Many people around the world, particularly in Asia, are ringing in the the start of the Year of the Pig. The Lunar New Year started on February 5 this year and is one of my favorite holidays. During the new year, families get together, big feasts are prepared, kids get red envelopes filled with money, lion and dragon dances bring people good luck, and firecrackers ward off evil spirits. I enjoy celebrating this holiday with my family and friends, but also with students.
The second graders are currently “traveling” around the world and learning about the seven continents in Social Studies. During their “stop” in Asia, I was honored to come in as a guest expert and share some of the beliefs and traditions of celebrating the Lunar New Year. These students then became the experts and shared information about the Lunar New Year, and also put on a wonderful dragon dance performance, complete with music and singing at a recent Morning Meeting.
While I love teaching fourth grade science, I also try to find ways to connect with our students beyond the curriculum. Whether it’s a conversation about basketball, doing a special handshake, or wearing a Halloween costume, building relationships with my students helps create a positive learning environment. Sharing about the Lunar New Year is one way I can educate children about the world they live in, but they can also learn more about me and see me as more than just a teacher.
In December, the fourth graders participated in a “Who am I?” identity activity in which they shared traits about themselves and also learned more about each other, including myself. We wrote down descriptions about ourselves that people can’t see when they look at us, such as “I am a brother.” or “I love to cook.” In a related activity, we went over 20 character traits to see how we were similar to or different from our classmates. For example, some of us have siblings and play a musical instrument. We discussed that if we learn more about the people around us, we find out that we have many things in common. Similarly, when students learned about the Lunar New Year, they made connections to the popping of fireworks on New Year’s Eve and how Mardi Gras is on a different date each year like the Lunar New Year.
The identity activity and dragon dance performance are just two examples of how lower school students learn more about each other and the world around them. Our lower school theme this year is “Love Your Neighbor”. I believe when we get to know one another, we are better able to love each other and our neighbors. As we love each other we build a caring community where we can be ourselves and respect everyone around us.
I share about myself so my students not only see me as a teacher, but as a human being too. In addition to being a teacher, I am also a mother, sister, wife, traveler, foodie, and someone who loves celebrating the Lunar New Year. So in this new Year of the Pig, I encourage all of us to get to know our neighbors better and to love our neighbors. In the words of Mister Rogers:
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?
Won’t you please, won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”
I want to wish all of my neighbors a happy, healthy, and prosperous Year of the Pig.
Rosalyn is in her eighteenth year of teaching. Prior to coming to Episcopal six years ago, she taught at independent schools in New York City and Los Angeles. She is in her fourth year of teaching fourth grade science and taught second grade for two years. Rosalyn earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Whitman College and her Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at New York University. She loves teaching science and finding ways to integrate technology and other subjects into the curriculum.
When third grade teacher Amy Arceneaux assigned her students the task of writing a nonfiction book, Lowell Lambert knew just what to write about. Lowell has one love – Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers. After discussing his topic of choice with Mrs. Arceneaux, he began writing his book based on everything he already knew as a huge fan of the restaurant. The only research Lowell actually had to do was to learn more about the company’s origins. The finished assignment is a ten page, illustrated book highlighting the food served, the company’s history, and founder and fellow Episcopal Knight Todd Graves ’90. Of course, the book also includes a mention of the restaurant’s namesake Raising Cane, the dog. “Most restaurants don’t have a mascot,” writes Lowell.
Lowell recently had an exciting opportunity to celebrate the completion of his book and the research he conducted into Graves’ entrepreneurial journey. Graves invited the young writer and his family to tour the Raising Cane’s Baton Rouge headquarters. “Raising Cane’s is my favorite restaurant ever,” says Lowell. “My favorite part of our visit was getting a gigantic basket of goodies from the team at Raising Cane’s. I also enjoyed reading my book to Mr. Graves.”
Arceneaux says writing is an important component of the third grade curriculum. In fact, this is actually the second book the students have been assigned to create and they have now moved on to their third. “My students love to write and we write everyday,” says Arceneaux. “Already this year, they have written many stories and they are always excited to choose their best ones to publish.”
