After listening to another musician play, Miles Davis reportedly once remarked, “Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” Anyone who has ever spent years learning a craft can relate. It can take years to move beyond technique and find your own creative voice. As a writer, I remember a similar sentiment expressed by my mentor, the novelist Zakes Mda, who urged my classmates and I onward in our writing by insisting that, “novels aren’t written, they’re rewritten.” It’s in the long, difficult revisions that the contours of an original voice begin to emerge.
With the beginning of the second quarter at Episcopal, and the fits and starts of the early weeks behind us, it’s a time in which the campus begins to harmonize and the business of the school year is in full form. Our 9th graders have found their footing in Upper School life, our 10th and 11th graders are going full-throttle, and our Seniors are immersed in our most advanced classes, their final sports seasons, and the rituals of college applications. It’s also a time when the voices of our Seniors have begun to emerge with a distinctiveness that can only be found through years of very hard work and reflection—and it’s a beautiful sound to behold!
In just the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of attending the defenses of three different Seniors’ Honors Theses. By any measure, these projects are impressive: each spans more than 20 pages, includes thorough scholarly research, and tackles a societal issue of immediate importance. In short, they pass what one of my professors called “The Rocking Chair Test,” explaining: “If you’re going to write about the history of the rocking chair, you better do it well and you’d better make me care.” These are theses that definitely accomplish both tasks. But what has struck me the most in these defenses has been the original voice each student has shown in their thesis. On paper and in the question and answer periods of the defenses, these Seniors have given nuanced reflections on their projects that reflect a deep level of scholarly and personal maturity. They speak of them with voices that can only be developed through very long hours of questioning, searching, and revision.
While our Seniors’ individual voices have been on full display in such advanced projects, they have also come together to lead the rest of campus in every arena, from organizing pep rallies and Homecoming tailgates to sharing homilies in Chapel and leading service projects. Amidst the array of ways in which Seniors have stepped forward to lend their voices to campus initiatives this fall, one recent video particularly caught many people’s attention on campus. Titled, “It’s Gonna Be OK Juniors,” the video was produced by Senior Kaylin Chauvin, in cooperation with a number of her classmates, out of the simple desire to help our Juniors see beyond the stresses inherent in the rigorous Junior year. Eleventh grade is typically very hard at any school. Many of the core skills and knowledge developed in the first couple years of high school have started to culminate in a gamut of advanced courses, students have shifted into key roles on sports teams and creative productions, they are working and driving, and they are beginning to feel the weight of college looming, most tangibly through the PSAT/ACT/SAT exams they’re taking.
But, of course, our Seniors have passed through this crucible and know what a transformative process it is. In their compassion and maturity, this video shows what a wonderful sound it is when Episcopal students work through their struggles, begin to “sound like themselves,” and then share this with the rest the school. Enjoy!
Dr. Thomas “Spree” MacDonald
Dr. Thomas “Spree” MacDonald, Head of Upper School
Episcopal High School Partners with The Cajun Army to Help Flood Victims
On Tuesday, October 25th Episcopal School of Baton Rouge welcomed Mr. Chris King of the Cajun Army to campus to talk with students about the needs that still exist in our community following the Great Flood of 2016. Mr. King, who graduated from Episcopal in the late 80’s, helped start the Cajun Army as an off-shoot of the Cajun Navy immediately following the disaster. As opposed to the Navy which focuses on boat rescue, King explained that the Cajun Army has focused on providing volunteer “boots on the ground” to help residents with their needs now that the flood waters have receded. He explained that over the past several months since the disaster the organization which started with just a few people has grown to a force of over 10,000 volunteers who have been involved in some way.
As part of his introduction, Mr. King explained that he was not always the most academically focused young man when he was an Episcopal student. Despite this shortcoming, he pointed out that it was his teachers and peers that helped instill in him the values that lead him to doing work, both professionally and as a volunteer, focused on helping others. He stated very poignantly that it was through helping others that he found his own gifts and talents and realized what kind of man he wanted to strive to become.
