This was the best day ever!
Such an exclamation is frequently heard in the kindergarten classrooms in Frazer Hall. Kindergarten students still have the enthusiasm and willingness to get messy and explore the world through play, while also reaching critical academic milestones. In many ways kindergarten is the sweet spot of Lower School. Here, students are developing skills that will forever change the way they interact with the world, such as reading, writing and adding. At the same time, Episcopal kindergarteners still have the opportunity to play and have fun while learning.
Recently, students in Sara Henderson’s classroom began putting books in their book box. The excitement for such an occasion is obvious in the wide grins on students’ faces. Students, teachers and parents have every reason to be excited about what is happening in Frazer Hall. Students may begin the school year only knowing letter sounds or recognizing the letters of their name, but by May they are reading. Kindergarten provides a tremendous transformation for these little Knights and it’s something Henderson is delighted to be a part of even after 17 years of teaching.
Kindergarten students are five or six years old. They are still filled with the wonder of exploration and discovery. They are eager to learn and eager to share what they have learned. Henderson and her fellow teachers, Maria Campbell and Erin Dufour, recognize this and intentionally make learning fun. “We try hard to balance between academics and play,” says Henderson. A sight word hunt, learning stations or pumpkin game day are examples of that balance. Students are having a great time on these adventures while also learning new skills.
"Let them be little."
Henderson says it’s important to remember that kindergarten students are still trying to make sense of their world. They may become overwhelmed with busy schedules and “big kid” expectations that are placed upon them. Allowing kindergarteners to be little and learn in age-appropriate ways helps them develop a love of learning that will serve as a solid foundation for their educational journey. For example, playing something as simple as Uno can be a great learning opportunity for kindergarten students. The classic card game helps them think strategically while also helping them with color recognition and fine motor skills. The same thing happens when they play with Legos, paint or make up performances in the puppet center.
Kindergarten is also a time when students are learning how to work with each other. Henderson says social/emotional learning is a big component of kindergarten learning. One example of this is the All About Me project in which students participate at the beginning of each year. Students share information about themselves and truly get to know each other. This helps them build a community and develop friendships with their classmates. Henderson says they use the responsive classroom approach to boost that sense of community throughout the year. Episcopal kindergarteners also have the opportunity to be a part of the larger school community. Each year, students are partnered with a senior as part of the senior buddies program. Senior students participate in special events with the kindergarteners, such as a Halloween party or the annual kite fly. The senior buddies program is one of Episcopal’s most beloved traditions with alumni remembering their buddy even after graduation.
Fundations, project-based learning, responsive classroom.
The kindergarten team is using best practices to help these little Knights reach their academic goals. The best part is that the teachers are staying true to the students’ age and tailoring the lessons in a way that resonates with five and six year olds. Whether students are making sets of ten using pumpkin seeds or visiting the band room to learn about sound, they are developing a true love for learning. Ultimately, the kindergarten adventures set the students up for continued success as they transition to first grade and beyond. They will be well prepared for adventures such as the first grade triathlon, the third grade vocabulary parade and the fifth grade global marketplace. These little adventurers are tomorrow’s leaders and we look forward to seeing where they go.
Are you looking for the right early childhood learning opportunity for your little adventurer? Episcopal is now enrolling for the 2020/2021 school year. Join us for a Lower School mini open house event on November 19th or December 3rd from 8:30 am to 10:30 am to learn more about the Episcopal experience. You can also contact our admission office at 755-2684, firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.episcopalbr.org/admission.html for more information or to set up a campus tour.
When new students arrive on campus on orientation day, for tours or for a shadow day, I love to be the student ambassador with a friendly face that is there for them to answer all of their questions and to try and show them the special aspects of the Episcopal community.
It all started with my eighth-grade self, an outsider to Episcopal, who was terrified to show up to orientation day. I had no idea where anything was, who anyone was, and what exactly I had to do. However, when I arrived at school, two student ambassadors greeted me, answered all of my questions, and took me through my first orientation day with ease. They made me feel at home.
