Saturday August 27th Team 3991 – KnightVision, Episcopal’s FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team came together with 21 other FRC teams from Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi to take part in the 4th Annual Dow Red Stick Rumble at Baton Rouge’s Woodlawn High School. After eight qualifying matches, KnightVision went into the elimination rounds ranked 4th with a 6-2 record. As the 4th seed alliance captain, we swept through the quarter and semifinals undefeated. The second semifinal match brought forth an extremely rare feat when both our alliance partners experienced breakdowns to start the match leaving our robot in a 3-on-1 bind. Our drive team of Rohit Gondi and Gabe Wisham was able to overcome this terrible disadvantage and pull out an amazing last second win to advance to the final round. Unfortunately, our alliance’s inability to field all three robots in either finals match put an end to our bid take home the trophy.
All in all, we are very pleased at this strong beginning to the ’16-’17 year. This will be our last competition with our 2016 robot. This year’s game has been very rough on robots throughout the league and the fact that our students were able to keep a working robot on the field throughout the competition this weekend gives us great hope for upcoming games and build season. We will spend the rest of the fall preparing to continue our momentum into the new 2017 season in January. This is the strongest returning group of students we have had in our five year history. We hope to use our success at RSR to jumpstart a fall training program for the first time ever.
During the elimination matches Saturday, we were forced to rebuild both transmissions in order to have a chance to proceed. Before that event I would have told you that it couldn’t be done in the time allowed, but our team would not hear of giving up. They immediately went to work tearing down both gearboxes and got them back together in time to make our matches. I didn’t do it, the kids did, with an urgency and a camaraderie and a determination that made me tear up. We’re talking 4-5 teenagers working together under tremendous pressure in an 8’x8’ space to do a 90 minute job in 15 minutes and doing it successfully. As far as impact, these kids are developing a confidence in their abilities and an appreciation of the value of determination and teamwork that will serve them well the rest of their lives. It’s a great illustration of my favorite FRC slogan, “It’s the hardest fun you’ll ever have.”
A bit of background on FRC. The program has existed for about 20 years. There is a wide spectrum of team size and resources and ability. There are 20 year-old teams sponsored by the likes of NASA, JPL, Boeing, IBM, etc., that have hundreds of members and 3 year old teams that can barely field a robot each year. Our team falls into the middle of that spectrum. We’re smaller than most in terms of students and mentors, but reasonably well supported by our community. This year we have really begun to punch above our weight and this weekend’s event was a good example of that trend. We were only a couple of bad breaks away from winning the whole thing. We are feeling very good about the upcoming season (Kickoff is January 7th) and we are working toward being part of the top tier.
has spent 20 years as a computer and instrumentation engineer and programmer in the geophysical industry. Bruce became a teacher in 2001. "I was lucky enough to get a job at this wonderful place and watch both my children graduate from Episcopal (Robin ’10 and Jack ’15) so I’d say that for once in my life my plans worked out." Bruce has been with Episcopal School for 16 years. In his time here at Episcopal he has taught physics, chemistry, environmental science, geology, engineering, and computer science.
A Perspective from the Head of Upper School, Dr. Spree MacDonald
I had the opportunity to lead a professional development session this summer for all Episcopal faculty and staff in which we shared memories of our best experiences at Episcopal. In the wake of the summer’s shootings in Baton Rouge and across the country, these stories moved many to tears as we considered those moments of human connection and transformation that make this place so special.
Two days later, our region began to experience unprecedented floods. I sat in my office that Saturday calling people who were already displaced. I spoke on the phone with Episcopal families as they drove out of their neighborhoods on the backs of National Guard trucks, and as they tried to locate friends and family. I could hear in people’s voices the simple desire to return, to be back to their normal lives together. As the floods spread and more community members evacuated, dawn broke Sunday with tremendous uncertainty about the welfare of our community and our school.
In the midst of this tragedy and the community’s momentous response to the flood relief efforts, I often remembered an observation one teacher made in the previous week’s professional development session: that her most memorable experiences at Episcopal followed tragedies. She said that the community’s response to such events highlighted the strong bonds that define us. Indeed, as a newcomer to this community in the midst of this unforeseen flood, I felt fortunate to get to know all of you during this time, as our essential goodness has been on full display.
I have also watched people struggle for words in response to the unguarded selflessness of those around them during these times. As bewildering as the storm and its aftermath have been, the rapid and powerful response of so many to the needs of those in our community has posed its own sort of question: What does one say when an acquaintance reaches out with clothing, a home, meals, or hours of labor in response to a need of yours they heard about through social media?