After his introduction, Mr. King went on to describe the kinds of desperate situations that volunteers are seeing as they continue to work with flood victims in our community. He told them about people who are living in their cars because they don’t have a tent or a trailer to put in their yards. He described the horrible conditions inside flooded homes that people are living in because they have no other place to go. He also made the point that the situation will likely get worse before it gets better due to the fact that FEMA assistance for temporary housing will soon be running out. As a result, more people will likely be without shelter when they are no longer able to pay for costly hotel rooms.
Mr. King closed by challenging students to rise to the challenge of helping their neighbors. He shared with them a plan to gather needed supplies for those who are struggling and homeless. Supplies needed include tents, tank-less water heaters and sleeping bags. As a school, Episcopal will be working to gather these supplies over the next couple of weeks and will then deliver them to the Cajun Army warehouse where they can then be distributed by volunteers to the people in need. King reminded students that many in our community still face a long road to recovery. But together we can help bring our friends and neighbors back to a better place.
The Center for Service Learning is partnering with the Cajun Army to continue to help those in our community affected by the flood this summer. Over the next couple of weeks, Episcopal will hold a supply drive to help gather items for families who are homeless or living under difficult circumstances. Below is a list of supply needs. Donations should be dropped off in the Student Center in Perkins Hall.
A PreK-4 student uses tweezers to sort beads into piles. Down the hall, a Kindergarten student writes a string of letters to represent a picture. In 3rd Grade, a student is working on the final draft of her narrative. Which of these children is writing? All three!
Learning to write is a developmental process. The building blocks of writing start at infancy. Babies as young as 18 months begin to model writing through lines and squiggles. As fine motor muscles strengthen, young children form recognizable letters. As they develop phonemic awareness, older learners are able to associate letter sounds with written symbols. Once these milestones are met, children are ready to learn the formal rules of writing.
In their Early Childhood years at Episcopal, students focus on developmentally-appropriate skills that lay the foundation for their future writing. With a focus on strengthening fine motor muscles, they complete tasks such as lacing cards, grasping objects with tweezers or rolling play-dough to form letters. Teachers model writing through the Morning Message, helping the learners associate spoken words with written text. Students practice the structure of writing by dictating their stories, which are published by the teacher.
The learning environment itself is purposefully designed in a way that provides endless opportunities for children to explore writing materials. Students in the dramatic play center scribble on a notepad to take “orders” at a restaurant. In the science center, a group of children label pictures of a butterfly's life cycle.
These pre-writing skills are critical as students enter Kindergarten and begin daily journaling. As the year passes, students move from drawing and labeling pictures to writing short descriptions of their pictures with complete sentences and punctuation. Students’ learning is supported by their teachers. Their work becomes more independent as the year progresses.
Once students enter first grade at Episcopal, they are introduced to Writing Workshop. This is a dedicated time each day where students work on “growing their writing” through a series of mini lessons, learning to write for a variety of audiences and purposes. The teacher acts as a mentor author, modeling the writing process and helping young writers as they navigate their way through drafts, revisions and publishing their work. Students’ work is self-selected and they take full ownership of the writing process, using a checklist to revise and edit their own work. The Writing Workshop model continues through 5th Grade.
Take a peek into a Lower School classroom at Episcopal and you will see students fully immersed in their writing. During the first quarter, 1st Grade students have been working on a narrative piece, focusing on telling the beginning, middle and end of the story. In front of each child sits a folder, bursting with drafts of stories covered in marked-up revisions and glued-on additions. Students are beaming with pride as they work on their final published work. This ownership over their writing gives students a voice to tell their stories.
Writing is a critical part of telling our stories. The building blocks are laid as students progress through their years in Lower School. They will take these skills with them as they move forward to Middle and Upper School. The strong writing foundation that they have built during their years at Episcopal gives them the means to share their thoughts with others as they prepare to go out into the world. As the saying goes, “No one can tell your story, so tell it yourself. No one can write your story, so write it yourself.”
A 2001 graduate of Episcopal High School, Julie returned to her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in Elementary Education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, TX. After teaching 2nd grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach 1st grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. After her adventure was over, Julie accepted a position to teach Pre-K4 at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge, teaching alongside some of her former teachers. She has enjoyed seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk.