I thought to myself as I was going home, “I would love to help new students and families the way they helped me today.” So, when I got the email from Mrs. Manton asking students if they wanted to be a student ambassador, I immediately filled out the application. I saw this as an opportunity to show new and prospective students around our beautiful campus. Taking them through the VPAC hall with the student-made murals, giving them a taste of what the classrooms and teachers have to offer by introducing them to our wonderful teachers, and showing them the athletic facilities that a majority of our students participate in all the while answering questions about student life, workload, my favorite lunch (cheese ravioli), and anything else they think to ask. That is my favorite part of being a student ambassador.
For me, the job of student ambassador is a way for new and prospective students and parents to hear the voice of the students. It is important enough to me that during my free study on Tuesday mornings last year, whenever there was a tour, I would volunteer to be one of the students to lead it instead of getting ahead on school work or taking a much needed nap. I was upbeat and happy to be there at 8:00 in the morning to meet new families and prospective students, which I will say is rare for any teenager, but it happened.
Every student ambassador walks a different path at Episcopal, but we all make up the community here. We represent all of the opportunities students are given here and are able to talk about them because we participate in them. We provide a different voice, the voice of the student, the kids who live the Episcopal life every day, which is why I love being a student ambassador.
Sydney Summerville is a member of the senior class of 2020. She is a student ambassador, a writing fellow, participates in the select choir, and has played basketball and softball all four years of high school. She plans to play softball and major in nursing in college.
Student Ambassadors play a key role in welcoming new students to the Episcopal community. To learn more about the Episcopal admission process, click here or click on a button below.
“I hope to dance ballet and trick-or-treat.”
“I hope to learn about cars and trucks, how things work, and letters and numbers.”
Ask a PreK-3 student what they hope to do this school year and you’ll get a range of answers like the ones above. Students are also interested in playing with babies, eating healthy and even learning about taxes. Ask the parent of a PreK-3 student what they hope their child will achieve and you will also get a variety of answers, from growing socially and academically to expressing themselves appropriately and learning to take turns. So, what do students in PreK-3 actually learn and why does it matter?
The Building Blocks of Learning: Social/Emotional Skills
PreK-3 teachers Kristen Cascio and Emily Richard say the majority of learning for the littlest Knights revolves around developing social/emotional skills. Social/emotional skills, such as waiting, sharing and learning to sit quietly on the carpet, are important for a student’s future learning capabilities. So important that the PreK-3 team spends considerable time helping students develop these building blocks of learning. Additional highlights of what PreK-3 students learn include:
The PreK-3 team uses the responsive classroom approach to teaching in much the same way that other teachers use it. Cascio says the team begins the year with the hopes and dreams component as they identify and understand the student’s and parent’s goals for preschool. Beginning the year with this understanding helps the teaching team personalize each student/family’s PreK-3 experience. The teachers also use the responsive classroom approach to classroom management. “We coach children through difficult situations and use everything as a teaching/learning opportunity,” says Cascio. Those teaching moments can come in the form of asking for additional food in the cafeteria, walking in a line with friends or learning to be aware of others. The little Knights even have their own Morning Meeting. Cascio says they start each day with a greeting, reading aloud and a group activity, which allows for collaboration, community building and life skill development. “During the greeting, students are instructed to make eye contact, greet friends by name with a happy, loud voice,” says Cascio. “We talk about how a happy voice makes our friends feel happy.”
At the same time that the three year old students are developing social/emotional skills, they are also developing academically. As they listen to stories and interact with friends, they expand their vocabulary. Students also learn to identify the letters in their name and the letters in the alphabet, which are the pre-reading skills needed to begin reading from a page. The lessons are flexible, adaptable and specifically designed to provide age-appropriate academic experiences.
