Who knew that reading could be such fun? Episcopals' middle school students participated in the first annual Battle of the Books. Played out right in the VPAC, The Battle of the Books consisted of four teams competing after reading ten books selected for the competition. Each team received their set of 10 books in the beginning of November and had approximately 10 weeks to read. The competition, which was held today, consisted of five rounds of play. Three rounds were Kahoot multiple choice and points were awarded based on speed and accuracy. Another round consisted of four short answer writing prompts, which were judged based on quality and style. There was also a Breakout Game round, in which students had to use clues related to the books to open four locks to break into a box with treats. The final round (Kahoot multiple choice) was played in front of the middle school audience during Morning Meeting.
The Junior Science and Humanities Symposia (JSHS) Program is jointly sponsored by the United States Departments of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, in cooperation with leading research universities throughout the nation. The National Association of Secondary School Principals has placed JSHS on the NASSP Advisory List of Contests and Activities.
The primary aims of JSHS are:
JSHS recognizes one teacher at each of the 48 regional competitions, honoring the individual teacher's contributions to advancing student participation in research. Our very own Melissa Estremera was awarded $500.00.
We are excited to celebrate members of the Episcopal Class of 2017 as they make their college enrollment decisions!
Sienna Williams will enroll at
Harvard University this fall. Congratulations!
Jill Ahmad will enroll at Wake Forest University this fall. Congratulations!
Harrison Ferachi will enroll at
American University this fall.
Eleanor Meek will enroll at
Louisiana Tech University this fall. Congratulations!
As tradition would have it, 2017 has me in a pensive mood. Maybe it’s because of the hunger pains I’m experiencing brought on by my new diet, or the lack of oxygen to my brain from fasting. Nonetheless, I’m beginning this year very aware of the awful events that took place in our city this summer as well as the highly contested presidential elections this winter. In the past, I would not have been as bothered by things that are out of my control, but as life would have it, I’m a father now. There’s a little version of me (Ace Williams) running around Episcopal these days and he brings me great joy each day I get to drop him off at his class.
Last week it dawned on me, how blessed I am to have my son attend Episcopal. The education that I received as a student at Episcopal has afforded me so many opportunities that I figured the same would be true for my son, right? In that moment of reflection, I began to form a comparative analysis of his experience versus mine, 20 years ago.
When I first arrived on Episcopal’s campus (1993) I was introduced to a unique culture, steeped in tradition and pride that echoed the school’s identity. Behind the scenes were guardians of that culture who stood watch to protect the foundation of those traditions, only allowing the most necessary of changes to the status quo. Hold that thought…
My recollection of Ace’s first day of school (2016) was one of utter delight. I can remember dropping him off to a class of PK-3 students who modeled the make-up of a United Nations delegation! It was exactly what I wanted as a parent. I wanted Ace to be in a diverse environment, but above all, academic quality remained my top concern. In my day to day routine of working at Episcopal, I feel even stronger about his school environment. From the hi-fives to the occasional “Hey Ace” that we get from other students, there is a genuine love for my child that I can truly appreciate.
There is no question that Episcopal is becoming increasingly diverse. This diversity spans race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, geography, religion, and language. Acknowledging Episcopal’s diversity is an important step to living and learning with others in our school community. Can Episcopal improve? Sure, we can. Everything has room for improvement. I’m 100% certain that we are on the right path.
Back to my earlier point: I trust that the current “guardians” of Episcopal’s culture also see the value in its diversity. There is value in engaging different departments on issues regarding inclusion, diversity, and ways to improve workplace climate. Heck, I’d even consider myself one of the “guardians of the culture.”
Episcopal is a better, more diverse place than it was when I was a student. Race relations have vastly improved, but there’s still so much more to do. I can say that I’m happy to have my son here contributing to the diversity on campus. If you get some time, you should stop by and maybe you’ll see him running around. He’s the handsome, athletic one that looks like me, lol.
In all sincerity, as the celebration of MLK day approaches, I challenge us all to engage in real conversations about diversity so that we can see the value of judging people as individuals and not letting stereotypes shape beliefs about groups of people. I believe those conversations will make Episcopal an even better community in 2017. Happy New Year and Happy Mardi Gras!
Always a Knight,
Jimmy Williams enters his 6th year as the Episcopal defensive coordinator and Assistant Athletic Director. Born March 10, 1979, Jimmy prepped at The Episcopal School of Baton Rouge and was inducted into the school’s inaugural class in 2006.
“Too often we give children answers to remember, rather than problems to solve.”– Roger Lewin
Sixth Grade Science Classes recently spent 2 weeks following their units on Plate Tectonics, Volcanoes and Earthquakes participating in the Engineering process to research, design, build, test and revise models of structures that are “earthquake proof”. Students worked in teams to compile information in a shared google doc regarding the methods used by engineers to construct buildings in such a way that they can better withstand movements of the Earth that are associated with earthquakes. As a class, we performed activities, watched videos, read an interactive survival adventure novel and had numerous discussions to build our knowledge. Students created a blueprint of their building and were tasked with using the most basic supplies to create their structure. While building, students “tested” their buildings, discussing aspects that were successful and unsuccessful and making revisions to their structures.
