A Sampling of Flexperiences

Last semester kicked off the second full calendar year of the new schedule, which was envisioned in the 2018 Strategic Plan.
Laying aside the conventions of the 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day, EHS faculty sought innovative ways to best use our time with students to further our mission, resulting in structured time during the day to explore the greater Washington, D.C., area. The schedule fully leverages our unique position — as one of only four 100% residential schools in the country and as the only one located just minutes from the nation’s capital. While opportunities for learning in Washington and building community at EHS already extend beyond traditional school hours, with the new schedule, we have been able to do even more. As of November, more than 200 curricular trips have taken place. Here’s a sampling:

Earlier this semester, social studies teacher and Episcopal’s general counsel Stefanie Smith took her Legal Principles and Trial Advocacy class to the Alexandria Circuit Court. The class watched a direct examination of a witness in a murder and racketeering trial. Smith recounted: “The timing couldn’t have been better as the students had just started their unit on witness examinations.” They enjoyed the experience so much that the class begged Smith to take them back and see more. The students returned to the trial a couple of weeks later and observed the qualification and examination of an expert witness. They will then draw on these observations in January when they prepare to conduct their own mock trial before the Honorable J.P. Howard of the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Norman Kim-Senior’s Spanish class visited The Molina Family Gallery, a 4,500-square-foot gallery that is the first in the Smithsonian system dedicated to the history and ongoing contributions of the Latino and Hispanic communities in the US. The exhibitions in the Latino Gallery presented bilingual stories to span cross-cultural audiences, allowing students to understand the importance of Latino history through multimedia, physical objects, and first-person experiences. This flexperience allowed students to discover their own entry point into the stories of Latino and Hispanic communities. The inaugural exhibition of the Gallery,¡Presente! A Latino History of the United States, provides an in-depth introduction to historical people, places, and concepts that illuminate the legacy of U.S. Latinas and Latinos.

English teacher Molly Pugh’s Victorian Literature class went to her house one sunny Thursday afternoon for a Royal Victoria Sponge Cake bake-off. Though the Charles Dickens and Emily Brontë books they were reading provided little instruction in the culinary arts, the class (fortunately) had some experienced bakers and eager learners among them. While the cakes were in the oven, the teams temporarily set aside their friendly rivalry to take tea and play a mystery game set in 19th-century London. Using the detailed map and several written clues and primary documents, they sought to best Sherlock Holmes and solve the crime first. When the oven timer dinged, the students presented their final products: delicate, golden, artistically adorned cakes with sugar and dollops of jelly. The final bake-off score? A resounding tie.

Freshmen in Capt. Joe Eldred’s Case Studies in Modern World History learned about the emergence of complex societies in ancient Mesopotamia. To bring their textbooks to life, the students explored Washington for a flexperience designed to have them look at the city in a new light. They considered the elements that make up a complex society such as record keeping, art, and governing structures by looking at societies from the Paleolithic Era, the Neolithic Revolution, and the society of Mesopotamia. Their assignment? Study D.C. as if they’ve never been there before. Is it considered a complex society based on architecture and history? “It’s a win-win,” said Eldred of the assignment, “with both a solid pedagogical purpose and a chance for some of the students to see and explore the National Mall for the first time.”