top of page

BWS BiblioBlog | December 2023

In December the BWS scholars left the continent of South America to take an imaginary flight across the Atlantic Ocean to a small continent with a big impact on world history: Europe. So many centuries, so many cultures, so many empires.

While we reviewed the geography with all the grades, the 5th grade jumped right into the Ancient Civilizations of Greece and Rome. The impact continues today as seen in the DC architecture and TV shows like Percy Jackson. Our library offered a wealth of books full of Myths, Heroes, and some origins of Scientific and Political thought. How about concepts like Democracy and Republic?

The entire school surrounded our Baby Grand Piano on that first Friday for a real introduction to the origin and mechanics of the musical instrument first created by Cristofori in Italy back in 1698. The instant hammer release and pedals add piano and forte dimension to the sounds. Our boys had many questions for the professional pianist Christopher Schmidtt who played a concert full of Beethoven, Bach and Liszt. When he played Jeux d'Eau (Water Play) by Ravel, the group seemed to sway like the droplets depicted by the music. The fun fact that Mr. Schmidtt is a member of the President’s Own Marine Corps Band had an allure, but his expressive talent kept our scholars absorbed for over an hour of classical music!

The first two continents we visited are dominated by English and Spanish. But in Europe we encounter many different languages and traditions. For Kindergarten, we started in England to make sure they know we speak English and to find one of the first children’s book authors: Beatrice Potter. A lonely child, she took to drawing nature and small animals near her family farm. In a letter to a friend’s son she said she didn’t know what to write so she invented a story about one of her rabbits and drew charming illustrations of Peter Rabbit. She tried to publish the stories but no one would make books the size of a child’s hand. She published them herself on simple paper and finally got some attention. Her 22 books are still being published after more than 125 years. She used her money to preserve green space in central England and her drawings of mushrooms went into scientific journals. The stories offer high drama and simple messages. Remember the mean old Mr. MacGregor?!


Over the next weeks we explored the variety of make believe, small creatures that invade all the different European cultures. Our library holds books of all sizes and reading levels on the subject of fairies, sprites, gnomes, pixies, brownies, trolls and elves. Some are kind, some are scary and some are simply mischievous.

Mrs. Marquardt opened up a folding paper house that her daughters played with in Holland where they were born and raised. The little toy family and gnomes, known as Kabouters in Dutch, lived together in this cardboard cottage. Our BWS boys created imaginative stories about these folks at each session.


What we call Fairy Tales are more like folk tales. The older students learned of the Brothers Grimm who recorded the oral traditions of folk all around Germany, such as Hansel and Gretel and Snow White. Anderson tales, like The Ugly Duckling, are well known from Denmark. And French folktales such as Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast seem as much a part of American culture as European. Now our students know the European origin of many favorite children’s tales, as adapted by Broadway, Disney and comic characters and spoofs.


Mrs O  spent the month challenging 4th graders to decipher the letters, numbers and colored stickers labeling the spine of every single book in our Library. The green F,S,P, G and E stickers indicate the Fiction, Series, Picture, Graphic and Early Reader books in our fiction collection. All Fiction books within a category are organized in Alphabetical order by author’s last name.

The real challenge comes with the Nonfiction which is organized according to Dewey Decimal order. In addition to the alphabet, students need to know their decimals to find that exact book. Some sports books go to the thousandth place value!  She organized games with Starburst rewards. Once mastered, our scholars can walk into any Library and find that soccer technique section in the 700’s.


Both 3rd and 4th graders still have a story read to them at the beginning of Library. Many lead to rich discussions encouraging keen comprehension skills. Some books compliment classroom curriculum and some introduce new cultures and historic moments to the student, such as a French girl Mirette who encourages one of the most famous high wire acts in Paris.

The Accelerated Reader program continiues  with 3rd grade. They are learning to find their own particular leveled book and take assessments each week to boost their comprehension skills. What could seem like a chore seems more like a game. These readers want to rise up into a wider choice of books within our collection.

We had two European visitors to give an authentic view of their home countries. Andrew Clarke, the Head of our BWS Board, took time to talk with both 5th grade and Kindergarten about Ireland. He began by saying The Lord’s Prayer in the Irish language and describing the dairy farm where his family still lives. With the older students, he discussed The Troubles with England and with the younger ones he read a story about Leprechauns.  Andrew shared a video of the game of Hurley and let the boys hold a real Hurley stick-not unlike hockey played on grass. Then we shared homemade Soda Bread (thanks Mrs M.) with real Kerry butter from Ireland.

A second visitor, Finja Laxler , came from the Austrian Embassy to share her culture with 1st and 2nd graders. She focused on the geography and language, with an example of children skiing down Alpine mountains to go to school in the winter and cows being led up the mountains in the spring to freely graze on the new grass. Finja talked about the ease of getting around in Europe with its fast and expansive train system. She also focused on the Danube River and recommended a ferry ride to Bratislava. She read an Austrian tale I Am Me. We shared chocolate wafer cookies and waved Austrian flags just like 6-year-olds in Vienna.

This year, The Bishop Walker School Library received generous and much needed contributions to its collection of books. Beauvoir School donated specific books from a check list we made for the Scholastic Book Fair. St Andrews Church donated specific books about countries so that our year long journey around the world in books could have many different reading levels. St John’s Lafayette Square parishioners gave 4 class sets of Nat. Geo. World Atlases which we will use for the rest of the year.


The donation from Monsignor Stephen Rossetti of Catholic University allowed Mrs. Ochmanek to obtain much-needed books for middle elementary readers. And Christ Church Washington Parish used their St. Nicolas Party as a chance for their own young parishioners to make bookplates for the specific science and tech books offered to our scholars. These gifts filled gaps in our collection, as did the many small gift donors using the “BWS Library Wish List” on Amazon. We are truly grateful!

By the end of the month, we turned to the Story of Christmas with the traditional books like Christmas Carol by Dickens, Polar Express by VanAllsberg and the story of Jesus’ birth told through Room for One More. We reenacted the animals welcoming Mary and Joseph after each animal had welcomed its enemy into the manger to get warm. The cat said to the mouse, “There’s always room for one more here.”

With our imagination, we can picture the animals that live outside our windows sharing the space and staying warm in their nests just beyond our very doors. Here is the creek beside Bishop Walker School still flowing on a December morn.

May we have Peace on Earth!

22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page