Tiny but Mighty GSES Mathletes take on Goliath Opponents in the Virginia Math League

students completing math problems

student doing math teacher working with students boys completing math problems students completing math problemsFor the first time in the school’s history, students from Good Shepherd Episcopal School are competing in the Virginia Math League. Although Good Shepherd is a small K-8 school located in the heart of Forest Hill, students are inspired to compete against schools with much larger populations and resources. Good Shepherd is the smallest school in the Richmond area to participate in the competition.

Ten of the school’s 16 sixth-grade students voluntarily competed against their local peers in this year’s Math League competition. Students competed on Tuesday, February 25, by completing a variety of word problems in a thirty-minute period. These sixth graders have been preparing for the competition at bi-weekly practices after school and during lunch for the last six weeks.

Team sponsor Nancy Negus said, “These students have devoted so much time to getting ready and have shown tremendous perseverance to this new school activity. The contest is very challenging. Not only are the questions difficult, students have only 30 minutes to answer as many questions as they can. The fact that the test is timed can be stressful in itself. I was pleased that so many students wanted to participate.”

While the final results aren’t in, Good Shepherd students definitely won in terms of heart and experience. Mrs. Negus concluded, “I’m happy that our students now have the experience of preparing for and participating in a nationwide competition. We celebrated our hard work and math success with a party for the entire sixth grade!”

Fourth Graders Create African American History Museum

The fourth graders each read a biography of their choice about a famous African American. As they read, they took notes. After reading the book, each student used his or her notes to write a report. Then, on Friday, February 7, the students presented their information in an “African American History Museum” in the library. Students had objects that honored their person, and they explained why that object was important in the life of their subject. Students in grades K-8 toured the fourth graders’ museum with fourth grade students acting as docents.


Eighth Grade visits Quarry

Recently, eighth-grade Language Arts students practiced their research writing skills by gathering information about a local geographical and historical landmark, the Old Netherwood Quarry. The Old Netherwood Quarry is one of fifteen historic quarries located south of the James River in the Richmond and Bon Air areas. Many of Richmond’s notable buildings and homes were built using stone from this and other quarries throughout Richmond. Granite from this quarry by Riverside Drive, near the 42nd Street entrance to the park system, was shipped as far north as New York during the mid-nineteenth century. Students have researched quarrying in the area using local sources, visiting the site itself, and interviewing owners of a neighborhood home built using granite from the Old Netherwood Quarry. Students have enjoyed making connections through real world experiences, as well as understanding how local history, science, and literature are all connected.

This endeavor is part of a greater effort to further implement place-based educational practices at the school. Place-based education connects learning to communities and the world around us. It is an approach to learning that takes advantage of geography to create authentic, meaningful, and engaging experiences for students, across the curriculum. Good Shepherd is located in an ideal setting for place-based education, as the Forest Hill Neighborhood is rich with history and natural beauty. Students at Good Shepherd regularly participate in Outdoor Education as a class, but other core classes take advantage of our unique place on the map to further enhance the curriculum. Students have studied the geology, history, and lore of our neighborhood. They have built relationships with neighbors, helped keep the park clean by picking up litter, and researched neighborhood landmarks such as the mysterious Forest Hill Park pyramid. Ultimately, these learning experiences foster a valuable, ongoing relationship with the community.

Elizabeth Coleman

Good Shepherd Episcopal School Embraces Inspiration and Community in the Heart of Forest Hill

At Good Shepherd Episcopal School, the outdoor education program fosters an understanding and appreciation for the natural world through place-based, outdoor exploration and environmental stewardship. The school’s unique location in the heart of Richmond’s historic Forest Hill neighborhood, nestled at the corner of the James River and Forest Hill Park, provides limitless opportunities for students to take their learning outdoors.

Students and teachers work together in a positive and supportive atmosphere while increasing students’ self-confidence, leadership skills, and appreciation for the environment. The journey begins at the start of the school year with neighborhood exploration. Students locate the neighborhood on the map, take walks to the James River, Owl Orchard, Forest Hill Park, and Wayside Spring. Classes focus on outdoor safety, geography, history, ecology, and environmental issues. Students keep journals for predicting, observing, and reflecting. They also engage in discovery and exploration through hands-on learning, storytelling, and art. The program engages students in age-appropriate, memorable experiences that instill a sense of place and ultimately a deeper connection to their world.

