The Pond (Ages 7–9)

The Pond program is for 7, 8, and 9 year-olds. Your child will love active and hands-on learning at Wingra. They’ll bring thematic units to life and spend a large portion of each Monday outside for a mixture of outdoor education and education delving into those units. Yearly Independent Projects teach beginning research and presentation skills. Our attentive teachers bring out the best in your child, helping them raise the bar for themselves in a safe, joyful community.

Our attentive teachers bring out the best in your child, helping them raise the bar for themselves in a safe, joyful community.

The multi-age Pond classrooms allow students to experience a continuum of growth with increasing independence. Throughout their multi-year placement, students have ample opportunities to set and meet goals, seek challenges and use their growing confidence to deepen their friendships and relationships. Students, families, and teachers benefit greatly from the increased knowledge and insights gained through a longer shared experience with each other.

We appreciate the warm environment created by the teachers and thoughtful students. The individualized understanding the teachers have of each child is remarkable. The small group allows for both planned and spontaneous creativity that offers a rich learning landscape. —Michelle, Wingra parent

Our Approach


Daily life at school is rife with opportunities for genuine communication as members of a rich, expressive learning environment. Children are immersed in integrated experiences that offer authentic moments of literacy for individual expression and community involvement. These occasions provide a chance to foster effective development in articulate speaking, active listening, expressive writing, and engaged reading for a variety of reasons. These four elements of literacy incorporate complex and developmentally sensitive sets of skills, processes, and connections. Students are given ample space and time for experiences and instruction that nurture their growth while demonstrating the purposefulness and joy of literacy.  Everyday experiences in classroom meetings, literacy workshops, unit studies, school traditions, and citizenry offer prospects for in-depth inquiry, self-expression, and natural integration of disciplines across the curriculum.  The ultimate goal is to help students participate in the world and enjoy their lives as literate members of their communities.


The major purpose of mathematics is to help children understand and interpret their world and to develop a wide repertoire of strategies that enable them to solve problems.  In the Pond, students are encouraged to use hands-on exploration to investigate, construct, and communicate mathematical ideas and concepts.  Children are continually building their mathematical understanding through active encounters with all strands of mathematics, from patterns and data to arithmetic and geometry.  Students have the opportunity to explore problems in depth, and are also granted the time and space needed to process concepts and ideas.  The interconnection between mathematics and the world allows for integration into the units and themes of study as well.


Children come into the world with an innate curiosity and a built-in wonder about everything going on around them. This capacity for natural inquiry, noticing, and thinking aloud fuels children’s investigations as they move through their days inhabiting the role of citizen scientists. At school, students employ these acute powers of observation, along with their questioning minds, to make connections and think about how things work. Every day there are endless opportunities for children and teachers to “do what scientists do” by playing an active role in their environments — participating meaningfully in the life of natural science, as well as making connections to the manufactured world of engineering. A repertoire of field trips, simulations, experiments, unit studies, science activities, and explorations in the natural world create an ever-widening sphere of experience that encourages children to think deeply and critically. These foundations of understanding are constructed, changed, and challenged over time. Equal emphasis is given to both scientific processes and scientific content. Opportunities for first-hand exploration and problem-solving inspire interactive scientific investigations and guide curricular decisions. Science in the Pond is integrated and relevant, embedded organically in thematic units. Group, partner, and individual investigations offer a strong background in science and engineering. These experiences help students participate authentically and successfully in the dynamic, rapidly-changing world of today and tomorrow.


The innate curiosity and imagination of 7 to 9-year-olds enables them to explore social studies content deeply through active historical simulations, role-playing, and other ways of bringing history to life. Through research, artifacts, presentations, timelines, exhibits, field trips, and guest speakers, Ponders strive to understand and appreciate the story in history. This embodiment of a thematic unit in rich experiences within the school day encourages learning to thrive, and often finds its way into the dinner conversations at home. By learning about democracy, changemakers, and time periods throughout history, Ponders make connections that allow them to recognize pieces of themselves in the significant people and movements that are examined.

Ponders practice citizenship within the walls of the classroom and in the wider school community. Finding wonder, developing empathy, noticing similarities and differences, and learning about communities, cultures, and groups are important aspects of an integrated social studies curriculum. By exploring the neighborhood and larger community through outdoor education and regular field trips, students find and develop a sense of belonging to both the community of people and of the natural world around them. Regular and beloved outdoor experiences are imbued with a sense of place, and Ponders tend to cultivate a stewardship of these frequented local learning spots.


