Greek and Latin have been the cornerstone of a classical liberal arts education since the very foundations of Western Civilization. For centuries, a sound education in the classics was the hallmark of a liberal arts education. But today’s students are growing up in a different world, one of rapid innovation that is constantly looking forward, not backward. So how do you teach today’s students about the importance of their past when they are always looking forward to the next big thing?
Latin teacher and Episcopal technology guru Steve Latuso’s goal for this school year was to make the Cambridge Latin course material accessible and exciting for his eighth grade Latin II students. He did this by issuing a challenge to students – build a digital model of the Roman baths found in Bath, England using the video game Minecraft: Education Edition. Gone were the days of recreating a structure with popsicle sticks and macaroni noodles. Students responded to this new technological challenge with tremendous enthusiasm. “The Minecraft project was something we had never done before because we had previously made drawings and sketches of buildings but never built them in 3D,” says Sam Messina. “I think this was the most engaging way to learn about the Roman Baths as we were able to recreate the baths using our creativity,” says Ayush Patel.
Before the virtual blocks ever began stacking, the class researched the bathhouses and their role in first century Roman culture. Using virtual reality glasses, students toured a Roman bath facility reconstructed by the British in Bath, England without having to make the long trek across the globe. It wasn’t long before they were discussing bathhouse components such as the apodyterium, caldarium, natatio and palaestra. In addition, this lesson in Latin bolstered their knowledge in subjects such as physics, engineering, environmental science and even coding. “We learned how Romans implemented arches in their buildings while researching the structure of the bath complex,” says Ayush Patel. “We learned how a hypocaust (heating system for the baths) system was built in Ancient Rome and recreated it using modern materials in Minecraft.”
Once students began creating their virtual bathhouses, Latuso says they let their imaginations run wild. Evidence of the enthusiasm can be seen in the images they created. One apodyterium features flickering torches and intricate details. There is a natatio that is open to the sky with lush greenery growing from the second floor. Using the book and quill feature in Minecraft, students even composed their own version of curse tablets that were found by archeologists who excavated the baths. These 21st century students have successfully brought the ancient world to life in a virtual world.
Energy, enthusiasm, focus and engagement. When it comes to project-based learning, these are the feelings a teacher hopes to elicit. The Latin Minecraft project accomplished all of this and more. “I think one of the reasons this project was fun was because it took a game that a lot of people like and play regularly and turned it into something educational that people still wanted to play,” says Messina. “It made the research more fun and the information stayed with me because I got to put it to use doing something fun.”
Latuso says the study of ancient languages and cultures has many benefits for students today. “While conventional wisdom acknowledges the usefulness of Latin in improving students’ communication and critical thinking skills, our class embraced a modern twist on an ancient subject in order to personalize the experience for Episcopal students,” says Latuso. By emphasizing 21st century project-based learning ideals, Latin students had an opportunity to transfer their knowledge of one subject to a variety of subjects through innovative problem solving. Clearly, this modern take on learning Latin resonates with today’s Middle School students. What a great example of the personalized and innovative nature of an Episcopal education.
Bonjour Episcopal Family! Having taught here for more than twenty-five years now, I mean that sincerely: the faculty, staff, students and parents of Episcopal feel like a real second family to me. Episcopal has changed so much during my tenure here, and so has teaching for that matter. High-tech twenty-five years ago meant an overhead projector, and maybe a television in the classroom. Today, everyone has a personal device or two, and classrooms are connected to the internet. Even teaching methods have changed. When I first started learning French back in the eighties, we had to memorize scripted dialogues, vocabulary lists and verb conjugations. If you were good at memorizing and nerdy about grammar (like me), then learning a language could be easy. But, learning about a language via its individual parts and rules is not the most effective or long-lasting way to go about it. Honestly, how much French/Spanish/Latin/German do you remember from high school? Exactly. So, over the years I’ve begun to integrate other methods and strategies into my teaching.
Last year I started teaching my sixth graders in an entirely different way, using the Comprehensible Input (CI) approach and scrapping everything else I had ever done with this level. To put it briefly, CI is not a grammar or textbook-driven curriculum. It is not long lists of vocabulary words, nor the teacher talking at the students; it is not learning about a language; it is not immersion either. CI is speaking in a way such that every student can understand what the teacher is saying at all times. It incorporates relevance by exploring topics to which students have a connection and that relate to real life; it is student driven and student centered because students give input and direction to the flow of conversation.
