The first day of school 2016 was a day we will never forget. We watched the unprecedented rainfall and prayed that it would stop. The waters rose and receded and we were eventually able to return to school to face our new “normal.”
The PreK-4 students came back with lots of questions about the flood. Where did the rain come from? Where did the water go? How can we help? The Project Based Learning model in Lower School was the perfect platform to let our students explore their curiosities. The “Fighting Floods” project was born.
Students began by telling their own flood stories. Many students were personally affected by the flood and all had felt the effects of the flood in some way. Students illustrated and dictated their stories.
Next, they moved to the fieldwork phase of the project. The class took a walk along the Coach Duplechain Trail to observe Jones Creek. They looked at debris in the trees and observed the ways that drains were strategically placed around the school to keep water out of the buildings. They learned about the Water Cycle and how the rain falls and evaporates back into the clouds.
We invited “experts” into our classroom to explain their roles in helping the community during the disaster. Brandon Vey, father of Hartley Vey (‘30), was one of the first people out rescuing people in his boat. He shared his experiences with the students and brought his boat to perform a mock rescue. Former Episcopal School nurse, Lynda Stockinger, shared her experiences working with the Red Cross.
Mrs. Minton brought a Stream Table and reenacted the flood with the students. We placed Lego houses along the river to see which houses flooded first and brainstormed ways to prevent flooding in the future.
Students explored properties of water like floating and sinking and constructed foil boats. They tested their boats by “rescuing” plastic bears. They tested and refined their designs to rescue the most bears possible.
Throughout the project, one recurring question arose. “What can we do to help?” With a little research, the students learned about the flooding at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. They were saddened to learn that over 575,000 pounds of food were lost in the flood waters. The class decided to organize a canned Food Drive in the Lower School. Small piles of cans turned into great towers of cans. Each grade level was challenged to build a creative structure out of their cans. Themes of peace and love for our community emerged in the designs. The drive ended with a visit during Morning Meeting from Senior Vice President of Development & Philanthropy, Charlene Montelaro of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. She thanked the Lower School and emphasized the impact that their donation would have on feeding the hungry in our community. Mrs. Laura Portwood led students in a prayer to bless the food before it is donated to the Food Bank.
The smallest members of the Episcopal School community learned a valuable lesson. You are never too small to make a big difference.
As the president of the local association for Latin teachers in Louisiana, the Louisiana Classical Association, Episcopal Latin teacher Nathalie Roy received requests from as far away as Arizona asking about the well-being of local schools hit by the flood. They were especially interested in schools that taught Latin. “I mentioned Runnels, of course, but I couldn’t help but mention my own classroom which got 3 inches of water. I lost lots of book, interactive boards made with my own hands, and most unfortunate of all, old-school slides which I had taken on trips to Italy and Greece years before digital photography was popular.”
The classics community all over the country and in Louisiana came to her aid. Professors at LSU, Tulane, Northwestern, and the University of Illinois sent Amazon gift cards, replacement slides, and reference books. When Nathalie’s classroom was displaced to the library conference room during Penniman remediation and restoration, iPads which normally contain her students’ textbooks were delayed in getting to her students. Latin teachers in Slidell, Crowley, New Orleans, Virginia, and Colorado came to the rescue, sending hard copies of all the books so that Latin students here at EHS could keep learning Latin without their iPads.
“This experience has been a humbling one for sure. It reminded me of the kindness of strangers.” After moving back into her Penniman Hall classroom after 5 weeks in the conference room, Roy says the thing she missed most was…”desks, by far. It’s the little things that make you realize how blessed we truly are.”
Nathalie Roy has taught Latin at Episcopal for the past 22 years. She loves teaching 6th graders about the 79 AD. eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, but this year’s new online role-playing Latin I class in which students hunt down the meaning of a secret stone to help save the world is fast becoming her favorite experience at Episcopal. She is a National Board certified teacher and life-long Girl Scout.
First graders have been discovering and learning what it means to stay healthy in their first Project Based Learning unit entitled "Our Healthy Selves". As part of this unit, students have had guest speakers who have lent their knowledge in a range of topics including healthy snacks, dealing with injuries, utilizing yoga for stretching and relaxing purposes, teamwork, sportsmanship, heart healthy exercises, plus more to come. The activity spotlighted in this article shows students interviewing upper school students. First graders were trained to use iPads with an interviewer's perspective. Student groups took turns sharing jobs within their groups: videographer/interviewer, recorder of responses, and assistant. Each class was researching a different question:
During the actual interviewing session, students were excitedly engaged in getting responses from upper school students. They were genuinely energetic and focused on what they could learn. It was exciting to see the students grow in confidence the more they practiced each role in their group. When a problem occurred, they worked as teams to problem solve and continue the group's mission.