The phrase that came to my mind in these times is one I picked up while serving in the Peace Corps in South Africa many years ago: “Thank you for making me a human.” This phrase is usually uttered by someone who has received an act of great kindness from someone else. It’s a startling statement, acknowledging a vulnerability not typically considered in our American society that so heavily values self-determination. Yet, I’ve always believed the point behind this phrase isn’t that we should all wait for charity, or that others are more human than us. Rather, I’ve understood it as expressing the same values that has allowed the Episcopal community to face our recent hardships with such solidarity and compassion: the belief that we do not entirely determine our own destiny or our own human potential without a healthy, supportive community.
In that sense, this phrase can be understood to mean: “thank you for recognizing that my humanity and your humanity are intertwined.” It’s this graciousness I feel towards those in the community that I have spent time with throughout these challenging days, and it’s what I think of when I consider what it means to be #StrongerUknighted.
Dr. Spree McDonald
Dr. Thomas “Spree” MacDonald, Head of Upper School
After the tragic events of last week in the Baton Rouge area, it has been wonderful to have the Episcopal School community back on campus for classes! Our middle school students have been so positive and eager in spite of the challenges presented by compressed space and some adjusted routines that our space constraint requires. Our teachers have been heroic and highly professional in their daily efforts to ensure a safe and supportive learning environment for our opening week. As we approach the end of the week, we have settled into our “new normal,” and fine work with curriculum has begun. Two words come to my mind as I write, the first - gratitude…
Middle School Division Head
With enthusiasm, Lower School students returned to school on Monday, August 22 for the highly anticipated second “First Day”. Their adventuresome spirit was fed as they saw their new learning environments in the VPAC for the first time. Over the previous week, after the waters receded, scores of Upper School students invaded campus ready to assist. Small groups of students were assigned to homeroom teachers from the Lower School building and wagon by wagon, load by load, the VPAC was transformed to Lower School. Almost everything was moved from the classrooms to the VPAC. “I want all of my books” was a phrase that resonated with some. Before our very eyes, teachers recreated classrooms.
This week, students and teachers are embracing their spaces. First grade students work harmoniously in the expanse of the band room with three separate teaching zones. The choir room houses a second grade duo. Our third grade trio shares the Black Box Theatre. Starring on stage is fourth grade. By opening up space in VPAC and rerouting a few of the visual and performing arts classes, we are able to serve Lower School students, allowing them to follow their regular schedule including daily PE, World Language, and enrichment. Students at every grade level showed their parents around during the Mini Open Houses on Wednesday.
The innovative classroom design of shared spaces has its advantages. First of all, this arrangement enhances collaboration among teachers, and it encourages team teaching. One teacher can present a lesson while another teacher serves to monitor, remediate, enrich, and challenge individuals and small groups. Another advantage is being able to observe colleagues as they instruct; modeling “best practice” for one another is a highly effective method of professional development. Too, our current arrangement has allowed for greater flexibility with planning and scheduling. Finally, our students have had the opportunity to established bonds with their grade level peers beyond just those in their homeroom.
Relocating classrooms in Lower School was a challenge, but there was never a doubt that our faculty would willingly accept that challenge, successfully transform their space, and provide the quality school experience to which this community is accustomed. Our students continue to joyfully engage in learning here every day.
And if I am allowed to editorialize:
I have never been so proud to be a part of the Episcopal School community.
Head of Lower School
As the old John Lennon song goes, “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans.” Over the past six weeks, ‘life’ has happened in some very direct and unavoidable ways to the Baton Rouge community. And while our plans for the Episcopal school year have shifted in the short term, it has been such a relief to get back to school as an Upper School community this week at Episcopal.
These unforeseen circumstances have also allowed us to work closely together to find ways to make the most of this transitional period and many students and faculty have shown exceptional leadership this week. Without a place to hold Chapel service, Father Knight has delivered morning prayers and reflections over the school intercom. These have been very warmly received across campus and have allowed us to experience a sense of community at the beginning of each day. The administrative team and Student Body Leadership also met this week with each grade to talk through our current schedule, answer questions, and to put our heads together to plan activities to build spirit and support. These activities will include regular video announcements, spirit activities some days during advisory time, and our Club Fair on September 1st. While we expect this transitional period to be a brief one, the strength, openness, and grace with which the Upper School community has responded to this intrusion of ‘life’ into the beginning of our school year shows that this community has laid the right foundation for a wonderful year ahead.
Dr. Spree MacDonald
Head of Upper School
When asked why we were going to Ireland this summer the answer was a strange one: to learn Spanish, of course!