So, since we’re talking about middle schoolers, our topics of conversation can be quite varied and, more often than not, weird. No matter. Together, we talk, create, read, draw, sing and write -all in French, and all in a low-stress environment.
Changing my way of teaching this class has challenged me greatly but has also wrought great rewards. The students’ understanding and ability to effectively communicate in French grew quickly throughout the school year, and we had a blast together. They are my seventh graders this year, and our journey continues. My hope for them is that this skill they now possess -speaking and understanding a foreign language- serves them well for the rest of their lives.
Beth Lemoine was recently named a Newton Distinguished Faculty honoree. You can read more about that here.
To read more about global education at Episcopal and to see photos from last year's trip to Quebec, click here.
Beth Lemoine has a master's degree in teaching French from Louisiana State University. She joined Episcopal’s faculty in 1994, and has taught every level of French from second grade to seniors. She has studied in France and led numerous student trips to France and Quebec, including Episcopal’s first ever French exchange. She believes that the study of foreign languages empowers individuals by building confidence, creating empathy and instilling a better-informed worldview. Madame Lemoine sponsors the Middle School French Club and co-sponsors the Middle School Cheerleaders.
Congratulations to the 2019 Penniman Scholars. This year’s honorees are:
Episcopal is honored to award the Penniman Scholarship on an annual basis to a sixth grader, seventh grader and eighth grader. The scholarship was established in Mary Virginia Penniman’s memory and is an on-going reminder of the devotion of one of the school’s founders for his commitment to Episcopal and its students. The Episcopal community is grateful to have the continued leadership of a founding member for over 50 years.
Diplomat for a Day
Congratulations to junior Alex Nelson! Alex was one of four Louisiana students selected to be a French Diplomat for the Day through the French Consulate in New Orleans. Alex and her fellow student diplomats had the opportunity to shadow the Consul General of France Vincent Sciama. You can learn more about the day by clicking here.
Tops in Math
Congratulations to fifth grader Nate McLean! Nate won first place in the Louisiana Elementary Math Olympiad at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School. Congratulations also to Meg Kantrow who placed in the top 25 and Episcopal participants, Tripp Veillon and Diya Kankar. Way to go Lower School Knights!
Red Stick Bowl Selection
Senior center Griff Strain has been selected to play in the Red Stick Bowl. The game features top senior players from East Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes. The action gets underway Saturday, December 21st at 2 pm at Zachary High School.
Congratulations to Leland, Lucy and Molly Cramer! The Cramers will compete in the 2019 Amateur Athletic Union Cross Country National Championship in Knoxville, TN on December 7th! Lucy (5th) and Molly (4th) will run the 3K and Leland (1st) will compete in the 2K. The Cramers qualified for the national competition after competing in the Southern District Championships in Hammond. Molly had the fastest time among nine and 10 year olds, Lucy was second and Leland was second among 7 and 8 year olds.
Episcopal Yearbook Editor Earns Recognition
Congratulations to Mason LaFerney ’19! Mason won the top individual award in the Graphics/Artwork category for the 2018-2019 Episcopal "Accolade" yearbook design. Honorees were announced at the Fall 2019 JEA/Tom Bell Silver Scribe Yearbook Contest held at the Loyola University New Orleans School of Communication and Design. The contest was sponsored by the Press Club of New Orleans, the Journalism Education Association and Loyola University New Orleans. Mason is currently studying at Boston College.
From Knights to Tigers
Episcopal graduates are making an impact in college sports. As members of the LSU cross country team, Adele Broussard ’19 and Alicia Stamey ’17 were both named to the Louisiana Sports Writers Association 2019 All-Louisiana Cross Country women’s team. Adele was also named the Freshman of the Year after scoring in five of the seven meets she entered. Stamey scored in all six of the races she ran, including a second place finish at the Nicholls Invitational and a sixth place finish at the LSU Invitational.
All-America Team Honors
Welcome back! Members of the Class of 1994 and the Class of 2009 recently held reunions.
