The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year was filled with uncertainty. The new normal became outdoor lunches, masks, temperature checks and social distancing. Despite the unknown, we encouraged the Episcopal Community to be All In! All in with enthusiasm, pride and care for the school and All In to support our #1 goal of keeping kids safe and healthy on campus. What began as an eFund theme turned into a school-wide attitude and we were blown away by the generosity of our loyal community. Parents, because of you the future is BRIGHT! Our hope that we could count on you during challenging times was confirmed and we are deeply grateful. Parent participation for The eFund exceeded last year’s total at an incredible 80%! The national average for parent participation in independent schools is 60% so we are proud of Episcopal parents for their contributions and for coming together to make the best of the circumstances. Today, students celebrated their BRIGHT future with a special neon-themed dress day and treat courtesy of Chef Pat. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for each and every bright student that walks this campus. Thank you, parents!!
The QUEST Center in Foster Hall was buzzing with excitement this week as students worked on a range of projects ideal for this creative space.
Like a scene from “Project Runway,” sixth and seventh graders made clothing in the Middle School Design Studio. While the stitching, knitting, taping and bedazzling may seem like something out of an art class, it was actually a vocabulary assignment for Spanish class. As students created everything from shoes and scarves to shirts and face coverings, they learned the Spanish words for each piece.
While the lesson was fun and engaging, there was much more taking place than students realized. Spanish teacher Jennifer Snyder, who loves to sew when she’s not teaching, says the experience helps students learn about the challenges involved with making clothing and the time and effort required. Students also learned about ethics in fashion and which cultures traditionally create their own clothing.
Next week, Middle School students will host a fashion show for Lower School students in the Great Hall. Each group of older students will have a model who will present the clothing and a moderator who will share the Spanish terms with the audience. It’s sure to be a runway to remember!
Once upon a time in the Early Elementary Design Studio, Episcopal first graders learned about story elements, including characters, settings, problems and solutions. As part of the current project-based learning unit titled “Enchanted Engineering,” students were given the names of popular characters and story settings and asked to create their own tales. Students stood before their classmates and told stories of what happens when the Big Bad Wolf meets Cruella de Vil or what it’s like when Little Red Riding Hood travels to the Land of Oz.
Afterward, the young storytellers used Legos to build a scene inspired by their stories. Soon, they will build larger scenes and even use programmable robots to move the “good guy” and the “bad guy” through the setting. “Enchanted Engineering” is always popular among Lower School students. This year’s QUEST Center setting is taking the enchantment to new heights.
Sixth graders tested their engineering and budget management skills in the annual earthquake design challenge. Students had to design a structure to withstand the shaking and quaking of tectonic forces. They also had to manage their materials budget and “purchase” supplies from science teacher Stacy Hill. Before the first straws were ever taped together, students spent considerable time planning, researching and developing their ideas. Once the structures are complete, students will test their creations on a shake table. We can’t wait to see the completed project!
On a 70-degree Louisiana winter day, Episcopal second graders imagined what life is like at the frigid north and south poles. Students learned about what animals need to thrive in these climates, including blubber. Students participated in a hands-on experience in Kitchen Chemistry, aka the “Blubber Lab,” to really get a feel for it.
QUEST Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis presented students with bowls of icy water to simulate what creatures in these regions experience. Students dunked their hands in the water and timed how long they could withstand the chill. Surprisingly, a few of the students were able to keep their hands in the water for 69 seconds. Afterward, Dr. Lewis gave students a “blubber glove” made from layers of plastic bags filled with Crisco and an empty bag to protect little hands from the greasy substance. Students placed their hands inside the glove and again plunged them into the ice water. They were excited to report their findings. “I could do this all day long!” “It wasn’t cold at all!” The experience is sure to make a lasting impression on these little Knights.
The QUEST Center in Foster Hall is the perfect space for new learning experiences and a great place to reimagine tried-and-true favorites. To learn more, click here.