Play = Learning
Cascio and Richard say play is a key to learning for three year olds. While adults may simply see a student picking up small objects with tongs or playing with Play Doh, the teachers say there is purpose to their play. For example, Cascio and Richard say that manipulating small objects and playing with clay helps students fine tune their fine motor skills in preparation for gripping a pencil for writing in later grades. Research backs up the importance of play.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (i.e., the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.” In a 2018 AAP report on The Power of Play, the authors conclude that “play is intrinsically motivated and leads to active engagement and joyful discovery,” and that “with our understanding of early brain development, we suggest that learning is better fueled by facilitating the child’s intrinsic motivation through play rather than extrinsic motivations, such as test scores.” The authors also suggest that “play provides a singular opportunity to build the executive functioning that underlies adaptive behaviors at home; improve language and math skills in school; build the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships that buffer against toxic stress; and build social–emotional resilience.”
The Episcopal PreK-3 classroom is designed to encourage student play and learning. The teachers say there is a focus on natural lighting and a comfortable feel so that students feel at ease and are not overstimulated. Centers are thoughtfully arranged so that noisy areas are not near the quieter locations. There are a variety of toys, games and activities to engage students. Because three year olds still benefit from a nap, there is designated quiet time during which students unfurl little mats and snuggle up for a rest after several hours of learning. Cascio and Richard also try to keep students to an expected routine so that they know what to expect and don’t experience too many interruptions.
Lessons for Life
Episcopal’s PreK-3 program ensures that students establish a strong foundation for the learning that comes as they progress through Lower School and transition to Middle and Upper School. The emphasis on social/emotional learning will continue as they progress. While the skills are different at each grade level, faculty and staff across all divisions are making these life lessons a focus for students. “We’re lucky to be in a school where we focus on this at every level,” says Cascio.
While Cascio and Richard focus considerable time on helping students learn school procedures and social/emotional skills, they are also helping the students begin their academic journey. The teachers hope that the well-rounded, age-appropriate experience helps students develop a true love of learning and school. “We want them to wake up loving to come here,” says Cascio. Fostering a love of learning and the social/emotional skills needed to be part of a community are a key component of the Episcopal experience. It’s how we are preparing tomorrow’s leaders every day.
Need help determining whether your child is ready for preschool? Click here to read tips from PreK-4 teacher Julie Mendes.
While the fall means “Back to School” for many families, some of you are also beginning to think about the next school year as you prepare to take the next step of enrolling your young child in a preschool program. While a child’s age and birthdate are important factors to consider, these are not absolute benchmarks in determining a child’s readiness to begin school. Being prepared for preschool has more to do with where your child is developmentally. Is he/she socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively ready to participate in a daily, structured, educational program with a group of other children? Ask yourself these questions as you consider if your child is fully equipped with the set of skills they need to have a successful preschool experience.
Is your child fairly independent?
Preschool requires children to have certain basic skills. Most schools will require your child to be fully potty-trained when they start school. Also, begin practicing tasks that require fine motor strength, such as zipping and buttoning pants, zipping up backpacks and hanging them on a hook, rolling up a nap mat, pulling a sweater on an off, hand washing, and eating independently using napkins and utensils. Practicing these skills at home will make your child’s start to school less frustrating and help them build fine motor skills that will help them later as they learn to cut and write.
Can your child participate in group activities?
Many activities in preschool require students to sit in a group setting for a period of time. Is your child able to sit and listen to a story? Do they take turns and listen when others are speaking? If your child isn't used to group activities, you can start introducing them yourself. Take him/her to story time at your local library, or sign them up for a recreational activity such as dance or soccer to help your child get used to playing with other children.
Does your child have good communication skills?
