Congratulations to the Middle School math team for their recent success at the Episcopal math tournament. The team placed third overall on the Interschool Test. See all of the results below.
Luke Stelly - Honorable Mention
Akshay Basireddy - 3rd place
Joie Lee - 1st place
Thomas O'Connor - Honorable Mention
Autumn Reynolds - Honorable Mention
James Be - Honorable Mention
Scott McAdams - Honorable Mention
Middle School Team - Fourth place: Kailyn Borskey, Lauren McGrath, Thomas O'Connor and Mia Pulliam
Second place: Joie Lee, Autumn Reynolds, Luke Stelly and Noah Vincent
Comp math 1- Honorable Mention: Akshay Basireddy, James Be, Sacha Dernoncourt and Scott McAdams
Something special is being cultivated in Middle School. Recently, sixth graders in Stacy Hill’s science class worked with special guests from the LSU Ag Center Master Gardeners program to propagate succulents. As you might expect in a science class, students learned about soil ratios and growth requirements, such as light and water needs. As the plants grow, students will now make observations and track their progress. While this may seem like a typical science lesson, this is just the beginning.
Students and their little succulents have actually embarked on a service learning journey to promote literacy and reading. Middle School English teacher and project organizer Martha Guarisco says students researched illiteracy and book deserts last year, which inspired them to take action. That action is now underway as the little succulents begin to grow and flourish under the students’ watchful eyes. This service learning journey will eventually encompass science, English, social studies and math before it is complete.
Students began this journey in science class to give their little buds time to grow. Later this school year, students will host a plant sale with funds generated benefiting area organizations such as Lines 4 Lines and others who promote reading among area youth. Guarisco says Episcopal students and teachers will use funds generated from the sale to purchase books especially for each group. She says this will allow project participants to purchase books that personally resonate with recipients, which is a critical component of sparking a child’s interest in reading. “Seeing yourself in a book connects you with that book,” says Guarisco, who says this fosters a love of reading that is beneficial for developing brains and bodies.
As the succulents expand their footprint, the service learning project will also expand its reach, including math, social studies and English. While Hill leads students in scientific observations, math teacher Nancy Callaway is leading discussions on the cost of growing succulents, pricing estimates and the number of books that can be purchased with the funds generated. In Virginia Day’s social studies classes, students have studied food deserts, similar to how they studied book deserts in English class. As the plant sale approaches, students will also design logos and promotional materials.
Middle School Division Head Lucy Smith says such teamwork and collaboration among faculty and staff makes an Episcopal lesson even more meaningful. “It always is exciting for me to see the grade-level teams of middle school teachers collaborating to plan a cross-curricular project that engages our students in real-world problem solving. Making connections across the academic disciplines is engaging and motivating for students. They feel terrific when they know that their hard work and learning makes a difference for others,” she says. “I look forward to seeing the students' enthusiasm grow as the project work proceeds!”
The succulent project has numerous components, but the lesson is quite simple. “I want students to appreciate their own literacy as a lifelong skill,” says Guarisco. She also wants students to understand the huge advantage that literacy provides and the complexity of illiteracy. Students will continue to explore these concepts as the little succulents grow. Look for more on the project this spring as the plant sale approaches.
Middle School Success
Middle School students are achieving tremendous success already this school year. Here’s a look at recent accomplishments.
Math Counts Club
Members of the Math Counts Club are competing in Upper School math tournaments whenever they have the opportunity. In September, the combined Middle and Upper School team earned the second place spot in Comprehensive Math 1 at the St. Paul’s tournament. Recently, a team of Middle School students placed second in Algebra I Math Bowl at the Ben Franklin tournament.
Mu Alpha Theta Coach Joan Moroney says participating in high school tournaments has numerous benefits for Middle School students. “The experience of going to the Upper School competitions allows them to challenge themselves in the particular math content area but also allows them to see what will be available to them once they reach Upper School. At all of these tournaments the Middle School students are building relationships with Upper School students as they work together on team competitions and hopefully viewing the Upper School students as mentors,” she says.
Congratulations on outstanding results at the Ben Franklin tournament!
Algebra I: Sacha Dernoncourt – fourth place
Geometry: Carter McLean – third place
Algebra I Math Bowl: Noah Vincent, Joie Lee, Michael Wang and Hayden Singh – second place
Episcopal team: second place against 14 schools from across Louisiana.
Spirit Ribbon Fundraiser
Middle School showed their support for local breast cancer patients through a spirit ribbon fundraiser. The division’s cheerleaders organized the effort, which generated $300 for Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. The squad also spent time during flex creating care packages for local patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Middle School students collected approximately 400 books for Baton Rouge area elementary students in just one week's time! The drive was successfully organized by members of the Student Council.
