About Westtown SchoolEdit
Founded in 1799 by the Religious Society of Friends, Westtown’s 600-acre campus is located in historic Chester County, PA, 25 miles west of Philadelphia. Westtown is a coeducational, college preparatory day and boarding school for nearly 800 students in grades pre-K – 12. Westtown is still a Quaker school, but it welcomes students of all religious faiths.
Westtown offers an academic program that is both rigorous and engaging. Each student at Westtown is challenged to realize his or her intellectual, physical, and spiritual potential. A spirit of inquiry reigns in classrooms, and Westtown expects students to be critical, independent thinkers who can work with a spirit of cooperation, understanding and tolerance of the views of others. Westtown believes in the importance of integrity, simplicity, equality, stewardship of the earth, and a concern for peace and justice, and emphasizes these values in classes.
At all levels, the Westtown experience is defined by its community life. This plays out in weekly Meeting for Worship and participation in service and the Work Program. These shared events reflect and teach such fundamental Quaker values as building consensus, non-violent resolution of conflict, and the dignity of physical work.
Coeducational since the school’s founding, Westtown’s student body is wonderfully diverse. Over 20% are American students of color, and another 20% are Quakers. In the Upper School—where boarding is the capstone of Westtown’s program and is required in 11th and 12th grades—students come from more than 25 states and 20 foreign countries. The emphasis on diversity at Westtown is mission-driven in an effort to educate students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century: Westtown inspires and prepares its graduates to be stewards and leaders of a better world.
Westtown School first opened its doors in May, 1799. It was founded by Philadelphia Quakers who wanted to preserve and pass on to their children the beliefs that were central to them. They raised the money to build a boarding school and purchased 600 acres of land in rural Chester County—a full day’s coach ride from Philadelphia—where they could provide a “guarded” education in a healthy environment away from the secular influences of the city. For many years Westtown was nearly self-sufficient, with the campus providing raw materials used in construction of its buildings and food for the people who lived and worked at the school.
Although they had separate classes until about 1870, the education Westtown offered boys and girls was much the same even in the early years of the school, reflecting the Quakers’ belief in the equality of all people. Students studied reading, penmanship, grammar, mathematics, geography and science. Boys learned practical skills such as surveying and bookkeeping, and girls had sewing class.
The rolling hills and farmland on which Westtown School was—and still is—situated lent itself to many hours of exploration and recreation for the students and teachers. Camp suppers, hiking, birding, sledding, and ice skating on the pond were among the activities enjoyed by students. One young student, Samuel L. Allen, who attended Westtown from 1852-53, never forgot the joy of coasting down the snow-covered hills at Westtown. While working in later years on sled designs for his manufacturing company, Allen sent models to be tested on the hills of Westtown. One of these sleds was the Flexible Flyer, patented in 1889.
The 1880s brought great physical changes to Westtown. The main building was replaced with a structure designed by architect Addison Hutton, which was completed in 1888 and is still in use today. During the 20th century, the student body and the curriculum both became more diverse. Visual and performing arts were added, for example, and non-Quakers, African-American, and international students were admitted. Westtown’s commitment to service became more explicit with the creation of the Work Program and Service Network.
In the 21st century, Westtown has placed renewed emphasis on environmental sustainability. Westtown facilities now include buildings utilizing geothermal heating systems and solar panels to offset electricity costs, for example, and school vehicles are powered by biodiesel. The school supports community-based agriculture by dedicating a percentage of its 600 acres to farmland, some of which supplies produce for its dining room. The new position of Environmental Sustainability Coordinator is responsible for developing new initiatives, including curriculum, that reflect the most current thinking about how to live responsibly on the earth.
Westtown’s Esther Duke Archives is a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to collecting and maintaining materials relating to the people and history of the school. Students and historians alike use the Archives for historical research.
At all levels, Westtown’s program intentionally emphasizes and reinforces the following skills that have been identified as being essential for success in the 21st century. These include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Collaboration and leadership
- Agility and adaptability deriving from experiential learning
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
In Westtown’s Lower School, even the smallest children learn their questions, ideas, and experiences are worthwhile. Teachers foster experiences that allow children to do their own investigating. Reading and writing are emphasized, with daily workshops at all grade levels modeled on the Reading and Writing Project of Teachers College, Columbia University. Westtown uses the Chicago Math curriculum through which children become keenly motivated to discover practical solutions to problems, advancing in reasoning and analysis to become real mathematical thinkers. Classes are small (with a maximum of 18 students), and there are dedicated teachers for science, technology, Spanish, art, visual and instrumental music, physical education and reading and math support. All Lower School students attend weekly Meeting for Worship and take part in service projects.