In preschool, it is important for your child to be able to communicate their needs to their teachers and peers. At home, you may find it easy to step in and give your child what he/she needs before they even ask. At school, your child will be around adults who may not know your child as well as you do. It is important to have your child practice these critical communication skills before they start school. For example, if your child hands you a milk carton, have them practice asking, “Could you please help me open my milk?” Role play with your child and give them scenarios that they might encounter at school. How would your child handle a situation where another child wasn’t sharing? Often, children with poor communication skills will revert to hitting or grabbing toys from other students. By practicing these conflicts ahead of time, students will be armed with the skills and language necessary to problem-solve with their peers.
Is your child used to keeping a regular schedule?
Preschool programs follow a predictable schedule. There are times set aside for play, eating, and even resting. There's a good reason for this. Children tend to feel most comfortable and in control when the same things happen at the same time each day. Students who do not follow a schedule at home will often have trouble during transitional times between activities at school. Help your child prepare for their school routine by adhering to a schedule at home. Plan meals at determined times and have predictable activities throughout the day. Set a bedtime routine (bath, brush teeth, story time, lights out). Giving your child structure at home will help them adjust to a school schedule.
The best way to decide if your child is ready to begin preschool is to spend time thinking about your child and to talk to other people who know him/her well, such as your partner, your pediatrician, or others who spend a lot of time with your child. While there is no checklist to give a quantitative score of readiness, there are many ways you can work with your child at home to make their transition into school as smooth as possible.
Are you ready to apply?
If you have considered the above questions and determined that your child is prepared to begin the next phase in their educational journey, we are ready to help you navigate the school admissions process. Visit https://www.episcopalbr.org/admission.html to schedule a tour of our campus, view the 2020-2021 application, or get in contact with a member of our Admissions team.
Julie Mendes, a 2001 graduate of Episcopal, returned to teach Pre-K4 at her alma mater in 2012. She received both her undergraduate degree and MEd in elementary education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. After teaching second grade in a Dual Language program in Texas public schools for three years, Julie moved abroad to teach first grade at a bilingual school in Gracias, Lempira Honduras. Julie enjoys teaching alongside some of her former teachers and seeing what life is like on the other side of the desk.
Greetings from Episcopal. The holiday season is a magical time at Episcopal. The campus is a buzz with Christmas parties, musical concerts and spiritual reflection. Students are busy completing assignments before they embark on a much earned two week break and faculty are working to finish the first semester on a high note.
We know that admission deadlines get lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season; we’ve therefore listed a few important Episcopal admission deadlines below. While our offices will be closed December 22nd through January 6th, the online application is available at any time and we look forward to answering any of your questions when we return on January 7th.
May your home be filled with joy, love and peace during this holiday season.
course selection and college applications. More than one fourth of our 3rd through 12th graders are featured in one of two annual theater performances each year. The list goes on.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle
Other parents want more qualitative measures of success. While these can be a bit harder to quantify, the school’s commitment to instilling strong moral values in each student is probably top of the list. This is accomplished by staying true to Episcopal’s mission and ministry of preparing students for lives of purpose. This starts in Lower School with daily morning meetings celebrating faith and community and deepens in Middle and Upper School as students learn to make connections between academics, spiritual life and service, and the world around them.
Parents rely on this type of information to establish Episcopal’s credibility and value. And while achievement-based statistics are certainly important, we believe experiences play an equal, if not greater, role in measuring “the best.” Deeper than knowing Episcopal will provide their child a firm and lasting academic foundation, parents want to know we will tend to their child’s heart and mind. They want their child to be known, to be challenged, to be celebrated and to be encouraged.
How then should you, as a parent, measure the success and impact of our mission and ministry? By experience, of course! Experience Episcopal’s joy; come delight in our campus and get a general sense of the happiness your child will feel at Episcopal. Read through our blog and see the school come to life through photos and stories of the creative ways we learn and grow. It is our stories that bring our statistics to life and illustrate what makes us the best.
Narrowing the list of schools you are interested in applying to for your child can be an overwhelming task. Once you have completed your research, contacted each school’s Admission Office and completed the campus tour, you are faced with the next task: completing each school’s admission application process. Not to worry - here at Episcopal, admission staff members are only a phone call or email away and stand ready to walk alongside you throughout the application process.