The Youghal International School of Youghal, Co. Cork Ireland was established in 1992 and serves as a summer retreat for students from all over Spain. This school provides these students the opportunity to live in and explore an English-speaking country while furthering their own English language skills. In turn, Irish students come to the school to learn Spanish. So, why not American students too? Episcopal has had a strong relationship with the founders of the school through the Colegio Bristol in Madrid, which has participated in EHS’s Spanish exchange program for over 3 years.
Being the inaugural trip with this program in Youghal, this was a sort of an experiment. Four brave, rising junior girls signed up for this adventure and I believe it is safe to say, it was one of the most unique experiences of their lives. None of them had been to Europe and the two weeks spent there was the longest most had ever been away from home. Even after receiving daily schedules and information about excursions and classes, none of us knew exactly what to expect when we arrived in Youghal on July 13th 2016.
First of all, the seaside town of Youghal is actually pronounced “yawl” or like “y’all” which is amusing in and of itself, being that we are from the American South. We were immediately taken to the school, which upon first look can only be described as “Irish Hogwarts” as one of the girls put it. The school occupies the site of a once Franciscan friary that was founded in the 13th century and was the first of its order in Ireland. The spectacle of the school left us temporarily speechless. And then they moved right in.
As the girls walked into the 200-year-old former convent that served as their dorm, one looked around at the stained glass, tall ceilings and the open windows and said “This is completely different. I’m totally out of my comfort zone, and I love it!” This utterance gave me confidence in the girls’ ability to adapt to the new environment and thrive in this new (well actually very old) setting.
One of the factors that made this program so extraordinary were the two different cultures that we encountered: the Irish and the Spanish. Ireland is such a distinctive place. Aside of from the lush greenness and openness of the countryside, the country somehow seems much older than many other places in Europe. Much of the country seems untouched by the 21st or even the 20th century. Do not worry, all of the first world amenities exist there, but so do medieval and ancient ruins that have not been subjected to tourism or even national preservation societies. The pace of life is also much different, especially in our small home of Youghal. The town bustled and was alive with the greetings from the always cheery locals, but by 6 o’clock p.m. most shops and restaurants were closed and the town’s people were tucked into their homes (or the pub) for the evening. Meanwhile the lively and boisterous Spaniards were active until midnight. Life with the Spaniards is…well, lively! Their high spirits and enthusiasm for everything is infectious. The drives to distant, or even not-so-distant, sights and attractions featured exuberant conversations in rapid Spanish and very loud music which usually resulted in a sing-along.
The excursions took us to Blarney Castle, Killarney National Park, Dublin, Cork and Limerick. All were the highlights of our trip. In these places we explored urban and rural landscapes, old and new sites (mostly old). In the cities we discovered international communities. In the towns and parks, we mostly encountered local tourists exploring their own backyards. The exception was Blarney; there were more American tourists, fresh off the cruise ship, than there are in Disney World.
Our home and our family in Ireland was the school and our Spanish hosts. The students ate together, traveled together, practiced sports, hiked, went to classes and learned new dances together. Bonds were formed and by the end of the journey, goodbyes were tearful and hard to say. The shared experience of exploring Ireland with our new Spanish friends is perhaps the most valuable reward of the trip. We formed lifelong friendship and plans to see each other again soon are already being made. Some of our new Spanish friends will visit Episcopal School this fall, and at least one of them hopes to join EHS for the whole school year in 2017. This trip was unique in almost every single way. I cannot wait for the opportunity to take another group of students to Ireland to live and learn not only Spanish, but to develop their independence, enhance their perspectives of this world and to make connections with people from all walks of life.
Clara Howell, Episcopal High School Social Studies Teacher
Episcopal students have a wealth of opportunities outside the classroom through partnership with other educational institutions throughout the world. Episcopal Junior, Lundyn Herring, had one of these opportunities this summer, experiencing both the culture and history of Ireland while being immersed in Spanish!
I think that I could sum up the Ireland trip in four little words: Ireland was a dream. I genuinely fell in love with this country because of the scenery, but also because of the wonderful friends that I met along the way. I have always wanted to travel to Europe, and this trip was a perfect way to make that dream come true. Going with a large group like we did, helped a lot because we weren’t just clueless on where we were going and wandering aimlessly across the Irish countryside. Being that we were being housed in the small, yet Spanish, community in Youghal, it seemed like we were more in Spain some days, rather than Ireland. Don’t get me wrong, the Spanish were absolutely amazing and I wouldn’t trade that for anything, but it would have been nice to have been surrounded by Irish accents and at least some parts of the English language for just a little while.