The recent opportunity to bring the topic of a story to life certainly added to this year’s excitement. Episcopal teachers are always in search of such creative and meaningful ways to inspire students to practice writing. In the summer of 2017, Arceneaux was selected to attend the Teacher’s College of Columbia University Writing Workshop. “Spending time at Teacher’s College in New York motivated me to continue making writing a focus of our day,” she says. “Students are excited when I send them off to write in their Writer’s Notebooks and I am pleased to see their skills develop over the course of the school year.”
Writing is a key component of an Episcopal education. Students in PreK-4 practice their writing skills as they learn to properly use a pencil and write simple words. Before Lower School students begin a project-based learning unit, they are tasked with writing about what they know and what they hope to learn regarding their new topic. In Middle School, the focus on writing continues as the outstanding Middle School English student in each grade is honored as a recipient of the annual Penniman Awards. Upper School students write reflections regarding service projects and students with a passion for writing serve as Writing Center Fellows. Such a consistent focus on writing will serve Episcopal students well as they move on to a university setting and ultimately begin their careers.
Learn more about how Lower School grows great writers in this blog post by first grade teacher Corey Lemoine.
For additional examples of writing opportunities in Lower School, check out the following blog posts.
Dinosaurs, Writing and an Award-Winning Author - Just Another Day at Episcopal
Fun with Words: Literacy Skills and the 3rd Grade Vocabulary Parade
To read more about the Writing Center click here.
Why is the sky blue? What makes the wind blow? Where does the rain come from? Any parent of young children is familiar with the daily onslaught of “the 5 W’s.” Researchers, led by child psychologist Dr. Sam Wass, surveyed 1,500 parents and concluded that children ask an average of 73 questions each day – almost four questions every waking hour. The analysis also revealed children’s inquisitive nature peaks at the age of four years old for both boys and girls.
Additional studies show that most children have formed an opinion (either positive or negative) about science by the time they reach the age of seven. Early childhood educators have a tremendous impact and influence on a child’s potential to seek out a career in science or engineering later in life. It is imperative for teachers to harness children’s innate sense of curiosity in their early years of formal education in order to foster a lifelong love of science.
Starting in their first years at Episcopal, students are provided rich and meaningful opportunities that encourage discovery through play to manipulate, explore, make predictions, ask questions, and use creativity to solve simple problems. Recently, the PreK-4 class was tasked with finding the best material to protect Humpty Dumpty when he fell off the wall. Classes joined forces to make predictions about how various materials would stand up in a fall, ranging from cotton to bubble wrap. Students then tested their hypotheses with an egg drop experiment. The children recorded their responses and shared the results with their families in their Seesaw journal.
Each year, students build on prior knowledge to expand their learning. Our youngest PreK-3 Knights explored their five senses by cooking a Thanksgiving feast. Over in Frazer Hall, PreK-4 investigated the sense of sight by mixing colors and exploring prisms and rainbows to learn about colors and light. Across the hall in Kindergarten, classes spent several weeks learning about each of the five senses. They did a taste test with Chef Pat, smelled various spices and studied the inner workings of the ear, bringing in guest experts to talk about sound and how our ears interpret vibrations.
Coding provides another avenue for Episcopal’s young learners to train their brains for the future. In the early childhood program, students begin to use Beebot and Ozobot. The children program simple commands to navigate the robot to its desired location. This year Beebot has navigated neighborhoods during PreK’s study of communities and helped Kindergarten learn about the number line in math. Ozobot “delivered” Christmas presents to different friends as the children programmed his path.
In addition to these formal science experiences, students are also given ample free time to explore and process what they have learned. Whether it is sticking their hands into a slimy pumpkin at Halloween, balancing blocks to build a tall tower through trial and error, observing their shadows on a sunny day, or discovering a butterfly chrysalis in the garden, these organic and natural experiences provide the foundation for children to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.
With the appropriate guidance, this natural curiosity and need to make sense of the world lay the groundwork for the skills that students will need to succeed throughout their years at Episcopal and beyond. With careers in Science and Technology continually on the rise, our youngest learners are gaining the competence, readiness, and confidence to be the future scientists and computer programmers of the world.
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.
Congratulations to the following Episcopal students on their recent accomplishments! Look for updates on additional student news in future editions of Knightly News.