Each year prospective parents ask a myriad of questions related to their child’s consideration for admission. Primarily questions relate to their child’s school visit to the school: what can we expect and what should we do to prepare our child? Regardless of the age or grade of your child, there is a shared purpose of his or her admission visit: this on-campus experience is intended to help us get to better know your child while giving you and your child the opportunity to get to know us better.
Below you will find specific details related to the Episcopal campus visit along with general admission visit tips. To help your child prepare for his or her time on campus, we invite you to share as much - or as little - of the information as you see fit. You know your child best, so follow your parental instinct as you help prepare your child for the visit.
A few general tips for your child's school admission visit:
What can your child expect during his or her Episcopal admission visit? See below our summary of the applicant visit process for prospective students:
PreK-3, PreK-4 and Kindergarten Screenings
1st through 5th Grade Screenings
Admission Testing Grades 6-12
Shadow Day Grades 6-12
To learn more about the Episcopal admissions process, contact a member of our Admission Team.
Whether you have been a member of the Episcopal community for generations or your family has just begun the education journey here, you likely already know the benefits of an Episcopal education: small class sizes, a commitment to academics, arts, athletics and service, and a vibrant, inviting community.
Pick up a magazine or newspaper and you will likely see an ad for a school open house or tour now that fall admission season is underway. Episcopal is once again launching the Test Drive Tuesday events to share the spirit and passion of the community with families and students considering the school. However, Test Drive Tuesday is not your average open house. The events are intentionally kept small so that they can be personalized to the interests of those in attendance. Test Drive Tuesday is a two-hour event that offers families a tour of campus, which is conducted in tandem with admission team members and Episcopal students. After the tour, families have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss details with key faculty and staff.
Admission Director Elena McPeak says Test Drive Tuesday feedback has been quite positive. One reason for the program’s success is the involvement of Episcopal students. Student Ambassadors are present to provide honest, unscripted testimonials regarding their school experience. McPeak says the ambassadors truly get to the heart of why Episcopal is a great place to learn, grow and achieve.
In addition to providing Test Drive tours, Student Ambassadors and Middle School Peer Leaders also conduct shadow days for prospective students. It can be intimidating to explore a new school and a shadow day goes a long way toward making the entire process more manageable. “Students who shadow at Episcopal fall in love with the school and the community,” says McPeak. “There is nothing quite like experiencing firsthand what it is like to be a student here. Visitors are always impressed and excited to discover the opportunities for learning and growth available on our campus.”
Think back to what made you and your family fall in love with Episcopal. Whether it was the personalized learning path, the opportunity to compete on the field and perform in the theater or feeling the support and care of an entire community, there was something that made you feel at home on Woodland Ridge. McPeak and her team hope that you will share that passion with others and invite them to a Test Drive Tuesday or encourage them to consider the Episcopal experience.
The 2019-2020 application is now live on episcopalbr.org. Test Drive Tuesday events are also underway. To learn more about both, click here.
A Year in Reflection
Eli Haymon, Student Council President
"Ever since I was a freshman, I knew I wanted to be president. I remember watching Charles Cooper from all the way up in the back row with the rest of Mrs. Sofranko’s advisory and telling myself “I want to be up there one day, making stuff happen.”
And now, a year after that dream had finally been realized, I cannot imagine a better group of people to have the privilege of leading.
This past week I've been reflecting on the last nine months, and I just want to say how proud I am of us and how far we've come in this short time together.
I'll quote the Episcopal mission statement - “Episcopal nurtures and develops the whole child -- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically…”
Looking out at all of you now, I see a room full of remarkable individuals who are testimonies of that mission. We have some truly outstanding characters among us who will change the world one day soon.
And though our individuality makes us strong, I think one of the defining characteristics of this place, and the one thing that makes me proudest to be a Knight, is the community that we strive to build here each and every day.