The Arts are a fundamental part of the student experience here at Episcopal.
We believe an arts education can connect students more deeply to the world and open them up to new ways of seeing. Through participating in the arts - whether it’s dance, music, theatre, or visual arts - our students become more aware of the beauty around them, begin to feel empathy for others, learn to communicate their feelings in healthy, productive ways, and grow in their common humanity. The arts can also broaden our students’ perspective on traditional academics, which will help them see meaning and life-long purpose in what we teach.
Research shows that an arts education is closely linked to almost everything we want for our students: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. It also shows that participation in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking and verbal skill, and can improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork
The annual Fall All School Student Art Show is now on display in the Visual & Performing Arts Center lobby. The show features 185 works by students from all three divisions and showcases the great works students are producing in their visual arts classes. Works include drawings, paintings, prints, pottery and sculpture, photography, digital and mixed media. Please take the time to come by and view the show which is scheduled to run through November.
We invite you to see the difference a strong artistic foundation can make in the life of your child.
Visit the VPAC to see the entire collection.
Every day as I walk from the parking lot to my office, I see new progress on the Chapel renovation. The construction fascinates me. Watching a pile of bricks become an arch or a muddy trench transform into a sidewalk is magical somehow. The architect and construction workers make it all seem so easy. I know it’s not. Before one brick was laid, It took time, commitment, and generosity on the part of donors, the board of trustees, and the entire school community to make this renewal possible.
The Lewis Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd is central to my understanding and love of this place. When I interviewed in late July, thirteen years ago, I was wowed by the campus. The VPAC was an amazing space. The columns lining Perkins fit perfectly with my midwestern, romantic image of a southern private school. It wasn’t until the second day of my interview that I toured the chapel. My guide took me to the door, unlocked it, and suggested I experience it alone.
Light was pouring in through the rose window. The air was still. I could hear the echo of my footsteps as I walked up the central aisle. I sat in a pew and took some time to breathe. This was a place of presence and peace. I was home.
As my time at Episcopal drew on, I came to know the Chapel intimately. How the interplay of voices changed when moved from here to there, or to remember that the air conditioning should be turned off before a service. I remember the pride I felt watching my students perform the Mozart Requiem as the chapel reverberated with the power of pure compositional genius. I recall chats with Dr. Houghton that spanned every topic imaginable, and sitting in Father Howe’s office, laughing so hard tears ran down my face. When dark events occurred in my life, I would seek out the silence and shelter it provided and the perspective it allowed. It’s always been more than a building. It is the heart of Episcopal.
Soon the chapel will be renewed for a new generation of Episcopal students. The great traditions of Episcopal will continue and new traditions will find a place. Through all the changes, the Chapel will stand- a place of laughter, silence, presence, and peace.
Our community holds this sacred space to uplift and inspire, just as we incorporate morality, empathy, and presence into all of our classes. All of us, as we gather there, will remain under construction-- constantly being renovated as we continue our individual spiritual journeys.
The Psalmist, as is often the case, said it best:
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house
they will be alway praising thee.
Please share your stories of the Chapel with us. Leave a comment, we would love to hear your story!
In my role as Academic Technology Coordinator, I have the pleasure of witnessing technology integration, including that of emerging technology, all across our campus. "Emerging technology" refers to new and innovative technology not yet widely adopted due to cost or availability. When we typically think of emerging technologies, we often think of those areas traditionally related to science and math. Because of our positive and motivated teaching community, however, we see emerging technology in unexpected places. The first quarter of our school year offers many examples of early adopters in areas traditionally not associated with technology, such as religion, foreign language, and our Pre-K program.
