McLean in the Media

The Washington Post

McLean School girls repeat as PVAC champs

The McLean School girls' basketball team repeated as PVAC champions on Saturday. (Callie Caplan/For The Washington Post)
By Callie Caplan February 24 

McLean School Coach Kerri Sullivan finally had her players gathered after the hugs, the banner presentation and the swarm of congratulatory fans made for a hectic ending to the Potomac Valley Athletic Conference championship on Saturday evening.

So after the last few straggled into the classroom-turned locker room, a few hallways down from the Wootton High School gym, where they had just beaten Washington International, 38-27, Sullivan praised her team.

“You just achieved the ultimate reward,” she told her players.

The Mustangs triumphed in a physical, defensive matchup. They had just secured the school’s first back-to-back championships in girls’ basketball, but Sullivan was most proud of her team ending the season with an undefeated record.

“I’m speechless,” forward Sydney Lewis said. “All season, we were like, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win. . . . So much pressure.”
To beat the Red Devils, the Mustangs knew they’d have to rely on Lewis’s prowess, as they have all season, because top guard Jessica Baskett was playing through an injury. 

Lewis didn’t disappoint, repeating as the PVAC tournament’s most valuable player. The sophomore had a game-high 15 points and consistently fended off Washington International’s inside pressure and double teams.

“Everyone knows who she is, and everyone knows that you need to stop her in order to stop us,” Sullivan said. “She gets hung on, and the fact is that she keeps it together and battles through it no matter what.”

Lewis helped pace the Mustangs (22-0) with four points in the first quarter as they overcame a 5-0 deficit with an 8-0 run to close the period. After the Red Devils threatened to erase a double-digit deficit in the third quarter, Lewis buckled down.

She had six of the Mustangs’ final eight points in the game as McLean School earned its third straight victory over Washington International (18-4) since Feb. 6.

“To beat teams once in a year is hard,” Sullivan said. “To beat them twice is even harder. And to beat three great teams three times in a year is really hard.”

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The Atlantic

The New Focus on Children's Mental Health

Most teachers don’t feel equipped to meet their students’ emotional needs, but some programs are working to change that.
An overhead shot of a child playing with blocks on a blue carpet with an adult.
Ted S. Warren / AP
This is the first in a three-part series about the relationship between education and mental health.

This is an excerpt from the article about McLean School's Mindfulness Program. Click here for the entire article.

Michael Rosenblum, a fourth-grade teacher at the private McLean School in Potomac, Maryland, has seen the success of this approach in action. The school is in part targeted to students who have learning differences including ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety, which can make just getting through the school day difficult. Although the school does not use the same mental-health consultation program that Connecticut has adopted, through working closely with on-site mental-health professionals, teachers are able to help their students reach their greatest potential.
“We’ve had students that come to McLean in third, fourth, fifth grade that basically have been told by educators that they will not be able to graduate from high school and that they are not capable of going to a college,” said Frankie Engelking, McLean’s director of student and community wellness. “Those exact students come to us, are very successful academically, grow emotionally, build confidence, graduate from McLean, go on to four-year programs, and have very meaningful lives and careers.”
It’s through McLean’s comprehensive approach to mental health, which gives children coping strategies rather than punishing them for poor behavior, that allows children to succeed. Teachers are encouraged to give equal importance to teaching skills like kindness, communication, and building strong relationships as teaching subjects like math and science. Using approaches and curricula such as Responsive Classroom and Second Step, educators are able to weave activities that promote mental wellness into daily classroom activity.
“From a teacher's point of view, being in a type of environment where administration, from Frankie and from others—just having the support to make issues of mental health, and stress, and anxiety a priority—is really important,” Rosenblum said. “We’re really empowered to try these different strategies, and it works wonders with these kids.”
While McLean’s students don’t take any standardized tests, making it difficult to empirically assess the impact of the school’s mental-health focus on their achievement, Rosenblum sees the McLean School's success in his students' increased confidence and excitement to participate in class. As students progress through McLean, Rosenblum said, many begin to advocate for themselves more often and learn to cope with anxieties and stressors that were once debilitating to their learning experience. And most students make progress on reading as evaluated at the beginning and end of the school year—a sign that the school’s model is effective considering many students enroll at below grade level.

