Hands-on learning experiences are a big part of what makes the Episcopal experience so powerful. Recently, the oldest Lower School students showed off what they’ve been working on. The QUEST Center was filled with excitement!
Do What You Love!
That was the idea behind the fifth grade Maracuja or Passion Project. For months now students have been exploring their passions, and this week they shared what they have learned in the first-ever Episcopal Maracuja Showcase!
The showcase was a celebration of learning and exploring. The soon-to-be Middle Schoolers shared what they love about everything from architecture and art to event planning and wood carving. Student paintings, photography and published works were on display as well as a custom-built robot named Vernie.
In addition to doing what they love, these students learned something about themselves. Many of them said the most challenging part of the project was narrowing down their many interests and finding the one they wanted to explore most. In speaking with the students, their natural enthusiasm for their topics of choice was obvious. As they discussed the topics, they spoke with ease and pride. Once their Lower School counterparts began rotating through the showcase, the fifth graders were eager to share the experience.
Years from now it will be exciting to see whether today’s fifth graders have continued fine-tuning their current passions or whether they have followed a different interest.
Fourth Grade Arcade Scores Big!
The excitement and creativity of the annual fourth grade arcade returned this year. The tradition, which challenges students to build an arcade game out of recycled materials is a student and teacher favorite. The fourth grade Knights did not disappoint!
With just tape, cardboard and simple gears, students created games that people of all ages would be happy to play. There was a unique take on The Price is Right legend Plinko. Students also created everything from a foosball table to a claw crane game. As younger Lower School students visited the arcade, there was a feeling of a traditional arcade setting with games dispensing tickets and students excited to get the high score.
Th Lower School arcade was inspired by the story of a boy named Caine, who built his own arcade at the age of nine. Click here to read Caine’s story and how it inspired a global cardboard challenge.
“If you don’t understand the past, you’re not going to get the future.” Isabella Ruiz grew up frequently hearing this advice from her grandmother Nilda Maria Aguirre. Now as a sophomore Isabella is a history enthusiast. For the second year in a row, she qualified for the National History Day state competition. This year’s project holds a special meaning for her as she worked with classmates Zykia Howard and Barrow Alexander to document her grandmother’s immigration to the United States from Cuba.
“My grandmother is one of the most inspiring women I know,” says Isabella. Isabella had never watched a documentary before her Upper School history teacher Vincent Hoang encouraged her to transform a classroom assignment into a documentary inspired by her grandmother’s journey. Being open to new projects and full of excitement, Isabella dove right into the effort and thus, “The Expense of Freedom” documentary was born. Early on her classmates volunteered to help and the three students traveled to Hammond to interview Nilda. The trio poured over documents, photographs and treasures that Nilda had kept since arriving in America in 1961. They also sat down to film her as she shared what it was like to leave her homeland at the age of five with one suitcase and her favorite doll.
Isabella and her team ended up with 45 minutes of raw footage. There was the story of young Nilda defending her doll from airport security and the tale of Nilda’s father nearly being pulled from the airplane. Nilda described what it felt like to be in a new country without her extended family and the people she knew. There is also a deep sense of gratitude for the freedom that Nilda and her parents gained. Nilda has always told Isabella that the family didn’t come to America for wealth, but for a better life and the opportunity to embrace the American dream. Part of that dream included education. Nilda is a passionate advocate for education. Isabella says her grandmother often reminds her that education is something that no one can take from you and that while materials may disappear your education sticks with you.
“The Expense of Freedom” documentary is something that will stick with Isabella and her partners Zykia and Barrow for some time. Isabella says it was nice to share the experience with her classmates as the two knew little of the Cuban immigrant experience prior to this. “The experience gave great insight into the struggles of the Cuban people in that era,” says Zykia. “Working on the project gave me a greater appreciation of the things immigrants have to endure to gain the opportunities provided in the United States. By researching information, I’ve learned many new things.”