In 8th grade religion, Fr. Skully Knight had a thought while planning a lesson on Incarnation: “One of the ideas that we discuss is Incarnation, the Word becoming flesh and living among us as John the Evangelist writes in his Prologue. We use the movie 'The Odd Life of Timothy Green' as an illustration of this theological concept. It is the story of a young couple who cannot have a child and they write down on paper all of the traits they believe their child would have, and when a boy mysteriously enters their life, they realize that he is all of the things they hoped for in a child. He is the incarnation of their words.” Fr. Skully enlisted the Academic Technology group and the newly created Tech Scholars, a small group of upper school students who focus on technology, to assist students create a single word that describes Timothy, while keeping in mind the concept of Incarnation in scripture. Ryan Field (‘20), guided the students through designing their words in a 3D modeling program. For printing, he enlisted the help of another Tech Scholar, Ellen Rea (‘20), to print the words using the available 3D printers on campus. The increased accessibility and training for the 3D printers across our campus is in part thanks to Betsy Minton, one of our Instigators, and her relationship with Dremel. Through her guidance, the Tech Scholars were able to print all the words in a few short days. Fr. Skully sums it up nicely: “It was an interesting way to use technology to talk about theology”.
Dr. Victoria Alvarez was the inaugural user of our Virtual Reality Lab on campus. During the first quarter, the Tech Scholars, which include Stephen Barker (‘20), Zach Holloway (‘18), Daniel Johnson (‘17), Ellen Rea (‘20), Ryan Field (‘20), and Celia Keisel (‘20), spent a good amount of time setting up our two VR Labs and going through setup training so they could assist the teachers in using the VR Labs. Dr. Alvarez went through similar training including managing health concerns and procedures before implementing in her class. Two Tech Scholars were assigned to assist Dr. Alvarez, Stephen Barker and Daniel Johnson. According to Dr. Alvarez, “Using the VR Lab in my AP Spanish Language and Culture class was very interesting. At that time, my students were studying the environment vocabulary, and had just finished a presentation-based project where they talked about about the natural world and resources of several Hispanic countries. With the VR Lab, we were able to travel to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, and role played a group conversation imagining that we were scientists working at Darwin's Research station. For a few minutes they were immersed in a different context -an authentic one- and using the target language to communicate.”
Lastly, we are seeing an increased use of digital portfolio tools on our campus. While the use of this technology isn’t officially emerging, it is emerging in places you might not expect: our Pre-K4 program. Last year, our 6th grade science teacher, Stacy Hill, introduced Seesaw, a digital portfolio tool to me, and we began to investigate its usefulness to our 6th grade students to curate digital artifacts. During that investigation, it became apparent the ease and usefulness of this tool could work for our Lower School. After introducing Seesaw to the Lower School teachers, Lindsay Smith, Julie Pace, and Sarah Reno from PreK-4 met with the Academic Technology Group to assist with setup and training. According to Ms. Lindsay Smith, “Assessment in PreK-4 does not look like the traditional methods used in upper grades. We rely heavily on the portfolio approach to document students learning, and achievements in meeting their milestones. In years past, we have used a paper portfolio that displayed students' work, alongside anecdotal records, photographs, and other detailed narratives. This portfolio allowed parents to watch their child’s growth and development throughout the year. The paper portfolio, while meaningful, was very time consuming, and not always eco friendly. This year, James McCrary introduced us to Seesaw, an online digital portfolio. Teachers are able to upload students' work with a single click, and give parents instant access to their child’s day to day activities. The hours we have saved moving to this new system gives us more time to spend differentiating instruction, and planning and implementing activities for our students.”
These are but a few examples of innovation happening on our campus. As someone who loves to integrate technology in academics, these types of stories make me very proud of our community, especially the teachers for being open to innovative ideas to enhance the learning experience for the whole child: spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically. I look forward to the rest of the year and being witness to more of these stories.
The month of October brings anticipation of Pumpkin Spice, fall leaves, Trick-or-Treating and...butterflies? The Pre-K4 students look forward to the arrival of their monarch caterpillars each fall.
Nestled between Frazer Hall and the VPAC, Pre-K students spend a magical hour each day tending to their garden. Students planted milkweed plants at their Garden Party in September. They have been tending to the plants daily during their Gardening block.
In mid-September, monarch butterflies began feeding on the flowers. Students noticed the appearance of white spots on the milkweed leaves. As weeks passed, holes started to appear on the leaves. They began to wonder what was happening. Upon further examination with magnifying glasses, students were able to see tiny caterpillars crawling on the plants. They began reading books about monarch butterflies and learned about the Life Cycle of a Butterfly. Students drew conclusions that the butterflies had laid eggs on the plant and caterpillars had hatched and begun feeding on the milkweed leaves.
