willow students learned a lot during their visit. By the end, their questions had evolved from, “Can people  bring their pets?” to questions like, “How do they get to work if they don’t have a car?”

These visits are just the beginning. Students deepen their understanding of banking, food, retail and service businesses, laws, citizenship and government planning through a number of creative, collaborative projects, leading up to the annual Community in the Woods learning celebration. “The kids do mapping, they do money in math, and they learn about needs and wants in that way,” Lombardo told the Courier News on Friday. “They did job applications, which are hanging up at the mayor’s office here, to figure out which station they were going to run.”

At Community in the Woods, students assumed the roles of the community workers they’ve studied. Visitors to this town in the woods can traded money for tokens that they could use at each station, getting their fingers printed at the police station, making and mailing a card at the post office, purchasing books from the library, and buying food and beverages at the local market.

Read the Courier News/Home News Tribune article on this year’s Community in the Woods here, and find out more about how this learning celebration defines Willow’s first grade curriculum here. Willow is still accepting applications for first grade for the 2018-19 school year! Start your application today!

Self-Discovery in Kindergarten

On May 17, kindergartners celebrated the culmination of their studies of the self, answering the essential question “Who Am I?” by introducing their spirit animals, performing a play, singing songs in Spanish, and sharing their colorful artwork. Kindergarten students explore the self throughout the year in an integrated, hands-on, and creative curriculum that develops the full potential of the individual while teaching the importance of building a strong community. As their sense of self grows, students become mindful, active participants in their communities and motivated, open-minded leaders of their own learning.  

I fly. I swoop. I glide. I am happy. I am a flower lover. I am a hummingbird! Sara

Kindergartners start the year exploring what is unique and what is the same about themselves and others. They look at the attributes that make them an individual, such as what they look like, the things they do, and how they change and grow. Kindergartners learn what makes them unique and valued.

I explore. I listen. I stare. I am curious. I am smart. I am a snake! Colin

In social studies, they investigate, through lessons about land, sea, and continents, other “selves” around the world. They discover that we all have the same basic needs. This is reinforced in science class, where they explore anatomy and learn that humans are all the same inside. It’s also reinforced in Spanish with a poem called “I Am the Same and I Am Different.” The poem describes the ways that we are all similar, from the things we do, like eating and sleeping, to the things we feel, like love for each other.

I balance. I build. I learn. I am jazzy. I am happy. I am a flamingo! Katie

As students become aware of themselves as individuals, they explore the self in relation to others around them. Examining themselves as part of a whole, they think about themselves in the context of the classroom, school, family, and the world. They learn that each person has responsibilities, and mutual cooperation and support ensure the well-being of all community members. In science, kindergartners study the ecosystem of Willow’s pond, building their understanding of community by learning about the interdependence of the plants and animals that live there.

At their culminating learning celebration in May, kindergartners present their spirit animal sculptures. Together, students create a totem pole built out of these animals, recognizing what makes them different and unique while, through the process of stacking the totem, acknowledging that they are a part of a greater whole.

I run. I persevere. I play. I am fierce. I am smart. I am a wolf!Hazel

Kindergartners also perform a play, The Rainbow People. The play demonstrates what the children have learned: that all humans are different, yet we all have the same fundamental needs and feelings. The rainbow metaphor is a beautiful, timeless, and age-appropriate expression of this belief: we are each a colorful ray of light, and together we are a beautiful rainbow.

Learn more about Willow’s kindergarten curriculum. Tuition for Willow’s kindergarten program for the 2018-19 school year is$18,000. Find out more about tuition rates and financial aid here.

National Ethics Bowl Winners Visit Willow

Including Willow alumna Megan Traudt!

Willow’s emphasis on virtues and ethics serves as a moral foundation for students throughout their lives. Just ask Willow alumna Megan Traudt! On May 16, Megan returned to The Willow School after winning the National High School Ethics Bowl with her Kent Place Ethics Bowl team. Dr. Karen Rezach, the Director of The Ethics Institute at Kent Place School, Megan, and her teammate Olivia Zeiner-Morrish spoke to Willow middle school and fifth grade students about the ethics competition, relating it to Willow’s virtues program.  

At The National High School Ethics Bowl, students discuss and take a stand on real-life ethical issues. Students are rewarded for the depth of their thought and the respect they show to the diverse perspectives of their peers. In each round of competition, teams take turns analyzing complex ethical dilemmas. Each team was given 16 identical case studies in advance to prepare for and research.

As Megan and Olivia explained, their team started dissecting each case study by first determining which values they hold and how they relate to the issue at hand. Megan said that she was immediately reminded of Willow’s virtues program.

“Virtues or values were both implicitly and explicitly taught during my time at Willow,” Megan said. “The values that Willow taught me are the ones that I brought to this competition. Willow taught me to think deeply about virtues and my values.”

Megan and Olivia gave an example of one of the ethical dilemmas they discussed to Willow students, asking them to consider: Is heckling unethical? Willow students discussed the sometimes gray area between joking or participating as an audience member and being cruel. They discussed whether it made a difference if the heckler was singling out one person versus trash-talking a team, and if age and professionalism matter. Meaning, is it okay to heckle a professional sports player, but unethical for parents of an opposing team to heckle a child player?

