Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new. Thomas Merton
Many schools contend to serve the “whole child.” The Episcopal Mission and Ministry calls for developing the “whole child.”
Every now and then in a meeting of faculty or administrators, someone asserts that “whole child” is trite. That can lead to a discussion of what the term -- “whole child”—actually means to us. As the discussion deepens, typically we all come to a new realization of the term’s importance and centrality to all that we do.
The alternatives to developing the whole child, when one thinks about it, are neither feasible nor attractive. Would a parent send a child to a school that offered to develop “most” of a child or, perhaps, “a portion”?
To me, even highly specialized schools with narrow curricula seek, in most cases, the full human development of their students.
Not everything that has been around for a long time in education has lost its usefulness. For me, keeping in mind the “whole child” is one of the “oldies but goodies” that should be played and replayed. As a disc-jockey friend of mine used to say on his late night college radio show, “Here is one from the groove yard.” (Note that this prior reference requires awareness that once d-j’s played records with grooves in them.)
Even the official, dictionary definition of “trite” has an exception for old things that remain effective and have not lost their meaningfulness. If something remains effective, it is not “trite.”
When the Episcopal Board of Trustees engages in strategic planning, every five years or so, the Mission and Ministry always gets a once over. After many thoughtful discussions during my time here, the Board has kept the Mission and Ministry of Episcopal “as is.” Plenty of running room can be found in the Mission and Ministry and in the concept of the “whole child.”
Changing times and changing contexts may call for adjustments in emphases, but the overall concept of the “whole child” remains valid.
We have adjusted internally the “whole child” concept to make it more individualized or personalized. A while ago, Howard Gardner brought to public attention an educational analysis of “multiple intelligences.” In short, his research showed that reaching any group of students in the most effective way involves employing a range of teaching styles, tailored to the “intelligence” of each child. We have adjusted our teaching modes at Episcopal to suit better the “multiple intelligences” (i.e., the various ways a range of students get interested and performs). In effect, we have applied the “whole child” concept individually and, by that, use modes personalized to all.
Episcopal today offers a broader range of developmental experiences than before, including more age-appropriate student choices. Many of these offerings produce student recognitions. A long list of these offerings can be reviewed at the end of this blog.
My point is that in the academic arena, Episcopal is addressing the “whole child” --- and our children’s multiple intelligences – through a range of opportunities for motivated students. We are far from a “one size fits all” school.
An Episcopal student today --- male or female --- can decide to develop and compete in a broad range of sports, for example. That is a strong “whole child” point, noting that over 80% of both our Upper and Middle School students participate in a school-sponsored sport. Our PE program is second to none, with the vast majority of instruction given by Episcopal’s varsity coaches, including PE classes in Lower School.
Choir, band, drama, stage productions, ceramics, dance, and instrument instruction are parts of students’ lives from Lower School through Upper School. We encourage experimentation in the early stages and specialization later. The artistic talent within each child is addressed through these deep and comprehensive programs.
Student spirituality is developed both inside and outside the Chapel. Father Knight’s leadership, with advice from the Student Vestries in Middle and Upper School, in worship is apparent in the lives of all students. We provide first-rate academic classes for Bible and religious studies. The Center for Service Learning represents another need and outlet for our students to learn through service in their hometown.
For those of you familiar with the Class of 2017, I know that you see, along with me, the benefit and the reality of the “whole child” approach. Student choice could be said to have defined that class, as each student found an almost unique set of opportunities to take up. But, there was an underlying unity and respect for each other in that class that was an even more important vote of confidence in the “whole child” approach.
Our approach is effective as each year more and more selective and highly selective colleges seek Episcopal’s graduates.
I think Thomas Merton would agree:
Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way that we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus life is always new.
Whattayasay, let’s keep the old “whole child” approach and continue our efforts to seek feasible personalization of our learning experiences and come out with something that is “always new”?
