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April-May 2023

Words Spring to Life!

With new leaves and blossoms popping out of the grey branches, we turned to the Poets to brighten our perception of nature outdoors and our own nature within. April is the national month for Poetry so we at Bishop Walker School honor that tradition in our own way every year. 4th graders focused on the works of Shel Silverstein, Nikki Grimes and Maya Angelou. By the end of the month, they were able to recite “Still I Rise” as a group and mostly memorized one of Mr. Harris’ favorite Angelou poems: “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me”.

Rhythm and Rhyme

Emerging readers in Kindergarten and 1st grade love the wordplay found in rhyming verse. Early Childhood storybooks are littered with couplets that give a singsong style to the sentences. Our birch forest on the West Wall turned into Poetrees. Rhythm and Rhyme leaves showed a collection of rhymes from books familiar and new. Style-Smile, Hop-Stop, Fly-Sky…

Next came the poems that didn’t rhyme but captured a moment or feeling. Haiku seems simple with its 7-9-7 syllable structure but a surprise ending brings an image to life. This gave us a chance to review Haiku poems written by staff and students to describe the Cicada Invasion of Spring 2021. The forest turned into Lyrics of all types of songs, from lullabies to jump rope chants to rap lyrics. Printed song sheets fell from the bare branches.

Kindergarten and 1st Grade then had plenty of time to read to themselves alone in a corner or sitting next to a buddy. “Leave me alone, I’m reading!” was a welcome phrase.

Readers Theater

In preparation of breaking out our BWS Theater, scholars reviewed literature in the 398 section of the Library. We had a special focus on fairy tales and fables from many cultures. We compared and contrasted different versions.

Classic stories then came alive in the hands of Second and Third graders. They read from scripts of familiar Aesop’s Fables and Anderson Fairy Tales. Readers Theater is often performed from desks in a row. But, at BWS, we wanted to put on a show. These scholars followed all the steps for developing a production.

Stagehand sets the stage while Actors Rehearse

Last year the students in third grade performed puppet shows and plays for the younger grades. We decided to give them another opportunity for Drama in the Library. They chose the plays and then Ms. Clark cast the plays. We split the class in two so that more boys got speaking parts. But every production needs the talent behind the scenes. That’s why we had stagehands to set up the scenery and master the props. The actors rehearsed for weeks during lunchtime and Library time. They learned to listen for a cue, project their voice and not step on another’s line. Imaginative play brings focus and fun!

Second Grade Performs Ugly Duckling

This was the first time that the second graders handled a script, accepted parts, rehearsed lines and wore costumes. The ducklings and Parent duck wore yellow boas, the geese who were really rude wore purple and blue and the swans wore grey until grown up in black and white. We also had a kind farmer and a Master of Ceremonies. You may wonder how this relates to the Library. Well, it’s fun to internalize the components of a story and feel the character’s voice. Kindergartners really got the Big Idea of the play: don’t bully and love your beautiful self!

Half of the Third Grade performs The Goose That Laid Golden Egg

The other half performs The Lion and the Mouse for First Grade

History Comes to Life

More than 3 centuries of history came to life for the 5th-grade class. They ended their last year at Bishop Walker School by giving us all a gift: a 20-foot mural revealing the historic contribution of African Americans to the story of America. The scholars attached summary notes to each posted book cover so that younger scholars can gain insight from their reviews. Mrs. Ochmanek organized a final game of completing individual timelines to reveal gained knowledge of Black History. A big project with big rewards for all of us to see!

The School Year Ends with New Beginnings

A new tradition at Bishop Walker School is welcoming graduating high school seniors who started their early education with us. Mr. Woody returns to greet these young men who are off to college, music school and the Marines. Senior Caesar recognized a favorite Lunch Buddy, Hollis McLaughlin, and they shared lots of memories and laughs. Georgia State is lucky to get Caesar this fall. Caesar’s mother even remembered hearing of Mr. McLaughlin’s special Pepperidge Farm cookies that accompanied his Sherlock Holmes stories. Although our Lunch Buddies visit once a month, they follow the class from Kindergarten to graduation. A real bond is formed.

Our Library space was is demand this spring. Tours and Visitors learned about us as we learned from them. Three men from New Orleans who attended the same high school at the same time took time to share their thoughts. One is a lead attorney for a Civil Rights Advocacy group, another has a history as a Development Director for non-profits and the third is finishing his term as Head of School and that is Michael Molina. Up to his final days, he still spent time talking to our KINGS, leading them to a bright future.

We wish you all the best, Mr. Molina! AND we heartily welcome Dr. Arrington to the BWS Library. We can’t wait to show you around!

January-March 2023

After a long Winter Break, Bishop Walker School returned in January ready for deep learning. We warmed up the older scholars’ skills by executing precise searches of the library catalogue online, thereby cementing an understanding of the Dewey Decimal System and exact location of books, genres and authors inside our facility. Younger students refined their abilities to analyze stories by comparing and contrasting familiar tales in literature such as variations of The Three Little Pigs.

