Mindfulness is a powerful tool. Often misunderstood, mindfulness has been misconceived in the past as a “kumbaya,” crunchy practice, when in reality, it has so many benefits for children and adults alike. Dating back many centuries, mindfulness is the simple practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. Mindfulness is primarily used for addressing stress and worry by promoting focus, peacefulness and awareness.
As children grow, life becomes more complicated. There is an increased pressure to perform well in school, build social connections, participate in multiple extracurricular activities and even look a certain way. The pace of life increases, requiring children to attend to these many expectations at a faster rate. It is no surprise that the most common mental health problem in childhood is anxiety disorders, which are now diagnosed in 1/10 children and rising. Mindfulness is an incredible tool to combat anxiety, because it can be done anywhere and by anyone. It does not require tools or prompts. It does not require a certain environment. Mindfulness skills such as breathing, stretching, and guided attention exercises are always fully accessible to the child.
Not very familiar with mindfulness for students? Look at all of the incredible benefits!
Your students have learned many techniques over the past quarter to practice mindfulness. Because mindfulness is a skill it takes time to develop, so I would encourage you to continue building mindfulness in to your days at home. Whether it becomes part of your dinner blessing or bedtime routine, mindfulness can benefit the whole family. Check out some of the mindfulness practice resources below:
Rainbow breathing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O29e4rRMrV4
Ally Bayard, School Counselor
Click HERE for the Nursery Rhyme Parade Video.
Nursery Rhyme Parade
We recently celebrated the culmination of a three week PreK-3 unit on nursery rhymes with a magical parade of students dressed in costume as their favorite nursery rhyme character. What a sight to behold - the entire school, from our 18 month old students to our 5th grade seniors, joining together to commemorate the special early childhood occasion. After the parade, the students headed upstairs to the Broadcast Studio to recite their favorite nursery rhyme in front of the green screen to create a fun compilation video for their families. What could be better than a parade of Humpty Dumpties, Little Bo Peeps, and Itsy, Bitsy Spiders? Perhaps it is the early literacy and cognitive benefits reaped by these three year olds through their study of rhymes, songs and poems.
Developing Language Skills through Rhyme
Nursery rhymes help students develop an ear for the rhythm and cadence of our language. They help students acquire the pre-reading skills of hearing sounds and syllables in words and provide ample opportunities for young children to explore and identify rhyming words such as Hickory Dickory and Humpty Dumpty. Even though the rhymes may be silly like a cow jumping over a moon or an egg falling off of a wall, children learn that stories have a clear beginning, middle and end - foundational skills for future reading comprehension and writing. Vocabulary acquisition is another key benefit to nursery rhymes. Is there a better way to teach the word fetch than through Jack and Jill’s story of collecting water? Wee Willie Winkie and Miss Muffet teach young children about letters and sounds through alliteration. By learning to recite a favorite rhyme, students boost their memory skills, practice speech and articulation skills and build confidence speaking in front of others.
The benefits of learning Nursery Rhymes extend beyond the realm of language and literacy skills and give St. James PreK-3 students fun ways to foster overall brain development. Over the past few weeks, classroom centers have used lego bricks to count and build Humpty Dumpty’s wall, numbers have been explored through Hickory Dickory Dock’s Clock, and one-to-one correspondence practiced while filling a boot with “Little People” to count exactly how many children the old woman had in her shoe. Students explored the scientific process by building walls of different heights and discussing how the height of the wall could impact Humpty Dumpty. It sure is exciting for a class of 3 year olds students to predict what will happen when a raw egg is dropped from different heights!
Nursery Rhyme Video
Our PK-3 classrooms have been filled with lively hands-on, play-based learning centered around a study of time-honored Nursery Rhymes and Songs. As you enjoy the Nursery Rhyme video from the cutest Nursery Rhyme characters you’ve ever seen, appreciate all the learning and brain development that occurred while these precious children were having fun. All in a day’s work in a PK-3 classroom.
Summer always seems to fly by, and now it is time to start setting our children up for a successful transition back to school. So what are some things we can do for a smooth transition?
1. Get a grip on sleep- The value of sleep for children is endless. Research shows that children who routinely get appropriate amounts of sleep show improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and physical health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following amounts of sleep based on age:
-infants under 1 year: 12-16hrs
-children 1-2 years: 11-14hrs
-children 3-5 years: 10-13hrs
-children 6-12 years: 9-12hrs
-teens 13-18 years: 8-10hrs
If your child has trouble sleeping, try darkening the room, using a white noise machine, and sticking to a consistent sleep or sleep and nap schedule. Remember, consistency breeds consistency.
2. Practice- There is value to the old saying, “practice makes perfect.” The more familiar your student is with things in his/her control, the less overwhelming a new school year will be. Have a new backpack? Practice climbing out of the car and putting it on. Have new shoes? Practice putting them on and tying or velcroing the laces. Have a new belt? Practice fastening it after using the bathroom. The more independently a student can function, the more confident he or she will be.
3. Consider extracurriculars- Summer is an active time for many, and such activity takes a little more planning during the school year. With time spent in the desk and on the reading rug, many students need extra physical outlets to burn energy at the end of the school day. Consider an after school enrichment your student might enjoy, or joining a sports team, or even stopping at the park on the way home from school. Built-in activity helps minimize frustration and burn-out at home.