Thank you to everyone who is “All In” by making a commitment to the 2020-21 eFund.
We are thrilled to have reached 90% of our $650,000 eFund goal, leaving only $60,000 to raise. Parents of Ms. Anna Frey’s PreK-4 class were the first to reach 100% participation and celebrated with a pizza party on January 13th. While on pace to surpass last year’s participation level, we are counting on those who have not yet given to help us exceed that mark. An exciting school-wide celebration is underway as soon as parent participation surpasses last year - 76%.
Show us that you are “All In” by making a gift in honor of your favorite student, teacher, or coach. In return, we will notify your honoree that he or she has been recognized by your donation. Gift amounts will not be included in the notification.
Gifts to The eFund are 100% tax deductible as allowed by law. Click here to give today. If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Kline at 225-755-2714 or email@example.com.
Episcopal math lessons include everything from the latest technology to tried-and-true instruments that humans have relied upon for ages. Recently, the QUEST Center in Foster Hall has been buzzing with the sounds of students crunching numbers in some very creative ways.
A sixth grade lesson on ratios and speed went well beyond calculators and textbooks. To start, students learned a lesson from the track and field playbook and ran laps around the field house track to study speed. For the culminating activity, teacher Nancy Calloway brought students to the QUEST Center’s Digital Media Lab where they used Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots to determine average speed and distance traveled. In small groups, students worked together to make observations and calculations. Calloway says the integration of technology provided the opportunity for collaboration with experienced students taking on the role of experts. “It has been a joy to see these students step up to the challenge and help others along the way,” she says.
Marking Time with Equations
As sixth graders explored speed, just across the QUEST Center eighth graders were creating equations to display the time on a clock. “During the last two or three weeks of this semester, I wanted to work on strengthening some important skills that my students would need for their Upper School classes,” says eighth grade math teacher James Moroney. “One of those skills is solving equations.” However, Moroney didn’t want to simply have students solve problems in the classroom, so he devised a creative, new way to make the lesson more engaging. For the assignment, students had to write an equation that when solved represents the number on a clock. After solving the equation, students then had to design the clock face and construct the clock with gears and hands. The clocks will later be gifted to the Episcopal teacher of their choice.
We Love Fractions
In Kitchen Chemistry, fourth graders baked cookies inspired by the book “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” by Karina Yan Glaser. The recipe required the students to use their new knowledge of fractions as they measured out brown sugar and flour. Students also learned how to sift flour and mix dough. When discussing the project and the ½ teaspoons of this and 3 tablespoons of that, the students were confident with fractions. Once the cookies were baked, students rotated to the QUEST Center Great Hall where they used Lego bricks to build a replica of the Vanderbeeker home. It was the perfect combination for a reading and arithmetic lesson.
QUEST Center Space Adds Up
“When problem solving, it is important for students to be able to experiment and test their results,” says Calloway. “Having a space where they can actually see and do the experiment and test the results in real time allows students to make conjectures, verify or refute the results and ultimately improve their ability to ‘apply’ mathematics to the real world.” With 14,000 square feet of learning space, the QUEST Center provides ample space for mathematical exploration. Calloway began using the robots last year, but she says this year the added space in the QUEST Center made a significant difference. “The QUEST Center allows for open spaces where the students are able to spread out (social distance) while still working with a partner or group to complete a hands-on task,” she says.
Moroney says the QUEST Center provides an opportunity for students to explore real world applications of math concepts such as ratios, distance and time. “One of the most important things that the QUEST Center offers to our students, especially in math, is the ability to do trial and error in problem solving,” he says. “The space that the QUEST Center provides as well as the different tools and technology in which the students are exposed allows them to experiment with mathematical (and scientific concepts) in a way that allows them to make mistakes and correct them in an incredibly engaging way.” Moroney plans to continue finding opportunities to use the space this school year. Liz Crawford, whose fourth grade class baked cookies and built houses all in one class period, appreciates the ease of conducting lessons in the facility. “The space makes it so doable,” she says in between measuring and mixing. The fourth grade lesson was appreciated by QUEST Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis. “This week, passing by the Chemistry Kitchen, one could hear fourth graders figuring out the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, the importance of sifting flour, and how to read and to double a recipe,” she says. “Baking chocolate cookies from scratch is a delicious way to practice math skills.”