For teachers, this allowed the integration of technology, speaking, and listening skills. It was a fantastic opportunity to observe each child in action and see them from a different perspective out in the open rather than in the classroom. Students were courageous and took chances to ensure they were able to get respondents. Teachers gained a greater knowledge of their students from this activity, and this knowledge will be used to guide decision making for future activities.
Students created bar graphs after compiling data from upper school interviews. Moving forward, students will be analyzing their results and drawing conclusions about upper school students in regard to how they stay healthy. First graders will be analyzing their videos with the help of Mr. McCrary to choose their best for uploading to the classroom Seesaw blog. This will allow parents to view their child's best interview and see their progress in the areas of technology use as well as speaking skills. A culminating activity to go along with the project will be a video showcase with Mr. MrCrary where students will present their videos and findings to the class.
As a newcomer to Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, there are two things that set this school apart from others: community and opportunity. That is not to say that other schools are devoid of these things, but that Episcopal embodies them at a level that is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Episcopal is thoughtful and intentional in building and deepening a sense of community. From students of all ages, faculty and staff, parents and alumni, it is apparent that the bonds of the Episcopal community run deep. This type of community is not something that happens by accident; it is developed purposefully through shared experiences in teams, clubs, chapel, advisory groups, and other regularly occurring group meetings and events. Having time to come together with a shared focus and purpose built into the schedule each week may be taken for granted when it has been the norm for many years.
I have heard so many people comment on how impressed they have been while witnessing the ways that the Episcopal community, especially the students, came together during and after the flood to help and support each other. I have had a unique perspective in these events as I observed the post-flood volunteerism and generosity first, then came to see the school community in action after the school year officially began. Upon seeing these regularly scheduled community events taking place and becoming part of them myself, I was then able to understand how this community bond is formed and maintained. As a new member of the Episcopal community, I am amazed at the impact these common gatherings and events have on strengthening relationships across campus and beyond.
The concept of opportunity ties in very closely with community at Episcopal. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines opportunity as “a favorable juncture of circumstances.” This is exactly what I see when I look around at Episcopal. In striving towards the mission to nurture and develop the whole child, students are afforded a variety of opportunities to grow spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically.
Through service learning opportunities, students are developing character and an understanding of civic responsibility. The robust curriculum and course offerings provide students with opportunities to work closely with faculty members who are well respected and passionate about their fields of study. A variety of athletic opportunities push students to develop physical and mental strength while understanding the value of being part of a team. Opportunities for students to express themselves creatively are abundant through the visual and performing arts programs.
To be in a place where there is excellence in every facet of the school is invigorating for me as an educator. Seeing students embrace opportunities to learn and grow while being an essential part of such a vibrant community is powerful. This is what makes Episcopal School of Baton Rouge uniquely different.
You might have missed it sitting in the VPAC for the first time, watching your child up on the stage acting or dancing. You were impressed to see them singing or playing an instrument. . . and that painting they did? Wow. From the general state of their room at home you were amazed they could organize much of anything, let alone create something that’s moving, deep even.
It is impressive what our students can do and what our teachers draw out of them every day at Episcopal. The final product is thrilling, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the surface, the connections and discipline at work are also playing out in their academic lives and on the athletic field. The Arts help focus emotion and bridge understanding between individuals and groups. It uses every part of the brain and allows the artist to communicate abstract ideas where words might fail.
How does this apply to a future career? Let me get a plug in here and say that a career in the arts IS a viable career. With a little creativity and a great deal of hard work, graduates from Episcopal are enjoying lucrative, meaningful careers in advertising, dance, theater, music, and art. It can be done. But for those who might not see art as their eventual career path, participation in the programs we offer can reap future benefits.
Let’s imagine that your daughter is intent on studying medicine. In the not-so-recent past, the path for a would-be physician was a pre-med undergraduate major, leading to a battery of tests and eventual admission to medical school. Things have changed. In a recent blog post, Kathleen Franco, M.D., associate dean of admissions and student affairs at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, writes about the new diversity of Medical School admissions. MCAT scores are still very important, but on the subject of music majors successfully applying to med school, she writes:
“Typically, music majors are both great in math and superb in feeling emotions. They are practiced team players and possess great discipline. They demonstrate by their activities and in their essays how much music has enriched their lives.”
Dr. Franco is highlighting what artists, at any level, train rigorously to do:
So, as you take a seat to see one of our excellent productions or meander through an art show this year, I hope you’ll rest a little easier knowing that college and career preparation is taking place in the ballet studio and being worked out on canvas every day. It’s intentional and it’s one of the difference makers of an Episcopal education.
Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corporation have recently announced the names of National Merit Semi-Finalists. Episcopal is happy to congratulate Hayden Cresson, Jacob DeWitt, and Sienna Williams who have been named National Merit Semi-Finalists from the Class of 2017. We also congratulate Caroline Casey, John Harris, and George “Rory” McCracken for their recognition as National Merit Commended Scholars from the Class of 2017.
