College Shirt Day. Student Council Meetings. Sports. Student life is coming back to life at Episcopal now that the state has transitioned to Phase 3 of the reopening plan. Students have adapted quickly to the state health and safety mandates, and there is a real sense of excitement on campus as the traditional social-emotional activities return.
“We know that school is more than about what happens with academics,” says Middle School Division Head Mark Engstrom. “Children truly shine when they find the right sport, club, or activity that fits them. Rolling out our first set of clubs is another step toward fulfilling our Mission of developing the whole child.” Recently, Middle School announced the return of Peer Leaders, Student Council, Geography Bee, MATHCOUNTS and Student Vestry. Club meetings are being conducted in large meeting spaces following social distance guidelines.
Middle School Counselor Alicia Kelly facilitated the first Peer Leaders meeting in the Chapel. She says students were excited to participate in anything being offered after a long stretch without such activities. “I’m very excited for the return of Peer Leaders,” says Rylee Simoneaux. “My favorite thing about Peer Leaders is the great community and help we can give to others around our campus.” Simoneaux and Kelly look forward to the return of the Peer Leaders’ Random Acts of Kindness initiative in which students are recognized for being kind to others.
The return of the Student Council is another exciting development. Advisor Kristina St. George says that while big group events like dances are currently not an option, there are still things that students can plan. “The students elected to Student Council this year are very motivated to face the new challenges that social distancing has placed on us and are looking forward to coming up with fun and safe activities to make everyone’s Middle School experience a great one,” she says. This year’s Middle School Student Council members include seventh graders Maeve Dolan and Virginia Kirkpatrick and eighth graders Sophie Arnold, Ryder Bond, Elaine Bourgeois and Eloise Parker.
MATHCOUNTS advisor James Moroney says the return of extracurricular activities brings back a much needed sense of normalcy. “One of the parts that I love most about MATHCOUNTS is how it gives our students a chance to be part of a team competing for and representing their school,” he says. “These types of experiences are invaluable in creating the sense of community that makes Episcopal such a special place.” Moroney is using a combination of virtual and in-person meeting options to prepare this year’s team.
As the division counselor, Kelly is pleased that extracurricular activities are returning to campus. “We’re here to connect,” she says. “These activities help kids in wanting to come to school. It helps them engage and is important for their social-emotional health and well-being.” Kelly says providing these activities can also have a positive impact on a student’s academic performance. “Social connection has a lot to do with happiness,” she says. “Happy students want to learn.”
In addition to the return of clubs, Middle School faculty have organized Wellness Wednesday activities in advisory. Currently, students are competing to see who can perform best on a mental, physical and intellectual challenge with the overall winner to be announced before fall break. Students also participated in an activity where they discussed what they are grateful for in recognition of National Gratitude Day. Students expressed appreciation for family, teachers, a nice school and sports.
The return of softball, swimming, cross country and football has created a spark among the Episcopal Middle School community. “Clubs and sports provide students an opportunity to connect with and learn from each other in different ways,” says St. George. “I also think it’s important for students to be able to participate in something they have a sincere interest in – this can benefit mental health as well as make their school day just more fun.”
After only seven weeks on campus, we are making tremendous progress. The successful reintroduction of these first five Middle School clubs means that additional clubs can soon begin. School does look and feel different this year, but with a little creativity, teachers and students are finding ways to make the experience meaningful.