The class watched week after week as the caterpillars began to grow. Students observed the process of molting, when the caterpillar outgrows its skin and sheds it. During the last phase of molting, students were able to observe a caterpillar as it formed its chrysalis.
Students documented their findings in the garden through illustrations and dictations in their Seesaw portfolio. They also partnered with an international organization, Journey North, to report findings in their garden. Students used an app to take pictures and record the numbers of eggs, larva and pupae in their garden. This helps scientists track the migration of butterflies as they make their journey to Mexico each fall.
To conclude their project, Pre-K4 will write and illustrate a published book about monarch butterflies. The book will be available in Pollard Library for check-out in the Spring.
Although students are sad to see the butterflies go, they look forward to their return in the spring migration. As one student put it, “This isn’t goodbye. It’s only see you later.”
Come visit our Open House:
Wednesday, October 26th at 8 AM - 10 AM
As a culminating project for our Healthy Selves Project Based Learning unit, students participated in a First Grade Triathlon. Students prepared for the triathlon at school earlier this week. Monday, students walked the full course which includes the pool, the parking lot, and the soccer field. They also practiced riding their bikes and scooters on the corresponding segment to be ready for the event. Tuesday, students showed off their swimming skills as they practiced in the pool.
Wednesday was the day of the Triathlon. Students each swam a lap in the pool, transitioned to their scooters and bikes, raced through the cone maze, and ended at the finish line on the sport court. Through this activity, students were able to use their knowledge about staying healthy to perform their best with the physical exercise needed to complete a triathlon. Students were very excited for the event and did an amazing job! Go first graders!
On Friday, October 7th at Memorial Stadium, Episcopal School of Baton Rouge concluded its Homecoming week with the presentation of the 2016 Court and announcement of the Queen, Carson Elizabeth Saurage. Miss Saurage is the daughter of Mr. Matt and Mrs. Catherine Saurage.
Homecoming Court comprised of two Freshmen maids, two Sophomore maids, two Junior maids and three Senior maids was announced during halftime of the game against Mentorship Academy.
Along with Miss Saurage, Episcopal High School honored:
The Homecoming dance was held at Episcopal on Saturday, October 8th in the VPAC lobby. This year’s theme was “Knight at the Movies.”
The Shoe-fly sculpture project was an inspired collaboration of poetry, science and the visual arts. 6th grade students were given the task of reading Kwame Alexander's BOOKED, the follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel THE CROSSOVER. Soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words. He wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.
In the novel-told-in-verse, Mac, the school librarian, loves dragonflies.
From the novel:
The Mac drinks tea
in a dragonfly mug.
On the library floor
is a dragonfly rug.
The door is covered
with dragonfly pics,
‘cause Skip to the Mac
is dragonfly sick.
"Mac is a big reason the main character of the novel ends up falling in love with reading, so he’s a character I admire," said sixth grade teacher Mrs. Guarisco. "We started our novel study with an examination of our reading histories, including people who have influenced us in our reading journeys. I sure hope I can play a role in kids’ journeys the way Mac does.
"I thought it would be fun to do some kind of dragonfly art, so I asked Mr. Ropper and Mrs. Minton about working on something together. Mr. Roper revamped his Shoeberts project and with a few tweaks the Shoe-flies project was born. I’m hoping to decorate my classroom with the finished work."
Mrs. Betsy Minton, our Science Instigator, made a presentation to Mr. Roper's 6th grade art students about the dragonfly to inspire ideas for their own creatures.
"I showed the students a short video clip of dragonflies that spoke specifically about engineering and how dragonflies are the perfect flying machine. We went over some basic dragonfly anatomy to help them understand what components they needed to complete their sculpture," said Minton.
6th grades students are using a piece of cast-off footwear as a form from which to build, thus the "Shoe-fly" label. Wire and paper mache' are being used with other found objects to create the creatures. Students finished the constructions with paint and a variety of decorative touches.