National Merit Semi-Finalists have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring. To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, Semi-finalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. About 90 percent of the Semi-finalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship, earning the Merit Scholar® title.
Congratulations to these outstanding scholars!
National Merit Semi-Finalists from the Class of 2017
National Merit Commended Scholars from the Class of 2017.
Every year, in each class I’ve taken, someone has asked their teacher or fellow classmate why they should care about the content they are taught. It’s easy to feel apathetic and unenthused about something that could never possibly affect your life. In the classroom, it is vital to expose students to ideas and concepts that illustrate new cultures, situations, and ideas in order to expand the pursuit of knowledge. Without culture, we lack the very things that define us.
In the Spanish classes at Episcopal, we learn poems and songs. We analyze products of culture. We connect them to events so we understand the cultural implications they have, not only on the place from whence they came, but on us. The connection between the things we’re learning and humanity’s bigger picture makes us more self-aware. This empathy is an impetus to engage us in other languages, such as Spanish. Learning the background or importance of a topic gives us the opportunity to no longer trivialize our work. When trying to understand massive cultural themes, it is helpful to pose a simple question: what evidence does this piece give about the quality of life in a particular country? A short story about financial hardships in Colombia can segue into a discussion about the effect that violence has there. When students have real evidence and examples, challenging or complex conversations become more ‘genuine'. Culture is not only a lens that magnifies the world, but it is a mirror that reflects the commonalities that connect each and every one of us. To know that someone across the world can understand our challenges and passions creates a fire of curiosity that cannot be extinguished.
Martine Cruz ('17)
I was raised eating fresh bread, with homemade meals, warm social gatherings and celebrations, I have a strong sense of friends and family, who are worth every sacrifice. When I was young, my dad used to say that I needed to speak more than Catalan and Spanish (both my mother tongues) to have better chances to know the world. My parents made my brother and I take English lessons since we were young, which wasn’t common in my country at that time. Sometimes my father jokes that he regrets this, because now both of his children live far away, my brother in Malta and me in the U.S., and we do not see each other as much as we would love to.
Learning a language and its culture involves getting to know many new things, from the most evident products like the words to name objects, to the most subtle perspectives behind certain behaviors and decisions. Moreover, it allows you to get to know yourself, increases your awareness of different realities, and makes you develop flexibility to adapt to several situations.
When we think about Hispanic culture, immediately we imagine food, music, traditional clothes and dances, etc., and of course, Spanish language. But there is much more to it, and it is actually the most important part, the invisible ideas that we can easily miss. The world is seen and described differently depending on the language chosen because each of the words used have an associated concept, intention and meaning. That is why there are words or expressions that cannot be translated –Google for instance the word “duende” in the context of Flamenco dancing. There are many others words and contexts that cannot be reasonable without having an understanding of the language and culture to which they belong. Some languages have mostly short words (like English); others have word combinations that give a gently rhythmic feeling to the sentences (for example Portuguese or Italian). Some languages are full of descriptive adjectives (like Spanish), and others manage without verb conjugations (like Swahili). Still others use words that mean a whole sentence (like Native American languages). The languages are created as a reflection of the identity of their native speakers. The way we act, and react is different when we are communicating in a specific language. This is where a knowledge of history and literature adds a special value to learning languages and cultures.
I like to introduce poems in Spanish class because the students learn meaning associated to words, which includes both the vocabulary and language structures used, and also how the rhetorical figures are laid out to help the poet’s intention. Learning poems and memorizing them by heart enhances language acquisition, and pronunciation proficiency.
I hope you enjoy the video that are about to watch. To my students, thank you for allowing me to guide you in the incredible journey of learning a language and a culture. I look forward to seeing how much more you can achieve and where the learning path brings us together.
“Puedo escribir los versos más tristes esta noche” – “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” by Chilean Nobel Prize winning writer Pablo Neruda, one of the most prolific, and popular poets during the 20th century. In this piece the author mourns a lost love once had, and idealizes the passion that was felt.
Dr Victoria Alvarez
Dr. Alvarez joined Episcopal in 2010, after teaching at the College Level for five years. She serves as Upper School Spanish Teacher, teaching Spanish IV Honors, AP Spanish Language and Culture, and Spanish IV: Hispanic Culture. Dr Alvarez is the Spanish Exchange Coordinator, and sponsors Spanish Club, and also the Hispanic Honor Society. Dr. Alvarez earned her PhD in Education and Society, and her Masters and Bachelor's degree in Educational Sciences from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
In our opening school Eucharist service with the entire faculty and staff, we gathered on the stage and worshiped in the round. It was a unique and profound experience. Our Baton Rouge community had been through a long and difficult summer. But as we gathered, rather than looking at the back of someone’s head in the chapel, we looked across the stage into the eyes of our friends, our colleagues, and our neighbors.