Middle School students donned orange in support of Unity Day this week. Middle School Peer Leaders successfully organized the day as a reminder to students to stand together against bullying. In keeping with the Middle School Honor Code’s focus on kindness, the day was a reminder to be accepting and inclusive of others. Students from throughout the division wore orange shirts, bows, ribbons and socks to show their support. This is a great example of the social/emotional learning opportunities available at Episcopal.
Division 3 City Swim Champions!
The Middle School swimmers won the Division 3 City Championship meet last Saturday. “The Middle School Swim Team has been successful all year, but this meet is the culmination of an entire season of hard work,” says Coach Stephen Anderson. “Nearly every swimmer played another sport or is in the play, meaning these kids were balancing other activities while performing at a high level at practice.”
Anderson says the teams performed consistently well in all races, with many individuals finishing in the top three, including a number of sixth and seventh graders. He says the boys’ team had only four boys, including fifth grader Charlie Williams, which is the minimum number required to make a relay.
Individual highlights from the recent victory include:
The Middle School Girls’ Cross Country team is ranked 51st in the nation! “This is a special group of Middle School girls,” says Head Coach Claney Duplechin. “They are very talented indeed. Their times are awesome. We have won all of our meets by over 100 points which is GREAT!!!!” Both the boys and girls have had tremendous success this year with both teams winning the Catholic High invitational.
The sixth grade Blue and Gold teams are in the flag football playoffs beginning this weekend. The seventh and eighth grade team finished the year strong with a big come-from-behind victory last weekend.
Student Artists on Display
Several Episcopal Middle School artists will have their artwork displayed at the Annual Downtown Kiwanis Art Show this weekend.
We often struggle to find the right balance of protection and independence when it comes to our teenagers. The nineties saw the rise of the “helicopter parent,” hovering over their child. This has evolved to the “lawn mower parent,” swooping in and “mowing over” any adversity or struggle their child may face. While this is well-intentioned, loving and motivated parents can inadvertently stunt the growth of adolescent independence by stepping in and “helping” each time their teen is in need. Parents often struggle with how much support is too much. Should I bring my tween their missing homework? Should I let my teen attend that late night party? Striking the right balance of protection and independence requires thoughtful consideration and knowledge of your individual child. How do parents navigate the tween and teens years? How much independence is the “right” amount? Here are some suggestions for knowing when to step in and when to let go.
As part of healthy development, adolescents become more peer-focused beginning around middle school. This also means that they rely less on adult guidance. Rather than parent facilitated “play dates,” adolescents make their own plans - movie nights, mall outings, sleepovers, concerts, dances, parties. These are all common activities for teens. Some ways you can foster social independence while also considering your child’s safety include:
As children approach middle school, teachers often encourage parents to step back and allow the student to take charge of her school work more independently. Parents should carefully consider how to empower their children to allow them to feel successful in school. Some ways you can foster independence academically include:
While many adolescents have a full schedule with school and extracurricular activities, it’s important for them to gain an awareness of their ability to contribute to their family and community. Being responsible to another adult, through a task such as mowing lawns, babysitting, or a summer job, empowers teens to feel competent. Some ways you can foster independence with work skills are:
Watching your child develop into a competent and confident adolescent is a rewarding experience. Episcopal’s mission includes preparing our students for “purposeful lives”. By motivating and encouraging responsible independence, parents and educators can partner together to help all of our students meet their full potential.
National Physicians Center for Families: Building Independence in Adolescents
Psychology Today: Teaching your Adolescent Independence
USA Today: Meet the ‘lawnmower parent,’ the new helicopter parents of 2018
Self-Sufficient Kids: 7 Ways Parents can Encourage Teens to be Self-Sufficient
Mark your calendar for the next Lunch and Learn with the Episcopal counselors.
Thursday, October 25th
11 am - 1 pm
The discussion will be based on the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All About Me World by Michele Borba. You do not need to have read the book to attend. Please RSVP to your division counselor.
Alicia has served as a School Counselor at Episcopal since 2001. As the Middle School Counselor, she has a passion for helping pre-adolescents reach their potential, academically, emotionally, and spiritually. Alicia holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Master’s in Health Sciences- Rehabilitation Counseling, and is a Certified School Counselor and Licensed Professional Counselor.
On Saturday, September 15th, 39 Middle and Upper School students competed in the St. Paul’s math tournament in Covington. Episcopal placed 2nd overall in Division 2! Congratulations!
