An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Elaine Christensen, Middle School director

When I talk with families applying to Lakeside, I’m frequently asked two questions: What is Lakeside looking for when it considers students to admit? And what has kept me at Lakeside for such a long time?

Ultimately, these are questions about culture and about what makes Lakeside students special. My answers are consistent: The students who thrive here are curious and kind. The institution, and our students, are always striving to live our values of academic excellence, diversity and inclusion, ethical behavior, and global citizenship. The school is never complacent, and neither are the students, faculty, staff, and families that make up the Lakeside community.

Every day, I see examples of this culture brought to life. Last week in PE class, I observed a group of three 8th graders teaching and leading a game they had designed to 30 of their peers. This seems simple on the surface, but it’s not. The game needed to be inclusive, allowing every student to participate fully. It needed to generate a certain number of steps for every student, enabling each person to measure their engagement in the class over time. The three students had to exercise leadership as they explained the rules, got the group going, adjusted for circumstances on the fly, motivated everyone when energy flagged, and led a reflection exercise. This activity connects to the competencies of leadership, collaboration, and resilience that are central to the re-envisioning. 

I see this commitment to culture in the collaboration between our faculty in visual art, digital life, and science as they put together an interdisciplinary unit in which students will research water quality and build 3D micro-museums. I see it in the 7th grade students when they stand in front of the entire Middle School community to read identity poems they wrote in Personal Development – moving spoken-word pieces about race, family, gender and gender identity, stereotypes, bias, expectations, failure, and happiness. Throughout the school, teachers are designing curriculum that is engaging, relevant, powerful, and mission-driven, and students lean into this work, driven to learn.

Schedule review

In other news, we are in the process of reviewing the ABC schedule, surveying students, faculty, staff, and the Middle School PGA representatives for each grade. If you have any questions or comments about the schedule, please connect with your grade rep. (If you need a recap of the Middle School schedule change, read my article from last spring.)

Valentine’s Day at the Middle School

While it can be a fun day to celebrate friendships, we all know that Valentine’s Day can also be fraught with opportunities to be exclusive. Here are some guidelines we will communicate with the students.

  • They do not need to bring anything at all.
  • If they do choose to bring any cards or treats, there should be enough for the whole advisory group.
  • Cards and gifts should not be distributed to small groups of friends.

Please let me or Middle School Assistant Director Rob Blackwell know if you have questions.

Dates to keep in mind this month
  • Fall semester grades, comments, and markers for growth are released on Friday, Jan. 31. Take a few minutes to read our advice from November about how to approach grades and comments, and ways to structure your conversation with your student.
  • The evening of Wednesday, Feb. 5, General John F. Kelly will deliver the Belanich Family Lecture on Ethics and Politics. His talk will focus on the critical distinction between governance and politics and the impact it can have on organizations around the world. The full Lakeside community is invited to the free evening lecture at 7 p.m. in St. Nicholas Hall. Learn more and RSVP on the lecture series webpage.
  • The 8th-grade musical, “Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka JR” runs Wednesday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. in Evans Theater at the Middle School. This musical adaptation of the beloved children’s classic is about an hour and a half and is suitable for audience members of all ages. You don’t even need a golden ticket to attend—performances are free and open to the public! Read more in Andrew Krus’s article about midwinter arts events.
  • Midwinter break runs Monday, Feb. 17 – Friday, Feb. 21. Everyone returns on Monday, Feb. 24.
  • The 7th and 8th grade dance takes place on Friday, Feb. 28. It goes from 7-10 p.m. and takes place in the Middle School gym. Please note that the “Let’s Talk About…” parent/guardian meeting has been cancelled.
  • Looking ahead, make sure you have Monday, March 2 on your calendars – it’s Music in the City. All music students in grades 7 through 12 will perform on the main stage at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle. A pre-event reception is at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. The performance is free and open to the public. This is a very special event – I hope I will see many of you there!

Check out the online calendar for more events, including those hosted by the PGA, as well as the arts and athletics calendars.

Elaine Christensen ’82 is Middle School director and Lakeside’s director of professional development. Reach her at or 206-440-2772.