In the ever changing world we exist in as educators, working in a 1:1 environment where students have technology and information at their fingertips all day, we are challenged to meet the needs of our students in a different way than ever before. Utilizing the technology available in creative, yet appropriate ways has proven to be both exciting and challenging. Approximately ten years ago, the idea of incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts into our classrooms was introduced and has become increasingly popular as time passes. Students at all grade levels are being immersed in STEM activities, which allows them to build a variety of skills across disciplines.
As I facilitated various parts of this extensive project, I found myself in awe. Students were conversing with each other using academic vocabulary. They were working together to solve a problem where there was not one definitive answer or best solution. They were engaged in their conversations and work and were showing what they had learned by creating a model that displayed their learning. Using a shake table and tilt table built by Betsy Minton, students were able to evaluate the success of their structures by determining if their structures could survive shaking and measuring the angle that caused the building to topple over. Students were so effective at utilizing engineering design methods that they researched that the majority of the buildings were able to withstand the shaking of the shake table. In recent years, there has been a shift from delivering content, to allowing students to explore content, using it to solve real-world problems. Observing my 6th grade students research, collaborate, design, create, test and revise their prototypes made it evident that students are, indeed, benefiting from this shift.
Stacy Hill is currently in her 17th year in Science Education. Prior to teaching at Episcopal, she taught high school science, worked in East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and taught Gifted Middle School Science. She earned her BS from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi and her M. Ed from LSU.
Once again, it’s that wildly optimistic time of year in which we resolve to cultivate healthy habits: practice mindfulness, organize the junk drawer, take up running.
Our reading lives warrant some goal-setting, too. Challenges and lists circulate on social media, focusing on volume
(check out the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge), keeping current ( “The 10 Best Books of 2016” according to the New York Times), or literary quality (Lifehack’s “25 Incredible Novels You Must Read at Least Once before You Die”).
As I guide students in setting reading goals, I share my own. This year, I’ll be taking on the challenge issued by Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People: Reading without Walls. I love its simplicity; just choose one book in each of three categories.
Read about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.
Reading literary fiction helps us to understand others, to be more empathetic. When we encounter characters wildly different from us in a book, the anxiety we might feel about the interaction in real life evaporates. This explains why 6th graders reading R.J. Palacio’s Wonder can imagine what it might be like to have Auggie Pullman’s severe facial deformities without carrying the same sadness he does. It’s why I root so hard for Aristotle in Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I’m (obviously) not a hispanic teenager, but I relate to Aristotle on many levels. Reading about characters who are different from us allows us to identify what’s universal about our humanity.
Read a book written in a format you don’t normally read.
If you haven’t read graphic novels, think of this new experience like adjusting to the latest version of Facebook. It may look weird at first, and sure, the features may have been moved around a bit, but often there are unexpected benefits, too. Graphic novels cover the spectrum from light-hearted chick lit to explorations of cultural identity. For a thought-provoking graphic novel, check out Yang’s American Born Chinese or My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf.
There’s been an absolute explosion in Young Adult narratives written in verse. My classes devoured The Crossover and Booked, leaving us all eager for more from Kwame Alexander. As soon as I heard Chris Crowe talking about the structure of his latest novel (all written in haiku, with one syllable for each soldier’s death in the Vietnam War), I knew I had to get my hands on Death Coming up a Hill. This format reads quickly but fosters deep questioning. Poetry, after all, is often as much about what isn’t on the page as what is.
Another kind of fresh story-telling popular in YA literature right now is the use of multiple narrators. If you read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins, you already appreciate how the back-and-forth can build suspense, but it also helps readers practice empathy when they step outside an event and examine it from different angles. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely is an especially powerful read for communities (like my own) wrestling with police brutality and social justice.
Read about a topic you don’t already know about.
The world is a vast and curious place, and non-fiction reading allows us to explore it without the constraints of time or budgets. If, like me, you’ve accused non-fiction of being dry, look for compelling stories like Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly or writers known for narrative style such as Malcolm Gladwell or Erik Larson.
As you finish your three Reading without Walls choices, tell other readers! Post a picture of the book cover (include yourself if you’re so inclined) and share it on social media with the hashtag #ReadingWithoutWalls. While you’re at it, tweet me at @marthastickle. I’d love to know what walls you’re breaking down in 2017.
Martha Guarisco is a National Board Certified English Language Arts teacher and freelance writer. Prior to joining the faculty at Episcopal 13 years ago, she taught in Ascension Parish, where she was Teacher of the Year. She earned both her BA in English literature and her M.Ed. in English education from Louisiana State University. One of her particular areas of recent study is literature’s effect on adolescents’ empathy development.