I hope this will help your students enter the school year with excitement and confidence!
- Ally Bayard, Guidance Counselor, LPC, NCC
Next year, you'll still find joyful and inspiring classroom spaces for students ages 18 months through 5th grade at St. James, but the order in which everything is arranged on campus will be a little different. The expansion of our early childhood program over the past five years called for a reorganization of all classrooms within the buildings on campus, and summer break gives the perfect opportunity for a reset. Because of this, a number of our St. James teachers spent their last afternoons packing classrooms up for moves! Mrs. Henderson explained the new plan in an email to parents on May 13, 2021:
"We are thrilled to announce that we have a plan for reorganization and relocating classrooms this summer that will communicate order and growth within our school. The new plan will inspire collaboration among teachers and students in grade level clusters. Pelican’s Nest will be housed in Kilgore Hall and will be where our youngest students in the one- and two-year old classes will learn and grow. Our Early Childhood students in PreK-3 and PreK-4 will be on the first floor in Werlein Hall. Our Upper Elementary will be on the second and third floors in Werlein Hall. Homerooms for 3rd and 4th grade students will be on the second floor. As is tradition, our 5th graders will enjoy their “senior year” on the third floor. Lockers and an added learning space will be privileges that our seniors will enjoy there.
Lower Elementary homerooms will be located in Atkinson Hall. Our Kindergarten classes will be on the first floor, and 1st and 2nd graders will be upstairs. Also located upstairs will be an Academic Enhancement teacher who will support first and second grade students. This reorganization will assist with vertical alignment, planning, and sharing of resources. Proximity of grade levels will build excitement among the students as they look forward to 'what’s next' each year at St. James. "
A special thanks to Movers and Helpers of Baton Rouge for their assistance in moving boxes and furniture this week. We also are grateful to our teachers for their efforts in packing and unpacking this summer. We can't wait to show our new spaces to families at our Meet the Teacher day in August!
Last Friday, May 7th, Mrs. Nikolaus and Mrs. Patterson’s 4th Grade fourth grade classes hosted their parents in Bishop’s Hall for the 2021 State Fair, a presentation of their year’s worth of work in English Language Arts and Social Studies. The fourth grade social studies curriculum focuses on the five regions of the United States. Over the course of the year, each fourth grade student completes in-depth research on one state in the U.S. This cross-curricular project not only focuses on social studies, but it includes reading, writing, math, technology and art. Students learn about the resources, geography, climate, landmarks, history, and culture of that state (and region). 4th grade ELA and Social studies teacher Brooke Patterson said, “The fourth graders put so much effort into creating incredible state fair research projects throughout the year. It was an absolute joy to witness the children becoming confident researchers, collaborators and presenters. My favorite aspect of the project was helping the children plan, film and edit their persuasive commercials. They were able to learn curriculum subject matter and life-long skills at the same time!”
The end of year State Fair is focused on persuading the audience to move to their specific state and region. Thus, the parents and students watched group video commercials for the five regions of the United States and then traveled around the room to view each student’s individual state project. The students recited persuasive speeches at their travel booths and passed out brochures they had created to entice visitors. Math and technology were used in their studies as well, such as when students had to plan a realistic five night, six day trip to the state, which is referenced in their movie trailers. “It was wonderful to see the students’ pride at the end, as they connected all subject areas to create a meaningful project,” Mrs. Patterson reflected.
We hope you’ll enjoy viewing the event photos as well as this video linked to the button below, featuring a few of the commercials and movie trailers the students created.
We are excited to announce that St. James will be implementing think!Mathematics in our K-5 classrooms next year. Think!Mathematics is a Singapore math curriculum designed to “deliver meaningful math instruction that allows ALL learners to explore and link concepts together.” In our yearlong search for a new math curriculum, we researched and reviewed programs that would get our students excited about math while preparing them for 21st century competencies such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication and metacognition. We wanted a program that followed a CPA (concrete - pictorial - abstract) approach to learning with a focus on building conceptual understanding. The think!Mathematics curriculum checked all of these boxes.
A key component of the think!Mathematics program is the use of “low floor - high ceiling” anchor tasks at the beginning of each math lesson. These open-ended tasks encourage students to think critically and provide for differentiation, allowing students to work at their own level of math development and take ownership of their learning. Another integral part of the think!Mathematics program is the emphasis on continuous professional development for teachers. In a few weeks, the primary author of the program, Sarah Schaeffer, will be spending two days at St. James working with all of our math teachers. Plans are in the works for additional professional development opportunities with Sarah throughout next year as well. The adoption of the think!Mathematics curriculum is one of the exciting initiatives in store for St. James next year.
Click the button below for more information and a video featuring educators from other schools who have used the program.
- Donna Lamonte, Assistant Head of School
Last week, second graders from Mrs. Robbins and Mrs. McDowell’s classes walked down the hallways wearing nametags labeled “Inventory,” “Cashier,” “Sales,” and “Manager.” They set out handmade merchandise on desks and tables, propped up poster boards, and placed pricing list signs on their cash registers. They waited in anticipation to see what customers would think of their items and were relieved when their younger peers showed up with bags of (play) money to exchange for goods. One student sales rep started reciting knock knock jokes to a first grader, and another down the hall held up postcards, enticing the children to come down the hall and spend. The first graders took stock of all that was available to them and started counting the coins in their ziplock bags.