Projects such as “The Expense of Freedom” documentary are a great example of the hands-on learning and in-depth exploration that occurs at Episcopal. “I am so proud of the excellent work our students did during this project,” says history teacher Hoang. “As one of their many advisors, National History Day embodies the learning process and what we strive to accomplish here at Episcopal. From brainstorming to producing a viable product, the students are able to learn and grow from the entire process. This year was an exceptional year as students produced a wide variety of works - from documentaries to in-depth papers; the breaking boundaries theme provided a vehicle for them to push their creativity to the fullest.”
For Isabella and her family, “The Expense of Freedom” documentary is much more than an assignment. The experience has provided them a meaningful way to preserve the powerful story of a young girl and her family embarking on a journey to freedom. To watch “The Expense of Freedom” click here.
Congratulations to all of the Episcopal Upper School students who recently participated in the History Day event at the West Baton Rouge Museum.
Senior Research Paper
1st place - Muskaan Mahes
2nd place - Tanya Mencer
3rd place - Emily Lynch
4th place - Zoe Marceaux
Senior Individual Documentary
1st place - Fox Garon
Senior Group Documentary
1st place - Isabella Ruiz, Zykia Howard, and Barrow Alexander
1st place - Carter McLean
2nd place - Muskaan Mahes
Semifinalists - Fox Garon, Emily Lynch, Zoe Marceaux
Additional participants: Ruby Friloux and Ellie Williams
Here is a look at Lower School fun in the great outdoors. Happy spring break!
Good Luck in PreK-4
PreK-4 students tried their luck at finding four leaf clovers in the garden. Others made a wish on a dandelion.
It's a Zoo Out There!
Kindergarten students and their families enjoyed a beautiful spring day at the Baton Rouge Zoo.
First graders took a nature walk to nearby Forest Park. The young explorers identified animals that live in the park and wrote down their observations upon their return to school.
The Cycle Begins Again
Third graders teamed up with Upper School environmental science students to plant cypress seeds for the LSU Coastal Roots project. Next school year, the budding trees will be taken to a wetland area for planting.
A new year means new project-based lessons in Lower School. Most grades are in the exciting initial stages of their new units. “Students are interested in learning if topics are meaningful to them,” says Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson. “By starting out each unit with Phase 1: Making Personal Connections, students are able to draw from their own experiences to bring relevance to any subject.” During Phase II, students investigate and research their topic by participating in field trips and learning from guest speakers. Finally, during the last phase students share what they have learned with their classmates and families.
The students have started the year with exciting new topics. You can learn more about the projects below. We know you are going to love the final presentations!
Oviparous – producing eggs that develop and hatch outside the maternal body Merriam-Webster dictionary
Episcopal kindergarteners will soon know the definition of oviparous. That’s because they just started a project-based unit on animals. Recently, students had the opportunity to learn from the experts at the Baton Rouge Zoo who brought animals to the Greer Center.
Three little pigs and Jack and the beanstalk. A look down the first grade hall confirms that it is time for the annual enchanted engineering unit. Students analyze classic fairy tales and think about the engineering involved. For example, students discuss whether a straw house or a brick house can withstand strong winds. Look out for the big bad wolf!
Students recently had an opportunity to learn more about wildlife in Antarctica and how researchers live on this frozen continent. LSU PhD student Maddie Myers spent three months in Antarctica studying snow and living in a tent in the Dry Valley region. Students were thrilled to learn more about her adventures. How do you get your food? How long does it take to get there? Why is some of the ice not covering the rocks? These are just a few of the questions the students asked. Students are learning about the continents and will continue exploring throughout the unit. By the way, an average emperor penguin grows to 45 inches tall and weighs up to 88 pounds.
Third graders are in the beginning stages of learning the principles of business. The lesson is sure to spark their interest in entrepreneurship. Look for an exciting Phase III when students showcase what they’ve learned! Third graders already learned about Louisiana's culture and traditions in a project-based unit earlier this school year. Students enjoyed a field trip to the Old State Capitol.
Yellowstone. Denali. Crater Lake. Episcopal fourth graders were eager to share everything they learned about our national parks during the finale of their national park unit. Students shared facts about park landforms, animals and climate. However, there was much more to the project. Numerous students said their favorite aspect of the project was putting the presentation slides together, making clay models or brainstorming ideas on how to stop problems such as littering at the parks. The national park unit is a comprehensive study and includes field trips to the Waddill Outdoor Education Center and LASM. BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson even stopped by Episcopal to speak with students about the importance of parks for a community. Of course, he brought along some of his friends!