Middle School at Westtown builds on the innate enthusiasm of pre-teen students. Classes and experiences are designed to maximize hands-on, active learning. Along with the core subjects of English, math, social studies and science, all students take a world language (Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, or Latin) and participate in physical education or interscholastic athletics on a daily basis. Technology is used in sophisticated ways by both teachers and students to enhance learning. Overnight canoe trips for all three grades and experiences on Westtown’s ropes course emphasize independence and leadership. Faculty members are committed to providing a developmentally appropriate program for students in the middle grades, and curriculum (such as the new 8th grade option, History of the Middle East) emphasizes relevance and the critical thinking and research skills needed for Upper School and beyond.
In Westtown’s Upper School, the core curriculum in 9th and 10th grades provides a foundation of yearlong courses in each area of study. Eleventh and 12th grade students pursue a program of elective options filled with research, writing, and applied laboratory experiences. The school offers seminar-style classes to ensure that diverse voices are heard. Along with a growing number of top independent schools nationwide, Westtown no longer uses the AP designation for its advanced classes; instead, faculty develop courses that challenge students to engage in critical thinking and independent research. Examples of advanced coursework now being offered include The Holocaust and Genocide, Linear Algebra, Evolutionary History of Life on Earth, Research Ecology, Spanish 6, and Inorganic Chemistry. The intellectual inquisitiveness fostered by classes such as these characterize a Westtown education and make its students highly attractive to outstanding colleges and universities. Westtown’s College Counseling Program is a year-long process that emphasizes decision-making and self-knowledge. Students are well-supported throughout the college application process while taking on increasing responsibility for the next phase of their education.
At Westtown, many co-curricular activities are vital parts of the overall educational program. Among them are:
- Athletics: Westtown’s interscholastic athletic and physical education programs encourage healthy athletic competition while providing opportunities to develop skills, teamwork and self-confidence. Every student takes part in the school’s strong, wide-ranging program which includes 21 varsity teams. Westtown requires interscholastic competition for all Middle and Upper School students, providing a range of offerings so that everyone is challenged and successful. Its teams have enjoyed considerable success, allowing many athletes to compete with distinction in college and beyond. The school’s athletic facilities—a state-of-the-art Athletic Center dedicated in 2007, 14 tennis courts, 2 cross country courses, 10 playing fields including one softball and two baseball diamonds, and a brand-new all-weather track—support the development of student athletes.
- International Student Program: Westtown’s International Student Program is a purposeful part of its educational experience, rooted in the belief that the entire school community is enriched by the diversity of perspective its international students offer. There are nearly 60 students in the Upper School coming from 20 different countries. Distinguishing features of Westtown’s International Student Program include emphasis on learning and speaking English (in three levels of ESOL classes, by placing new international students with roommates from another language group, and limited numbers of students from any one country); an International Student Coordinator and a host family program that matches international students with local families; support for taking the TOEFL and in applying to American colleges; support for banking, travel, and documentation; and an active and vibrant International Student Organization.
- Residential Life: Living and learning in community has defined the Westtown School experience for over 200 years. Boarding life is not only a learning experience in its own right but is also valuable preparation for college. The supervised independence of the boarding program provides a stepping-stone toward self-sufficiency in college. Westtown alumni report that the experience of actually living in the learning environment is one of the most important features of a Westtown education, positively impacting their lives and their readiness for college, both academically and socially. Westtown’s Residential Life Program teaches students to develop time management and effective study skills, recognize and appreciate positive leadership, take responsibility for their actions, manage stress and deal with conflict in healthy ways, and form a variety of lasting and constructive relationships.
- Exchange Programs: The Department of Languages at Westtown offers students the opportunity to participate in reciprocal exchange programs that are tied to the academic curriculum. These give students the practical experience of actually using the language within its cultural context. Annual exchanges occur with sister schools in Celaya, Mexico, Normandy or Martinique, and Stuttgart, and Westtown also offers exchanges during some years in Ghana, Italy, Japan, and Russia. Additionally, Westtown is one of only five American schools affiliated with Round Square, a world-wide association of more than 50 schools on five continents sharing common goals. Students attending Round Square schools are expected to make a strong commitment, beyond academic excellence, to personal development and responsibility. This is achieved by participating in exchange programs—as well as community service, work projects and adventuring—which can, and often do, take students half way around the world.
- Senior Projects: Westtown’s Senior Project challenges students to take ownership of and have a powerful voice in their education and development as learners and individuals. Students may sample a potential career, find an opportunity to participate in extended community service, or explore a deep personal interest. The Senior Project is a capstone to the Westtown program and an entryway to post-secondary pursuits.