Over the past month, the second graders studied how money moves in the world through spending, earning, and saving. Once students understood the concept of the economy, they worked in small groups to create business models and produce particular inventories (bookmarks, postcards, joke books, math riddles, and bracelets) to stock in their classroom “stores.” Next, students created advertisements and commercials using iMovie to market their businesses. The commercials were broadcast to the school via Bayou St. James, and the advertisements were put on display in their stores.
Students also practiced certain jobs within their business. For instance, the cashier worked with money and made change in the marketplace. The manager worked with others to problem solve real world situations. The sales person worked on intrapersonal skills and helped market their product.
As a culminating assignment, the second graders hosted a Marketplace and invited their first grade and kindergarten friends to shop. The second grade students enjoyed having the younger grade levels come spend their (play) money. Not only did the younger grades have to make wise economic decisions, they also had to accurately count money. Second graders practiced all they had learned--that attitude in a group setting can affect your sales, that marketing and advertising matters, that money and number sense can make or break your business, and that having a positive work ethic will make your business desirable.
Teacher Jade McDowell commented, “Overall, this project-based study is meaningful to each student involved. Not only does it create lasting memories, it incorporates cross-curricular studies in a fun way. We are so proud of our students and all their hard work!”
While some students purchased beaded bracelets instead of math riddles, Marketplace items of all types sold, and most importantly, all students learned what it means to sell and to buy through this authentic learning experience.
St. James Art Teacher Catherine Russell joins us this week on the blog for a report on our fifth graders’ recent study of Digital Art! Mrs. Russell earned her degree in Elementary Education from LSU and was named Teacher of the Year at Bains Elementary in 2012. This is her 6th year teaching art at St. James.
In the art studio, I try to expose all young artists to as many artists and techniques through exploration of the elements and principles of art. I strive to provide each student with the opportunity to create using a variety mediums so that when they leave St. James, they are well versed in the basics of art education.
Every year, I try to save something special for our older students. In addition to our typical traditional art projects, I love to introduce our fifth graders to graphic arts and digital media. We begin by exploring photography. Students take photographs highlighting our school campus, as well as portraits of their peers with the iPad. Later in the year one of their favorite projects is called “Morphing the School,” where they are provided a theme and asked to transform the school through photography. For example - a student may be assigned “Under the Sea,” so he or she would use a picture of the school and digitally transform it into a watery wonderland full of extravagant sea life. Fifth grader Stella Silva reflected, “I liked how we were able to make something from our imaginations look real, by using technology.” Her classmate John Rodgers Lambert added, “It was fun learning how to use tools to layer pictures on top of one another.” Check out our slideshow for a few highlights.
Another fun project is from the angle of graphic design and advertising. We talk about graphic design and that profession’s duties - exploring how it often helps people promote a product or a business. We then discuss products and slogans. Students are then tasked with taking a well known product and pair it with a famous work of art and digitally transform into an advertisement! Their imaginations and creativity never fail to impress me!
It is my hope that after spending their early years here at St. James, students are able to enter middle school with a well rounded understanding of a variety of artistic genres, forms of art, and artists - old and new - who proved inspiration to us all.
- Catherine Russell
On Thursday, February 25th, parents of our PreKindergarten and Kindergarten students attended an Early Literacy coffee led by Assistant Head of School Donna Lamonte. With appropriate COVID protocols in place, parents gathered in the Coleman Hall to learn about the school’s guided reading program for beginning readers and how to support their children learning to read at home. Mrs. Lamonte is a reading specialist certified in Reading Recovery. She is also a National Board Certified Educator and holds a Master of Education degree in Elementary Reading.
Ms. Lamonte’s informative presentation included guidance on book selection, how to help your child approach new words, and how to foster early reading behaviors with your youngest readers. Mrs. Lamonte used pictures of the pages of children’s books to explain concepts such as how texts become increasingly more difficult and prompting readers to use all of the cues. After the meeting, parents enjoyed talking with each other and Mrs. Lamonte informally over coffee. Robyn Bentley, mom of PreK-4 student Riley Bentley, shared her reflections on the event: “It was great! I learned techniques to implement with my young reader. I especially liked the ways to encourage her to engage her techniques that she’s been taught.”
The group who attended completed a short feedback survey where they were able to express interest in future workshop topics for St. James parents, which include fostering independence in young learners and developing number sense. For current parents who missed the workshop and would like to view a recording, please email Mrs. Lamonte for a copy at email@example.com. We look forward to sharing the next parent coffee topic with our community soon!
In the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras break, you might have seen our PreK-4 students outside Atkinson Hall in pig masks, throwing straw and sticks around, laughing and playing. While this might seem more like a scene from Lord of the Flies, we will assure you that these young students were engaged in purposeful learning. In recent weeks, the PreK-4 classes had read different versions of The Three Little Pigs as part of a study of homes and houses. After reading, they ventured out to the lawn to build replicas of each house in the story and to reenact the scenes together.