The learning and excitement that fills the QUEST Center each day is inspiring for Dr. Lewis. “My heart is full when I see students moving around our new spaces, trying different solutions to problems, tweaking their solutions when they aren’t quite right, and then testing out the revised plans until they work just right,” she says. In just a short time, Dr. Lewis and the QUEST Center have already provided a range of new learning opportunities for Lower and Middle School students. We can’t wait to see what they do during the rest of the school year!
Episcopal celebrated the opening of the new QUEST Center in Foster Hall on Sunday, November 15th.
QUEST, which stands for Question, Uncover, Explore, Synthesize, Test, was designed to facilitate age-appropriate project-based and experiential learning opportunities for Lower and Middle School students. The 14,000 square foot building features a Spatial Learning Lab, Investigation Station, three Design Studios, a Production Studio, Digital Media Lab and Chemistry Kitchen. The building was intentionally designed to support project-based learning all in one location with ample storage for ongoing projects, breakout spaces and large, adaptable spaces to accommodate lessons that would not be possible in a traditional classroom.
Episcopal students have already begun learning within the new facility through a range of interactive experiences. Second grade students built a large-scale, interactive model of the digestive system and sixth graders handcrafted replicas of ancient tools. Within the Chemistry Kitchen, eighth graders studied thermodynamics by making ice cream and first graders worked with the Episcopal chef to make smoothies. Students have already made butter, programmed robots and filmed their own videos. As the hub for Lower and Middle School project-based learning, the QUEST Center makes it possible for these activities to occur simultaneously throughout the school day.
Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley shared that: “As a former teacher, I appreciate and understand the need for this space, separate from the classroom, that allows much greater opportunities to implement new modes of instruction and learning. This is truly an educators’ dream come true. Thank you to all the donors whose generosity put the QUEST Center into motion. Without your support we would not have been able to renovate this impressive building behind us.”
The QUEST Center is the most recent addition to the Episcopal campus. In March, students and faculty celebrated the opening of the 23,000+ square foot Field House and in 2018 the new Academic Commons was completed. Prior to that, renovations were completed on the Lewis Family Memorial Chapel of the Good Shepherd.
Food, family and storytelling are the same whether those gathered share a bloodline or a lifelong bond created through a shared love of a school. When family and friends gather, there is traditionally a sense of gratitude as everyone relives the moments that connect them. That was certainly the case when Episcopal families from the west side of the Mississippi River hosted a small luncheon to welcome new Head of School Dr. Carrie Steakley. Dr. Steakley was enveloped in the enthusiasm and passion attendees had for the school she now leads. Once the introductions were made, the story sharing quickly began.
“Episcopal has been a part of my life since I was nine years old,” says graduate/former employee and hostess Renee Price ’76. Just as families set the scene for a Thanksgiving feast, Price inspired a trip down memory lane by displaying yearbooks, Knights, teachers’ notes, class rings and more throughout her home in Port Allen. Glancing at the mementos took the attendees back to a time when their children crossed the river twice daily in order to access the rigorous education their families desired.
The first group of west side families became Knights as soon as the school opened in downtown Baton Rouge many years ago. At that time, there was no bridge and students had to travel across the river on the ferry. Price’s mom, Mrs. Gayle Schwing, spent countless hours chaperoning the bus that transported that first generation of students. Now, the ladies all laugh as they recall those days. The trip required students to exit the bus to ride the ferry across. There are tales of shoes dropped in the water and all the excitement you would expect from young people on a boat together. Eventually, the bridge was built, and students began making the trip the entire way on the bus. While the thought of this daily commute may seem intimidating with today’s traffic, the families say the situation wasn’t nearly as difficult then and really only took about 25 minutes. Looking back now, they are grateful to have had access to an Episcopal education. “It was absolutely worth it,” says Mrs. Schwing.