Students spoke about respect and compassion as Willow virtues that applied to this issue. Megan and Olivia agreed. One of the values that Megan’s team considered in their assessment of this issue was respect, a virtue that Megan remembers from her time at Willow. “Respect and responsibility–that was the theme every January,” she said.

Olivia also introduced the ethical theory of consequentialism, where instead of looking solely at whether the act itself is ethical or unethical, you also consider the broad impact of that action. As parents and Willow teachers in the audience pointed out, this ties directly to Willow’s emphasis on systems thinking, where students focus on the unintended consequences of actions past and present. For example, fifth graders are currently studying the agricultural revolution, learning about the unintended consequences of the revolution, and imagining ways in which those negative effects could have been avoided.

Watch a video describing the Ethics Bowl here:

National High School Ethics Bowl 2018 from National High School Ethics Bowl on Vimeo.

 Thank you to Dr. Rezach, Olivia, and Megan for speaking with our middle school and fifth grade students! We hope to see more of our students participate in the Ethics Bowl in coming years!

Learn more about The National Ethics Bowl here. Read more about the Kent Place team’s win here. Click here to learn more about Willow’s virtues program.

Kindness Rocks at Willow!

Willow’s culture of kindness and mutual respect is something you immediately see and feel the moment you step on to campus. It’s evident in Morning Gathering, when we gather the entire school community and set a purpose to our day. It’s evident at our community-oriented lunch with mixed-grade assigned seating. But most of all, you can see the impact of this culture of kindness in the ideas and interactions between our students.

This year, “kindness” has been a recurring theme for fourth graders in particular, from the food drive they led to benefit The Food Bank Network of Somerset County last fall to their ongoing learning relationship with Orly Wahba, director, author, and founder and CEO of Life Vest Inside.

Recently, fourth graders, led by Robbie Judd, continued to take a leading role in the Willow and local community as kindness ambassadors by hosting a Kindness Rocks Painting Party at Willow. The idea came from the fourth graders themselves.

“While Maya, one of our fourth graders, was on a trip with her family, she found a painted rock with a message on one side and #kindnessrocks on the other side,” fourth grade teacher Ms. Touhey explains. When Maya shared the rock and her story with the class, her classmates immediately began to research the hashtag. They discovered the story behind these rocks:

“That very day, the fourth graders went off and collected rocks from around campus and wrote messages on them,” Ms. Touhey said. “The kids loved the idea that their positive messages could make someone’s day.”

That day inspired Robbie Judd to dedicate his Genius Hour–a special time during the school day to work on student-directed projects–to organizing a Kindness Rocks painting party, open to the public. Robbie and his classmates decided they would make the painting party another benefit for The Food Bank Network of Somerset County, too.

The painting party was a great success! Attendees made colorful rocks with messages like “You are loved,” “Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo,” and “Be kind” painted on them. The event raised $125 for the local food bank.

“I hope that people that came to the workshop felt great about being kind and helping other people,” fourth grader Robbie says. “I hope that the people that find the rocks are already having a good day, and it keeps getting better because of the kind words on the rock.”

Help spread kindness in our community! Find out more about the Kindness Rocks project here, and donate to The Food Bank Network of Somerset County here.

New Tuition Rates for 2018-19

The Willow School is excited to announce that, after a careful review of Willow’s core mission and thinking ahead to the school’s goals for the future, tuition rates for the 2018-19 school year are being decreased for the lower school program, preschool (age 3) to fifth grade, and only marginally increased in the middle school program. 

The Willow School’s new tuition levels are:
Grade Level 2018-19 Tuition

PS (5 full days/week) 12,000
Kindergarten 18,000
1st grade 24,000    
2nd grade 27,000
3rd grade 27,000
4th and 5th grades 28,000
6th – 8th grades 32,000

One of Willow’s founding principles is to build a more sustainable world, using systems thinking to consider the implications of every decision. Willow teaches its students how to apply this thinking not only to their school learning, but to the world around them. We are proud to say that we also use this thinking to continuously improve the school itself. We believe these new tuition rates will make choosing Willow a more sustainable educational path for current and new families, and that the quality of education we provide will improve our entire community.

Willow is now accepting applications for the 2018-19 school year. Find out more about how to apply here, and contact our Director of Admissions, Sally Zeiner, to schedule a tour or submit an application today! Call (908) 470-9500 or email

“Play” Isn’t a Four-Letter Word

How do children learn through play?

Children are naturally driven to learn about and understand their world. From the moment they are born, their mission is to grow in every way: physically, emotionally, and cognitively. As parents, our goal is to support and encourage that growth. But as we work to help our children grow, there’s one thing we might not consider as critical to their learning: play.

As a recent New York Time article shows, free play is critical for a child’s cognitive and social development. Children use all kinds of imaginative play–not just time with toys–to explore, experiment with, and define their world.