Mindful Magazine

The Future of Education: Mindful Classrooms

Creating a safe place for our kids to learn might begin with creating some space for them to breathe
By: Caren Osten Gerszberg
Recently retired after 30 years as a math teacher, Rosie Waugh continues teaching part time in her role as Mindfulness Coordinator at the McLean School. Last summer, she completed her mindful educator certification, and has been part of a team of McLean School teachers and administrators who have implemented a school-wide mindfulness program. In addition to structured lessons, every six to eight weeks the school features a theme—such as heartfulness, emotions, or listening—and the entire school participates, decorating bulletin boards and posting cards around classrooms.
“It all started about four years ago with one parent who introduced mindfulness to us teachers,” said Waugh, “and it helps having the head of our school so committed.” In her new role, Waugh also runs a mindfulness club and sometimes brings some of the 7th grade boys to speak about mindfulness with the elementary school students, and explain how to use a glitter jar. “Engaging the kids really keeps it vibrant, interesting, and fun,” she said.
“My practice is always evolving, and the kids I work with know that sometimes I need to stop and take a minute for myself,” said Waugh. While it’s a little trickier teaching high school kids, Waugh says they are respectful and know they don’t have to participate but they need to cooperate. “They’ll tell me they know it helps them, on the sports field or remembering lines in a play, and I’m glad they have a skill for when they just want to have a little space.”

Click here to read the entire article.

Science News For Students

Mindfulness in eating pays the body big dividends

Savoring each bite of a meal can lead to better health and may even help prevent mindless binging on calories
AUG 17, 2017 — 6:55 AM EST
savoring food
Mindfulness slows the process of eating, which improves the experience and makes smaller amounts of foods more enjoyable.
Seventh-grade students at McLean School in Potomac, Md., unwrap a piece of chocolate.
“Pick it up and hold it in your hand,” says Frankie Engelking. “What do you feel?” she asks. “Think about where this chocolate may have come from. Close your eyes and gently smell it.”
“This is so hard,” one student says.
“When can we eat it?” asks another.
But they can’t eat it just yet.
“Put it in your mouth. Let it sit on your tongue,” Engelking says. “Feel the texture. What do you notice?”
Engelking directs a program on student and community health at the school, which has all grades from kindergarten through high school. Right now she is guiding the students through a “mindful” eating exercise. It’s part of a school-wide program that focuses on mindfulness. That term refers to an intentional, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.
smelling peppermint
Seventh-grade McLean students participate in a mindful-eating exercise.
Elizabeth Shannon/McLean School
Students usually find mindful eating to be strange and confusing the first time they try it, Engelking admits. “It takes practice, but they start to get curious,” she says. “They like finding something new about a food they’ve been eating for years.”
They’re able to do so because they slow down and really experience the food. They engage all of their senses. They eat slowly. And they focus completely on what is happening between their body and the food. “When your senses are engaged you become more aware of what and how you are eating,” Engelking explains. “The experience,” she observes, becomes “much more satisfying.”
This approach contrasts with how most people eat most of the time: mindlessly. Eating mindlessly can lead to an unintentional increase in how much food people down. And that can lead to weight gain.
Instead, research now shows, learning to eat mindfully can empower people to make conscious choices about what — and how much — to eat. That can lead to weight loss and better health. Mindful eating can even be used to combat eating disorders.

Click here to read the entire article.


Washington Post

Schools are now teaching kids — and their parents — how to deal with stress


This is an excerpt from the article about McLean School's Mindfulness Program. Click here for the entire article.