That sense of gratitude continues as a new generation of Episcopal west side graduates takes on the world. Price proudly tells the stories of her daughters’ success in the heavy equipment and oil and gas industries while standing under a photo of the two graduates at a beach. Micheal Nicolosi, whose daughter Allison recently graduated from Episcopal in 2016, is equally grateful for the education she received. He says the experience was a boost for Allison because she learned how to study, and as a college student Allison found herself well prepared for her coursework. “Episcopal was a God’s send for us,” says Micheal. “We were fortunate to be able to send her there.”
The west side families were originally connected through carpool, athletic practices and educational experiences. Now, they vacation together, share meals, share heartaches and celebrate triumphs. They tell stories of the career success of their children and the first steps of their grandchildren, and everyone present is supportive. The families are grateful for this bond that connects them after all this time, and they are excited about the future of Episcopal. No doubt, years from now current Episcopal students and families will gather with the same grateful hearts as they share memories of their own Episcopal experiences.
What are you grateful for when it comes to an Episcopal education? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
At Episcopal, we often talk about the benefits of hands-on learning and how these experiences spark a students’ interest and encourage deep learning. A recent visit to the QUEST Center in Foster Hall showcased a wide array of these creative opportunities which are being offered by Episcopal faculty. While many of the lessons have been taught before, this new space is providing the opportunity to expand or even create new and exciting ways to learn. Students and teachers are enjoying every minute of it!
PreK Garden Fixer Upper
Recently, fifth graders got their hands dirty by weeding, painting and sprucing up the PreK-4 garden. QUEST Center coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis and the fifth grade teachers worked with the older students to re-imagine the space. Students drew up proposals and the class worked together to implement their ideas. The result was a space to inspire any 4-year-old, complete with a bird sanctuary, construction zone, prehistoric place, milkweed monitoring, mudpie kitchen and herb and vegetable patches.
After several weeks of hard work and planning, the fifth graders were excited to reveal what they had accomplished, and the PreK students were eager to explore. “Do y’all like it?” asked the fifth graders. “We love it!” shouted the younger Knights jumping up and down. The brightly colored learning environment is just outside the PreK-4 classroom, and it is sure to be the site of countless discoveries this year.
Middle School Monster Mash
In English class, students often read text and write a response. In Martha Guarisco’s sixth grade class, there is so much more to explore. In celebration of fall festivities and an upcoming lesson on Greek mythology, Guarisco introduced a mythical monsters lesson. The lesson began with students using Google Expedition to view ancient creatures including a centaur, Pegasus, Medusa, a phoenix and nymphs. Using inspiration from what they saw, students then had to imagine their own creature and the traits that it might possess. To make the lesson a truly hands-on experience, Guarisco challenged students to mash their creatures with those imagined by their classmates.
This merging of mashed monsters took place in the QUEST Center. Using pool noodles, feathers, duct tape and more, students made creatures such as the “lioermis” created by Hollis, Lilianna and Zoey or the phoenix created by Patrick, Cohen, Pierce and Jace. While using the tools in the Middle School Design Studio was fun, the students were also retaining what they learned. Members of the “lioermis” group were able to describe an ancient phoenix and its rebirth from the ashes. The phoenix group designed a creature, similar to many mythical monsters, that could shape shift from human to bird.
As the sixth graders work on their creatures, they can’t help but see the activity taking place elsewhere in the facility. Guarisco recently overheard students expressing interest in the eighth graders’ Rube Goldberg project. “This is building excitement because it’s a shared space,” she says of the creative work taking place all around.