Fifth graders are learning about their place in the global community and the impact they can have on others. As the school year progresses, the teachers will continue to relate class material to this global theme. In English, students read the book “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer. In science, they learned more about wind energy and other forms of renewable energy during hands-on activities. In April, the lesson will culminate in the annual global marketplace showcasing everything students learned.
Project-based learning is a meaningful way to learn, no matter the grade. This way of learning encourages exploration and discovery. It also boosts student confidence and helps them develop a lifelong love of learning. Isn’t that exactly what a school should be doing?
Fourteen years ago when Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the current eighth graders were just infants, with no understanding of the chaos and destruction taking place around them. In 2016, these same students endured the Baton Rouge flood and now have a more personal understanding of what a natural disaster can do. This semester, the students delved deeper into the topic as they asked themselves the question - What are resident’s energy needs after a natural disaster?
The eighth grade teachers, including Shyamala Alapati, Rebecca Milligan, James Moroney and Kristina St. George, teamed up with Librarian Tiffany Whitehead and Academic Technology Coordinator Betsy Minton for this cross-curricular, project-based lesson. In addition to exploring the topic of energy needs, the team also incorporated the theme of this year’s Quest for Peace Program – Finding a Place in a Displaced World. The teachers found creative ways in which to incorporate the theme into a variety of lessons. In geography class, as students studied the countries of the world they learned about the energy challenges and needs of that country’s citizens. In science class, students learned about the different types of energy and how they are created. The theme of energy was even studied in English, where teacher Rebecca Milligan introduced literature written about hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Maria. Milligan says the text focused on the challenges and emotions that coincide with displacement in the midst of these natural disasters. While you might think it’s a challenge to teach students about energy in English class, Milligan says it’s rewarding to find text that is relevant and applicable to current events, while still teaching students the required academic components.
The eighth grade team invited guest speakers with personal and powerful connections to natural disasters to speak with students. Middle School Spanish teacher Giselle Clouatre, who is originally from Puerto Rico, spoke with students about the challenges her own family faced after Hurricane Maria. Her story was real and relatable for the students who are growing up in a state often impacted by hurricanes. “I think seeing a teacher we see almost every day talking about such a horrible experience changed my view on disasters and the lives of the people that experience them,” said Sacha Dernoncourt. “Ms. Clouatre told us about things that happened in her real life, which I think is a lot more helpful when we’re learning because it’s easier to understand and actually comprehend what someone has gone through when you actually know them,” said Haley Wright.
Episcopal graduate and Cajun Army founder, Chris King ’88 discussed the challenges of responding to a natural disaster. He related stories of 11 hour boat rescues and volunteers working tirelessly to organize thousands of meals for displaced residents in the aftermath of the 2016 flood. He challenged students to be the next group of innovators to think of solutions to help citizens fare better in the next natural disaster. What are you going to create? How can you help?
Bringing the Lesson to Life
Students recently had the opportunity to connect everything they’ve learned. While sixth and seventh grade students were testing, eighth grade students were fully immersed in the concepts they had spent so long studying. Students explored multiple ways to create energy. They used potatoes, wind, water and a hand crank to light a tiny LED bulb. Outside of the library, students tried a variety of methods for lighting fire, including magnifying glasses, flint and friction. With each method students saw results, ranging from a wisp of smoke to tiny flames. The reward for their efforts was roasting s’mores over a fire pit. Inside the library, students were tasked with solving a series of disaster-related puzzles to unlock an escape box to gain access to the prize within. As a reminder of the impact a natural disaster can have and to truly reinforce the day’s theme, students watched the documentary Hurricane on the Bayou in St. George’s classroom. All of the activities were engaging and entertaining for students. Milligan says the hope is that the experience helps students make a connection between the impacts a natural disaster can have, such as loss of energy, and how citizens can be displaced as a result.
This is Project-Based Learning in Middle School.
