They just make learning fun for the kids. - Lauren Williams, Episcopal parent
An Episcopal lesson is so much more than reading and memorizing facts. Students have the opportunity for hands-on learning that connects a range of subjects. Read more below about recent examples of the Episcopal experience.
Fourth Graders Explore National Parks
Fourth grade students studied landforms for several weeks. The project-based learning unit included a visit to Jones Creek and even making edible landforms. To learn more about common landforms in a grander setting, students researched and learned more about the National Parks.
Students recently had the opportunity to share what they learned with their families, expertly covering everything from weather to wildlife commonly found in the park of their choice. Presentations included posters, photos and handmade clay sculptures. The presentations made an impression on the audience.
“They learned a lot,” said parent Stacy Landry, who says she was impressed with the students’ presentation skills. “It was clear they know the information.” Fellow Episcopal parent Prashanth Kankar says the experience has brought an awareness of these wonders to his daughter, Diya. He says the lesson was a good opportunity for them to learn together.
That’s Some Second Grade
The damp weather outside did not dampen the spirits of the Episcopal second graders as they celebrated the end of their recent study of the book Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Students, dressed in cowboy boots and hats, participated in an old-fashioned county fair inside the gym. As country music played, students enthusiastically lassoed horses, tossed bean bags at tin cans, played horseshoes, ran sack races and competed in a basketball shoot-out.
The county fair activities were organized and led by the physical education team as a supplement to the classroom reading that was done. The event was a great way to bring Charlotte and her adventures to life in a memorable way.
The Doctor is In
Second graders have had a busy fall! In addition to the Charlotte’s Web project they also learned more about their own bodies. The annual second grade project-based unit on the human body had a fun, new twist this year. Students put their knowledge of the body’s systems to the test as they hosted a "medical clinic" for families in the Greer Center.
What do you want to be when you grow up? PreK-4 students recently explored this question with a career dress up day. Career choices ranged from a dentist to a construction worker and police officer. Regardless of the path students follow, teachers encouraged them to pursue their dreams. We can’t wait to see where life takes them!
Open the cherry red doors to Frazer Hall and you will be met with the buzz and excitement of our youngest Knights, hard at work exploring the world around them. The Early Childhood program at Episcopal is building a solid foundation for future learning. Students are expanding language and vocabulary, learning valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills, and strengthening their fine and gross motor skills in order to prepare them for the educational journey that lies ahead. The children simply call this “play.”
Play allows children to process and understand the world around them. Each project in Pre-K is carefully constructed to give students multiple ways to build content knowledge. In their current study of community helpers, various learning centers reinforce the learning going on in the classroom. Students at the light table can examine x-rays of animals like a veterinarian. The writing center has been transformed into a post office where students can write letters, weigh and measure mail and sort letters for delivery into numbered boxes. The students practice new vocabulary they have learned from first responders in the dramatic play center, which has been turned into a fire station.
Another critical piece of the early learning foundation is providing opportunities for children to develop knowledge about the world around them. Students can read the word “frog,” but if they have never seen or touched a frog, there is a disconnect in their learning. The Pre-K garden is an oasis of learning for our students. Students and families worked together to bring the outdoor classroom to life in August. In September, students began to notice signs of the butterfly life cycle. Eggs dotted the milkweed plants and eventually hungry caterpillars hatched. Students were able to observe the entire cycle from start to finish and documented their observations in many ways. From field notes and drawings, to publishing an illustrated book, students used their experiences in the garden to enhance their learning.
Students are also learning to be part of a community. This role starts in the classroom. Each morning begins with classmates greeting each other in a special way. They are also part of the larger school community. Partnerships with their fifth grade buddies and Mrs. Sutcliffe’s writing classes have allowed them to work together with students outside of their peer group. Bringing in visitors like police officers, the Baton Rouge Fire Department, and EMS has taught them about their important place in our Baton Rouge community.
Odds are, if you ask a preschool aged child what they did at school today, their response will be something resembling, “We played.” Remember that the child playing with blocks is learning critical thinking skills like balance and ordering. Remember that the child working with playdough is strengthening their fine motor skills to become a great writer. Remember that the child checking out customers at the dramatic play center is learning how to be a member of our society. These seemingly simple moments in their day are teaching our youngest learners big lessons so that they can be successful students throughout their journey at Episcopal.
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.
The annual Pumpkins with Pops pumpkin carving was a treat for first graders and their families. After the carving was complete, there were jack-o-lanterns of all shapes, sizes and themes. Enjoy the photos from this fun day!
“Different languages, different food, different customs. That's our neighborhood: wild and tangled and colorful. Like the best kind of garden.” ― Katherine Applegate, Wishtree
Lower School students, faculty and families celebrated community, wishes, love and acceptance this week as third graders completed the read of Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. The event highlighted the strength of the Episcopal community and the connections to the world beyond. The celebration was truly a community effort with special guests, a message from the author and even a Lower School version of the wish tree.
