Eco-Friendly Fun: Lakehill Students Educate Others at Earth Day Texas

The 2017 Earth Day Texas was the planet’s largest Earth Day Expo ever. The 130,000 visitors who attended the event, held April 21-23 at Fair Park, were treated to more than 250 speakers and 700 interactive exhibits showcasing leaders in the corporate, academic, and non-profit worlds, including a booth featuring Lakehill Preparatory School.

Earth Day Texas strives to increase environmental awareness through education. Thousands of educators and students from more than 100 schools attended the three-day event.

Students in Jeremy Holman’s AP Environmental Science class showcased a variety of environmentally friendly projects. Their exhibits included art works made from paper waste, an experiment on how plants help reduce soil erosion, and an activity to learn what types of materials can and cannot be recycled.

Lakehill’s Director of Environmental Education, Daniel Bracken, helped visitors paint silicone fish and leaves that they rolled paint onto and used to create colorful prints. “Many visitors were also interested in the types of classes that are held at the ESC,” Bracken said. “I showed off the student created herbarium and insect collections that were created by second and third grade students.”

Bryna Thomson’s Middle School student volunteers in fifth and eighth grade showed visitors the ESC’s worm compost bin and taught them about the benefits of worm composting. They also engaged visitors in a fun matching game to teach about the amount of time it takes different materials to break down in a landfill.

“Visitors especially appreciated the worm farm,” said Head of Lower School John Trout. “The courageous held the wriggling creatures in their hands as they learned why farmers love to have worms in their gardens while the timid cringed from afar.”

Earth Day Texas is an annual festival seeking to elevate environmental awareness and change the way North Texans think, live, and work. This is the sixth year that Lakehill has been featured.

Summer is the Best Time to Try Something New

By John Trout
Director of Summer Camps, Lakehill Preparatory School

Kids love summer, and why wouldn’t they? Vacations, fun in the sun, and the best part (if you’re a kid) no school! Parents and teachers know, though, that summer can also mean “brain drain,” and it feels like kids forget half of what they learned in the past year! What’s a parent to do?

The secret to keeping those brain cells is to keep kids learning, but that doesn’t have to mean endless drills and remediation.  Learning a new craft or game, telling or creating stories, solving puzzles, and exploring the world around us keeps kids’ brains active and growing.  And, nothing flexes mental muscles better than trying something completely new.

Summer camps are a great place to do all of these things! Camps like Lakehill’s “Strung Together” and “Simply Stitchery” camp introduce campers to crochet and string arts. “Is it Art or Is It Science?” invites campers to use critical thinking to interpret novel situations. “World Building 101” takes a scientific look at planet and solar system formation to imagine realistic science fiction and fantasy worlds. Camps like these will have kids learning all summer long, even when they think they’re just having fun.

Behind the Scenes

By Mark Guerra
Director, Drama Department
Lakehill Preparatory School
When audiences see a play, they are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, In addition to the actors learning their lines, there is much more that goes on below the surface, or, in this case, behind the scenes. The theater tech crew is the silent army that keeps the cast moving with military precision.

Onstage in the Charles Wyly Auditorium, audiences have been treated to some stunning performances this year. Performers fought a killer vegetable and traveled back to 18th century England, but the real magic is what happens before the run of the production starts, and behind the stage during the show.

Leading our fearless team of backstage techies is sophomore Kate Langley. In addition to managing the Girls Basketball team, playing Softball, and keeping up her GPA, Kate is our Lead Stage Manager in the Performing Arts division. Kate and her family dedicate their time and their hands to any needs that our production has from sets to costumes to props. Kate has interned at a local theater and gained a wealth of knowledge from the professional stage managers with whom she has worked during a production of Les Misérables School Edition. This has given her the advantage to know just what needs to be done to keep the flow of rehearsals and performances running smoothly. With Sense and Sensibility, Kate spent hours formulating an entrance and exit plan for all 22 characters and 45 scenes! Not an easy task, but one that truly made the production as successful as it was. In addition to her work this year, Kate also served as Stage Manager for last year’s productions of On Broadway: A Musical Revue, Radium Girls, and Who Is Theo?

Assisting Kate and me is the job of sophomore Sarah Bradley. Sarah plays on Lakehill’s Softball team, but she is dedicated to theater. Sarah performed in a production of Les Misérables School Edition that I directed last summer, but found that she was more interested in being behind the scenes. Sarah has proved her worth working on the fall musical, Little Shop of Horrors, including operating one of the puppets, and not only Assistant Stage Managed Sense and Sensibility, but handled two walk-on roles in the show as well. Sarah is serving as Assistant Stage Manager for my production of Back to the 80s: The Totally Awesome Musical at Theatre Three, where she is working under a professional stage manager. In addition to all of her stage work, Sarah has played a significant role in the re-organization of Lakehill’s costume, set, and props storage. Sarah is also Lead Assistant for Lakehill’s Lower School Drama Club.

This summer, Kate and Sarah will co-Stage Manage a children’s production of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty for the Musical Theatre Academy at Theatre Three.

For the past two years, Reid Chickering has served as my right-hand man (except for when he broke both of them) and Technical Assistant/Teacher’s Aide.  Reid is a senior at Lakehill who participates in Football, Soccer, and Track, but has made time to serve as the Lighting Technician for our Upper School productions. Reid’s initiative and problem-solving skills have kept things running smoothly in the technical booth.

Although Blake Farokhnia has only served as Technical Assistant/Teacher’s Aide for the spring semester of his senior year, he proved himself to be a great assistant and addition to the Upper School Drama team. Blake has participated in Debate for four years, as well as Varsity Football, Student Ambassadors, Science Club, field events for Track and Field, and the Warrior Outreach Organization (WOO).

