Sense of Belonging

Students at WHEELS most frequently describe our school community as a family. Although we are a PreK-12, we still deeply value the relationships that come with being a small school where everyone is known and has a contribution to make to the larger community. There are a few key components that we believe contribute to every student feeling a sense of belonging.

Every student is part of a Crew, where 15 students and one Crew leader meet every day in the Lower Grades and four days each week in the Middle and Upper Grades. Crew includes academic advising, individual goal setting, character development, and explicit teaching of study skills. In Crew, students learn to be agents of self-change, to take responsibility for their learning, and to develop mentoring relationships with adults and peers. Crews participate together in adventure experiences, fitness activities, and service learning. Crews also provide an opportunity for students to build close relationships with their crew leaders. Crew leaders are responsible for tracking and supporting the behavioral and academic success of students and maintaining strong communication with families. 

Additionally, crew leaders facilitate the preparation for and implementation of Student-Led Conferences (SLCs). SLCs happen three times each year and provide the opportunity for students to curate some of their work products, deeply reflect on their growth and next steps, and present to their families and Crew leader. SLCs provide the most authentic way of monitoring your progress toward not just academic success, but also to your social, emotional, and intellectual goals. 

In SLCs, all students also reflect on our Habits of Work and Learning (HOWLs) and Community Values (CVs). As a project-based learning school with a goal to prepare you to have choices in your future, we know that you will need to be effective learners and ethical people. We have a set of four Habits of Work and Learning and four Community Values across our school that support all community members to become better learners and better people. Both sets of character targets push students to become leaders of their own learning, increasing their engagement in and ownership of their education.

Community Values

  1. Integrity: I show courage to make positive choices and act honorably. 
  2. Collaboration: I work with others to accomplish more than I could on my own.
  3. Respect: I honor myself and my community through my thinking and actions.
  4. Compassion: I work to understand the similarities and differences we share.

HOWLs (Habits of Work and Learning)

  1. Responsibility:  I manage my time and resources.
  2. Craftsmanship I reflect on my work and make revisions to create high quality products.
  3. Perseverance I push through my challenges.
  4. Curiosity I participate fully in class.


Finally, we prioritize traditions that deepen our connections to each other and to the community, and three traditions are Passage Portfolios, overnight trips, and our dress code. 

  • Students in 5th, 8th, and 12th Grade complete Passage Portfolios to reflect back on their growth in elementary, middle, and high school, select work to demonstrate their growth, and plan for their next steps with the confidence that they are ready. Students present these portfolios to the families, teachers, and the larger community. 
  • Students in 6th, 9th, and 12th Grade go on overnight trips to the wilderness to get to know their Crew, challenge and support each other through adventure tasks, and reflect on who they aspire to be as individuals and as a group. These experiences are often cited as the best memories by graduating seniors.
  • Our dress code is simple and provides a sense of unity and pride in our school community. We distribute it for free at the beginning of the year and frequently drop newly designed items. Plus, every extracurricular designs and gets their own swag!

We know that a sense of belonging also includes exploring different aspects of your identity through extracurricular activities and exploration of your future, so we have more details on those in the pages that follow.