The World at Wyndcroft
Although firmly rooted in tradition, The Wyndcroft School continues to evolve
by Sharon A. Shaw

The world is a constantly changing place, so by focusing only on the latest “thing,” one’s knowledge and skill set can become obsolete in the blink of an eye.

This is not an issue at The Wyndcroft School. Rather than following the newest educational fad, Wyndcroft emphasizes fundamental skill instruction, character development and the pursuit of excellence to ensure its students develop a strong base on which to build. According to head of school Gail L. Wolter, “We create a foundation for lifelong learning by building confidence, not only in educational skills but also in leadership.”

Wyndcroft is a co-educational elementary day school for children in early education through grade eight, known for its small class sizes and strong ties to the community. Ask Wolter to describe the school and she will say “a hidden gem, a lovely little neighborhood school nested in the Rosedale section of Pottstown.” Founded in 1918 by parents of nearby Hill School students for their younger children, Wyndcroft has evolved to meet the changing needs of its students. Two years ago, for example, it added a preschool in the manor house across the street, and this year it is unveiling a new expansion as the result of a successful “Creating a Campus” fundraising campaign.  

Built on its current location in the 1940s, the school received a brick addition many years ago. The new architecture honors the school’s past while also offering windows that welcome natural light and a unique roofline that “gives it a modern flair,” Wolter says. The roof has been constructed in a way that will allow for a “green” roof to be installed in the coming years. Other features include a new gymnasium and performing arts center with a balcony seating area that can also be re-purposed for class activities, as well as additional classrooms for use by middle and upper school students.

“It has changed how we move through and use the school,” says Wolter. “Now with the addition it has much more of a campus feel with different buildings.” Prior to the expansion she says the school relied on an all-purpose room she refers to as the “gyma-cafa-torium.”

“We couldn’t have gym at lunch time because we had to eat. This allows our physical-education program to have a dedicated space and allows us to make our daily schedule much more conducive.”

Of course, the school’s physical plant is not the only aspect to have been modernized. Wyndcroft’s teaching methods have changed with the times, though its curriculum remains firmly rooted in tradition.

“‘Traditional’ is one of the most misunderstood terms,” Wolter says. “People think we are old-fashioned, but we are not. Traditional is a type of classroom where foundational skills are taught. The pendulum swings on fads; we stay strong with facts while exploring application.”

Wyndcroft is particularly proud of its strong math and science programs. Students are immersed in science throughout their time at the school, starting as early as kindergarten. Students in grades four and eight are taught to utilize Lego Mindstorms robotics, according to Kristen Haugen, upper school science teacher. “The fourth graders learn basic programming as part of a project that asks them to program a Mars Rover at the end of an astronomy unit,” she says. “The eighth graders build on their earlier programming experience and work on completing an obstacle course based on a map at the end of a cartography unit.”

During sixth and seventh grades, students using Vernier LabQuest 2 software to quantify data as part of the science program. “Sixth graders love to graph their velocity using the motion sensors and seventh graders monitor the activity of yeast in different environments using gas pressure sensors,” Haugen adds. Additional technology, such as digital microscopes and document cameras, enable the school’s science teachers to project items onto a screen or SMART Board for the class to discuss.

Wyndcroft’s arts, music and foreign language programs are another point of pride. Whereas many elementary schools have diminished their focus on foreign languages, Wyndcroft students learn French at all grade levels and Latin beginning in Grade 5. French, in particular, was chosen in order to expose students to a rich variety of cultural experiences.

Learning about other cultures is an important aspect of education at Wyndcroft, and Wolter says the school is fortunate to host a diverse student population that positively influences the curriculum. Through the “World at Wyndcroft” program, for example, the school selects a region of the world to explore as a group. Speakers and performers—including family members of students—are invited to share their religions, cultures and recipes with others at school assemblies. “It is something our families are connected to,” Wolter says. “We are the school that celebrates everything.”

At a weekly presentation known as Chapel, which is nondenominational, each class takes a turn leading an assembly meeting held every Monday. The assemblies cover a variety of topics, relating to the season, holidays, customs or topics currently being studied. Wyndcroft also welcomes students to take to the stage through its arts, music and theater programs, with regular performances in front of family and community members. Each child is on stage multiple times during the school year, a practice that instills confidence, leadership skills and public speaking and performing abilities in students. Wolter says the self-assurance they attain as a result of such exposure helps Wyndcroft students “stand out” when they matriculate to secondary school.   

Community involvement is also integral to Wyndcroft’s mission of character development. “Our basic philosophy is Non Sibi—Latin, meaning ‘not for one’s self,’” says Wolter. “Our children are the luckiest in the world; it is their responsibility to give back.”

Older students are encouraged to help younger grades with special projects. Middle school students raise funds for local organizations and even preschoolers as young as 3 years old visit residents of nursing homes. As part of the school’s outreach program, Wyndcroft students have also held food drives as well as Zumba for charity events and have helped to fill backpacks with supplies for local children in need.

Once their time at Wyndcroft has come to an end, students matriculate to a number of distinguished secondary schools. Eighth-grade students are accepted to several secondary schools to which they apply and must then decide where to continue their education, according to Wolter. All students are able to achieve their first and second choices of secondary schools as a direct result of their successes at Wyndcroft.

“We are just so proud to go from a one-building neighborhood school to a campus,” Wolter says. “From one tiny, old-fashioned school to a campus with updated classrooms, our students now get the best opportunities to take advantage of 21st century skills and opportunities with technology.”

In other words, The Wyndcroft School has grown along with the community—and the world—around it, and its students are the beneficiaries of its evolution.

The Wyndcroft School
1395 Wilson Street
Pottstown, PA 19464

Photograph by Rob Hall