I will never understand the rationale behind what some see as a great divide between science and religion. Science is linked to learning about this world; religion is about connecting to this world through our belief. The more I understand or do not understand of this world, the closer I am to embracing both my faith and the mystery surrounding God. The rich textures of this world should open our hearts and minds to the wondrous doings of our Creator.
Around the world, different faiths and cultures use light to express their beliefs. Near the end of October, I celebrated the Hindu Festival of lights (Diwali) with friends of mine who are from India. The Jewish Festival of Lights (Chanukah) is based on the biblical miracle of God providing enough oil to keep the Temple lamp (menorah) lit when the Jews returned home to Jerusalem. Kwanzaa is a festival of lights begun in the United States in 1966 to help bring unity to African Americans reconnecting to the continent of Africa after the diaspora of Africans due to the slave trade. The festival celebrates the strengths of African tribal life, and provides a hopeful message to the people of African descent around the world. For Christians, Advent and Christmas use the imagery of light to talk about the coming of Christ. Light - what a splendid choice for the image of Christ.
Light helps us to see things that were once in darkness, both literally and metaphorically. In our scientific language, light transits data (through radio waves and lasers), carrying messages far away; light can travel through walls at great speeds, yet is actually still in ultra-cold gas. In fact, we cannot see all light; only certain parts of the light spectrum are visible to human eyes. We know this through science, but we also know this through our faith. In Christianity, Christ is both seen and unseen, traveling through our hearts while seemingly slowed down by the coldness of others. And, like beams of light shooting out into the universe, the Light of the World will travel quickly to far places - miraculously unstoppable and unseen at the same time.
As our winter falls upon us, with our days shortening and our darkness lengthening, take time to notice the light of this world. The Light has come, the Light is raised, the Light will come again. The Advent wreath reminds us that when the world gets darker, Christ’s light shines out brighter, lighting our way to a new birth and a new light. Have a joyous Christmas!
The Reverend Dr. Michael Kuhn, Interim Head of School
In Guidance this December, the fourth graders learned about self esteem, and three ways to improve “elf esteem”. The E represents feeling empowered. Students explored ways they could build confidence to feel prepared and empowered for upcoming tasks or events. The L represents things that the student like about themselves. Students engaged in self-reflection to identify specific characteristics and traits about themselves that they value. And lastly, the F represents focusing on strengths, where students learned to flip negative self-talk to focus on personal strengths and individual growth. By feeling empowered, liking ourselves, and focusing on strengths, students can’t help but notice an increase in self-esteem!
The kindergarten classes are really getting in the spirit of Christmas. On Friday, Mrs. Miller and Mrs. Hume’s classes made ornaments and participated in a gingerbread exchange with a class in Minnesota! This gave our classes an opportunity to learn about what kindergarten was like in the northern part of the country and to share a little bit of our southern culture. The students from Minnesota wrote our classes letters and sent us gingerbread girls or boys telling a little about themselves. Their gingerbread men were decorated with certain colors and symbols, letting us know a little bit about each of the students. Our students learned that their peers are having recess in the snow and that they have snowstorms instead of hurricanes!
In return, our kindergarteners decorated gingerbread boys and girls and wrote notes to go with them. Our students began by cutting out their gingerbread then following careful directions on how to decorate them. The gingerbread girls received bows while the gingerbread boys received bowties. Eye color was determined by the child’s favorite dessert: ice cream, cookies, or cupcakes. The gingerbread also received noses depending on whether or not the child had seen snow (Good thing it has snowed in Baton Rouge in the past five years!). The gingerbread’s mouth color was determined by whether or not the child had ever eaten a gingerbread cookie. Students were then able to use their favorite color to make squiggles and LSU colors for the buttons.
Our students concluded the activity by writing a short letter introducing themselves and telling about one of their favorite things. The grade also included a longer letter describing our weather in Louisiana, updates on our favorite football team, and a little bit about St. James Episcopal Day School. Our kindergarteners are looking forward to writing more letters with our new Northern pen pals and maybe even a video call in the future!
- Shelby Miller and Hannah Hume, Kindergarten teachers
While our 3rd-5th students are preparing for the Christmas program next week, our K-2nd classes have been making use of new Orff instruments in music class. Through a generous donation, St. James was able to purchase 2 sets of instruments for the music classroom. Developed by German composer Carl Orff and Gunild Keetman, the Orff Approach and instruments allow the students to explore how music is created and have a role in its creation. Orff instruments include xylophones, glokenspiels, marimbas, and metallophones. Students began learning with them recently by playing an ostinato, or a repeated musical pattern, on their new xylophones and metallophones. They also “layered” rhythm instruments over the ostinato. All of our students at St. James are so excited to experiment more with their new instruments!
Right before the start of the holiday travel season, our second grade finished up a study on Westward Expansion and Pioneers. They began their journey by packing bags for a mystery trip in wagons. They soon realized the year was 1849 and most of the possessions they packed had not even been invented yet (fancy neck pillow, iPad, phone, Easy Mac). Most pioneers only packed one set of clothes, tools, weapons, and pots and pans, so they made revisions on what they would want to take given the choices available at the time.
Day to day activities for pioneers were exciting for our students to learn about as well. They were shocked to hear that kids worked and did chores most all of the day! Students spent their weeks in class cooking Johnny cakes and sampling snacks like dried fruit, beef jerky, and cider. They also shared stories of the “Little House in the Big Woods” and were even assigned real pioneer names during this unit. They wrote journal entries from the pioneers’ perspectives, refining their writing skills while also learning about pioneer life. The study concluded at Magnolia Mound where the students toured the antebellum home and outdoor kitchen, learned how to weave on a loom, played with wooden toys from the olden days, and performed a square dance and song! Overall, it was an enriching educational experience that will remain a highlight of the year.