Back inside their classrooms, students explored home construction by building log cabins, apartments, parking garages, and other structures out of blocks. Children also put on hard hats to practice hammering and sawing (with toys), and they created peg board designs with (pretend) nails and screws. All of these activities helped students gain self-awareness and a strong sense of place in addition to early literacy and numeracy skills.
As the study continued, the focus shifted to spreading love within their homes and communities. The children learned to write their addresses and added drawings of their homes to an illustrated class book. Next, they wrote letters to their parents, sealed them inside hand-addressed envelopes, and took a walking field trip to mail them at the downtown US Post Office. On Valentine’s Day, they passed out valentines to each other and created Love Grows art and writing to hang in the classroom.
“Powerful connections are made and great fun is had when children engage in a curriculum that is creative, meaningful, and integrated,” PreK-4 teacher Rachel Daigre explained. “At St. James, we combine our knowledge of developmental standards with the specific interests and abilities of students in our classes to create learning opportunities that are enriching and challenging.”
With caring teachers, an expertly designed curriculum, and nurturing class communities, at St. James we aspire to give our students the strongest of foundations for learning - not fragile ones made of straw or sticks. We want our students to create long lasting, joyful memories of school that will make them want to return day after day and year after year. We also want them to know that they are loved -- by God and by the St. James community -- and that even as young children, they are capable of sharing that love and joy with others.
At the close of the semester, third grade teacher Kathleen Shahla reminds our community of who we are: "If you were to peek in an SJEDS classroom, you would first notice the modern design and furniture, children working on iPads or reporting from the Broadcast studio. While cutting-edge technology, best practices and innovative learning have been stressed, and teacher Apple-certified badges hang outside doors, at its heart, the school is steeped in beloved traditions." The first semester of the 2020-2021 school year was one full of challenge and patience but also creativity and joy. Our yearbook theme for 2020-2021 is “Traditions Take Flight,” referencing the Day School’s commitment to traditions even during a most unusual school year.
Traditions remind us each year of what’s important, contribute to a sense of anticipation, and strengthen the community by bringing people together. Mrs. Shahla explains, "It’s through these traditions life-long friendships are cemented and memories made." Although we missed the face-to-face connection involved with classroom parties, field trips, and whole-school Chapel services, the students at St. James still came away from the holiday season with reminders of the importance of generosity, faith, and friendship. Masks, social distancing, extra hand washing, and cohorts couldn’t stop the building sense of wonder and hope before the birth of Christ.
Even though visitors have been kept to a minimum this fall, the school has never looked better this December. Teachers, students, and administrators continued to take pride in our surroundings and enjoyed traditions of placing Christmas trees in each classroom, decking the front office tree with family Christmas cards, and adorning each hallway, bulletin board, and the cafeteria with student art and seasonal writing. The St. James second grade even helped decorate our nearby EBR Public Library on North Boulevard by donating angel artworks to display for the month of December.
In their classes and at weekly Chapel services, students continued to learn about the nativity and traditions surrounding Christmas. The season began with the Advent Feast of St. Nicholas on the first Friday in December, with classes participating in Chapel either virtually or in person. Later in the month, PreK-4 students created a large nativity scene bulletin board and performed a reading of the Christmas story in front of it that was shared with parents over Seesaw. The Christmas program--a beautiful concert of Christmas carols held by third through fifth graders--unfortunately had to be cancelled, but we look forward to holding it again next year.
In Christian Education classes, students participated in an annual Advent Outreach Project. Christian Education teacher DeSha Carter led the school in an “Helping Hands and Faithful Feet” collection of new socks and gently used blankets this year to donate to St. Vincent de Paul. Our students participated by bringing donations during December, and the fourth and fifth graders pulled the effort together by gathering donations from each hallway and transporting them to trucks outside the school. Fourth and fifth graders also continued monthly service projects by preparing We Care Bags for the church and organizing donations for the Food Bank.
Our annual Gingerbread Day still took place thanks to the hard work of Development Director Jennifer Whittington, administrators, teachers, and parent volunteers behind the scenes. Students stayed in their grade level cohorts throughout the day to enjoy gingerbread balloon decorations and a snow machine in the front entry, festive music, gingerbread house decorating, outdoor Reindeer Games, and a hot chocolate break with their classmates. Students in our Early Childhood Development Center formed a new tradition with a Drive-in Movie. Children in our toddler and PreK-3 classes brought cars crafted from cardboard boxes to use for a class showing of a holiday cartoon outside on the Killgore Hall playground.
This year, Head of School Bridget Henderson tweaked the schedule slightly to have Gingerbread Day on Tuesday, December 15th instead of Friday. This change allowed students who wished to stay home from school to quarantine before seeing grandparents on Christmas to do so without missing the annual celebration day. “Although we had to make some adjustments this year, we look forward to bringing back Gingerbread Day on Friday next year with parents there to share in the festivities,” said Mrs. Henderson.