At Wingra School, we embrace John Dewey’s idea that education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Children learning together, who come from similar and different backgrounds, provide an opportunity to experience diversity and its benefits and challenges. Perspective taking, active listening, mutual respect, compromise, empathy, and self-reflection are some of the concepts we explore through community activities, conversations, read alouds, and unit explorations. In the Pond, we see conflict as a part of life. We make time to teach and practice the skills of conflict resolution and respectful communication. We believe this work provides students with the skills that are useful now as well as going forward. Meaningful participation in the decisions and the workings of the classroom instills in each child a sense of agency and advocacy in their community.  Pond students learn that their voice matters and they have practice in useful avenues for expressing their thoughts, feelings, and concerns.


Jenny Bosben / /Art Teacher

As children grow and learn, they each begin to discover personal strengths and interests. With more exposure to and experimentation in a variety of media and methods, kids learn to solve problems, take risks, and gain confidence and self-esteem. The Pond encourages an increased autonomy, with student-directed ideas, decisions and voice. Students are encouraged to explore in new ways, collaborate and problem-solve with others, and to make lots of “mistakes.” This approach encourages the creative process and spontaneous visual learning experiences. The art program approaches art as a window into cultures, or understanding the world through the lens of its art. In this way students are exposed to new ideas, peoples and places with a strong emphasis on social justice.


Aviv Kammay // Music Teacher

The music program in the Pond guides students as they discover patterns in music, compose original tunes, play percussion, string, and wind instruments, and explore music from around the world. Units integrated into classroom curriculum represent diverse cultures, customs, and traditions. By creating musical stories, our Ponders learn how music can express emotions and how to create effects such as contrast and surprise. They build pitch and rhythm literacy through movement and focused listening and by playing and creating musical games.

Instruments available for the students include pianos, keyboards, recorders, guitars, ukuleles, lap-harps, computers with recording and notation software, pitched and non-pitched percussion, electronic drum set, and more.


Weslie Cymerman // Health & Wellness Teacher

The Pond PE program is designed to help guide the students in discovering the joys and emotional benefits that come from play, teamwork, sportspersonship, perseverance, cooperation, effort and achievement. Class periods alternate between sport related skills and cooperative play and teamwork. Teaching friendly and inclusive game play and movement plants the seeds for lifetime love of physical activity. Individual physical development and progress is equally as important as effort, interest, and participation. We invite students to contribute their ideas to the curriculum and play. Student voice is an important component of the activities we choose and the guidelines or rules of the game. Integration with classroom thematic units and other all-school programming happens as often as possible.
We introduce exercise, sports and competition in an atmosphere of inclusion and shared celebration of our abilities and accomplishments. Through a wide variety of activities and learning goals students develop the foundation and tools necessary to understand how their bodies work and develop a physically active and healthy lifestyle. Students are able to have fun while learning to respect one another, challenging themselves and setting personal goals in an environment that is physically and emotionally safe.


Luis Varela// Spanish Teacher

Pond Spanish reflects best practices in both world language and progressive education in a variety of ways. Students are exposed to large amounts of rich comprehensible input in Spanish – spoken language made accessible by careful word choice, repetition, gestures, and visuals – to strengthen their ear for the language. The language ear is an intuitive understanding of the inherent patterns, sounds and procedures in a language, an invaluable base for all further study. They have ample opportunity to work individually and in pairs, following their personal work rhythms while also encouraging collaboration. Language patterns are connected to real-life scenarios, student interests and hands-on experience, rather than abstract grammatical structures. Games, drama, music and illustration all play an integral role in bringing the language to life and activating all learning pathways. Students do individual reflections on which activities are the most fun, easy, challenging, useful, etc. and use this information to begin identifying their personal learning style for language.

Social justice concepts guide Pond Spanish work in multiple ways. Pond students are regularly exposed to other cultures, their traditions and ways of life through books, music, videos and artifacts. They are encouraged to practice demonstrating interest, respect, and an open mind while exploring these cultures and comparing them to their own. They also learn about historical and contemporary figures such as Dolores Huerta who worked to stop unfairness and make a difference. The classroom community embodies social justice as all members treat one another with fairness and support one another in “giving it a try,” and celebrating each other’s successes.