- Theater Program: Drama and musical theater are important parts of the Westtown experience for students of all ages. Each Lower School class presents a play every year, and the Middle School alternates all-school musicals with grade-level productions of Shakespeare’s plays. In Upper School, students present two fall plays, a musical, and the Senior Play, and they also direct their teachers in the annual Faculty Play.
- Clubs: Clubs at Westtown are student-organized and reflect student interests. Student organizations in the Upper School, all of which have an adult sponsor, add to the vibrancy of student life and include such groups as Amnesty International, the Business Club, Film Club, Model UN, Multicultural Coalition, Philanthropy, Step Club, and Ultimate Frisbee. Some, such as Robotics, work together intensively in preparation for competitions. Students in Earth Service recently organized the first Friends Schools Day of the Earth, a two-day conference attended by representatives from Friends Schools across the country.
- Service Learning: Service is an integral part of a Westtown education and expresses the school’s essential belief that there is that of God within everyone. Westtown creates opportunities for students to engage in meaningful service within and beyond the school community. Established service sites include local Quaker retirement communities, West Chester Community Center and Head Start, the Westtown Lower and Middle School after-care programs, Elwyn (a school for people with developmental disabilities), and La Comunidad Hispana, where Westtown students help Spanish-speaking adults study for their GED exams.
- Work Program: Westtown’s Work Program reaffirms the dignity of all work. It exposes students to a variety of working experiences, such as janitorial and kitchen jobs. Work Program was originally developed as a response to the labor shortages of World War II, and in the decades since, it has become an important part of the educational process.
- Summer Sessions: Westtown offers an array of summer programs for students of all ages dedicated to providing opportunities that are creative and enriching, as well as being fun. Westtown’s Summer Sessions also offer some classes for high school credit. For a full list of offerings, go to Westtown's Summer Session Page .
In order to prepare students for living and leading in a diverse and complex world, Westtown School welcomes students, families, faculty, staff, and trustees with differences based on (but not limited to) race, color, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, family structure, and economic background.
To request information and applications or to learn about open house opportunities, go to the Westtown's Admission Page.
To speak with an admissions representative or schedule a visit, call 610-399-7900 or email . Westtown encourages campus visits as being the best way to get an accurate sense of its students, teachers, and campus.
Westtown has a thriving and active alumni/ae community. Each year, hundreds of alums return to campus for Alumni Weekend, the second weekend in May. But Westtown also offers many other ways to become involved, stay connected, help current students, and network with other Westtown alumni. For more information, contact the Alumni Office at 610-399-7912 or via email at .
To join the online alumni community, go to the Westtown Community Page.
To view or upload Westtown-related videos, see Westtown Tv.
Make an online gift at Donation Page.
For more information about all aspects of Westtown School, go to www.Westtown.edu.
The general phone number for Westtown School is 610-399-0123.
The school’s mailing address is Westtown School, PO Box 1799, Westtown, PA 19395-1799.
The street address (for shipping and online map information) is 975 Westtown Road, Westtown, PA 19395-1799.
- Charles Polk, Jr. (1788 – 1857), served twice as Governor of Delaware.
- Martha Coffin Wright (December 25, 1806 – 1875) was an American feminist, abolitionist, and signatory of the Declaration of Sentiments -- sister to Lucretia Mott.
- John Howard Pugh (1827 - 1905), Member, United States House of Representative, representing New Jersey's 2nd congressional district (1877-1879).
- Richard T. James (1914 – 1974), with his wife, invented the Slinky.
- Edwin Bell Forsythe (1916 - 1984), Member, United States House of Representatives, represting the State of New Jersey (R).
- Herb Pennock, Class of 1915, Major League Baseball player and manager, baseball Hall of Fame
- Edward Binns, character actor in the 1950's through the 1980's, appearing in "12 Angry Men," "North by Northwest," "Patton," in television episodes of "Twilight Zone," "The Rockford Files," and "M*A*S*H," among many other film and television credits.
- Jim Fowler, Class of 1947, Conservationist and wildlife correspondent/show host - Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom
- Piers Anthony, Class of 1952, best-selling author in the science fiction and fantasy genres.
- Garrick Utley, Class of 1957, the correspondent for CNN’s New York bureau, after serving three years as ABC News’ chief foreign correspondent and 30 years covering international news with NBC News.
- Holland Taylor (born January 14, 1943) is an Emmy Award-winning American actress, known for her film, television and theatre work. She is perhaps best known for her roles as Ruth Dunbar in Bosom Buddies, as Judge Roberta Kittleson in The Practice and as Evelyn Harper in Two and a Half Men.
- Livingston Taylor, singer-songwriter.
- Mary Jean Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief Executive Officer of People to People International [PTPI].
- Marysol Castro (b. September 29, 1976) is the weather anchor for ABC's Good Morning America Weekend Edition; since 2005, she has been the street reporter for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.