In another favorite tradition, students reminded each other about the joy that comes from giving by participating in a class book or gift exchanges. In 1st grade, students brought a wrapped book and came home with a different one gifted by a classmate. Kindergarten students brought homemade ornaments to exchange. Fifth graders focused their attention on giving to the community by doing an annual visit to La Belle Aire Elementary’s first grade to read the story Santa Mouse by Michael Brown. Although they were not able to make the field trip this year, the tradition still happened through small groups creating video read-alouds for the La Belle Aire first graders. 5th grade teachers Erin Adkins and Kellye Carville sent the videos and also delivered the gifts and materials to make a Santa Mouse craft on behalf of their students.
A final longstanding St. James tradition that continued this year was the creation of Christmas plates. Each year all St. James students, including our early learners, decorate plates at school, create their own wrapping paper, and bring the plates home as gifts for their parents. A number of St. James parents have collected a stack of plates over the years to use throughout the season. Some, such as current parents Caroline Graham and Sarah Harvey, have created colorful plate displays in their homes. Caroline described how putting up their plate collection "commemorates our holiday highlights year after year," creating a diary of sorts.
As we close our doors for the holiday break, we’re grateful that so much of what we love about Christmas at St. James continued during this unprecedented time. The patience and flexibility of our teachers, parents, administrators, and students allowed us to still come together to experience love, kindness, and joy this season. Reflecting on the fall semester, Mrs. Henderson said, “Our team is working on plans for Spring 2021, and we are excited to share with you about how other beloved St. James traditions will take flight in the coming months.” In the meantime, our students helped with this special message, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Over the past few weeks, members of the St. James 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes have been preparing for an election for the St. James Student Council, a group of student leaders elected by peers to represent their school. Student Council sponsors Kellye Carville, Shelby Miller, and Julia Spaht gathered all 3rd through 5th grade students on October 15th to discuss the Student Council and election process. Students were encouraged to consider qualities such as kindness, honesty, confidence, integrity, and commitment to service in electing their student leaders. The students also learned about the differences between certain offices, such as the Secretary, Chaplain, and President.
The Student Council meets monthly and organizes service projects, fundraisers, and community events for the student body. Student Council leaders are also called on to serve as ambassadors at school events such as Grandparents’ Day. This year, interest in serving was high. 23 students ran for officer positions, which includes the Student Council President, Vice President, Secretary, and Chaplain. An additional 17 students ran for class representative positions at each grade level.
Candidates for president wrote and filmed 30-second speeches, which were shown to the student body on Friday, October 30th. Then, on Monday, November 2nd, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades participated in a campaign event on the large playground. Each grade level had a chance to visit tables set up by the candidates, who created posters and bookmarks to hand out to the electorate. After the campaign, students voted on paper ballots.
The election winners will be announced on Bayou St. James, our school’s daily news broadcast, at 2:40pm on Tuesday, November 3rd. Students will hear their election results on the same day their parents are participating in national, state, and local elections!
Click the buttons below for our Head of School and COVID Task Force's July 13th update about our COVID-19 Protocols and reopening plans.
On a typical school day, you might see Ralph Howe seated with his guitar at the front of a group of one-year-olds as they grin and clap their tiny hands or dance on the carpet. You’d see him preaching to elementary students and their parents, asking them questions about the Bible and speaking with wide, encouraging eyes. Howe has spent days leading classes of high school students, too, motivating them to write and think about God and their world amidst all of their adolescent distractions. Through it all, “Father Ralph” as many call him, has brought patience, a relentless sense of humor, a warm smile, and a commitment to spreading God’s love. Howe is retiring at the end of the month from St. James Episcopal Church and Day School in Baton Rouge, ending a long and successful career as a priest and educator within the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana.
It’s fitting that his last position has been with St. James--the church he grew up attending every Sunday. Now somewhat of a St. James historian, Howe reflected, “I remember how I would stand on the kneeler so I could see over the top of the pew and see Parson Werlein at the altar.” He remembers going to Sunday school in the Day School building (now Werlein Hall), and he remembers when there was a bank in the space where Bishops Hall now stands--he used to have an account there. He even remembers Killgore Hall housing a radio station, then apartments, and then offices, before it became the Early Childhood Development Center.
Ralph has served in Episcopal churches and schools in Louisiana since 1981, which is also the year he and his wife Suzette were married. He completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Sewanee: The University of the South and General Theological Seminary in New York City. After positions in New Orleans, Alexandria, and Crowley, Howe took the call to come to Trinity Episcopal in Baton Rouge, which was the first work experience he had directly connected to a school. As the rector of Trinity, Howe also served as the Head of School and the Chaplain. All of Ralph and Suzette’s children attended Trinity and then went on to Episcopal High School. Following Trinity, Howe served for 10 years as the Chaplain at Episcopal High School before taking the call from Mark Holland to return to St. James as an Associate Priest and Day School Chaplain.
Although Howe always saw himself as a chaplain more than a K-12 educator, he is grateful for the joy working with children has brought him. In a recent conversation about his retirement, he mentioned how much he will miss seeing “the smiles on the kids’ faces and the hugs and the high fives, and the ‘Hey Father Ralph’s’.” He chuckled and noted that he’s often been mistaken as Father Michael, Father Mark, or others. Whether teaching preschool students a new song or high school seniors about the Bible, Howe maintains the same goal: “People are going to forget what I taught them about the Bible, but what I hope they remember is my goal to love those kids and let them know that there’s something bigger out there that we call God that loves them and that took on human flesh to show us that love.”