This is the message that I was privileged to deliver to them that day-not knowing the challenges that we were about to face together.
Our first reading was from Ecclesiastes. “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun,” and “it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
It is indeed a difficult business that we find ourselves engaged in and that is, as the writer says, nothing new. But going back to the way things had been is not good enough. It’s what got us here. We have to fight that temptation. We have to want more and we have to hope for more.
In the lesson from Romans we heard about hope. “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” And, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Things hoped for are things unseen-even things that seem impossible. People in the 19th century would have thought it was impossible for our industrial society to exist without slavery-but we made that happen. I have worked with parents at Children’s’ Hospital in NOLA and the only hope you can give some of those parents is to help them believe that there will be a better day in the future-even when that future seems unimaginable. In the midst of all that we face as a community, we have to hope for a better future, we have to hope for a better world and we have to teach for it.
A student came to talk about architecture in the church for her Honors Thesis and we talked about the obstacles and barriers to the sacraments that used to be part of a church’s “set up”, as opposed the modern setting we were using today-in the round. Today we are not removed, we are not above, we are not separated from the people we serve. We are in the midst of the lives of each other and the students we serve and we have to teach them a better way.
And finally our gospel lesson was from Luke-The Good Samaritan. And the question that prompts Jesus telling the story is, “Who is my neighbor?” We have to teach our students about who their neighbors are and we have to teach them how to be a neighbor to everyone.
The story is interesting because of the question that the young man asks Jesus. We all know the story but this is what prompted it. “Who is my neighbor?” It was a question of limitation, not inclusion-who do I have to love-and Jesus turns his expectations upside down. At the end of the story, Jesus answers with another question, “Who was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” And the answer is, “The one who showed him mercy.” Not the one who was right, or shouted the loudest, or got the most likes on their FB post, but the one who showed mercy. That is what being a neighbor is all about. It recalls the passage from Micah-to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.
As we are all gathered on this stage, we are not all of one mind but we are all of one purpose. We are here because this is a difficult business and we have to make something new, we are here to teach kids to hope for things unseen and, maybe most importantly, to teach kids not just about who their neighbors are, but that showing mercy is what it means to be a neighbor.
This is what we do here. We do more than teach kids material or skills, we teach them how to be, how to live and how to love. Just as the love of God is made real in the midst of us today, we make God’s love real to the students that come to us, every day. Amen.
The Rev. Kirkland “Skully” Knight
The Rev. Kirkland “Skully” Knight has served in Episcopal schools for 23 years. The first 10 were spent as a teacher and coach and the last 13 years as a teacher and chaplain. Skully joined the Episcopal team in 2011 and serves as the Sr. Chaplain and Associate Head of School for Service Learning. Skully earned his bachelor’s degree from LSU and his M. Div. from The University of the South at Sewanee.
Episcopal was delighted to welcome distinguished alum, Caroline Fayard on campus Tuesday, September 6th. Caroline was Valedictorian of the class of 1986. She graduated from Dartmouth College with honors and went on to earn her law degree from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors and winning multiple awards. Caroline is currently running for the United States Senate.
She began her visit with a group of juniors and seniors interested in politics; three of whom are writing their thesis on government and politics. Caroline explained the path that led her to running for the United States Senate and her desire to be a strong voice for Louisiana. Caroline and the students discussed the importance of improving the education system in Louisiana and ensuring we have a first-class higher education program in the state. In light of the recent flood, she and the students talked about programs the government has available to help get Louisiana back on its feet and the need to have a strong voice in Washington fighting for the needs of Louisianans.
Caroline also attended Edwin Way’s AP Government and Politics class where she discussed this year's election process. She highlighted the ways elections can differ in a presidential year. This year’s Louisiana Senate race is unique in that there are twenty-four candidates running for the open seat. The class talked about the ways the presidential election may impact voter turnout and the pick of the next US Senator from Louisiana.
Caroline ended her visit addressing the high school students at the first upper school assembly in the VPAC. She commended the students on their efforts and compassion during the recent flooding and reminisced about her days at Episcopal, emphasizing that her experiences shaped her into the person she is today. The core values she developed and the friendships formed here were lasting and the strong community sustains her still.
When asked about her visit to Episcopal Caroline said:
"It was a pleasure and an honor to be back home at Episcopal last week, and to have the opportunity to talk with leaders of tomorrow about this year's senate race. My years at EHS helped shape the woman I am today. I loved getting back in the classroom, and having the chance to teach the students how the process works and how their critical thinking skills can serve them in looking at the race. I'm grateful for the time I got to spend with the students. Thanks to everyone who made it possible."