Miranda Waldman // Technology Teacher

Pond students build off of their tech knowledge foundation and begin to personalize their documents. They compare and evaluate programs such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs and explore different methods to present material and the advantages and disadvantages of each mode of communication. As their fine motor dexterity grows, their ability to type correctly and edit improves. Students begin to memorize the layout of the keyboard and create strategies to remember key locations adding the non-alphabetical keys, alignment, and other word processing features. We explore computer hardware and learn how each element communicates and functions together inside of a computer. Troubleshooting is a key component of the Pond curriculum. Students learn to assess a challenge in their environment to try to solve the problem. Pond students begin to think more abstractly and methodically and develop procedures like computer programmers. They set goals and find solutions to achieve them. Pond students continue to learn about digital citizenship and social justice. They learn what it means to stay safe on the internet. Ponders also look into the safety and appropriateness of online communications such as online chatting, commenting, and posting.


Angie Sparks // Librarian & Literacy Teacher

Cultivating a love of words, stories, reading, and writing continues to be a priority at the Pond level. Student read books are longer, more complex texts and they are writing longer stories. Their awareness and use of descriptive and figurative language is on the rise. They continue to be exposed to ideas of identity, diversity, and equity through picture books, biographies, folklore and mythology, poetry, beginning readers, and non-fiction. They model their own writing on a variety of mentor texts. Their fiction writing includes more elements of story, including characters in settings who have wants and needs and that need to overcome problems and find solutions. Pond students are increasingly independent in taking responsibility for finding, borrowing, renewing, and returning library books. They are beginning to write drafts and to revise with peers and teachers in their fiction, poetry, and research writing.


Pond Program Guide

An in-depth look at curricular approaches and developmental considerations in the Pond including schedule, programming, and terms.

Pond Teachers

Angela Baker

Pond Teacher, Ages 7 to 9, Room 103

B.S. Elementary Education, Minor in English, UW-Eau Claire

Angela grew up in the Stoughton countryside, spending most of her time either lost in the woods or lost in a book. Nature and literacy have always been passions of hers. She considers herself fortunate because she always knew that she wanted to be an educator.

Angela was drawn to Wingra’s sense of community and love of learning. She joined Wingra School in 2003 as a substitute teacher and was thrilled to discover that her personal philosophy of education was realized in the progressive education values at Wingra. Here, Angela works with children in a place where authentic relationships are formed and nurtured; everyone’s voice is necessary and important; learning is often collaborative and is constructed through relevant, hands-on, and integrated experiences; social and emotional learning is valued; and childhood is respected. She considers Wingra School her educational home. Angela became part of the full-time teaching staff in 2004, working with 8- to 10-year-olds in Room 101. She now enjoys teaching and learning with 7- to 9-year-olds in the Pond and collaborating with her teaching team.

Learning something new every day is a goal of Angela’s. She participated in a pilot program between the Children’s Dyslexia Center and the Madison Metropolitan School District; she was one of five area teachers learning the Orton-Gillingham method of phonics instruction and completed a 100-hour practicum teaching two Wingra students. She achieved her Certificate of Completion of IMSLEC-approved (International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council) training in 2017.

Angela is a past participant in the Greater Madison Writing Project (GMWP), an opportunity for area educators and UW-Madison outreach staff to come together around personal writing and writing instruction in the classroom. GMWP participants have formed a professional network over the years. Angela often attends professional development workshops throughout the year, enjoying bringing back new ideas as well as sharing the Wingra way with other professionals. Angela also frequently partners with Edgewood College and UW-Madison, serving as a cooperating teacher for pre-service education students. She is a member of the Madison Area Reading Council, Wisconsin Mathematics Council, International Dyslexia Association, and the Progressive Education Network.

Angela also does private tutoring through her business, Assisting Discovery. Angela enjoys reading, camping, traveling, and being in nature, and hopes to one day write an interesting early-reader children’s book.

Tresi Smyth

Pond Teacher, Ages 7 to 9, Room 101
Post-Baccalaureate – Teacher Education, Edgewood College
B.A., Political Science and Psychology, UW-La Crosse

Tresi has been working in progressive schools for more than twenty-five years, happily teaching and learning among amazing contingents of children, colleagues, and families. Tresi first arrived at Wingra as a student teacher in 1991, and since that time she has worked with children of all different ages, and served as part of Wingra’s leadership team. Tresi has also taught at a progressive independent school in Minnesota, and acted as a consultant for a progressive public charter school in Wisconsin.

Tresi remains equally enthusiastic whether she is thinking, reading, or talking about progressive education, or sharing the daily life of the classroom with children. Tresi’s recent professional experiences include the Earth Partnership Project at the UW Arboretum, and the Greater Madison Writing Project. This year, she’s participating with area educators in a yearlong Courage to Teach retreat series at Bethel.

Horizons in Dodgeville. When she’s not at Wingra, Tresi can be found spending time with her precious family and friends. She also loves to walk, read, write, cook, sing, travel, and talk on the phone.