During his final year at St. James, Ralph has had the added bonus of working with his longtime close friend Michael Kuhn, the Interim Head of School for 2019-2020. With Michael joining the school leadership, Ralph witnessed “a school that I thought was great get even better.”
Howe said he’s always amazed by the teachers and administrative staff at the Day School, but he certainly has amazed them, too. During the COVID-19 school building closure, Ralph’s love for the community was never more evident. He took prayers from the Book of Common Prayer, adapted them for a younger audience, recorded himself reading them, and published them for parents to say with their children at the end of each day at home. “Evening Prayers with Father Ralph” brought comfort by helping the community pray for frontline workers, parents, students, teachers, and relevant topics like times of leisure and graduation. Parents expressed their gratitude all season through countless likes, shares, and comments on the Day School Facebook page.
Reflecting on his years with students, Howe said, “I always thought of myself as a parish priest. I never thought I would be teaching in a school, but it has been such an incredible joy for me to have the contact with those kids over the years. I love working in a church (the liturgy, preaching, pastoral work, and outreach), but to work with kids brings so much joy. Episcopal schools have been such a blessing to my children and their education, and to be a part of that in the lives of other kids--the joy comes back to me. I always get so much more than I give. It’s been great.”
After taking a much-deserved break in retirement, Father Ralph will visit and volunteer at the Day School as well as the church and homeless ministry. He’ll also enjoy time with Suzette, their four children, and several grandchildren. He will always hold VIP status on our campus and be known for his unparalleled contributions to St. James Church, the Day School, and the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana.
Click the buttons below for our Head of School's June 25th letter about reopening on August 5th and our Adjusted Academic Calendar for 2020-2021.
Dear Saint James Community,
We are deeply saddened by recent events around our nation. We grieve with you for every person who has experienced racial injustice. St. James Episcopal Day School is not only built on academic excellence but also spiritual formation within a warm, loving, Christian community. We are called to be people of hope. This means our community is not a place for racism and hatred. We have an obligation to focus on listening to one another, showing empathy, celebrating differences, and loving unconditionally, just as Christ would do. What a beautiful gift we can give the world: teaching a generation of children to lead positive change that is long overdue!
While no small task, we are up for the challenge. Our faculty, staff, administration, and clergy are committed to supporting you and your children during these challenging times. Please be on the lookout for communication from our school counselor Ally Bayard in this Sunday's Scoop that will include links to resources that can help you to help your children better understand what is happening in our world.
We want to listen to the voices of those calling out to us, and to take positive steps together with you this year and in years to come. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”
Bridget Henderson & The Rev. Dr. Michael Kuhn
Message from Fr. Chris Duncan sent to St. James Church
Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Each of us is invited by Christ into the work of redemption and transformation. As the hands and feet of the body of Christ, as the Church, and as Episcopalians we are called to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves as we strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being.
There are no words to fully express the pain, sorrow, and anxiety we feel as individuals and as a society, yet our words are important and listening to the words of others as we attempt to give voice to pain matters. Since the events of the killing of George Floyd our society has joined voices crying out “Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.” As the Church we are not called to ignore the pain, sorrow, and anxiety that so many in our society and around the world live with generation after generation and day after day. It is my hope that the Church will see this time as an opportunity to share the love of Christ through gracious listening, acts of mercy, and reconciliation.
When we consider the vastness of God and God’s creation and God’s gracious self-revelation to creation, we are welcomed into God’s infinite mercy and love. It is easy to feel overwhelmed as we seek to contemplate what is awe-inspiringly incomprehensible, unfathomable, and mysterious. At times like this, it can become hard to fix our eyes on the image of the all-powerful loving God. Yet, two theological truths remain: Imago Dei and Incarnation.
Imago Dei is the message expressed in Genesis 1 during creation in which humans are created in the image of the triune God. Thus, all people bear God’s holy impression in and on our very being. Therefore, all people must be treated as creatures in the image and likeness of God. Incarnation is the term used to express God becoming flesh in Jesus and in doing so blessing creation through that presence. It is through the Incarnation that we are transformed by the Passion and Resurrection. It is through the Incarnation that we are invited to participate in Christ’s ministry as the hands and feet of God within the world.
I share this theological teaching because these two transformative truths of Imago Dei and Incarnation supersede the divisions we create due to race, religion, gender, sexuality, nationality, age, size, class, education, etc. This leads to two questions upon which we can reflect:
These are simple questions that are not easy to answer. Christ himself taught us that following the way of God’s love is not easy. It is uncomfortable. It is hard. It leads to change. Christ invites us to die to self in order to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. That is our calling. In fact, it was the very God that created us in his image and came into the creation in the flesh who gave up everything for us on the cross and opened the way of life and love through the Resurrection. This is why the last part of our Baptismal Covenant asks two questions:
And we answer committing ourselves to this work, saying, “I will, with God’s help.”