Hugh M. McIntosh
Head of School
Here are just a few examples of how we address the “whole child” with multiple approaches to learning:
The essence of Rebecca Kuhn is this: center stage smoke machine swirl straight out of a Korean pop band; rocker chick in black business casual (sensible yet dramatic); spotlight and finger--same trajectory--gesturing toward something larger, some greater existential meaning, or maybe...Kansas?
Herein lies the American teacher abroad, the “We’re-not-in-Kansas-anymore,” “If It Makes You Happy” Sheryl Crow cover belting, exhibit A: The Extroverted Teacher.
This version of Episcopal’s Social Studies Chair might not seem completely far-fetched. While on a typical day she is not fronting for a Korean-ballad-American-90s pop-cover faculty band, Kuhn plays the role of gregarious, bubbly lead well. But, this sort of confident risk-taking is something that Kuhn had to learn over time and over many miles.
Listen to this week's Teachers' Lounge
Kuhn and her husband, Dr. Alan Newton, had spent five years in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, before transferring abroad. Newton was teaching at the Pine Crest School and Kuhn enrolled in a PhD program at Florida Atlantic University. While preparing for her dissertation defense, Kuhn substitute taught at Pine Crest, eventually coming on full time as a History and Journalism teacher. “I volunteered to chaperone a debate competition,” she remembers. And while many adults might find that sort of round-the-clock supervision of and engagement with adolescents to be a challenge, Kuhn found it exhilarating. She realized that she absolutely loved the high school setting. “This is where I’m needed,” she says.
When Kuhn and Newton were approached about a teaching opportunity in Korea, they realized the timing was right to take a risk. “It was chaos when we arrived,” Kuhn notes. The school that hired them was in the process of beginning a school-within-a-school for Korean students interested in pursuing selective colleges in the US after high school graduation. The concept was to emulate a Western boarding school experience, and they started small--just 20 per grade. Kuhn recalls both the optimism and frustration involved in building a school from scratch. In many ways, continuing her work with high schoolers was enormously rewarding. In fact, the infamous Episcopal Tea Club was built upon a similar experience Kuhn had with her students in Korea. What began as a traditional Korean tea ceremony evolved into a slowed-down space for both introspection and spirited dialogue. “Drinking tea is civilized, calming, soothing,” Kuhn says. “Talking about some issues can be tough. Conversations can be fraught.” But bringing tea into the mix created what Kuhn describes as a “meditative experience.” Students worked through complex personal situations: the only son in a family, for instance, felt immense pressure to find the right college, meet his potential, and in his words, “be the family hope.” There, among friends and warm mugs of tea, he wrestled with the complicated intersection of expectations and choice. Students debated ethical issues like corporeal punishment and dissected the post-modern philosophical arguments of Derrida. These are the moments of teaching that Kuhn finds especially inspiring. The concept of “the whole child” (what eventually drew her to Episcopal) is important to Kuhn. Happiness, growth, rest, not “unhappy study robots” as she considers the alternative.
Yet, her time in Korea also revealed a mindset that compromised that mission of caring for the whole person. Her biggest challenges weren’t students who seemed apathetic or shirking their potential. Rather, she worried for the students who sought praise for getting three hours of sleep (better than most nights). She worried for parents who measured success only by acceptance into an Ivy League. Kuhn’s not-in-Kansas-anymore homesickness grew, and her desire to find a school with a personalized student approach became her mission. So, in 2015 after planning and preparing to return to the States, Kuhn made her final purchase, a traditional Korean tea set, and journeyed home.
Dr. Kuhn believes in fun. She believes in adventure and risks and navigating the joyful angst of adolescence with her students. Her interdisciplinary graduate work lends itself well to caring for the intricacies of teenage development. Kuhn merged a passion for social sciences--sociology, government, economics and politics--with religion and film studies and learned the tough work of “writing on the boundaries of the humanities and social sciences.”
And isn’t that what secondary education, in its most idealistic form, can do best? Blur the lines between discrete disciplines to see the interconnectedness between issues? Prepare young people to synthesize concepts from a deep toolbox to problem solve and make the world better?
