How We Teach
The Alf Method
At Webb we focus on students and a simple principle–learning by doing. Harking back to the late 1920s, when a young science teacher joined Webb and set about developing his passion for the study of life, Ray Alf became internationally renowned for engaging students in real science through paleontology. His passion for paleontology also led to the development of the only accredited museum of paleontology on a school campus anywhere in the world. Today, his devotion to learning by doing is seen in the work of every academic department, afternoon activity, our field study and academic partnerships, and many other special school-wide programs at Webb.
Living and Learning at a West Coast Boarding School
An Innovative Curriculum
Discovery Learning with
Webb’s 24/7 learning community engages students through directed discovery learning. Whether in the science lab or the humanities classroom, our faculty guide students in an active learning environment that allows them not only to acquire a core body of knowledge but also teaches them how to inquire and investigate using the latest methods of scholars and researchers.
Some examples: Our problem-based mathematics program moves students through advanced calculus, not through rote practice of skills in isolated units but by building problem solving skills as students together and with their teacher tackle real-life problems that often combine various branches of mathematics. Our humanities program and faculty develop students’ abilities to construct arguments and mount evidence in classroom debates, and many students chose to build on this training by participating in interscholastic competitions as part of our debate team. And in Afternoon Activities, our robotics program fuses math and science as students work in a team to design and build an autonomous robot to compete in First Robotics Competitions, learning key principles of engineering, teamwork, and design along the way.
Webb’s Innovative Education
Freshmen and sophomores are immersed in an innovative core program at Webb that is skills-based, cross-disciplinary and collaborative. By the junior and senior year, students are fully engaged in defining their own educational path. In the humanities and the sciences, students choose from arange of electives including Honors, APs and a growing number of Advanced Studies. Advanced Studies (AdvSt) courses are AP-level courses and beyond designed by Webb faculty to engage students in high-level intellectual pursuits and are characterized by their depth of study, their embrace of the latest in academic research, and their attention to making connections among disciplines. Webb’s Advanced Studies courses in fields like paleontology, anatomy and physiology, and organic chemistry allow students to experience a rigorous science curriculum utilizing cutting-edge labs and technologies. In the humanities, semester electives such as Ethics and Modern Global Affairs, The Culture of Contagion, and L.A. Literary Culture provide this kind of in-depth, academic study. In math and world languages, advanced courses engage students in everything from linear algebra and statistics to global literature and film.
The Raymond Alf Museum of Paleontology
Again, perhaps nothing displays Webb’s distinctiveness more than the fact that every student at Webb is involved in our museum program—the only one of its kind in the world—The Raymond Alf Museum of Paleontology.
At Webb all students study paleontology during freshman science. All students journey into the field on a fossil expedition—unearthing and then bringing home fossils for serious scientific study. This has been going on at Webb since the late 1930s. Students here who develop a passion for this work, can continue their study in paleontology through a full array of courses that lead to our honors museum research program. Students here conduct original research (and often publish it in scientific journals) under the direction of our two faculty paleontologists, Dr. Andy Farke and Dr. Don Lofgren.
Again, this unique approach to discovery learning, The Alf Method, represents for Webb a model after which our complete course of study measures itself—a curriculum built upon engaging students to think through real-world problems and seek their answers.