Caffeine. A widespread addiction that I promised myself I wouldn’t succumb to until college. I rush out my house door while the straw to my tall, flower-covered tumbler filled to the brim with caffeinated iced tea escapes its top. One drink won’t hurt.
I have energy! It’s a whole new me: excited, present, a little on edge, and somehow feeling fully awake at 6:45am. But, I’m late. During the season of Lent, there is an Eucharist service held every Wednesday morning at 7:15 a.m. in the Episcopal School chapel. This is where I’m heading. I timidly step through the large, wooden door and walk to the side area to the right of the sanctuary to sit quietly behind six teachers and one student sitting on the chairs and distributed asymmetrically. Father Skully, the school’s chaplain, is standing at the front of this pious group, leading them in worship and recitation of prayers. I’m embarrassed and trying my best to silently blend in.
“Welcome, Ashley. Can I tell everyone why you’re here? I thought it was such a cool idea,” Father Skully asks. Well, it was a solid try to not distract the service. “Yes, of course!”
My goal for the day is to fit as many-and as wide of a range of- activities and classes as I can in one day at Episcopal, where, if you haven’t guessed by now, I attend. When I started at this school my sophomore year, there was one statement that I always seemed to run into. In fact, it’s written in the school’s mission. The school prides itself in that it “nurtures and develops the whole child- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically -through challenging academic and co-curricular programs.” I wanted to test this by searching for as many opportunities as I could find.
7:45 am - 8:00 am: Office Hours
I head to Ms. Kirschner’s room after Chapel to help organize her bountiful bookshelves. She’s not here, but I start to make it a game of how fast I can stack the same titled books and organize enough for the next group who decides to go help out.
8:00 am - 9:40 am: Block 2
After a quick check in with my normal block 2 class, I excitedly venture to the Academic Commons to observe a SRME class. This stands for Scientific Research Methodology and Experimentation. The class is typically taken junior year and can lead into a summer of more specific research at the LSU science labs and a senior year of the class ESTARR (Episcopal Students Take Action in Advanced Research). I’m met with students who are participating in their own scientific research for the class.
When John tells me the name of his project, How Acoustic Waves Effect the Oscillation Rate of the Belousov Zhabotinsky Reaction, I’m definitely as taken aback as you probably are right now. After observing studies consisting of killing cockroaches and cogon grass, I’m struck with the ability of these students to guide their own projects with just quick answers and guidance from Mr. Dennis along the way.
9:40 am - 9:55 am: Break
It’s time for break and I’m ready. I can’t believe how much I’ve already fit into one day and I’m just getting started! Next up are the English classes.
Sitting at the same long, wooden table where last semester I had an English class based on journalism, I join in on Mrs. Sutcliffe’s podcasts class. The beginning of the class is just Mrs. Sutcliffe going over the instructions for the day, but with a joyful twist. She’s eagerly giving her class the reasons why skills used for creating podcasts can be applicable to their lives outside of school. In her words, “why practicing these things we’re practicing could be valuable.”
Once the class is let out to continue working on their own podcasts, I head to Mrs. Kirschner’s room for the second time in the day. A dim, calm, and comfortable atmosphere meets me in her science fiction class as I listen politely to students read segments of their short stories aloud and then receive valuable and respectful feedback. I’m feeling beyond relaxed and like I may fall into a nap if I don’t have another class to move on to.
Awkwardly sneaking into Mrs. Burton’s class, I sit down in the room filled with the light from the movie screen. I’m not sure what movie they are watching, but it’s something to do with a court trial. After the film is finished, Mrs. Burton greets me pleasantly and asks the class to explain its purpose. It’s a class based on media and culture.
I’m in awe with the wide array of the English classes I did and could have visited and glad I was able to see how productive many different lens can be in teaching the same basic lessons needed for college.
By the time block 4 comes around, I’m feeling the typical drag of the day any high school student may have. It’s time for art class and I couldn’t be happier. My group of three is instructed to begin pasting material on Peyton’s hand to make a paper mache mold of a hand. “This material is what they used to use for casts back in the day,” explains Ms. Kate, “but we’ll use it to design.” My mind is allowed to wander as we focus on pasting. “Ow, it’s actually hurting now that it’s drying,” says Peyton. It’s time to take the mold off, and I’m so relaxed I’m not ready to have to leave. I’m so thankful to be able to have a refresh class.
Lunch is quick and filling. I get the little burst of energy I’m going to need to finish the day off. I also remember in angst that I should start drinking more water before track practice later on.