Most of the Episcopal community is familiar with a project-based learning unit. Students explore all aspects of a topic, they make connections about the topic, investigate and research it and eventually share what they have learned. The projects are cross-curricular and include everything from guest speakers and field trips, to hands-on activities designed to generate excitement and enthusiasm for the topic. This year, Middle School teachers worked toward the goal of organizing such a project and the eighth grade energy and displacement project was a success. “I am so impressed with our 8th grade teachers’ work together to support their students with project work focused on energy,” says Middle School Division Head Lucy Smith. “Our students have had a great opportunity to increase their awareness of and empathy for the energy challenges that arise when natural disasters occur. We hope their work on the project will motivate their ideas and leadership for problem-solving in the future.”
Students were, in fact, inspired to take action as a result of the lesson. After learning more about the challenges of natural disasters, they elected to create natural disaster kits in preparation for future events. St. George says students took on leadership roles, with a disaster kit lead designated in each homeroom. She says the student leaders encouraged their peers to donate items on the disaster kit list and an eighth grader even designed the flyer used to promote the effort. With student donations and the $256 generated from eighth grade field day concession sales, 11 complete disaster kits were created. St. George says the kits will be given to Catholic Charities for deployment during the next disaster.
While the eighth grade field day activity was certainly fun and engaging for students, the lesson had a larger purpose and impact. The teaching team is hopeful that the students make a connection between their classroom lessons and the real life applications – after all, isn’t that what learning is all about?
Episcopal first graders just completed a mini-triathlon. This is quite an accomplishment for six and seven year olds! Students swam a lap in the pool, pedaled a distance on their bike and finished up with a run. The annual Healthy Selves Triathlon is the culmination of a larger, project-based unit on what it means to be healthy.
Similar to triathletes, students learned about proper nutrition. The Healthy Selves unit introduced them to the concepts of making healthy food choices, creating healthy snacks and smoothies and even growing their own lettuce. To make the experience even more fun, students used brightly colored bracelets to track and celebrate their healthy food choices.
Students also learned more about what it means to be fit. These tiny triathletes learned more about exercise safety and helpful stretches for strengthening muscles. In addition, they learned how to care for their body with a range of tips including how to prevent the spread of germs, how to properly care for their skin and how to care for a bleeding nose.
The entire Healthy Selves unit is possible because of the support and strength of the Episcopal community. A range of faculty, staff, coaches and parents donated their time and expertise to make the project a meaningful experience for students. On triathlon day, that support was truly felt as students from throughout the Lower School lined the fence, the path and the sidewalks to cheer on their classmates and encourage them to complete the course.
Reaching the finish line of the Healthy Selves Triathlon was truly a team victory for all of Episcopal!
Lower School students are studying everything from weather to the human body. Now that the school year is underway, students are fully immersed in memorable and engaging project-based learning units.
Hurricanes. Rain. Snow.
At only eight or nine years old, Episcopal third graders already have a range of experiences with weather. For Phase I of the third grade weather study, students wrote about their experiences and shared their stories with classmates. Teachers Amy Arceneaux, Lauren Bilskie and Shannon Pesson say the weather unit is always exciting to teach because students are naturally fascinated by all things weather. The project-based unit certainly has a range of topics and projects to spark their interests. Unit highlights include the following hands-on student activities:
In addition to these learning opportunities, students traveled to the Louisiana Art and Science Museum where they played Who Wants to be a Meteorologist? While there, they also sang the water cycle song and dressed up in weather-related costumes. Back at Episcopal, students had an opportunity to learn more about the weather from local expert Dr. Josh Eachus from WBRZ. Students asked about everything from the safety of being in a car during a thunderstorm to how strong the winds were in hurricane Katrina. To learn more about the impact of hurricane Katrina, students watched the documentary Hurricane on the Bayou, which tells the story of what Louisiana residents experienced as the system roared ashore in 2005.
While students are naturally fascinated by weather, the third grade teachers say the topic can also be scary for them. “We want students to be prepared for severe weather, but not scared,” says Pesson. Part of that focus on prep includes a discussion on the importance of first responders and even those who respond after a disaster, such as the Cajun Army and Cajun Navy.