Dr. Kuhn, qualified to teach at the university level, never felt compelled to pursue a professorship. It is here, in high school, that Kuhn feels most able to promote that interdisciplinary pursuit that inspired her as a student and allowed her to seek understanding of the human condition. It is here that she says fun renews every year with her new 9th grade students, that she realized, as an extrovert, she could “have more insightful conversations with young people, more intellectual stimulation” than she might in another setting.
With a global perspective, Dr. Kuhn says she is intentional with her language. During a lecture while pointing to another continent, Kuhn makes a point to say, “when” not “if” as she helps students consider the places they’ll go, the people they’ll meet. “I build in a narrative that they will act on global mindedness.”
For Dr. Kuhn, home will always be in Kansas. But, for her students she is a study in the sort of self-discovery that happens when you take a risk, grab the mic, and understand that the world is bigger, grander, than you could have ever imagined.
Katie Sutcliffe is beginning her seventh year at Episcopal and has served in many capacities involving writing and service learning. Currently, she directs the Thesis Program, teaching both Seminar juniors and Thesis seniors, and is the co-creator of LAUNCH, Episcopal’s annual TEDx-style student-planned and executed showcase of ideas and projects. Katie’s own history involves this blend of service and writing: after graduating from a small liberal arts college in Indiana with an English degree, she moved to the Deep South with Teach For America where she taught middle school English and worked passionately on issues of educational inequity. She later earned an MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh and returned to Baton Rouge where she has continued freelance writing. Katie infuses social justice initiatives into her curricula and seeks to help her students make meaningful connections with those living a different experience within our larger community. She’s passionate about character education and project-based learning, as well as research and writing that have practical implications for understanding and addressing real world challenges.
Photography. Sculpture. Graphic design. Markers. Pencils. Acrylic. Pottery and more.
The annual All School Fall Art Show is now underway in the VPAC, featuring work from all divisions. The art forms displayed are as diverse and varied as the students who created them. There are projects made from recycled materials and even basic cardboard, just proving that art can come from anything.
While sharing art can be a very personal thing for some, AP art student Claire Hook says it’s very rewarding because an artist puts a lot of time into each project. “I like that my work makes others happy,” she says from the paint-splattered Upper School art room.
Arts are central to an Episcopal education and are even included in the school’s mission – to nurture and develop the whole child – spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically. Russell Roper, longtime art teacher and department chair, says art is a great outlet for students dealing with the everyday pressures of life. It also provides hands-on activity and boosts overall creativity.
Mr. Roper says art also encourages collaboration. Each year the art teachers work hand-in-hand with the music and theater departments to make sure an exhibit is up in the lobby to coincide with each performance. Art students also assist with theater props, with projects in the works now for the upcoming Middle School production.
This first art show is just the beginning with several more planned throughout the year.
We invite you to visit the VPAC and take a look now through November.
The outpouring of support from the Episcopal community for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey was tremendous. Please know that your efforts are very much appreciated. We invite you to read a message from Rev. Ashley Freeman, Rector of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church.
I am writing you today to express my deepest gratitude and appreciation. As you all know, on September 4th, St. Patrick’s began loading a 53’ tractor trailer with Hurricane Harvey relief supplies. Our goal was to fill the trailer by September 9th. This was a tall order and one I wasn’t sure we could actually accomplish. To my delight and amazement, I was wrong.
Due to the level of love, grace, and support shown by the people and churches of Zachary, Baton Rouge, and the surrounding area, we were able to load 17.5 tons of relief supplies for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. This incredible response to those in need is a testament to your faith and an example of what the desire to follow Christ’s command to, “Love each other as I have loved you,” truly looks like.
Thank you for your faithful response to those in need. Your love for God and neighbor has been inspiring, and I have been blessed to witness this display of God’s grace through you.
Your generosity to our western neighbors truly made a difference and provides an inspiring example for our students to follow. We are proud to be a community who serves.
Congratulations to the 2016 / 2017 Penniman Scholars!