For example, students visit one of contractor James Netherwood’s quarries near Riverside Drive to see first-hand where local granite was mined before being shipped as far away as New York during the mid-nineteenth century. Stone from the Forest Hill quarries was used for state, war, and Navy buildings in Washington, D.C. and for local buildings. A student favorite, the Stone House located in Forest Hill Park, was also built from stone from the surrounding quarries. Foundations for nearby houses also come from scrap quarry stone. Good Shepherd students absorb local lore as they explore the historic Forest Hill neighborhood.

In their study of physical science, students walk several paths from the school to Forest Hill Park, plotting elevation along the way. While enjoying the pleasures of being outside, they hone their math and science skills. Students use their plotted points to create topographical maps that are then used to determine the most physically challenging route to the park or the walk with the least change in elevation.

While studying earth science, students use a sieve in Reedy Creek to determine what organisms are supported by the stream’s ecosystem. Filtering and examining the microorganisms in the water allows students to determine the health of the stream. According to Good Shepherd scientists, Richmond’s Reedy Creek is quite healthy!

A sense of wonder enhances the building of early literacy skills. The beauty encountered on walks through the park or jaunts to the James River or Reedy Creek inspires students in their own writing. Just being outside and taking in the expansive artistry of the James River Park system sparks creativity in Good Shepherd students. Recently, early elementary students discovered natural art and literary insight creekside while reading “Anywhere Artist” by Nikki Slade Robinson.

Good Shepherd students benefit from our Forest Hill neighborhood treasures several times each week. Whether it is mathematically plotting a path to the park, studying water samples collected from the James River or Reedy Creek, or writing about the beauty they find along the way, students experience their surroundings in a way that isn’t possible at any other Richmond-area school.

Fall brings a harvest of new friends

Good Shepherd eighth-grade students hosted preschoolers from Forest Hill Presbyterian Church on a fall outing in Forest Hill Park. The eighth graders told stories about the history of the park based on a book published by Good Shepherd students in 1987 and on An Illustrated History of Forest Hill Park written by Lynne Ann George and published by The Friends of Forest Hill Park. Students discussed the trolley that shuttled park goers to amusement rides and boats that filled the lake on summer weekends.

Also, as part of the lesson, the middle schoolers helped the preschoolers shuck corn and make corn husk dolls. The older students read aloud “The Legend of the Corn Husk Doll” to set the stage for craft time that took place on the bank of the lake in the center of the park. Students enjoyed the beautiful fall day while imagining themselves back in the late 1800s celebrating the bounty of the corn harvest and making period appropriate toys with their new friends.

Partnerships with the community and making best use of our neighborhood surroundings create memories and strong bonds that root our students in their community.


Good Shepherd Episcopal School Students Welcomed BACH to School

Head of School Ken Seward welcomed students, faculty, staff, parents, and special guests to the 2019-20 school year. “I begin each year saying, ‘I don’t know who Good Shepherd School will be this year.’ Students’, parents’ and teachers’ combined efforts will determine what kind of school we are—respectful of differences, open to diversity that enriches us, careful of our environment, and allies to each other in trying to reach what is possible. Convocation is the time to say ‘Happy New Year’ and to make New Year’s resolutions to be kind, constructive, supportive, and committed to make this the best year ever.”

As part of the opening celebration, students cut the ribbon unveiling the school’s new Little Theater. During summer renovations, a stage was added to Parish Hall where students will be able to perform for peers, family, and friends. Mr. Seward lent a swashbuckling touch to the ribbon cutting by brandishing a sword rather than the typical oversized scissors. “Theater encourages us to be bold and use our imaginations. Scissors are ordinary, while swords are brave,” said Mr. Seward. Students relished the chance to cut through the ordinary and set an exciting course for the new stage and the new school year.

The first performance on the stage welcomed students “Bach” to school. Ayca Kartari from The Greater Richmond School of Music performed a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach on her double bass. Students in Grades 7 and 8 followed with a song about the elements. In closing, the Reverend Dr. Ross McGowan Wright blessed the students and prayed for a successful school year.