The third grade weather study is a comprehensive look at weather from the water cycle to cloud formations. After the unit is complete, Arceneaux, Bilskie and Pesson hope students have gained the following weather knowledge:
Bilskie says in addition to the lesson objectives, students are also gaining library, research, computer and presentation skills as they work through the unit. Arceneaux points out that there is a connection and continuity with project-based learning as each lesson builds upon previous experiences over the course of the year. For example, third graders will next study the state of Louisiana. The unit will include a discussion of the state’s ecosystem and the impact previous weather events have had on the land.
Third grade students will showcase their weather knowledge with their final project – researching and producing their own weather forecast. Look for more on that as the school year progresses.
Follow Episcopal on social media to learn more about other project-based learning units.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - @episcopalbr.
Third Grade Variety Show Helps Make a Difference in the World
Episcopal third graders recently used their talents and skills to make a difference in the world. After a project-based learning unit on entrepreneurship, the students organized the second annual “So, You Think You’ve Got Talent?” variety show. All proceeds from the sale of show souvenirs were used to support the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund. Students generated more than $500 to support a variety of livestock and emergency supplies for a village on the other side of the globe. Third grade teacher Amy Arceneaux says it was great to see the students learn that they can make a difference in the world, even at a young age.
“This unit has put an impact on me because now I want to start a business of my own. Also it felt really good to know that we were able to help. We were able to let people know about our cause and then got them to help us.” Sophie
“I learned that it takes a team to make a show.” Tiffany
Such a successful project leaned on the support of the entire Episcopal community. Guest speakers were brought in to share their knowledge on topics such as creating an effective business plan, marketing a product or company and managing a budget. A special thanks to all of this year’s experts: Craig Gehring, founder of ACT Mastery Prep; Mollie Hill and Glynes Hyde, owners of Red Beans and Alex Kathleen; marketing consultant Juan Simoneaux; Bailey Wax and her friends at Fagan Films; Leah Duval, owner of Salsbury Dodge City; Kellie Bruce, Sarah Foret and Katie Ebey from the Episcopal Business Office and Joey Roth, creator of Jars for Change. In addition, teachers from across the Episcopal campus also helped make the project a meaningful experience for students by helping with performances and sharing expertise.
Students clearly took what they learned to heart. They starred in a promotional video, created an event program, served as announcers and worked behind-the-scenes to keep everything running smoothly. They also wrote the scripts, organized the event and then performed in front of the entire Lower School in the VPAC theater. On performance day, these eight and nine year olds were brave, confident and even witty. Students played violin, piano, danced and showcased their art. One student even wrote and sang an original song. The acts elicited clapping, tapping and a few tears from proud families and friends.
The show ended on a powerful note. All 40 third graders took to the stage to sing the timeless classic “Lean On Me”. It was an appropriate ending for a project that exemplified such support and community, both locally and globally.
After the event ended there was no doubt that yes, Episcopal third graders do have talent!
Littlest Knights Celebrate Nursery Rhymes With Olympic Flair
Enthusiast shouts of “hi mom” and “hi dad” could be heard from the PreK-4 Nursery Rhyme Olympics medal ceremony this week. Students proudly held their homemade Olympic torches aloft as the National Anthem rang out across the Episcopal softball field. Not unlike their grown up Olympic counterparts, the four year olds were eager to wave and speak with their number one fans, who were proudly waiting in the bleachers.
Before competing in the athletic portion of the Nursery Rhyme Olympics, students recited lines from their favorite nursery rhyme. The little Olympians were dressed as everything from Humpty Dumpty and Jack Be Nimble to Twinkle Little Star and the Itsy Bitsy Spider. They remembered their rhymes and delivered them well on the Greer Center stage.
Out on the softball field the students tackled obstacles including the Mother Goose Waddle, the Jack and Jill Bucket Toss and the Jack Be Nimble Jump. The students truly brought their nursery rhymes to life and had a great time learning.
The Olympics never looked so cute!
You’ve heard the phrase, you’ve seen the photos, and your child may have even presented what they’ve learned to you. But what exactly does “project-based learning” mean?
According to the Duke School, “projects are in-depth investigations that challenge students to apply skills, knowledge, and strategies from different content areas as they do authentic research, analyze data, think deeply about problems and draw conclusions”.
