It’s not every day that a Middle School book study leads to students wielding screwdrivers and working with wood in the VPAC theater shop. However, that very thing happened this week.
Students in English teacher Martha Guarisco’s class who chose to read Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hinton, were in for a memorable experience. The book follows the story of Mimi who has relocated to a new town in 1969 and is struggling to fit in. Unlike the other girls, she chooses to take shop class instead of the more traditional home economics course. Flash forward to 2019 and the Episcopal students who are currently reading the novel. Guarisco realized that the students have never taken shop or even home-ec and had no frame of reference for what the courses entailed. To make the book come to life for her students, Guarisco elicited the help of the Episcopal experts. “I’ve never had a home-ec or shop class, either,” Guarisco explains, “so I went straight to the people on our campus who could help. We are lucky to have staff who are not only good at their jobs but who jump at every opportunity to help kids learn. After all, that’s what Episcopal’s all about.”
Operations team members Leroy Harrison and Will Kojis were happy to share the shop experience with the students. The two pre-prepped all of the supplies needed so that each student could build their own shelf. There were boards, screws and screwdrivers neatly tucked into individual kits waiting for the students as they arrived in the theater shop. Harrison says the experience could never have occurred without the help of the entire Operations team. “We were in the middle of a major project,” he says. “If the remaining crew members weren’t able to help out, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share this with the students.”
Harrison and Kojis offered students help as needed. However, many of the sixth graders had previous construction experience. “I was impressed with the students’ willingness to be hands on in this experience,” says Kojis. “They learned quickly with several of them even completing the shelf before the time was up.” As the students worked, they discussed the importance of developing such skills. The students had a sense of pride as they talked about building birdhouses and even hot tubs with their dads. Like Mimi from the novel, there was even a female student who was particularly interested in building, with her own toolkit and drill at home.
As the students continue to study Full Cicada Moon, they will work with Chef Pat in a version of a home-ec class where they will learn to make sushi. Teaching the whole child requires a community of dedicated professionals. On any given day you may find Deputy Daniels visiting with PreK-4 students for their community helpers project or Coach Dupe teaching students the art of making Cajun music. Many of the project-based learning units require a team to be successful. For example, the physical education teachers play a huge role in projects such as the first grade triathlon or the fourth grade landform study.
The Episcopal experience is enriched by the contributions of the entire community. Involving campus experts helps lessons come to life and provides hands-on experiences that make lasting memories.