On any given school day, students at Bishop Noland Episcopal Day School can be found learning math or another subject in an outdoor classroom; planting vegetables, herbs or trees in their garden for the lifestyles class; or studying a science biome. These strategies are a part of what Lisa Leubner, school director of admission and marketing, called 21st-century learning.
Leubner said small classroom sizes and differentiating instruction set EDS apart from other schools. “That’s what parents are looking for because their child is not like any other child in the classroom,” Leubner said. “You won’t walk into one of our classrooms and see the teacher writing on a chalkboard and the kids taking instruction that way. The students are in different groups, on the floor, they are outside or they may be teaching each other.”
Candace Marque, school curriculum coordinator, agreed and said initiatives like the outdoor classroom make a difference in learning. Marque said the outdoor classroom was added this year to help students feel more connected to the environment and to give them a place to learn other than a traditional classroom.
“One thing we have learned about brain research is that when we have students exposed to material in different settings, with different sounds, different smells and different places, it connects to a different place in their brain and helps them remember things,” Marque said. “When unique things happen in our lives, we remember them in certain circumstances and certain places that we were, and it triggers those memories.”
Leubner said that a couple of weeks ago the fourth- and seventh-grade classes participated in the international bird count. According to Leubner, students were taught about area birds and then were able to identify and count the number of birds they saw on campus that day and submit them to the international count.
“Students were able to look back and see which birds were really prevalent in which areas and how they have migrated over time,” she said. “They made a global connection with people all over the world who were participating as well.”
Leubner said other unique learning strategies the school uses include planting vegetables and herbs to sell at the local farmers market and participating in green initiatives such as the LSU Coastal Roots program. According to Leubner, all of the school’s initiatives help students with real-world connections, business planning, artisan crafting, profit and loss learning, supply and demand, community involvement, social skills, cooking skills, counting money skills and career connections. “It’s real-world applications at its best,” she said.
Marque said another initiative that is new this year came courtesy of a student, Addison Hildreth, who is now in the second grade. Hildreth won a McGraw-Hill writing contest last May, providing the school with its first set of guided-level readers, which helps with students who are on different reading levels. The school was able to expand the program this year courtesy of a grant.
“Because we are so small, we get to know our students really well,” Marque said. “We know what kind of learners each student is and are able to differentiate learning because we have the time.”