“This book has influenced me to be more welcoming to new people or to people who just want to play with me at recess. That is why The Wishtree is my new favorite book.” Evelyn Zartman
“I also love the book because it teaches me to love my neighbors. It also teaches me to be kind no matter what happens, like when you’re in the classroom and someone is having trouble you could help them.” Ada Mere
Chief Paul reflected on his own life’s path in speaking to students, offering an example of how he went into law enforcement while a close friend chose an entirely different path. He left students with three tips for staying on the path to success:
Students also had the opportunity to hear from another special guest – Wishtree author Katherine Applegate. The Newbery Medal-winning author took time to send students a personal video message that was as inspiring as the book itself. “My wish for all of you is a world full of welcomers,” she said.
Episcopal faculty and families were involved throughout the community read process. Parents read along with students and many adults were as moved by the themes as their children. The entire Wishtree experience was made possible because of the support of the Parents’ Guild. The group purchased the books as part of the annual Parents’ Guild wish list.
In addition, the 2018 Wishtree community read was dedicated in memory of O. Miles Pollard, Jr. Mr. Pollard, a former Episcopal trustee, had a love of the outdoors that made the Wishtree read a fitting tribute. Mr. Pollard’s wife Mary and their son Steele Pollard were on hand to commemorate the occasion. “Many may recognize the Pollard name because the Lower School library is the Mary Furlow Pollard Library, which was made possible through the gift of her son O. Miles Pollard, Jr. and his wife Mary Pollard in 1984. A photographic portrait of Mary Furlow Pollard hangs in the library,” said Director of Advancement Andy Spencer. Several copies of Wishtree for the Pollard Library's collection have been inscribed with a message honoring Mr. Pollard’s contributions to the Episcopal community.
Episcopal students are now extending the love and acceptance of Wishtree to students beyond Woodland Ridge. Lower School Librarian Catherine Word purchased copies of the book for third graders at St. James, St. Luke’s and Trinity. Next week, students will participate in a Skype discussion on the book’s themes to foster a stronger sense of community.
With a Lower School theme of Love Your Neighbor and a school-wide Quest for Peace program, Wishtree was a fitting read for this school year. The community read was one of those moments where everything just seemed to come together. The connections, the special guests and having the support of family made the experience one students will likely remember for some time. As they grow to become tomorrow’s leaders, we hope their wishes for kindness, peace and harmony come true.
Did you read Wishtree with your child? Leave us a comment below and let us know what you thought about the book.
Episcopal first graders just completed a mini-triathlon. This is quite an accomplishment for six and seven year olds! Students swam a lap in the pool, pedaled a distance on their bike and finished up with a run. The annual Healthy Selves Triathlon is the culmination of a larger, project-based unit on what it means to be healthy.
Similar to triathletes, students learned about proper nutrition. The Healthy Selves unit introduced them to the concepts of making healthy food choices, creating healthy snacks and smoothies and even growing their own lettuce. To make the experience even more fun, students used brightly colored bracelets to track and celebrate their healthy food choices.
Students also learned more about what it means to be fit. These tiny triathletes learned more about exercise safety and helpful stretches for strengthening muscles. In addition, they learned how to care for their body with a range of tips including how to prevent the spread of germs, how to properly care for their skin and how to care for a bleeding nose.
The entire Healthy Selves unit is possible because of the support and strength of the Episcopal community. A range of faculty, staff, coaches and parents donated their time and expertise to make the project a meaningful experience for students. On triathlon day, that support was truly felt as students from throughout the Lower School lined the fence, the path and the sidewalks to cheer on their classmates and encourage them to complete the course.
Reaching the finish line of the Healthy Selves Triathlon was truly a team victory for all of Episcopal!
It is beginning to look a lot like fall at Episcopal!
The PreK-4 costume shop is now open! Students recently explored this new fall-inspired learning station. Our youngest Knights typically love the opportunity to play dress up and this time of year offers them a range of options for creative play.
Lower School artists explored the colors of fall. Members of the Art After School group learned more about mixing colors as they used acrylic paint to create fall foliage. First graders tried their hand at fall art and drafted poems dedicated to the change of the season.
Walk into a Lower School classroom and you may be greeted by a tiny owl on a stick. “Baby Echo” is helping teachers make learning fun as students enthusiastically repeat what the teacher says when Baby Echo points their way.
This year, Lower School teachers are using the Wilson Language Fundations Program to cover the Big Five reading essentials. These fundamental skills include:
First grade teacher Heather Harpole says the Fundations Program is exciting to teach. “What I love about it is that it is multi-sensory and students are using their arms and bodies to learn,” she says. Harpole says the program lessons are offered in short segments with student-friendly activities to keep young learners engaged. Examples of learning activities include:
Harpole says even though Lower School only just started using the program in August, teachers have already noticed a significant improvement in student performance, especially handwriting abilities. The program is also proving to be a great tool for students of varying learning styles because of the variety of activities presented. Harpole says the program is sequential and systematic, making it easy to build upon as student skills evolve.