Pre-Algebra Honorable Mention – Autumn Reynolds, Joey Roth, and Suzie Heneghan
Algebra I 3rd – Carter McLean
Algebra II 1st – Abhay Basireddy
Honorable Mention – Justin Dynes, Arya Patel, and Ryan Whaley
Advanced Math 2nd – Clay Burton
Honorable Mention – Robert Alleva
Trigonometry 2nd – Arohi Gopal
Honorable Mention – Elaine Gboloo, Takumi Takei, Alex Nelson
“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
Most athletes will tell you that there is nothing like putting on your school’s team uniform for the first time. There is a feeling of pride and a sense of unity that comes from being a part of a whole that is represented by that crisp, clean jersey. Middle School is typically the first opportunity for most athletes to compete for their school, making this a truly special time for these students.
The Episcopal Middle School athletics program has recently experienced tremendous growth. Williams says over the past three years the Knights have had a record number of participants in basketball and volleyball. In addition, Middle School students are competing in softball, flag and tackle football, cross country, swimming, soccer and track. Ample opportunities to participate and compete means more students benefit from the overall team experience. Click here to read more about the 2A sports opportunities available at Episcopal.
Research has shown that participation in athletics fosters independence, a sense of community, healthy lifestyle choices and the development of lifelong leadership skills. Williams says students also develop the time management skills needed to manage classroom requirements and the demands of the team. This is significant in Middle School as students transition to more responsibility for their own academics and more rigorous course requirements.
Middle School is also the time when students increase their overall understanding of the game and refine their skills. Practice requirements increase as students get older, becoming more and more like the drills run by Upper School students. In addition, eighth grade students are introduced to strength and conditioning and summer practices. Williams says that the Middle School coaching staff are always cognizant of the fact that Middle School students are not Upper School students with smaller frames. He says safety is a top priority as students develop healthy habits and proper techniques that will serve them well, regardless of which sport they choose.
The success of the Middle School program means so much more than just building a successful Upper School pipeline. As students get in the game and feel the support of their community and families, their confidence soars. This confidence helps them take on new challenges and opportunities. The perseverance required to develop and improve new skills helps them achieve in the classroom. The sense of community provides them the support needed to keep trying.
Are you a Middle School sports fan? Click here to view the division’s athletics calendar and make plans to attend an event.
Go Middle School Knights!
A typical history lesson on an ancient civilization is anything but typical at Episcopal. Recently, a study of the Lascaux caves had sixth grade students cheering and exploring under the guidance of “InDAYana Jones.”
Middle School history teacher Virginia Day brought history to life for students studying the 20,000 year old cave paintings in southwestern France. Dressed in safari-inspired khaki from head to toe and calling herself InDAYana Jones she led students through a lesson on the paintings and their significance. Students entered an everyday campus classroom that was suddenly transformed by dimmed lighting and a large canvas cave in the center of the space. Students used flashlights to explore the cave symbols adorning the cave’s walls and traveled to additional stations where they made observations about strange-looking objects and their potential uses. They even had an opportunity to view fossils unearthed by Day during a summer trip to Wyoming.
On day two of the caves study, students had the opportunity to use a replica spear thrower or atlatl to launch a makeshift spear across the rain garden. There was excitement and cheering as each member of the class stepped up for their turn at using this primitive tool. Cheering and excitement in a Middle School history class!
The Lascaux caves were painted by ancient people during a time known as prehistory or the time before humans had a written language. Day says because of this, a classroom study of the period feels more like a scientific expedition than a traditional history lesson. Similar to social scientists, students use their powers of observation to draw conclusions about the physical evidence. They then compare their own observations to those of archeologists who have actually studied the site more in-depth. Day stresses the importance of this corroboration, especially in regard to this time period. “Our knowledge of prehistory is based on thousands of social scientists who go through this same process of making observations, drawing conclusions, and corroborating their findings. It is not just the result of what a small number of people have found,” she says.
While the spear exercise is exciting and memorable for students, the goal of the lesson is much more meaningful. “The spear thrower activity demonstrates the importance of technological advancements,” says Day. Day wants students to understand that their ancestors actually created highly advanced and thoughtful tools with important purposes. For example, the spear thrower was used to give ancient people greater distance from the animals they hunted to increase the speed and safety of the hunt. “Hunting during the Paleolithic Age was no walk in the park. It required much more skill, patience, and strength than hunting today does,” says Day. She hopes students walk away from the experience with an appreciation for the obstacles ancient people had to overcome in order to survive.
