How We Teach
The Alf Method
At Webb we focus on students and a simple principle – learning by doing. In the late 1920s, 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 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. That’s the Alf Method.
Living and Learning at a West Coast Boarding School
An Innovative Curriculum
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.
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 choose to build on this training by participating in interscholastic competitions as part of our debate team.
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 and employing key principles of engineering, teamwork and design.
Webb’s Dynamic Education
Freshmen and sophomores are immersed in an dynamic core program at Webb that is skills based, cross disciplinary and collaborative. By junior and senior year, students are fully engaged in defining their own educational focus. In the humanities and the sciences, students choose from a range of electives, including Honors, Advanced Placement and a growing number of Advanced Studies courses. Advanced Studies courses are AP-level courses and beyond designed by Webb faculty to engage students in high-level intellectual pursuits. They 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 a similar 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
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.
All Webb students study paleontology during freshman science. All students journey into the field on a fossil expedition — unearthing and bringing home specimens 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 conduct original research (and often publish it in peer-reviewed journals) under the direction of our two faculty paleontologists, Dr. Andrew 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.