The first day of school 2016 was a day we will never forget. We watched the unprecedented rainfall and prayed that it would stop. The waters rose and receded and we were eventually able to return to school to face our new “normal.”
The PreK-4 students came back with lots of questions about the flood. Where did the rain come from? Where did the water go? How can we help? The Project Based Learning model in Lower School was the perfect platform to let our students explore their curiosities. The “Fighting Floods” project was born.
Students began by telling their own flood stories. Many students were personally affected by the flood and all had felt the effects of the flood in some way. Students illustrated and dictated their stories.
Next, they moved to the fieldwork phase of the project. The class took a walk along the Coach Duplechain Trail to observe Jones Creek. They looked at debris in the trees and observed the ways that drains were strategically placed around the school to keep water out of the buildings. They learned about the Water Cycle and how the rain falls and evaporates back into the clouds.
We invited “experts” into our classroom to explain their roles in helping the community during the disaster. Brandon Vey, father of Hartley Vey (‘30), was one of the first people out rescuing people in his boat. He shared his experiences with the students and brought his boat to perform a mock rescue. Former Episcopal School nurse, Lynda Stockinger, shared her experiences working with the Red Cross.
Mrs. Minton brought a Stream Table and reenacted the flood with the students. We placed Lego houses along the river to see which houses flooded first and brainstormed ways to prevent flooding in the future.
Students explored properties of water like floating and sinking and constructed foil boats. They tested their boats by “rescuing” plastic bears. They tested and refined their designs to rescue the most bears possible.
Throughout the project, one recurring question arose. “What can we do to help?” With a little research, the students learned about the flooding at the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. They were saddened to learn that over 575,000 pounds of food were lost in the flood waters. The class decided to organize a canned Food Drive in the Lower School. Small piles of cans turned into great towers of cans. Each grade level was challenged to build a creative structure out of their cans. Themes of peace and love for our community emerged in the designs. The drive ended with a visit during Morning Meeting from Senior Vice President of Development & Philanthropy, Charlene Montelaro of the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. She thanked the Lower School and emphasized the impact that their donation would have on feeding the hungry in our community. Mrs. Laura Portwood led students in a prayer to bless the food before it is donated to the Food Bank.
The smallest members of the Episcopal School community learned a valuable lesson. You are never too small to make a big difference.