On Saturday, January 12th Episcopal placed 1st in Division 2 at the Catholic High Mu Alpha Theta math tournament. The tournament was attended by approximately 700 students from 32 schools. Episcopal brought 54 Middle and Upper School students to compete in subjects from Pre-Algebra to Calculus BC. Click here to read the individual results.
Lower School Battle of the Books
Congratulations to the Lower School Battle of the Books winners! Students were quizzed on Wish by Barbara O’Connor, FRAMED! by James Ponti and I Survived the Attack of the Grizzles, 1967 by Lauren Tarshis. Every student participating received a Raising Cane’s gift certificate. As a special treat, members of the six winning teams had the opportunity to travel to Raising Cane’s for a celebratory lunch together.
This year’s winners are:
Sam Huff, Aiden Grassman, Oscar Worrell
Regan Danos, Morgan Murphy, Eloise Tharp
Anne Bradley Ewing, Emma Waguespack, Marshall Elliott
Brennen Botos, Jacob Hutchison-Johnson
Diya Kankar, Sophia Fivgas, Andi Randall
Conrad Pulliam, Nate McLean, Colton Richard, William Vincent
Robards has been competing in national competitions for ten years. Her horse Cirona and trainer Janet Talmadge joined her at the recent clinic.
Congratulations to the following Episcopal faculty members.
Episcopal’s theater duo Louis and Paige Gagliano recently earned recognition in the 2018 BroadwayWorld New Orleans Awards. Paige earned Best Direction of a Play (local) for her role as the director of Theatre Baton Rouge’s Gideon’s Knot. Louis earned Best Lighting Design for his role as lighting director for Theatre Baton Rouge’s Cabaret.
Do you have an outstanding student success story?
Share it with us by emailing it to email@example.com.
It is difficult to put a price on the Episcopal PreK-3 and PreK-4 experience. You have likely seen stories of our youngest Knights learning in the garden, exploring career options or visiting with community helpers. The Episcopal PreK program truly is a comprehensive, beneficial mix of learning, while celebrating the joy of being a three or four year old through purposeful play.
Episcopal PreK follows a curriculum with established learning goals and milestones, and even project-based learning units. For example, as PreK-3 students watched the Academic Commons take shape last year, teachers implemented a project-based unit on buildings and construction. Students explored the concepts of their own homes, learning new vocabulary words along the way. In addition, PreK-4 teachers use the Wilson Language Program’s Fundations curriculum to teach students developmentally appropriate phonics and writing skills. Such learning is commonplace in PreK-3 and PreK-4. “Episcopal PreK students are provided the full advantages of being an Episcopal student,” says Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson. “Beginning in PreK-3, students participate in daily world language and physical education lessons, as well as weekly lessons on music, library, art and religion.”
Episcopal PreK is a learning environment that prepares students for the school journey ahead of them. This journey is led by a team of teachers with a combined 49 years of early childhood education experience. Along with this experience, members of the PreK team also have degrees in early childhood education. Kristen Cascio, Katie Davis, Julie Mendes, Karen Murchison, Laura Smith and Lindsay Smith have chosen to teach young children as their life’s work and it shows.
Henderson says another benefit of the Episcopal experience is that students and families become a part of the Episcopal community through 12th grade and beyond. “As parents feel the anxiety of dropping off their child for the first time at real school, they can be confident in these teachers,” she says. “There is comfort for parents in knowing that the PreK team will stay in touch with their child as they grow and progress.”
While curriculum and preparation are critical for early childhood learning, Henderson says it is also important for a three or four year old to simply be three or four. She says teachers focus on intentional play that keeps a lesson relevant and interesting for young children. For example, creative play centers are changed out with the seasons, beginning with a flower shop in September and transitioning to a costume shop in October. As students transition to life at real school, Henderson says teachers focus on treating others with kindness and respect. “These teachers are masterful at navigating the social and emotional learning of such young students,” says Henderson. “They emphasize simply being kind to each other every day.” In addition, she says just like the older members of the Lower School community, PreK students also learn the Episcopal Honor Code and what it means.