The road to healing and reconciliation is not easy. The love we are to have is meant to be active love in order to build up the kingdom of God so that lives are transformed more fully into the image in which we were created. As we walk this hard path, we are reminded that the God of love is with us and in us, even in our tears, our fears, and our brokenness.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
“Send us now into the world in peace; and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” - The Book of Common Prayer
On Thursday, May 21st, 2020 at 10am, St. James held a special graduation ceremony for its fifth graders. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the school administration chose to host a virtual graduation with a “drive by” presentation of candidates outside of the school on Convention and Fourth Street downtown. Twenty-six graduates and their families joined the faculty and staff in watching a pre-recorded video ceremony for all to enjoy together. The ceremony followed a traditional prayer service format from the Book of Common Prayer, with readings, songs, and prayers led by teachers and fifth grade students. Interim Head of School Michael Kuhn gave a homily focusing on the bittersweet emotions at graduation and the idea of ascension.
At the end of the ceremony, each student was driven by family members through the school's carpool route one last time, to a stopping point near Bishops Hall. Rector Chris Duncan led each student out of the car down the sidewalk to receive a graduation certificate and a gift from the school, and to take a picture. Then, students returned to their cars and rode with their families to park in the church parking lot to wait until all graduates were called.
St. James Episcopal Day School ends in 5th grade, making this graduation ceremony and the fifth grade year particularly important milestones in the life of the school. Typically the fifth graders take a class trip to Houston in the spring before graduation, but this year’s trip had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The fifth grade class raised money for their trip throughout the year through fundraisers including monthly donut and pizza days and a family bingo night in the fall. Although they were sad to miss their class’s trip, this year’s students opted to donate of the money they'd raised to the school by funding three special gifts: a sun sail over one of the outdoor play areas at school, two refillable water bottle stations, and painted inspirational messages on a stairwell in Werlein Hall. Thus, the Class of 2020 will be remembered not only for their intellect, their friendships, and their unusual graduation ceremony; they will also be remembered for the incredible generosity and patience they showed their school. The students will be missed by their younger classmates along with the faculty and staff at St. James, but we all look forward to witnessing the great things they do in middle school and beyond.
Congratulations to St. James alumni graduates in the class of 2013! We are proud of all of these college-bound seniors for their accomplishments and future plans. Check out their Senior Spotlights below:
For parents with children in preschool, school closures bring about a unique set of challenges. Without new places to visit or new friends to interact with, young children can grow restless and irritable, and so can their parents! Many parents are also trying to work from home, so they need plans for keeping their toddlers and preschoolers occupied while they answer emails and phone calls. Children ages 2-4 are not expected to be practicing time tables, reading independently, or writing in journals, but they still need activities to keep their little minds and bodies growing.
The St. James Early Childhood Development Center is continuing to provide an exceptional education for our students during the COVID-19 closure, while also being highly flexible and optional to meet the needs of each family. Our teachers post daily Morning Meetings, read-alouds, interactive videos, and lesson plans that highlight early childhood skills and concepts in our SeeSaw online learning platform. Thanks to SeeSaw, our First Year students can sing along to the Bumble Bee Song with Ms. Donna and Ms. Chandra, Second Year students can watch and listen to Ms. Laura read Mouse Paint to them, and PreK-3 students hear their teachers sing their names during their morning “We’re Glad You’re Here Today!” song, as if they were sitting on the classroom rug. Daily lesson plans include links to stories on YouTube, counting games, fine motor skill challenges, and more. This week, the ECDC teachers even dropped off supplies for egg dyeing at each child's house, as happy gifts for the students they love.
Instruction is asynchronous, meaning parents have the ability to decide if and when their child will do the activities, without the pressure of attending class at a certain time. Second Year parent Molly Israel said, “With both parents still working full time, we don’t follow the lesson plans to the letter, or finish every suggested project, but we like the flexibility to carry out the activities when it works for us. The look on Stafford’s face when he sees Ms. Laura (or DeSha or Janine) is priceless and melts my heart. Our favorite videos, like the butterfly song and morning prayer, are played over and over at Stafford’s request.”
ECDC director Janine Borne also shares resources and optional activities daily through the HiMama app. These resources such as a Color Scavenger Hunt or a Fruit Taste Test can be downloaded and printed easily, and most use items found around the house like cardboard boxes and cotton balls. All instructions are stored in HiMama for parents to access even after school reopens on rainy days, sick days, or long weekends at home.
While we miss seeing their precious faces on campus, we hope our students and their parents still feel loved and enriched by St. James during these unprecedented times. For more information about openings in our First Year, Second Year, or PreK-3 classes for next year, contact Admissions Director Julia Spaht at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With care in mind for our students, faculty, staff, and all our families, St. James Episcopal Day School is following the recommendations of our Diocesan Bishop and the Louisiana Governor's Office to close our buildings until we are directed otherwise. In response to this, we have shifted our learning into our students' homes, giving instruction via distance learning, offering prayers through video chapels, and keeping in touch with one another through technologies appropriate for our children.
We have taken the following steps to ensure we are supporting our parents and students during this time:
We are aware of the stress school closures place on many of us, especially those who are trying to work while tending to our families and often working in the same shared space. As we work through the challenges, our school leadership will continue to help keep our community of parents, students, teachers, and faculty connected. The St. James’ community will pull through this together. We are so grateful to all for taking on this challenge and believe that our school will be stronger having gone through this together.
St. James Episcopal Day School third through fifth graders have been busy reading the Louisiana Young Reader’s Choice Books for 2019-2020. The book list includes 15 outstanding books that are age appropriate for our young readers. The students participate by reading at least three of these books. In January students vote for a favorite from the list.