Before this next part, I should explain how inflexible I am. As a prior gymnast at the age of 10, I typically assume I can still do a cartwheel. That is until I continuously try it and continuously fail each time. I’m usually complaining about my back hurting or how I can’t keep my legs straight. Full disclosure, this isn’t the worst. I can barely even reach my feet when I stretch. I couldn’t imagine what dance class would be like. I may be able to get through it, but I’d definitely be embarrassed at some point. I mean, come on, I also extremely struggle to clap on beat to a song. How would I dance to one? And the most intimidating is that I’m assuming the dancers in the class are all well trained in the art.
To my surprise, the class is high energy, welcoming, and completely non judgemental. The atmosphere even allows me to assess that each student was already a dancer when in reality some had just learned this year. The warm up is fun and involves dance motions and stretches. Yes, I struggle, but I’m not embarrassed. I’m relieved and getting into the rhythm of the class. Before my departure, I get to watch the class practice their dance for the upcoming show. Music is flowing through me as I run with it to get to thesis class.
I would’ve been overjoyed to stay longer in dance, but I am determined to not miss much of thesis. This is the first class since after LAUNCH in which we’re beginning to show our final assignment: creating our own class and leading a class one day. David is teaching today and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic of the class feels.
“SHHH! Everyone silent!” David playfully expresses his annoyance with the class becoming too excited to share the city maps they have made. His class is focused on city planning and for the period each student has created their own layout and is in the process of sharing their ideas before the class votes on their favorites. “Hallie, you can go. And by can, I mean have to.” The class bursts into laughter and the silliness continues, but not without a moment to question the meaning.
“Do you think all of y’alls cities were guided by your values?” Mrs. Sutcliffe asks, and we dive into more discussion.
Speaking of discussion, Mr. Engholm’s ethics class is driven by this very thing. We’re discussing A.I. and robots along with the idea of consciousness. My head is already spinning. Zoe turns to me to fill me in on the movie they had watched parts of, “The Imitation Game”, and by doing so allows me to join in. Before I know it, it’s already been 40 minutes and I have to get to my statistics class.
3:30pm: Track Practice
I participated in cross country this year, but decided to take a break from track and field. Going back for practice scared me. I’d tried to keep up with running, but not to the extent that these amazing athletes do. Thankfully, it was a pre-meet practice, which means a little less of a workout. After the team sit down and cheer, we get to the running. “Oh no, I don’t remember it being this hard!” I laugh to Bethany and Tanya. I get a taste of Coach Jones’ jokes and the joyfulness of the team before I fistbump and say goodbye with a thank you.
In the short time between track practice and robotics club, I remembered there was one part of campus I hadn’t gone to yet. The prayer walk. A hidden beauty that provides tranquil moments of peace and allows for sincere contemplation. I walk softly as I read the signs with Bible verses on them. Then, I sit under the pavilion to stretch because I know I’m going to need it after running!
“Oh, hey Clay!” is my reaction when I see just one student waiting for Robotics to start. Dr. McClean comes in soon after and gives the rundown of how their robot needs to be packaged to be sent off safely. I’m filled with ambition and want to help with something. We begin nailing the big wooden crate. By the time I accidentally spill the nails everywhere, I realize I’m probably more in the way than helping. We finish this task and move to the board where a few other members of the team are looking at parts online to buy in order to fix their robot. I’m easily impressed with the knowledge this room holds and the group’s ability to use their curiosity to create something fun and meaningful memories.
7pm: Little Shop of Horrors
There is no better way to end a day of learning about Episcopal than to celebrate some of its insanely talented individuals. Once again, I’m fascinated by the ability of the school’s students and their hard work to showcase their talents. The songs entertain me while I think more seriously about the deeper message to this humorous play.
I’ve made it through the day. With the help of caffeine, but even more because of the excitement these incredible teachers, students, and classes brought with them. Whether it’s through Chapel services, science experiments, art classes, or athletics, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge truly provides opportunities to “develop the whole child.” Its teachers create a comfortable environment for learning that allows for true discovery. All the child has to do is become involved.
Ashley Solomon has been a student at the Episcopal School of Baton Rouge since her sophomore year and is an Honors Diploma student. In addition to her involvement in the Thesis program, she participates in cross country, Mock Trial, and is the community service coordinator for the National Honors Society. Her thesis explores the importance of mental health in adolescents and the effects of implementing therapy dogs in a school setting.