According to care.com, daycare options in Baton Rouge range from $125 a week to $164 a week. In addition, the site lists $14 per hour and up as the average cost for a babysitter in the Baton Rouge region. An Episcopal PreK classroom experience is $187 a week, $54 a day or just $9 an hour. At $9 an hour, the program truly transforms students over the course of a school year. The students’ vocabulary, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking skills and even their social and emotional capabilities flourish. During any given week, Episcopal students can be found in the PreK garden exploring, planting and learning as they care for vegetation. On any given day, they learn from guest speakers and experts who complement the existing lessons offered by highly-qualified teachers.
According to market research, financial factors are important for Episcopal families when choosing a school, with families listing value for the cost as their top consideration. In addition, the majority of families said that when initially considering a school for their first or only child, they explored at least three schools. Once a family initially selected Episcopal for their child’s education, more than 95% of them planned for their child to remain at Episcopal through graduation. Among families with a currently enrolled student, more than 86% have not changed their mind regarding the length of time their student will remain at Episcopal. As families get to know Episcopal and the quality of the education provided, the decision becomes easier with each additional school-aged child. More than 47% of families considered only one school for their second child and more than 77% considered only one school for their third child. Data like this means that families want to remain at Episcopal once they have entered the classroom, met our faculty and staff and experienced the value of a multi-faceted Episcopal education.
Episcopal PreK students truly are members of the Episcopal community and they are aware of their connections within Lower School. They have the opportunity to learn from campus experts, including the coaches and staff. They share a building and a playground with the Kindergarten students. As a PreK-4 student, they attend Morning Meeting in the Greer Center. Henderson says all of this makes transitioning to higher grades easier for students because the relationships are already forged and they know what school looks like. It also makes life easier for parents because they only have to make that big school decision once. “This is a great first experience with school and it carries through and helps them to be successful,” says Henderson.
Just as the numbers are impressive, so too, are comments from families and students over the years.
“I cannot tell you how amazing this school is. Everything about it from the teachers to the academic program and even the school lunches are simply spectacular,” says parent Michelle Smith. “I truly had no idea education like this even existed.”
“The teachers in this community deserve the world, for they are not only instructors but also mentors and even friends. There is no other administration in the state that I trust would invest as much time into my journey as the administration at Episcopal.” Shannon Ahmad ’18
Seven members of the Class of 2018 serve as a great example of the complete Episcopal transformation. Louise Andreeff, John Daniel Davis, Caden Dickinson, Graham Frazier, Kelli Hu, Ethan Lawson and Russ St. Romain were all members of the first Episcopal PreK-4 class in 2005. The students grew up together, beginning with the early learning experiences of PreK-4 to the character development and academic rigor of Middle and Upper School. As they progressed through their educational journey, the students had ample opportunities to explore their interests including everything from athletics, thesis and the arts to service projects, student government and peer tutoring. Episcopal truly became their second home. Today, these students are studying at universities such as Georgetown University, University of Chicago, University of Mississippi, Rhodes College and Louisiana State University.
And it all began in Episcopal PreK.
Episcopal third graders have a tradition of showing off their vocabulary skills with costumes and a VPAC parade, and this year was no different. The annual occasion is inspired by Debra Frasier’s book Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster. This year, students took the project a step further and created a photo book for Frasier to commemorate the experience. Frasier was so touched by the gesture that she responded by sending every Episcopal third grader an autographed bookmark! The special delivery also included a personal note from Frasier expressing her gratitude.
This is not the first time this year that someone from the Episcopal community has corresponded with the author of an assigned book. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson was in contact with Wishtree author Katherine Applegate during the Lower School Community Read.
Episcopal third graders recently celebrated all things Louisiana. The annual project-based learning unit on the state offered students a taste of Cajun cuisine, lessons in Cajun dancing and an opportunity to create their own Bayou State Blue Dog. In addition, students took field trips to the Rural Life Museum, the Old State Capitol and the new state capitol. What a great, and tasty, way to learn about our city and state culture!
With visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, Episcopal Lower School students celebrated the holidays with the anticipation and excitement that only comes this time of year. Every Knight, from the tall to the small, shared in the joy. Enjoy the sights of the season at Episcopal. We can’t wait to see what the New Year brings!
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!