This year I have seen what a group of people can do when its members share an unconditional love for each other.
When we have 200 strong driving to New Orleans on a Tuesday night for a soccer game- that's community. When we spend a whole day listening to and interacting with our thesis students, sharing new ideas with each other- that's community. When we drop everything we’re doing to go rip out a stranger’s floorboards because they had four feet of water and hadn't slept in three days- that's a community that I want to be a part of." - Eli Haymon
What Eli captured, for me, is the essence of “life at Episcopal.” Our students wholeheartedly embrace and challenge one another. They engage in research through programs like project based learning in PreK-4 and Honors Thesis in Upper School. They help lead Chapel through our Student Vestry and they seek opportunities to serve their community. They work alongside their peers on our courts and fields and they take center stage in musical and dance performances. Each aspect of our mission is important, and our students are the stories that bring the Episcopal mission to life. Yes, this is a community I want to be part of.
Statistics and Stories: Measuring “The Best”
Cars. Healthcare. Cities. Sports teams. Doctors. Electronics. Vacation destinations. Schools. We live in a culture that wants “the best.” While Webster tells us to be best is to “excelling all others,” it invites two subjective and rather personal questions: what is “best” to you, and to what are you making the comparison?
While hosting a coffee for prospective families last month, one parent said, “I know Episcopal has a reputation for being the best school in Baton Rouge, but what makes it the best?” Specifically, she wanted numbers to support this label of superiority. It’s a question I enjoy answering – certainly there are many statistics available to affirm our reputation: 100% of our graduates are college-bound. Our average student to faculty ratio is 13:1. We offer 21 AP courses. Our Athletic Program boasts 112 state championship titles across 14 sports. 77% of our faculty hold advanced degrees. More than one fourth of our 3rd through 12th graders are featured in one of two annual theater performances each year. Our average ACT score is 27. The list goes on.
But in considering how we stack up against the competition, our tape measure stretches far beyond Baton Rouge. While we certainly strive to be among Baton Rouge’s best in education, what truly determines our success is how well-prepared our students are for life beyond Episcopal. Each year our graduating seniors go on to compete for college placement against millions of other college-bound students worldwide. Our goal is to make each Episcopal graduate competitive among his or her peers. Our College Counseling staff begin working with students as early as 8th grade to initiate our thoughtful approach to college preparedness. Each year they continue to raise the bar, welcoming more and more college recruiters to campus and connecting Episcopal students to schools and scholarships across the country.
Parents rely on this type of information to establish Episcopal’s credibility and value. And while achievement-based statistics are certainly important, we believe experiences play an equal if not greater role in measuring “the best.” Deeper than knowing Episcopal will provide their child a firm and lasting academic foundation, parents want to know we will tend to their child’s heart and mind. They want their child to be known, to be challenged, to be celebrated and to be encouraged. It is our stories that bring our statistics to life.
How then should you as a parent measure the success and impact of our mission and ministry? By experience, of course! Arguably, there are few environments that provide more joy than schools. I find delight each day in walking our campus and receiving hugs and high-fives from our youngest to our oldest students. But beyond the general sense of happiness you will feel at Episcopal, I believe you will be moved by the teaching and learning you witness here. Join us. Tour campus. Meet our students and faculty. We look forward to answering your questions and sharing our stories as you determine if we are the best school for your child.
The Admission Office will be hosting Open House events in November and campus tours weekly. For more information on experiencing Episcopal, visit our website.
Amanda joined the Episcopal team in 2014 as the Director of Enrollment. Prior to relocating back home to Baton Rouge, she served as Director of Admission at St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Houston, Texas. Amanda earned a BA in Mass Communication from LSU where she later spent five years working to support the University’s scholarship and recruitment efforts. As the Director of Enrollment, Amanda leads all facets of enrollment management including prospective family communication, admission and retention efforts.