Mark your calendar for the next opportunity to reminisce at the upcoming Alumni Christmas party.
December 27 at 6 pm: Beau Soleil
Lights, Camera, Action!
Episcopal’s campus serves as the backdrop for a Bounce TV original Christmas movie. Crews were on campus recently filming “Greyson Family Christmas.” The film premieres Sunday, December 8th at 9 pm. Click here for additional air times.
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Episcopal’s presentation of “The Little Mermaid Junior” was anything but junior. Lower and Middle School students wowed audiences with impressive vocals and fun choreography – there were even a few flips! The set, lighting and costumes transported audiences under the sea with vibrant color and movement. It was another successful production that truly showcased the talents of these young artists and the arts department staff who support them.
Mu Alpha Theta has had a busy month. On Saturday, November 9th we hosted our tournament that included 330 students from 21 schools. We had approximately 60 of our club members contribute to the tournament either with preparing materials ahead of time, setting up testing locations, running competitions, or presenting awards. We will be making a $500 contribution to the Food Bank with part of the proceeds from the tournament. Read about the Middle School team's results here.
In addition, on Saturday, November 16th we placed 2nd overall at the Ben Franklin Mu Alpha Theta tournament in New Orleans. Results of that tournament are below.
1st Joie Lee
2nd Lauren McGrath
1st Justin Dynes
2nd Arya Patel
Honorable Mention Gregory Field
1st Algebra 2 Math Bowl – Thomas O’Connor, Akshay Basireddy, Sacha Dernoncourt, and Scott McAdams
1st Pre-Calculus Math Bowl – Eugene Jiang, Joy Lee, and Aadit Narayanan
2nd Calculus Math Bowl – Matthew Bickham, Gregory Field, Ryan Field, and Justin Dynes
2nd Geometry Team – Joie Lee and Ayush Patel
3rd Algebra 2 Team – Analise Hyde, Ella Harper, and Joey Roth
1st Calculus Team – Elaine Gboloo, Adam Reid, and Shuhei Niwano
Joan Moroney began teaching in 2007. She has taught Honors Geometry, Algebra II, and Honors Algebra II at Episcopal and is a co-sponsor of the Mu Alpha Theta math competition team. Before coming to Episcopal in 2014, Joan taught high school credit math courses to gifted students at Glasgow Middle School in Baton Rouge. She has a Bachelor of Science in secondary mathematics education from North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in education from Louisiana State University in gifted education.
On November 9th, 21 Middle School students competed in our Mu Alpha Theta Tournament at Episcopal. We competed in Division 1 against nearly 200 students from around Louisiana, including Catholic High School and Baton Rouge High School.
Our team finished third in sweepstakes in the entire Division 1, which is incredible considering we only competed with our Middle School students and our high school students didn’t compete at all. Congratulations to our students for a great showing. The results are below.
Nate McLean (5th grader) - Third Place
Harrison Willett - Second Place
Blaise Richard - 3rd place
Luke Stelly - 2nd place
Cameron Augustine - 1st place
Hayden Willett - Honorable Mention
Hayden Singh - Honorable Mention
Joie Lee - 2nd place
Ivy Jiang - Honorable Mention
Joey Roth - Honorable Mention
James Moroney is a versatile teacher having taught English and math in addition to coaching volleyball and soccer. Most recently, he taught sixth grade math, Algebra I Honors and Geometry Honors at Our Lady of Mercy in Baton Rouge. James was named the Our Lady of Mercy Teacher of the Year for the 2015/2016 school year and received the Christian Life Award in 2017. He has served as a MATHCOUNTS team coach, the Junior Beta Club head sponsor and the Youth Legislature co-sponsor. James earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Louisiana State University in English with a concentration in secondary education. He is the author of Challenging Common Core Math Lessons: Grade 6.
The truth about adolescence is that it’s hard. It’s just hard. Think back to your own Middle School experience for a moment. My guess is that there were some awkward moments. Whether it was a first audition, getting picked near last in dodgeball, or asking/getting asked out… there are new and strange situations that happen while we are in Middle School. In Middle School, there are so many weird social status aspects to life. It’s also true that they are usually public and how things play out matters tremendously in the moment.
