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.