The excursions that we took were just fantastic; words can’t even describe the beauty of the Killarney and Blarney landscapes and the industrial splendor of Cork, Dublin, and Waterford. Our first excursion was to Cork, two days after we arrived in Youghal, and one day after recovering from intense jetlag. It may have been gloomy, but the weather was the perfect setting for a European city such as Cork, it was exactly how I pictured it in my head. We were separated into groups and were set off into a scavenger hunt across the city. Once again, surrounded by broken English, it was more of a go-with-the-flow experience, just follow the leader and you’ll end up at the end of the line one way or another. After we arrived back at the checkpoint, they gave us about three hours of free time to roam about the city, shop for souvenirs, take photos, be tourists. This may have been one of my favorite days of the trip because it was the first taste of Ireland that I got on my own, it was the first time that I actually felt I was in Ireland, rather than Spain.
My most favorite excursion, which is deserving of a paragraph of its own, was to a little place known as Killarney. I have no words that would even begin to describe the complete natural beauty of this place. We toured Muckross House for about an hour, had lunch, and then just lay on the lawns and listened to music. I forgot to add that the weather was impeccable this day, totally 100% the best weather we had all trip, not a cloud in the sky or any signs of rain whatsoever. I would give anything to relive this day; I’m speaking on behalf of the other girls that came with me, and Ms. Howell as well.
Despite the constant Spanish, I am proud to say that this trip was by far one of the best things that I had ever experienced in my life. I am so happy that I decided to take this journey and I hope that it stays in Episcopal’s mind and heart just like it will in mine.
Episcopal School Junior
The toe bone connected to the heel bone,
The heel bone connected to the foot bone,
The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone.
And so it goes.
Every time I hear that song, I cannot help but visualize how each part connects to the next. What about you? Connections might make us think of legos and puzzle pieces and even circuits. There’s Velcro. And magnets. And bridges. Can you picture those paper chains that were so popular decades ago? Have you participated in The Wave at a sporting event? The left field connected to the right field… (I wonder how many of you just sang that in your head. I did.)
If you are taking time to read this, you are somehow connected to Episcopal. Perhaps you are one of our current families, or a graduate, or a teacher. Maybe you are a prospective family in search of the best academic option for your children. You could be a student at Episcopal right now. Think about it. Every person reading this is connected as our eyes focus on this piece. Right now. And so we have a shared experience and common ground. And so we are connected.
Such it is with us at Episcopal Lower School. We know that children learn better when we present materials and inspire them to make a connection. We ask questions like: What does it make you think about? How does it make you feel? Has that ever happened to you? Can you relate? We know that making connections brings meaning to learning and results in deeper understanding; the effects are lasting. It is appropriate that this year’s theme in Lower School, therefore, is Making Connections.
But we are thinking beyond just the classroom. In what other ways will we connect? Our daily Morning Meeting finds Big Buddies and Little Buddies sitting together and sharing this special time with one another. Several times throughout the year, we are intentional about connecting with our friends in the other two divisions for exciting academic experiences beyond the scope of a traditional classroom. Our varsity coaches teach our children physical education, instilling in them the importance of fitness and fun and fundamentals and connecting them with the path ahead.
At Episcopal, we connect with the Department Chairs on issues related to curriculum, best practice, and ideas that are pedagogically sound. Planning sessions connect teachers from all departments so that there is breadth and depth to student learning. Connecting art, music, drama, library, world language, and physical education to units of study helps us to be more in tuned to individual students’ strengths and learning preferences resulting in greater academic success.
We value our connection with parents at Episcopal and treasure their role. Library Workers and Tray Helpers provide much needed assistance throughout the year. We connect with parents at Orientation, Parents’ Night, and during special projects, parties, and performances in our division. Parents give unselfishly, planning meals for Teacher Terrific Tuesdays and Teacher Appreciation Week. Parents are connecting with each other at school and at planned social activities for different grade levels. We are all connected; our community is strong.
This year we wish to be more deliberate about looking outside of our school community and connecting in bigger, more impactful ways. Already, we partner with Melrose Elementary in Baton Rouge by sponsoring a School Supply Drive each August. We have also planned Easter Egg hunts and Spruce Up days there. Our fifth grade religion classes are structured for Service Learning, and students research organizations and agencies in Baton Rouge to discover more about the needs in our community. Together they select a project and work collaboratively to support that cause. What more can we teach our children about our city, state, and world? How can we inspire them to make a connection, and thus make a difference?
Establishing and nurturing connections cements the bond that we have with one another in Lower School inside and outside of classrooms: in the Greer Center, in the Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd, with our Senior Buddies, and in the theatre. Making connections not only enhances our learning, but it inspires empathy and involvement. We will continue to be mindful this year in all of the ways that we are connected, and we will be open to opportunities that will help us to connect more deeply with each other and our world.
How might you connect?
Lower School Division Head
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