While Middle School is a strange experience, it’s also true that children are testing boundaries and learning a lot more about themselves each day in this window of development. This is when many students take on leadership roles for the first time, whether it’s earning the lead in the school play or being selected as the captain of the swim team. This is the first time in their lives when adults ask them what they are going to do in a situation, rather than simply tell them. The world is also asking these malleable, inexperienced adolescents to do things for which they may not be ready. To help them handle this new sense of responsibility and to ease the transition, my philosophy is that we need to keep talking to our kids and loving on our kids. We need to be aware of what they are morally capable of and allow them to test their skills. We also need to remember that if their attempts don’t go as planned, it doesn’t mean we’re a failure as a parent.
So if it’s true that it’s hard and they are exploring who they are.. what can we do? Helping them through this transition is important work that we can accomplish together by doing the following:
As a Middle School team, we are committed to partnering with you and helping to mold your children into the best people they can possibly be. Academics are important for future success, but we know that being a good person is the more critical component on the journey to happiness and success. As your partner, we invite you to reach out to us with open communication about any concerns you may have. Please don’t wait until May or let a small concern turn into a problem before reaching out via a phone call, a chat or an email. Together, we can make Middle School more rewarding for your children... and maybe even a little less hard.
Mark Engstrom is Episcopal’s Middle School Division Head. Prior to joining Episcopal he served as the Middle and Upper School Division Head at Allen Academy in Bryan, Texas. Mark is a Louisiana native and a graduate of Ben Franklin High School in New Orleans. Mark earned degrees from the University of Kentucky, the University of New Orleans and Framingham State College in Massachusetts. He has extensive experience in blended learning and has led multiple professional development opportunities regarding blended learning. Mark has also published articles on personalizing student education. Mark particularly enjoys working with Middle School students as they transition from elementary school students to high school students. Mark is married to Nicole, Episcopal’s fifth grade science teacher. Their children, Alex and Emma, are Episcopal students.
Middle School athletes have already had a great fall season. Here are highlights of recent action. Click here to access the Middle School athletic calendar and make plans to cheer on your Middle School Knights!
The boys and girls had a great showing at the recent Catholic High Invitational. Pearson Spender led the way with a first place finish in 11:11 in the boys two mile. For the first time, Scarlett Spender and Ivy Jiang ran in the varsity three mile race, with Spender putting up a time of 19 minutes. In the Middle School race, Anna Kate Yale led the way for the Knights with a great two mile time of 13:29.
The Middle School boys had a dominating win at the St. Joseph’s Invitational. Eighth grader Abram Johnston finished second. The girls squad placed second overall in the meet. Eighth grader Ivy Jiang placed fourth and Rebekah Reid and Anna Kate Yale were among the top 10 finishers.
The seventh/eighth grade team recently had a huge victory against Dunham with a final score of 40 to 16. This was the team's second win against Dunham this season. This week, the students faced pouring rain in a hard fought home contest versus Our Lady of Mercy. The football Knights will play their final game of the season here at Episcopal on Tuesday, October 22nd at 6:30PM.
The softball Knights are playing great this season. The sixth grade team has had nice wins over Dunham and U-High. The seventh/eighth grade team had two wins versus Parkview and fought hard against U-High and Central. The athletes have shown significant progress this season.
Middle School is making a splash. The boys and girls teams recently placed first in the 200-medley relay. Relay team members include Olivia Melancon (backstroke), Ryann Richard (breaststroke), Lucy Cramer (butterfly) and Rylee Simoneaux (freestyle). Olivia Melancon and Rylee Simoneaux each qualified for high school state swimming cuts in the 100 freestyle and Olivia was the 50 backstroke champion, while Rylee Simoneaux was 50 backstroke runner-up and Matt VanDeMaele was the 50 breastroke boys runner-up.
It was a fun-filled week on Episcopal’s campus as students celebrated Homecoming. All three divisions displayed school spirit with theme dress days, pep rallies and campus decorating. Everything culminated with the Knights' Homecoming victory over Catholic Pointe Coupee. Congratulations to the 2019 Episcopal Homecoming King and Queen - Griff Strain and Sarah Collier!
Alumni also got in on the celebration with a Cochon De Lait in the alumni tent. We hope the classes of 1979 and 1989 enjoyed their time back on campus.