Affirmations-Inspired by Black Leaders

We next commenced a reading program that guided scholars to Affirm their Black History by discovering the full stories of artists, activists and visionaries. Our own Brian Harris designed this Black History Month learning activity which we spread out over 3 months because we wanted to take the time appreciate our African American biographies, especially the newly added Coretta Scott King award winners.

Martin Luther King came first as we approached his birthday. Scholars found books at all reading levels covering King’s life, challenges, even drafts of speeches.

Readers of all ages use the earliest leveled books to gain information. And emerging readers enjoy leafing through the more advanced biographies to see photos and captions that cover one man’s historic life. Libraries allow us to explore our interests at any level, in every direction.

Over 50 Biographies

From there we focused on biographies for each age group still using the Affirmations as a guide. We took a category such as artists to group together various historic fine artists. First grade learned of DC artist Alma Thomas through a new biography. We then used marker to create the colorful concentric circles, just to feel her unique style of presenting nature through art. While older grades learned of Jacob Lawrence’s style, they could absorb the journey of The Great Migration.

All Ages Learn from Role Models

Second grade heard the life story of Zora Neal Hurston through a new biography that gives us the image of Hurston as a “Story Catcher” who recorded the oral traditions and dialect of the old South by going to small towns and taking time to hear the older folks’ stories. Although our students won’t be reading her books anytime soon, they could understand how important it is to ask questions and listen to what our elders have to say…and maybe write about it.

We also introduced Matthew Henson, the explorer and Benjamin Banneker, both scientists with local roots who brought us a greater understanding of nature by taking risks and recording their findings. While we expected each scholar to pick one biography each week, they continued to have a free choice for pleasure reading. Pizza and Taco were a big hit this year!

The Big Idea

Civil Rights leaders now have biographies that appeal to our youngest scholars. Kindergartners practiced preaching to the birds after hearing that Charles Lewis spoke of God’s love when he gathered the chickens in the yard for feed time. Second graders used those same birds to recreate the Ruby Bridge’s feeling of walking through an angry mob to integrate an elementary school. One bird approaches the flock and they all leave. She keeps coming to school to learn from the teacher and she prays each day that the students will return. Over time, many do return. That’s how we reinforce the meaning of the books we read by reproducing the storyline and discussing the Big Idea.

Bios at Every Reading Level

The upper primary students were offered many examples of how biographies can be formatted: early readers give a quick overview, picture books can offer a useful index, summary and glossary, and short chapter books such as Who Was Frederick Douglass add cartoon illustrations to beef up the rather sophisticated text.

Our Library offers many versions of Barack Obama’s life, from a basic reader to letters, to speeches to his race for President to Pete Sousa’s photo book to Obama’s own memoir held in our Adult section of biographies. 3rd graders scoured the photos of the Oval Office and noticed how young his children were during his Presidency.

In addition to comparing and contrasting different versions of a life story, older students learned of relationships between Black leaders. Mohammad Ali and Malcolm X developed a friendship. They fought in different arenas for the same causes. Our scholars could see the connections.

Opening Our Doors

Affirmation after Affirmation, week after week, we exposed the whole school to dozens and dozens of biographies, mostly written and illustrated by Black talent. During these winter months, visitors came to BWS and were delighted to share these books with our boys. Parents, teachers, even friends of Bishop Walker himself, joined us. One special guest was Dr. Ana Caskin, the daughter of John and Maria Walker. She read to 1st graders each week before she went to Anacostia High School to attend to a Health Clinic there.

Now that we are feeling more protected from Covid outbreaks, the Library has returned to its position as a multi-purpose room. We can hold 50 people for a Founders Luncheon where those who had the original vision for the school could meet to honor those who propel that vision forward. Mrs. Marquardt asked for particular memories of John T Walker to inform the Timeline she initiated with 5th graders.

Parents used the space for meetings. Seniors got special training on organizational skills on Saturdays. And gifts of books were distributed to all grades, with special thanks to St. John’s Lafayette Church.

Black History Is American History

Fifth Grade commenced a project of reading historical fiction covering African American life, writing summaries and placing these picture books along a continuum that shows how Black History is American History. Starting in 1619, Mrs. Ochmanek offered a Starburst reading incentive program to jump-start a deep dive into this history. Students were involved in constructing the 20-foot timeline so that 4 centuries of history could be visualized for the whole school to see. Look to the next BiblioBlog to see the final product.

Do You Know About Our Namesake?