Katherine Fivgas ‘23
Ruby Friloux ‘22
Lucy Silverman ‘21
The recipients were recently honored with a luncheon hosted by Head of School Hugh McIntosh and Margaret Penniman Boudreaux, Class of ’76 graduate and current teacher. The Penniman Scholars are selected each year by the grade level English teachers and presented to the outstanding English student in each Middle School grade.
The first Penniman Award was given in 1988 to Lee C. “Buster” Kantrow and Cathy White Engle. The fund was established by G. Allen Penniman, Jr. in remembrance of his wife Mary Virginia Crain Penniman, who had a passion for English studies.
Tucked into a quiet corner of campus, Frazer Hall is home to our youngest Episcopal Knights. Open the red doors and it is anything but quiet inside. The buzz and excitement of learning fills the air. PreK-4 students are engaged in their latest project: Exploring Communities.
In the project approach, students investigate meaningful questions that require them to gather information and think critically. Project-Based Learning isn't just about doing projects, but the process of students learning through projects. One of the critical pieces of gathering information involves interviewing “experts” who can provide students with answers to the questions they are researching.
We interviewed a cardiologist, Dr. Jeffrey Hyde, who taught us about keeping our heart healthy and how to take our pulse. He let us observe his surgical cap and stethoscope and even checked up on one of our friends who had been sick. She got a clean bill of health!
Restaurant owner, Rick Patel, shared his expertise in the food industry. We learned about eating and preparing healthy foods and practicing good hygiene during food preparation. Students especially enjoyed becoming a “sandwich artist” as Mr. Patel led a demonstration on how to roll Subway sandwiches.
We wrapped up this week with a visit from Avery Davidson, television news reporter for This Week in Louisiana Agriculture or TWILA. He brought the tools of his trade, a microphone and a camera. We watched how the video is recorded and edited for television. We enjoyed being silly and watching ourselves on camera.
Throughout the upcoming weeks, students will continue to explore the big question “What do I want to be when I grow up?” They will continue to tap into the talents of our Episcopal community with more guest experts including paramedics, an orthodontist and even a K-9 officer. At the conclusion of their project, PreK-4 will host a Career Day where students will share what they have learned from their experts about the many ways that they educate us, keep us safe and healthy, and create a caring community where we can grow up to achieve our dreams.
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, returned to teach Pre-K4 at her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching second grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach first grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. Julie enjoys teaching alongside some of her former teachers and seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk.
October is National Book Month and fall break is a great time to snuggle up with a good read. Here are a few favorites from our Episcopal staff:
These are just some of our favorites. Do you also love to read? Share your favorites in the Comments section.
Congratulations to Burke Tarleton, Alan Tran, Blaise Richard, Trey Lambert, Reed McMains and Lance Clark for proving they know the most about the novel "Booked" by Kwame Alexander.
Aldrich Library was recently the scene of trivia, sharing and excitement. No, this wasn’t a teenage discussion during flex or a game of Clue. It was the first meeting of the Project LIT BR group.
Project LIT, or Libraries in Communities, is an idea sparked from the imagination of Jared Amato of Nashville, Tennessee. The program is Amato’s answer to serving children in what is known as a book desert – areas with little access to libraries or bookstores. Since its inception last year, Project LIT has set educators on fire throughout the south, with many adopting some version of the program for their school.
Now Episcopal Middle Schoolers are the first in Louisiana to join the fun. Sixth grade English teacher Martha Guarisco discovered the Project LIT information, and being a reading advocate herself was inspired to bring it to Woodland Ridge. “We want to celebrate and promote literacy,” she says. “Even reluctant readers can be changed with the right book.”
Students were not reluctant to get on board. In fact, Martha wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when launching the program, but after putting out invitations to join, sixty (sixty!) sixth graders voluntarily signed up to help. The volunteers organized a trivia contest based on the novel "Booked". The pre-teens revelled in the contest, eager to answer and eager to share.