School wide voting happened last month, when the students had a the opportunity to cast their ballot using electronic voting machines from the Office of the Secretary of State.
The top three books chosen included third place winner The Princess and The Peas by Rachel Himes; second place winner Wedgie and Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors; and the top choice in first place was Wishtree by Katherine Applegate.
Congratulations to all of our students for participating, including the students pictured who went above and beyond the three book reading requirement!
First graders learned about America and its people in an integrated social studies unit this month, culminating in a Famous Americans Day on February 20th. The unit began with students reading several biographies about different Famous Americans, through which they learned how to take notes on their reading. They then turned their notes into an informative writing piece, which was one of many ways the students demonstrated their understanding of timelines and biographies. They also created timelines of their own lives.
In another math lesson, students ordered numbers from least to greatest by sorting Famous Americans’ birthday years first into centuries (1700s, 1800s, 1900) and then by sorting within each century by the range of when their Famous American was born (example: who was born in-between 1700-1750). Students also used their math abilities to solve challenging math problems around the classroom while figuring out a 100s chart mystery picture--a flag!
To close the unit, students chose a Famous American who has positively contributed and impacted society. Then they researched individuals such as Georgia O'Keefe, Neil Armstrong, Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Katherine Johnson, Daniel Boone, Helen Keller, Babe Ruth, and Mark Twain using books, articles, and the Internet. Following their research, the students created a speech that they performed in front of parents and the school on Famous Americans’ Day. In art, students created a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and they also produced a flag that hung on a poster above their station at the Famous Americans’ celebration in Bishops Hall.
Throughout the day, the whole school community enjoyed "pressing buttons" to hear the individuals come to life, viewing expert costumes, and learning about men and women who shaped American history.
I believe in God above.
I believe in Jesus’ love.
I believe the spirit too, comes to teach us what to do.
I believe that I should be
Kind and loving Lord like thee.
In PreK-3, we recite the above prayer every morning. The underlined verse is posted in our classroom with handmade crosses lovingly created and tenderly glued on by a current student. We focus on being kind and loving throughout the day with everyone we encounter. It is somewhat of a mantra for us. Intrinsic kindness is especially acknowledged.
Both PreK-3 classrooms have a a kindness tree. When acts of kindness are observed by the teacher or children, the teacher instructs the children to add a heart to the kindness tree. Some examples of the intrinsic kindness we observe and acknowledge in PreK-3 are team work between friends, giving compliments to friends, teachers and staff, helping others in need, sharing, taking turns and just being a good friend. Finally, for a little fun, we “kiss our hearts” and acknowledge that our hearts are growing when we are observed to be kind and loving, Lord like thee.
- Kimberly Mahony, PreK-3 Teacher
What caused the American Revolution? 4th Graders Write Newspaper Articles to Relive the Boston Tea Party
Our fourth graders have been busy learning all about America's history this month with their teacher, Ms. Brooke Patterson. After beginning the year studying early explorers and the impact they had on our country, students studied the early colonists and the events leading to the American Revolution. They spent time learning about the French and Indian War, the Stamp Act, the Boston Tea Party and so much more. In their integrated Social Studies and Language Arts class, they wrote newspaper articles from the point of view of a Boston reporter the day after the Boston Tea Party. They creatively and accurately described what happened at the harbor and included the feelings of both American Patriots and British Parliament. 4th grader Lilly Rose included a fictional quote by King George III, imagining what he might say in an interview: “Well, what the colonists did was terrible, disruptive, and uncalled for. Parliament thinks this should be thrown into the rubbish and that we should come up with another act to punish the colonists for what they did.” Students not only demonstrated their knowledge of what happened, they were able to engage in perspective-taking, practice writing in different voices, and consider the different components and layout of a newspaper page.
Once they understood the causes of the Revolution, students researched battles and heroes during the war in cooperative groups. They also created their own timelines, put the events in order, and added to an ongoing timeline often referred to in their classroom. Over the next few months, students will continue their studies in discovering how America became what it is today!
Step into the Green Room on a Thursday morning, and you’ll find fifth grade boys and girls hard at work preparing for Bayou St. James, our daily news broadcast. With guidance from Broadcast enrichment teacher Emma Achorn, our fifth grade students are responsible for much of the content that appears in the six weekly shows viewed throughout the Day School in the morning and afternoons. Broadcast students work in pairs to research topics for our “Today in History” segment, determine newsworthy events to report on, select content for afternoon shows, and plan and conduct interviews.
In December, the fifth graders had the opportunity to showcase all that they have learned. The students were responsible for creating an entire show on their own. They divided the episode into four parts and quickly got to work. They wrote their scripts, designed scenes, and made a plan of action. The week before Christmas break, the school enjoyed watching the Grinch, Mrs. Claus, and other holiday characters deliver the school news. Throughout the project, students starred as anchors, operated the cameras, served as sound techs, became lighting experts, and more--applying the new skills they had worked on all semester. Once they returned to school in January, the 5th graders held a new level of confidence in their abilities as young journalists, writers, and technicians behind the scenes.
Check out an episode created by Ms. Struther’s class below!