“You can do the best lesson in the world, but if the student’s upset or angry or is preoccupied with something else, that great lesson’s going to be wasted,” says Frankie Engelking, director of student and community wellness at the McLean School in Potomac, which has made mindfulness a core aspect of its culture. Nearly half of the faculty has trained with Mindful Schools, an organization based in California that offers online and in-person courses in practicing mindfulness and teaching it to kids.
At the McLean School, many classes routinely start with a brief mindfulness practice. On a recent day, a teacher led a handful of sixth-grade boys in a visualization exercise. She asked them to picture a room painted a favorite color, then fill it with people who make them feel safe. One boy said he imagined his dad; another thought about the staff at Chipotle.
“Many of our students have anxiety or challenges focusing,” says Michael Saxenian, who initiated the program at the McLean School when he became head of school two years ago. “Mindfulness allows them to regain that focus.”
And it’s catching on: Students and parents have begun asking for the practice, according to Engelking.
“I thought it was weird at first,” says Bella Gleim, 14, a ninth-grader at McLean. Now, she says, “I realized that it totally helped . . . with everything in my life.”
A minute of breathing, and Bella can overcome the arresting anxiety of blanking out during a test, she says. “Then I’m totally focused, the answers are coming back, and that way I can finish my test confidently.” At a recent volleyball match, she opted for a timeout instead of getting angry with her losing team.
"I was about to yell at them for not doing the right thing, and then it would’ve gotten into a mess,” she says.
That recalibration, which supplants yelling, for example, with a more thoughtful choice, is the ultimate win, practitioners say.
“Mindfulness creates more and more space between the trigger and the response,” Stotler says, calling that space “the mindful pause.”
And, as with all skills, mindfulness improves with practice.
Shafer Bergman, a sixth-grader at McLean School, says that he used to twiddle his thumbs and look around the room during mindfulness work. But eventually, “I got real good at it,” he says.
“It’s like a part of my day now,” he says. “It’s not something physical like, you just drop and do push-ups. It’s something in here,” he says, tapping his temple, “that you can always do.”

Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School

Click the cover below to read the article which features Middle School teacher Robyn Wise and her 8th grade math class.

Bethesda Magazine

Breathing Lessons

How local schools are turning to yoga and mindfulness to help stressed-out students learn to relax

This is an excerpt from the article about McLean School's Mindfulness Program. Click here for the entire article.

in Potomac, students say practicing mindfulness is as much a part of the school day as going to class. The private school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade began incorporating mindfulness techniques and yoga into the day about four years ago as part of its comprehensive wellness program, and now offers a six-week series of mindfulness classes for parents twice a year.

By incorporating lessons ranging from “mindfulness minutes” at the start of class to morning yoga exercises and activities taught by a part-time mindfulness educator, McLean hopes to instill the practice in its students so that it becomes as natural as breathing, says Frankie Engelking, the school’s director of student and community wellness. Beginning in kindergarten, she says, students “may have as many as four or five opportunities in any given day to do some form of mindfulness exercise, whether it’s breathing, visualizing, a gratitude exercise or mindful coloring.”

One afternoon in mid-October, several middle schoolers are gathered in a school office to talk about their experiences with various aspects of mindfulness, including “heartfulness,” which means to send kind thoughts to another person. Sixth-grader Jacob Kolton says he finds that heartfulness comes in handy when another student makes fun of him or what he’s wearing. “Sometimes I put myself on their side,” he says. “Maybe they have something that’s going on at home, and that’s just a way for them to vent their feelings. So I’ll just do some mindfulness and just forgive them.”
He also appreciates when his teacher takes a few minutes for mindfulness before a test, asking students to think positive thoughts, such as focusing on something they might be looking forward to. “It’s a way to relieve all your stress—and during mindfulness, when everyone’s quiet, you can hear the quietest sounds, like the clock ticking,” he says.

Ellie Dadgar, a sixth-grader who plays on a school volleyball team, often practices mindfulness to get rid of nervousness before a game. “I take a mindful minute before I go onto the court,” she says. “I take a couple seconds to breathe and get all my thoughts together so I can focus and have my head in the game.”

For sixth-grader Annabella Zoslow, mindfulness helped reduce her anxiety when she and a classmate were appearing in Super Hero Support Group, a school play performed last fall. “It was extremely scary. We didn’t want to mess up and let everyone down,” she says. Before going onstage, “mindfulness was really, really helpful because I could take a few breaths and remember my line. It really helped me calm down for the play, and the play went really well.”