In a school where reading is commonplace and normal, it may be hard to imagine a Project LIT program. However, Martha says this is the perfect opportunity to help students understand that having a book is a luxury for some and that not everyone has access to reading. Project LIT programs across the south are organizing and maintaining free mini-libraries in book deserts to share the love of reading with others. These mini book depots allow members of the community to take a book and leave a book at their leisure. The hope is to reduce any barriers to reading that may exist because of inaccessibility.
After the trivia contest, it seems Project LIT BR is off to a great start. Going forward the group will seek out ways to better define their program with community service aspects and of course, more reading.
You can read more about Project LIT BR and follow their activities at @ProjectLITBR.
On your mark. Get set. GO!
With that, the Episcopal first graders began the 2017 Healthy Selves Triathlon!
The first leg of the race required six year olds to swim the entire length of the pool. With stripes, polka dots, flags and fish themed bathing suits the children took to the pool with joy, excitement and surprisingly little splash. Meanwhile, parents cheered from the stands and coaches helped the swimmers cross the 25 meter pool. Afterwards, it was onto the bike lap which meant strapping on helmets and shoes and heading for the back of campus.
As they rounded the path, the youngsters were met by their classmates and friends from Pre-K and kindergarten who eagerly yelled through the playground fence. Once around, the students dropped their bikes and began the running lap. This is where they were met with the full force of the older Lower School students. Second graders chanted “Go 1st grade!” Parents and friends held posters and everywhere cameras were snapping. For the grand finale the students got to finish the triathlon with a run through the official Episcopal Knights football tunnel. What a day to be in first grade!
As the students told parents and staff before the triathlon began, the three sport event is the culmination of the Healthy Selves project based learning unit. Over the course of five weeks the students focused on what it means to be healthy. Students learned what constitutes a healthy plate, how to grow lettuce, how to make healthy snacks and smoothies and even how to stop a bleeding nose. There were yoga lessons, experiments on how germs spread and visits from a neurologist and dentist.
A project of this size requires tremendous collaboration between a range of teachers and staff. The PE teachers and coaching staff were all very involved along with the school chef, dance instructor and school nurse. The project truly highlights how project based learning touches every aspect of the child’s day and creates a team of school staff members ready and willing to help.
The hope is that such emphasis really makes an impact on the students and that the information is retained. Besides, how many six year olds can say they’ve completed a triathlon?!
To learn more about project based learning at Episcopal click here.
The Baton Rouge market offers a plethora of options for families seeking an independent school education for their children. Digesting information and comparing schools can be a daunting and time-consuming task. When meeting with prospective families, I often jokingly compare the preschool admission experience to the college admission experience – so many options, varying processes, and each school with its own programs, deadlines and requirements! Where do you start?
We encourage parents to begin by considering the factors that are most important to their family. Are you in search of a spiritual or faith-based school? Do you have an opinion regarding school size? Do you want your child to have frequent exposure to classes in music, art and world language? Once you identify the schools that match your family’s requirements and interests, you’ll likely want to dig a bit deeper. What’s the school’s educational philosophy? What is their curricular approach? What are the student-to-teacher ratios? Are the students involved in any type of service to our community? How does the school support students through the college selection and application process?
Beyond all of these questions there is good news; the volume of school choices available in Baton Rouge positions each family to find the school that is the best fit for their child. While parents often rely on the advice and opinions of others who previously embarked on the journey to an independent school, I caution you from using this as your only method of research. Each child is unique and each family has their own lens through which they evaluate schools. Sharing spreadsheets, stories, and contacts is an excellent way to gather information. But seeing is believing. If you do nothing else through this process, I encourage you to visit the campus of each school you are considering. The campus visit is your firsthand opportunity to determine if the school you now know on paper comes to life as a fit for your child. While you may find it helpful to have a list of questions to ask during your visit, also be observant as you explore campus: Do the children seem engaged? Do the teachers and staff appear to enjoy their work? Do your surroundings suggest an active and happy school? Perhaps there are other observations that can help you assess the school’s ability to serve your family.
If you are interested in visiting Episcopal to explore how we might be a fit for your child, I invite you to join us for Test Drive Tuesday. We look forward to meeting you and learning more about your family!