“We are all the result of the people who came before us. Similarly, we are building the foundations for things future generations will use. What our ancestors did millions of years ago matters, and what we do today matters to the people of the future,” says Day. What a fitting way to sum up a lesson that may have simply seemed fun for students. In the end, the students not only sharpened their critical thinking skills with hands-on learning, but they also gained valuable insight as to why we look back to move forward.
Individualized learning at Episcopal School of Baton Rouge means meeting the students where they are in the lesson, in the lab or in life. This personal approach to learning is designed to take advantage of a student’s strengths and help them improve upon their weaknesses. A perfect example of the power of individualized learning is the magic that is happening in the Math Department.
“We want to challenge students as much as we can as long as it’s appropriate.” Stephen Anderson, an Episcopal alumnus and Math Department Chair, says this department philosophy equates to great things for students.
As early as fifth grade, math teachers begin to identify which students have a proclivity for advanced studies. These are the students with a conceptual understanding and procedural fluency for math, combined with a desire and hunger for learning. Once a student’s math aptitude is summed up, teachers put their heads together to develop a mathematics pathway that fits.
“We want every kid to have the best opportunity possible,” says Anderson. This may mean a student takes Honors Geometry in eighth grade, Algebra I as a freshman or even Calculus BC in tenth grade. If there are enough sixth graders ready for seventh grade math – teachers create a special section just for them. If there is a freshman ready for Honors Pre-Calculus – teachers provide it. If a student has exhausted what is thought of as “high school math” – teachers create an advanced class or offer an independent study. As a result of this desire to meet students where they are, the depth of courses offered has increased and the math range has skyrocketed among students.
Much planning and open communication is needed to truly be successful with this level of individualized learning. This year Middle School math teachers are teaching more than one grade level, which provides them a comprehensive understanding of where individual students are in their learning journey. In addition, one-on-one meetings are conducted between students and teachers to discuss strengths, weaknesses and where the student wishes to go next. Anderson says if a student attempts an advanced math path and finds that it is not for them they can simply rework the plan. He says teachers are always thinking big picture and long-term for students and ultimately want to make sure they provide the appropriate opportunities at the right time.
Duke TIP research shows that 20% to 40% of students perform above grade level in reading and between 11% and 30% perform above grade level in math. How to challenge these students is a struggle for schools nationwide. Episcopal’s ability to create individualized learning opportunities for students has proven to be a great solution. Students are taught to their potential and pushed further than even they might have imagined.
In the end, this take on learning amounts to tremendous benefits for students. Because the material is interesting and challenging they are more engaged and enjoy the learning experience more. Being able to learn at their own pace, also gives students an advantage later on. For example, Anderson says students may enter university with enough math credits to jump right into sophomore level work, while others may not even need math at all depending on their major. He says it’s usually once a student enters the post-secondary world that this hits home for them. It’s at this point that students may reach out to former teachers with a word of thanks for personalizing their experience.
Individualized learning is a hallmark of an Episcopal education. No matter the path our students travel, we want to provide them the right lessons for where they are and the path that the choose.
This year’s Lower School theme is such a simple and effective message for people of all ages. Lower School Division Head Bridget Henderson says it is a theme of joy, community and belonging – all of which are a part of the foundation of the Episcopal experience.
“Our yearly theme is something that ties us together as one community working toward a common goal,” says Henderson. Even though the school year has only just begun, Love Your Neighbor has already been embraced by everyone from PreK-3 to fifth grade. Check out the video below to hear students discuss what it means to Love Your Neighbor.
In many ways the yearly Lower School themes serve as a starting point for everything from recess conflict resolution to Morning Meeting management. Henderson says the tradition started eight years ago with the first theme - Joy is All Around. Each year a new theme is selected by a group of Lower School faculty who hope students see the theme as a call to action.
Looking around the Episcopal community it is easy to see that the Love Your Neighbor theme is already in action. In Lower School, the responsive classroom approach encourages students to be respectful of themselves and others. Henderson says the approach is important because it fosters a better learning environment in which students can thrive. According to research conducted at the University of Virginia on the responsive classroom approach, students do thrive with “higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions and higher quality instruction.”
The Love Your Neighbor theme also fits well with the Episcopal commitment to service learning. Last school year’s Upper School students performed approximately 800 service learning projects for Baton Rouge neighbors and beyond. Students took part in Habitat for Humanity builds, volunteered at Thrive School, the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired, the Shepherd’s Market Food Pantry and even organized a hurricane relief drive for victims of hurricane Harvey in Texas. In Middle School each grade level united together for a common service learning project for the annual Field Day event. Students generated more than $4,000 to support the Water for South Sudan project, Friends of the Animals and Support Our War Heroes.