Wilson Language Program research shows that students using Fundations achieve greater gains in literacy skills compared to students using programs previously implemented by schools who have tested it. According to Wilson Language, schools have reported better learning of letter knowledge, larger gains in phonological and phonemic awareness, greater gains in phonological decoding and reduction of risk of later reading difficulties.
As students progress through the school year and beyond, Baby Echo and their teachers will continue to use engaging activities to help them learn the foundations of reading. One exciting example is the third grade Vocabulary Parade!
Fun with Words: Third Grade Vocabulary Parade
Episcopal third graders know words! Students recently showcased their vocabulary at the eighth annual Vocabulary Parade. The event kicked off with a second line entrance by students dressed as everything from an acrobat to a yurt. Perhaps most impressive was that each student courageously shared their word and its definition on center stage before a packed VPAC auditorium. That certainly took fortitude for students who are eight or nine years old.
The annual celebration of words is inspired by a study of author Debra Frasier’s work. In her book “Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster”, students explore misunderstandings that often arise in the world of words. As a special treat this year, Episcopal students received a personal message from Ms. Frasier. From her studio in Asheville, North Carolina she told students that the book was inspired by a real misunderstanding her daughter had in fourth grade. That misunderstanding, and the story it inspired, led to the vocabulary parade movement across the country. Students everywhere are learning new words in such a fun and creative way.
Enjoy this look at the creativity of the Episcopal community!
Lower School students are studying everything from weather to the human body. Now that the school year is underway, students are fully immersed in memorable and engaging project-based learning units.
Hurricanes. Rain. Snow.
At only eight or nine years old, Episcopal third graders already have a range of experiences with weather. For Phase I of the third grade weather study, students wrote about their experiences and shared their stories with classmates. Teachers Amy Arceneaux, Lauren Bilskie and Shannon Pesson say the weather unit is always exciting to teach because students are naturally fascinated by all things weather. The project-based unit certainly has a range of topics and projects to spark their interests. Unit highlights include the following hands-on student activities:
In addition to these learning opportunities, students traveled to the Louisiana Art and Science Museum where they played Who Wants to be a Meteorologist? While there, they also sang the water cycle song and dressed up in weather-related costumes. Back at Episcopal, students had an opportunity to learn more about the weather from local expert Dr. Josh Eachus from WBRZ. Students asked about everything from the safety of being in a car during a thunderstorm to how strong the winds were in hurricane Katrina. To learn more about the impact of hurricane Katrina, students watched the documentary Hurricane on the Bayou, which tells the story of what Louisiana residents experienced as the system roared ashore in 2005.
While students are naturally fascinated by weather, the third grade teachers say the topic can also be scary for them. “We want students to be prepared for severe weather, but not scared,” says Pesson. Part of that focus on prep includes a discussion on the importance of first responders and even those who respond after a disaster, such as the Cajun Army and Cajun Navy.
The third grade weather study is a comprehensive look at weather from the water cycle to cloud formations. After the unit is complete, Arceneaux, Bilskie and Pesson hope students have gained the following weather knowledge:
Bilskie says in addition to the lesson objectives, students are also gaining library, research, computer and presentation skills as they work through the unit. Arceneaux points out that there is a connection and continuity with project-based learning as each lesson builds upon previous experiences over the course of the year. For example, third graders will next study the state of Louisiana. The unit will include a discussion of the state’s ecosystem and the impact previous weather events have had on the land.
Third grade students will showcase their weather knowledge with their final project – researching and producing their own weather forecast. Look for more on that as the school year progresses.
Follow Episcopal on social media to learn more about other project-based learning units.
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If you had one wish, what would it be? Newbery Medal-winning author Katherine Applegate explores the theme of wishes, love, and acceptance in her book Wishtree, which tells the tale of an old oak tree named Red.
“Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.
Word hopes that everyone in the Episcopal community will participate in the read, including students, parents and grandparents. “Parents are essential participants in this Community Read,” says Word. “Reading aloud to children who are able to read by themselves, especially books that are beyond a child’s own independent reading level, is important in developing fluency and a love of reading.”
Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson was among the faculty members who received a copy of the book. “The Parents’ Guild wish list supported this project with Wishtree,” she told students. Henderson pointed out the importance of such support and how it enhances the student’s educational experiences in such meaningful ways. Thank you Parents' Guild!
Wishtree provides wisdom from a different perspective. Word hopes the story inspires students and families to love their neighbor and make the world a better place. Please join us in this Community Read.
The Wishtree reviews are in:
“Beloved author and Newbery-winner Applegate returns with a moving tale starring, of all things, an oak tree….Timely, necessary, and brimming with heart.” Booklist
To learn more about the book and view a trailer, click here.