The Science of a Rube Goldberg Machine
There’s no better way to learn about simple machines than to build one. Episcopal eighth graders are creating Rube Goldberg Machines as part of a lesson on the engineering design method. Science teacher Shyamala Alapati challenged pairs of students to create a machine using four simple machines and 10 events. Students began the process by brainstorming and drawing out ideas on paper. After that, they had a class period to explore materials ranging from blocks and pipes to cardboard and popsicle sticks. In no time, students were using pulleys, levers, wedges and inclined planes to accomplish simple feats. Through the trial and error that is common in science, students are revising their plans as they go along. Once complete, the machines will be combined into one large Rube Goldberg Machine that will be revealed at the QUEST Center open house on Sunday, November 15th at 3:30 pm.
It is exciting when lessons read in a book come to life. Whether it’s the latest technology, recycled materials or simply the space to support a big imagination, the QUEST Center is allowing teachers to do what they do best – inspire the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
Open House - Sunday, November 15th at 3:30 pm
Episcopal families are invited to the QUEST Center Open House on Sunday, November 15 at 3:30 PM. Please click here to RSVP by November 11th and choose an available time slot to tour the new space. QUEST Center Coordinator Dr. Elizabeth Lewis and our faculty have planned an afternoon filled with interactive experiments and a showcase of the wonderful projects for students and families to enjoy.
The Episcopal community remembers the life and legacy of founder Mr. G. Allen Penniman, Jr. on what would have been his birthday.
"A day never goes by without my thinking of Episcopal School." Mr. G. Allen Penniman, Jr.
Episcopal founder Mr. G. Allen Penniman, Jr. would say that his most notable civic contribution came in his support of Episcopal School of Baton Rouge. When he said the school was ever in his thoughts, there was real truth to that statement. Now, more than 50 years later, the school that began as a dream with an initial graduating class of 12 has grown into an institution known for its academic rigor and commitment to a whole child learning experience. More than 5,000 students have graduated from the school that Mr. Penniman envisioned, and Episcopal exists today because of his determination and generosity.
The Passing of a True Knight
“Episcopal lost a giant today,” Father Skully recently wrote to the Episcopal community. “Mr. Penniman was as involved in the life and growth of Episcopal as anyone has ever been. I believe it is safe to say that no one has done more to ensure the success of Episcopal over its first 50+ years than Mr. Penniman. Whether we knew him or not, we are all beneficiaries of the love and work he put into our school.”
Mr. Penniman was a visionary, who along with a small group of others, had a dream of creating an independent Episcopal school in Baton Rouge. Mr. Penniman’s daughter and Episcopal fifth grade teacher Margaret Boudreaux ’76 remembers those early days when her father and his colleagues met in her family’s living room to discuss the possibility of this new endeavor. “It was a renaissance of smart minds,” she says of the gathering. Margaret says that while Episcopal is easy to promote today, men like her father were selling something that did not even exist at the time. There was no campus and there were no buildings, teachers or textbooks. However, there was a strong desire for a school that would prepare students for purposeful and meaningful lives.
“How do you start a school?”
Mr. Penniman’s granddaughter and Episcopal development staff member Kate McDuff ’08 is in awe when she reflects upon the accomplishments of her grandfather. Kate grew up in a time when Episcopal was already flourishing and cannot imagine the conviction and passion necessary to bring such a school to life. “Imagine how much faith parents and kids had to have to do this,” she says. Mr. Penniman simply had a way of instilling that faith and confidence in others and in causes for which he was passionate. He was a believer in the potential of new ideas and courageous enough to make them happen.
“He was generous beyond measure,” says Margaret. While Mr. Penniman was a tremendous fundraiser, publicly supporting Episcopal in countless ways, Margaret says there were just as many quiet ways in which he supported the school and the Greater Baton Rouge community. Laurie Penniman McDuff, Mr. Penniman’s daughter, points to numerous examples of her father’s generosity. As a school nurse, Laurie encountered families with limited resources and funds. She says without hesitation, her father offered his assistance. Funds for a dentist appointment, food, a refrigerator and even the Denham Springs library after the 2016 flood are just a few examples of his kindness toward others. Laurie says there was never a question as to how her father would answer when called upon to help. “He didn’t think about it,” she says. “It just came right out of his mouth.”