At the heart of an Episcopal education is a mindset that we are created to “strive for justice and peace among all people and (to) respect the dignity of every human being.” Episcopal schools ensure that all who attend are challenged to build lives of genuine meaning, purpose and service in the world they will inherit. Love Your Neighbor is a great place to start!
Research conducted by the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education shows the responsive classroom approach used by the Episcopal Lower School for more than 10 years now is linked to “higher academic achievement, improved teacher-student interactions and higher quality instruction.” According to information from the Center for Responsive Schools, Inc. the Curry School's three-year study also found that the responsive classroom approach to teaching is a predictor of gains in student math and reading achievement and that teachers’ use of the approach is associated with a classroom that is more emotionally supportive and organized.
Additional research from the Columbia University Teaching College also supports the responsive classroom approach. Center for Responsive Schools information shows that researchers evaluated the economic benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL) and found that improving SEL shows measurable benefits that exceed the costs.
What is the responsive classroom approach?
According to the Center for Responsive Schools, the approach “is a way of teaching that creates a safe, challenging, and joyful classroom and schoolwide climate for all students.” Basically, the responsive classroom approach is a classroom management philosophy that helps establish a community of empowered students who understand fully the expectations and behaviors required of them and the results of those expectations and behaviors.
Lower School teachers Renee Crousillac and Kelly Dorris have both received advanced training in the responsive classroom approach. “In my 28 years of teaching, I have never used such an amazing approach. It works! It eliminates a lot of behavior issues and allows for more meaningful teaching time,” says Crousillac. Dorris says the approach begins with the first bell on the first day of school. “Teachers take time to develop a sense of community at the beginning of the year so that at the end of the year the class is a well-oiled machine,” she says.
The responsive classroom approach empowers students. Dorris and Crousillac say at the beginning of the school year each child sets hopes and dreams that serve as academic and personal goals for the year. These goals are then used to establish the classroom rules and guidelines. Teachers also model and demonstrate the behaviors expected of students and use encouraging, positive language to remind students along the way. “Show me what a good listener looks like” and “remind me of how we are going to move to the cafeteria” are examples of the types of phrases commonly used.
The efforts put into establishing a classroom community early on, pay off in numerous ways throughout the year. Dorris says eventually teachers are able to work with small groups while other students work separately on projects of their choice without disturbing the room. “Everyone knows their purpose and what they’re doing in the room,” she says.
What can you expect from a responsive classroom community?
Students who are learning in a responsive classroom community greet each other daily as well as anyone who enters their room. In the video above, third grade teacher Amy Arceneaux leads a classroom morning meeting in which she shows students how to greet each other appropriately. In morning meetings students also share books and anecdotes and participate in a short daily activity centered on the theme of the first lesson. Responsive classroom teachers begin each day by posting a daily message for students to see upon entering the classroom. The message outlines what to expect from the day.
The responsive classroom approach has proven to be a perfect fit for Episcopal because of the school’s commitment to nurturing and developing the whole child- spiritually, intellectually, morally, physically and artistically. Dorris says the approach is also a great fit for project-based learning and experiential learning opportunities. In addition, the approach engages parents and families, including them in the classroom community and the larger campus culture as everyone works together with common goals and a commitment to learning.
The standards established in Lower School through this approach resonate throughout the Middle and Upper School divisions. “I am often proud of how Episcopal students communicate well with visitors to our campus- both adults and new students. Many are able to model appropriate eye contact, tone of voice, and instinctively know to greet a visiting adult or student with a handshake and welcome. Where does this come from? These skills are taught at a young age in our Lower School using the responsive classroom method,” says Middle School Counselor Alicia Kelly. Kelly says this type of learning continues in Middle School with a different name. “This summer, the Middle School teachers participated in a workshop on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that will complement the positive work the Lower School is doing. This training will enhance and supplement a week-long training called ‘Developmental Designs’ that a portion of our current Middle School faculty attended several years ago. As educators, it’s not only our role to teach students our curriculum, but help them grow into productive young adults with purposeful lives. We are fortunate to work in a school that focuses on the whole child.”
This June, Episcopal hosted a responsive classroom training workshop that was attended by educators from across the country. New and returning Episcopal educators were able to take advantage of this professional development opportunity while connecting with teachers from other schools. Dorris says training a range of teachers in this approach helps keep the message consistent across the division so that students, families and teachers know what to expect regardless of their classroom assignment.
Choice. Trust. Community. These are words you may think of to describe a responsive classroom feeling. One benefit of having such a positive environment is that it means more time can be spent on learning, discovering and exploring the world. Such an environment sets a solid foundation for a range of academic possibilities that later express themselves in test scores, GPA’s and college acceptances.