“Play is not a specific activity, it’s an approach to learning, an engaged, fun, curious way of discovering your world,” Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of applied psychology at New York University who studies play and learning in babies and young children, told the New York Times.

The article goes on to cite statistics that report children have little or no time to play at school. Not at Willow. This way of learning is honored and cherished at Willow, both during class time and ample free play time. From preschool through eighth grade, our students learn in an environment that encourages play, exploration, and hands-on experience. This environment allows for self-motivated, playful learning that creates a love for learning that lasts as children grow.

Come see this learning up close by scheduling a tour or attending an upcoming learning celebration! Contact Willow’s Director of Admissions, Sally Zeiner, for more information on learning celebrations at or (908) 470-9500.

Willow Alumna Hosts “Girl Rising” Screening

Willow alumna Greta Schacht will be hosting a screening of the film “Girl Rising,” a groundbreaking documentary film about girls’ education around the world, at The Willow School on May 24.

Girl Rising” is not a just a movie; it’s a movement for girls’ education and empowerment. Around the world, millions of girls face barriers to education that boys do not. “Girl Rising” tells the stories of nine incredible girls who lives have been affected by the absolute power of education–or lack thereof. When Greta saw the film, she was immediately inspired to do more.

“From what I’ve been taught at Willow and have experienced in my own life, one small act truly can make a big difference,” Greta said. “If this film can inspire someone to go out and take that extra step, whether that be something as small as telling their friends to watch this movie or as big as raising money or going out and volunteering, everything counts. The world isn’t as big as it seems. We are all connected by our humanity, and I hope that this film reminds people of that.”

India production shoot

Greta’s screening of “Girl Rising” will take place on Thursday, May 24 in the Barn Studio at Willow at 1150 Pottersville Rd in Gladstone, NJ. Tickets cost $10, and the price of your ticket goes to the Girl Rising organization. Doors 6:30pm. Film starts at 7pm. Light refreshments will be served. Due to adult themes in the film, the screening will be for attendees ages 18 and up.

Click here to buy your tickets online!

Want to learn more about how Greta found out about Girl Rising and how it’s inspired her? Click here to read an interview with Greta by Willow Alumni Society Coordinator Gabi Amaral about Girl Rising and more!

Willow Turns Teal for Food Allergy Awareness



What do Niagara Falls, the Empire State Building, and The Willow School all have in common? They’re all turning teal for Food Allergy Awareness Week!


The Willow School, like a number of other significant institutions and landmarks, is shining a light on food allergies for Food Allergy Awareness Week through Turn it Teal, an organization dedicated to lighting sites in the signature color of food allergy awareness during this week.

From May 16-18, The Willow School signs and Farmhouse will be lit in teal. This is a great opportunity to raise food allergy awareness and support people who deal with allergies every day, including Willow students.

Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 13-19, is a national awareness campaign to educate, advocate, and unite in support of Americans affected by food allergies and anaphylaxis.

“The food allergy epidemic shows no signs of abating,” said James R. Baker, Jr M.D., CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). “We must change the conversation surrounding food allergy. This means coming together to shine a light on food allergy as a serious public health issue, educate others about how they can help those with food allergies stay safe, and advocate on behalf of the food allergy community.”

“Shine a Light” on food allergy awareness is an extension of Willow’s commitment to creating an inclusive, healthy environment for all children, including those with food allergies. The Willow School has embraced an allergy-conscious approach since the early 2000s. Willow is a nut-free school, and our lunch program accommodates a number of food sensitivities, from gluten- and dairy-free to vegetarian diets and more.

“Our approach to managing food allergies here at Willow is to educate, advocate, and raise awareness for all individuals and families affected by food allergies,” said Willow’s school nurse Melisa Sussex. “‘Turning it Teal’ is a reflection of Willow’s mission and our virtues. Virtues like compassion and respect are incorporated into each day at Willow to create an environment in which all students with food allergies feel safe and included. It is wonderful to be a part of a community that continues to create opportunities to showcase our dedication to supporting students and community members with food allergies.”

Click here to read more about our lunch program and allergy policies.

Congratulations: Class of 2018 Acceptances

Congratulations to The Willow School Class of 2018!

Willow’s eighth grade students are ready for the challenges of high school and beyond. At Willow, these students have grown into passionate, inquisitive, confident, and ethical people. They are graduating with strong critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills, a love of learning that will last a lifetime, and a deep understanding of how our actions impact the world around us. We are extraordinarily proud of who they are and what they have accomplished!

We are excited to share the Secondary School decisions for this outstanding group of inspired scholars. Willow’s Class of 2018 will be attending the following excellent schools in the fall:

Bernards High School
Cristo Rey Newark High School
Kent Place School
Mt. Olive High School
Newark Academy
Oratory Prep
Proctor Academy
Rutgers Preparatory School
Solebury School
St. Andrew’s School, DE
West Morris Mendham High School

We will miss you all at Willow, even as we look forward to your next success! Best of luck to you in your studies in high school and beyond!

Click here to learn more about Willow’s graduates.