Mr. Penniman was also incredibly generous with his time. Margaret points out that while he worked tirelessly to create the school he envisioned, he also had five young children, an ill wife and several businesses to oversee. “He made time for this vision and he never stopped,” she says. He also made time for the small, impactful details. He penned handwritten notes to Episcopal educators congratulating them on their accomplishments. He dedicated hours researching how to help teachers and as a result created a fund at Episcopal to support them in their effort to become National Board Certified. Every detail meant something, and every effort was worth the time.
“People mattered to him,” says Kate, who says while Mr. Penniman accomplished so much and inspired so many, he was also simply a terrific grandfather. Mr. Penniman was a family man, eager to celebrate every good report card and every graduation. “He was always available,” says Laurie. “Always willing to listen and help.” A man with such a large, busy life enjoyed the simple pleasures of time with loved ones. Each Thanksgiving the Penniman family gathered at the family farm, where Mr. Penniman would drive a tractor and the family would sit together around a bonfire. He always had time to comfort a crying baby. He enjoyed a good prank and a big laugh. He would say his family was his greatest accomplishment and he reveled in their successes.
Mr. Penniman’s love for others extended beyond the family tree. Kate says no matter how busy a room or how many people were waiting to speak with him, “when he spoke to you, he made you feel like you were the most important person in the room.” Mr. Penniman mentored others, offering wisdom and guidance when called upon, and with his innate business acumen he was called upon often. “When things were in a pickle, he was the first one to call,” Margaret says, noting his vast experience in owning and operating successful businesses, such as the Pak-a-Sak convenience stores and the Penniman Company.
Mr. Penniman did all of this with style and grace. “He was one of the most elegant men in Baton Rouge,” says Laurie. No matter the occasion, Mr. Penniman donned a starched shirt and pressed pants. “He always looked impeccable with the perfect suit for every occasion,” she says.
A Legacy Lives On
Mr. Penniman left a legacy in our community that will not be forgotten. After giving so much of himself to establish Episcopal over five decades, and being amongst the first members to join the Good Shepherds of Episcopal Legacy Society, Mr. Penniman could have stepped back and taken a less active role in school life. However, his devotion and dedication to Episcopal students and teachers was unyielding. One finds evidence of this support across the Episcopal campus. However, the plaques and dedications tell only a portion of the story. Mr. Penniman will be remembered and revered for the way he made people feel. He was a determined, charismatic leader who inspired others to leave their own legacy. His forward-thinking approach to leadership and mentorship changed the lives of thousands in the Greater Baton Rouge region, and the Episcopal community is forever grateful for his kindness and compassion.
The Episcopal community offers condolences and prayers to the Penniman family. We are deeply grateful to them for having shared their patriarch with the school for so long. Not a day will go by that his legacy is not remembered at the school for which he worked so faithfully to support.
Did you know that ice cream can teach you a lot about thermodynamics?
Episcopal eighth graders participated in a tasty science lesson recently in the Chemistry Kitchen in the new QUEST Center in Foster Hall. Students used chocolate milk, ice and salt to make their own ice cream inside of a plastic bag. Science teacher Shymala Alapati uses the lesson to demonstrate the thermal energy transfer and how the drop in temperature of the milk mixture ultimately creates a solid form. “Students truly enjoyed the experience of working in the lab in the Quest Center,” she says. “It is always remarkable when we can have a super-fun lab and learn the maximum from the lab. It’s a double bonus day!”