We also chose to take a deep dive of research regarding an individual dear to our hearts but whose life particulars are relatively unknown to our own scholars and teachers: John Thomas Walker. A small group of 5th graders reviewed the written memories collected at the Founders lunch. Mrs. Walker and Mrs. Hannibal were consulted. They looked up Bishop Walker online and reviewed his one biography, Man for the 21st Century. An 8-foot long timeline was created, covering the years 1925 to 1989. His was a rich impactful life: The Great Migration north, The Civil Rights Movement, African Independence movements and acceptance of Gay and Women Priests in the Episcopal Church. Presidents and World Leaders consulted Bishop Walker. And grown adults recall times, as children in St. Joseph’s Chapel, that Bishop Walker’s warm voice seemed to bring forth the Spirit of God.

Finally, 3 student/artists created 12 illustrations for the timeline that are whimsical, touching and devout. The entire class helped construct the complicated visual presentations with tape, cardboard, string and thumb tacks staples and colored paper. Thanks to these 5th graders, now the whole community can learn how our school history intersects African American History, which is American History.

***Come by and hunt for Golden Fact Nuggets as you fill out our John T Walker Timeline Treasure Hunt.

November–December, 2022

In a snap, the season of holidays popped up in late fall. At this time of festivities and visitors, we in the BWS library chose to focus our gratitude for the nature outside our windows and the people who lived on the school grounds long before we arrived. Appreciation!

Who Lives in Oxon Run?

The youngest among us can be researchers. Kindergartners are studying all 5 senses. Along with 1st and 2nd grades, they were encouraged to use their ears and eyes just like birds do to know exactly where they are and where they are going. We introduced many types of birds through our nonfiction collection. Some they could read and some they could learn from the captioned pictures. Stories about owls and cardinals held a special fascination.

After sharing a photo of a deer that I saw just 20 yards from the school building, the scholars had many questions about how that deer or squirrel or sparrow could live there all year. Curiosity about who lives with us in the woods prompted more interest in care for their environment. Each little book strengthened their connection to nature. We connected that to our Harvest celebrations such as Thanksgiving. Native Americans used animals in their folklore and religion stories to explain how the world began and how certain animals had spiritual powers. The scholars particularly liked the story of the boy who turns himself into a Raven who then steals the sun to bring light to the world.

After hearing and reading many Native American tales, Third Graders decorated our forest wall with detailed birds giving Tweets of Gratitude for nature, including appreciation for the chicken who gave us great fried chicken.

Who Lived near Oxon Run Long Ago?

The Upper Primary grades were challenged to imagine living in the woods outside our windows. Then we introduced the history of the indigenous people of North America who lived on this continent for more than 20,000 years. In the Library, we spent the month of November studying all we could about the lifestyles and legends of various tribal nations.

Then we zeroed in on the Powhatan natives along the Potomac and the Nacotchtank who had their main village where the Anacostia River meets the Potomac. Our scholars discovered that Oxon Run was a major hunting ground-right outside our windows. Our

nonfiction collection provided the history and folklore tales. A highlight was learning about how every part of the deer was used. The skin and sinew wrapped around a log created a drum. A Cherokee folktale described the origin of day and night, the stars and the sun. We followed up with books on the Solar System

During the election season, the 5th grade learned how women fought for the right to vote by looking at the Suffrage Movement. They also got the real story of how Thanksgiving became a holiday and exactly what happened on that first Thanksgiving from the book The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower. We ended the month by reading a speech by Chief Seattle imploring Congress to care for Mother Earth, especially the Northwestern land he was giving over to the Federal Government.

A Time for Visitors and Celebrations

Our BWS Library continues to be the hub of the school, whether we are lifting the spirit of the community, blending the ages for a good story or welcoming one of the very best children’s book authors in the country.

Bishop Marianne consecrated a new handmade alter for BWS. A carved statue representing the world being held up reflects the song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”. We sang and raised up this addition to the Worship space in the center of the building. Illustrated books with Spirituals filled the display space.

December opened with a bang: As Mr. Molina was reading from Crossover, the author Kwame Alexander jumped out of the conference room to surprise the 3-5 grades. He read verse, prose and played games with an adoring audience. Pure Joy!

Kings Community time now includes Book Buddies-a time when older boys read stories to their younger BWS brothers. We’re happy to see the Library books finding cozy corner all over the Campus.

Christmas themes filled the month. First we compared and contrasted various renditions of The Gingerbread Man. Although the refrain of Run, Run As fast as You Can… remained constant, the settings ranged from New York City to the Wild West to a Fire Station. This challenge helped all ages concentrate on the fine details of the story.

We did the same with Santa stories. Finally, we got to the Real Christmas Story and examined many different ways of showing the Holy Land and the people in it. Sometimes it looked like Jesus was born in England! And our scholars noticed. In the end, they learned to look for the Star.

During these months, we realized our bounty. Book donations keep coming. We have a special Wish List on Amazon:

The Nature around us gives us hope. And the scholars at BWS keep us all young and curious. We feel so blessed.

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