Project-based learning is rooted in educational standards. Teachers design each project after thoroughly reviewing the grade-level standards to ensure that all topics within a standard are covered. Because projects are in line with educational standards, they naturally progress, building upon the previous year’s experiences. Here at Episcopal, students begin this type of learning as early as PreK-3 and PreK-4.
“Learning of this kind provides our students with the tools necessary to make the world a better place,” says Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson. Henderson says project-based learning units all begin with the end in mind.
Units are divided into three phases, which include:
Henderson says in phase one students make a connection to the topic by discussing and writing about what they know and wonder about regarding that topic.
The hallmarks of Phase II are investigation and research. Here, students are exposed to concepts such as data collection and analysis, problem solving, and drawing and testing conclusions as they explore the topic in greater detail to become “experts”. In this phase, students often go on field trips or learn from guest speakers. They also participate in the hands-on activities that generate excitement and enthusiasm for learning.
“This is where the projects come to life,” says Henderson. She says students, who are now the experts, share their knowledge in some way. This can take the form of a presentation for family and friends or puppet shows for classmates.
First grade teacher Heather Harpole has been using project-based learning to teach since the approach was introduced at Episcopal in 2012. Harpole and her fellow educators trained at the Duke School to learn more about the process. She says she has seen that the learning-by-doing philosophy results in actively engaged students, who process and retain the information because they take ownership of the project.
Harpole and Henderson say Lower School staff are particularly fond of the project-based learning approach because it is student-centered and student-led. Harpole says that means that while the project topics may be the same each year, they feel completely different because of the changing student interests. A great example of this is the first grade “Healthy Selves” project. Harpole says her class was very focused on exercise, while another first grade class enjoyed learning more about healthy snacks. Being able to accommodate student interests, while meeting the educational standards, ultimately makes the units more interesting for both students and teachers.
Project-based learning also allows for a collective “buy-in” for student learning. Depending on the unit, parents and other faculty may be called upon to share their expertise. For example, parents who are also doctors or dentists served as experts for the “Healthy Selves” unit. Members of the physical education department also shared their knowledge on everything from weight-lifting safety and caring for a bleeding nose to hiking techniques and kayaking tips.
Both Harpole and Henderson say they’ve seen positive results from the project-based learning experience. Harpole says not only are the learning standards met, but the students are also excited about what they’ve learned. In fact, Harpole says it’s fairly common for parents to report back to her that students are sharing their newfound knowledge with the family. For example, students may advise parents not to drink too much coffee because of the risk of staining their teeth or they may ask for each food group to be represented at every meal.
Project-based learning has proven to be a useful and meaningful method for ensuring that students learn and grow in the type of joyful and educational environment provided in Lower School. To learn more and see photos of students engaged in project-based learning click here.
Only in Louisiana!
The Christmas trees are adorned with Tabasco, black bear and Blue Dog ornaments.
Eight year olds know that 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 is the Cajun waltz.
Frog legs, boudin balls and crawfish pie are on the menu.
Episcopal third graders recently studied and celebrated everything that is uniquely Louisiana. The project-based learning activity included trips to the Rural Life Museum, the Old State Capitol and the Knock Knock Children’s Museum. A range of cultural experts also shared their expertise on everything from Cajun dancing and cultivating Louisiana produce to jazz, blues and art.
Ultimately, students gained a wealth of knowledge about the state that we call home, from the river that runs through the red stick to the meaning behind Mardi Gras colors. They shared that knowledge with parents and visitors during the Louisiana Expo Day this week. The audience enjoyed a performance by the students followed by a dance lesson at the Cajun Dance Hall (Mrs. Bilskie’s room), snacks at the Cajun Café (Mrs. Pesson’s room) and Art on the Bayou (Mrs. Arceneaux’s room) where they learned to draw Blue Dog.
In a fashion that’s truly representative of the Bayou State, students were proud and eager to welcome visitors to their space. They were enthusiastic in serving food and even comfortable dancing. With all that Louisiana has to offer, the spirit and sense of family and community among its people are perhaps the true takeaway. #strongeruKnighted