Potomac Almanac

Day of Service

Teaching Students to Become Good Stewards of the Earth

The McLean School of Potomac held its first annual school-wide Day of Service on Tuesday, April 11. The school partnered with Charity Connect, a Potomac-based nonprofit that matches volunteers with nonprofits. The day included 400 students and 50 staff volunteering at 11 organizations. In total, they provided 1,600 hours of community service — in one day.

All grades, K-12, went off campus to participate in service activities geared toward teaching students to become good stewards of the earth.

Cristin Caine, founder and CEO of Charity Connect, reflects on the day: “When planning McLean’s Day of Service my main goal was for the students to be able to understand how their service impacted others and to leave the day with knowledge, inspiration, and a desire to serve again.”

Matching volunteers with service opportunities that fit their interests and availability is the focus in Charity Connect’s mission of creating lifelong volunteers. Nonprofit partners for the event were matched with grades that would connect with the work and could be inspired to continue volunteering there.

Students travelled to places such as Locust Grove Nature Center, Oasis Farm, and MoCo Recycling Center. At Leveling the Playing Field, students helped get gently used sports equipment back in the game. Clearing out invasive weeds was tough but rewarding for students working with the Rock Creek Conservancy, Little Falls Watershed Alliance and Earth Sangha. Other hands-on activities included grooming rescued horses at Days End Farm Horse Rescue, reducing food waste at Nourish Now, and teaching spring break campers to protect their environment with So What Else. After sending grades 3-12 on their way to serve the community, Charity Connect planted seeds of service and wildflowers by teaching the K-2 students how to make seed balls (homemade wildflower starters that help the bee population) at a neighborhood creek. McLean recognizes that community service is important for student wellness. Their students have been doing grade-specific community service activities for several years.

Wanting to make more of an impact with the students, Frankie Engelking, the director of Student and Community Wellness, initiated a school-wide day of service. Charity Connect facilitated all of the service trips to ensure that the mission and purpose of each nonprofit was a good match with McLean’s students.

“The feedback from both students and faculty has exceeded our expectations,” Engelking said. “A unanimous call has come by faculty to please do it again next year. The students reported feeling pride in contributing to an important cause and good about themselves for not giving up on tough tasks. The experience of being part of a school-wide commitment to give back increased school spirit and advanced the feelings of camaraderie among the students. The energy that was generated in the school by everyone was electric.”

To learn more about Charity Connect go to McLean School is located at 8224 Lochinver Lane in Potomac. See

Click for origional article.

Washington Post

McLean School girls beat Oakcrest

Sydney Lewis crossed to her left, crossed back to her right and then euro-stepped through the lane before banking a layup off the backboard and into the net.

After the game, the freshman had no clue she had scored 16 points. And she couldn’t explain where the move came from. All Lewis was sure of was that McLean School had won the PVAC championship in its first visit to the title game. The Mustangs did that with a 47-39 win over Oakcrest as Jessica Baskett added a game-high 16 points.

Oakcrest (15-8) was paced by 12 points from Colleen Beatty and 11 from Julia Rudy. But the Chargers could not overcome airtight defense by McLean School (21-2) in a fourth quarter in which the Mustangs held a 20-10 advantage.

“This game showed how tough we are,” Lewis said. “We were down, we were up, but we stuck together, and I think we all knew we could do this from the start of the season.”
Click here for the original article.

K-12 College Preparatory School Supporting Bright Students’ Individual Strengths and Challenges.

McLean School is an independent, co-educational, K-12 day school serving Maryland, Washington, and Virginia. McLean has for over sixty years been helping students realize their full potential by providing a comprehensive college preparatory program that emphasizes small classes and differentiated instruction. We embrace both traditional learners and ones with mild to moderate learning challenges – dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and challenges related to anxiety and executive functioning. Many of our students excel in some areas while benefiting from support in others.
8224 Lochinver Lane, Potomac, Maryland 20854  301.299.8277