That double bonus day occurred in the fully stocked Chemistry Kitchen. Since students have started using the new space there has been tremendous activity, ranging from second graders learning about the circulatory system to French students making crepes. Alapati says access to the kitchen made things much easier for her class. “Students were able to socially distance and still be together,” she says. “The amazing amount of space with all of the facilities – such as the refrigerators, the sinks and a place to keep everything in all one location assisted greatly.” She says in the past the ice cream lab has required her to coordinate supplies from multiple areas, making it much more difficult. “With all of the facilities easily accessible, it made it much easier to focus on what we were to learn from this lab.”
Learning at Episcopal is fun and tasty. (For future reference – the next time you’re caught with that extra bowl of ice cream, just say you’re learning more about the principles of thermodynamics!)
QUEST Center in Foster Hall is buzzing with activity even as the finishing touches are being made and furniture is being moved inside. The purpose of this brightly colored new space is to provide students room to explore, experiment and maybe even get their hands dirty. Recently, sixth graders studying ancient civilizations used the Center’s Design Studio space to create primitive tools such as bows and arrows, spear throwers and bow drills. There was a “Swiss Family Robinson” vibe as students chopped, cut and twisted sticks, stones and leaves collected from the Coach Dupe Trail. As students weaved together leaf strands, they expressed excitement for the project.
“It makes it feel like you accomplished something.”
“I like that it’s made from scratch.”
“We are way into it.”
Each year, Middle School teacher Virginia Day transports students back in time with hands-on experiences during the primitive technology project-based unit. She has dressed like Indiana Jones, created makeshift caves and even challenged students to throw a primitive spear. This year, students began the lesson by learning how ancient tools were created and the purpose they served. Special guests from the Episcopal Writing Center were brought in to help with the research process. “The Writing Fellows were able to practice their coaching and mentoring skills as they helped the sixth graders interpret research questions and discern the most important information,” says Writing Center Director Katie Sutcliffe. “Especially this year, I think it’s important to jump into opportunities that come up that allow students to interact and practice skills in unique and authentic ways.”
As the newest learning space on campus, the QUEST Center proved to be an ideal setting for students to dig deeper into the past. Just as the Academic Commons provides space for the needs of Upper School students, the QUEST Center provides adaptable, flexible spaces for Lower and Middle School students. The Center houses an assortment of learning resources including microscopes, digital data collection tools, a fully functioning kitchen and virtual, augmented and mixed-reality technology. There is also ample space to store in-progress projects, such as the sixth graders’ primitive tools, without the risk of them being disturbed or moved. One of the best things about the new Center is the freedom it offers teachers to create a hands-on lesson that cannot be offered within the confines of a more traditional setting. “Imagine doing this in my classroom,” says Day as students saw pieces of wood around her.
QUEST Center Director Dr. Elizabeth Lewis is supportive of teachers and welcoming of students as they arrive wide-eyed into the creative space. “I am here to brainstorm, provide set up and clean up to support our teachers as they expand lessons and learning activities for our students,” she says. Even though Dr. Lewis is still finalizing the details that will make this space complete, she is happy to have students enjoy this new learning environment which already feels like a combination of a children’s museum and a school. The sixth grade project is especially exciting. “This is the first project that utilizes all parts of the building,” she says.
Once students complete the primitive tools, they will spend time in the QUEST Center’s Production Studio, where they will use the green screen to record themselves explaining their creations. Later, they will spend a class period using the Center’s audio/visual editing equipment in the Digital Media Lab to perfect their presentations for final submission. In a way that truly exemplifies what Episcopal project-based learning is like, Day says the lesson will be finished when they’re finished. Ultimately, the goal is for students to think critically, process the information and enjoy an experience that engages and inspires learning.
The new QUEST Center is sure to inspire young minds for generations to come. The space is designed to help students explore and connect with the world through hands-on experiences that make learning fun. If the sixth grade history lesson is any indication, that mission is already being accomplished.
For more information about the new QUEST Center in Foster Hall, please visit https://www.episcopalbr.org/quest.html.