So next time you enjoy a performance, remember that there is just as dramatic a production going on behind the scenes.

For more information about Lakehill Preparatory School, visit

A Witness to History

By Elizabeth Schmitt
English Teacher, Lakehill Preparatory School

As a teacher, I am committed to bringing history and literature to life for my students. I have organized field trips to museums and plays, but find it most effective when I bring in an expert speaker to share their experiences. This week, I had the privilege to introduce Max Glauben, a Holocaust survivor, to an assembly of the sixth through twelfth grade students. We all sat rapt listening to his testimony.

At Lakehill, our study of the Holocaust begins in sixth grade with the Diary of Anne Frank. It is often difficult for an eleven-year-old to imagine that such persecution could have happened, that people would have to go into hiding. In ninth grade, our freshmen read  Night, Elie Wiesel’s brief, but powerful memoir of his experience in the concentration camps. With Wiesel’s death last year, I was spurred with the urgency of having a survivor speak to our students. As my freshmen read the text and watched Schindler’s List this January and February, a spike in Anti-Semitic threats and desecration of Jewish cemeteries occurred across the United States. I proposed that we have Glauben speak to our students, and it was arranged through the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

Glauben was 11 when the Nazis invaded his homeland of Poland; 13 during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; and 15 when the war ended. He told his story without embellishments or visual aids. This simplicity made his words all the more vivid. I was struck by his matter-of-fact description of how his father was one of 100 prisoners taken as hostages because 10 others did not return from a work detail. He spoke of last seeing his father lying face down on the ground. The next morning all that remained were his father’s shoes. Glauben knew that his father had been killed, and that he was now an orphan at 13.

His perseverance and will to survive were driven by a phrase in the Talmud, the ancient Jewish legal text: “He who saves one life saves the world entire.” If Glauben could save himself, he would be able to make a difference, sharing his story and speaking for the more than 1,000,000 children who were killed during the Holocaust, including his younger brother.

At 89, he is preparing to make his twelfth trip back to Poland for the March of the Living. (Lakehill senior Zac Aron will be a part of this trip.) He and his wife Frieda have three children, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. One of his sons, Barry, attended Lakehill.

This assembly was a highlight of my 16 years at Lakehill for many reasons. My connection to the subject matter is personal. My family is Jewish. My father was a radar operator with the 781st Bomb Squadron of the Army Air Corps during World War II. I remember sitting at the dining room table, listening to him describe flying with two sets of dog tags: one identified him as Jewish, the other did not. He was shot down three times over Eastern Europe. I wouldn’t be here without that second set of tags.

Glauben’s presence transformed an abstract into reality for those assembled. The image of the KL tattooed on his arm will live in all of our memories. His story serves as a powerful reminder that every voice matters.

A Few Days in March

By Kaye Hauschild
Head of Middle School, Lakehill Preparatory School

You all know that March is well known for Spring Break. In Middle School at Lakehill, March is equally anticipated for Adventure Week. This is our time to hit the road and learn while we are experiencing new places, foods, activities, and ideas. Every year, our students travel on a different adventure that enhances their regular classroom curriculum. As one of the trip planners, I am continually impressed by our students as they experience history, science, ecology, and positive leadership, and turn their experiences into knowledge.

This year, I had a rare experience. I traveled with a new member of our faculty with whom I had traveled years ago when she was my student. I am sure it was something she had never imagined as a Middle School student that she would one day be the chaperon reminding students that it was time for light’s out! Who would? But I watched as she slid seamlessly into her new shoes, leading with that right mix of authority and humor.  

It is not always possible to learn through experiences, but I am more convinced than ever that the knowledge our students gain during their Adventure Week journeys is the kind that lasts a lifetime!  


Navigating the Twists and Turns of College Admissions

By Heather Dondis
Director of College Counseling, Lakehill Preparatory School

I recently attended the Dallas County Spelling Bee for private school students as my daughter was the school winner for Lakehill. As soon as we walked through the door, I could sense the enormous pressure of the participants, some praying, some doing yoga/relaxation techniques, some looking at spelling lists repeating letters over and over again. It made ME nervous! My daughter was proud to represent her school, and, aside from initial nerves, she went up on stage, spelled her words with confidence, and existed the stage with grace once a word was missed. I was proud of her!

Why, you might ask, is a college counselor talking about a spelling bee? I see the same scenario play out each year as seniors go through the college application process. For some, this process is more nerve-wrecking than for others, but with solid preparation, a balanced list of schools, and knowing the fact that there is more than one college able to prepare one for the future, our students go through the process with the confidence knowing they will be going to a ‘good’ college as they choose to define it.

I admire the confidence my students display as they perform, apply to colleges, compete in athletic and academic competitions, and engage in new projects in their communities. And I am impressed with the humility and grace with which our students handle situations which may not always work out as expected. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns and knowing how to navigate them will make our kids stronger and more prepared for the future.

Summer, Lakehill Style

I know it’s only March, and summer seems like a distant dream, but, here at Lakehill, summer camp preparations are in full swing! Calendars are being set; camp descriptions are finalized; and the Lakehill Summer Camps staff is busy planning a summer full of fun and adventure.
As this process unfolds, a single thought keeps coming back to me: I wish I were a kid again!
This year’s camp lineup looks fabulous! STEM, Community Connections, LEGO Engineering, Destination Dallas, and other perennial favorites are all lined up and ready to go, but it’s the new kids on the block that have me really excited! Thirty Seconds to Fame challenges kids to create the ultimate summer blockbuster movie trailers to hint at the bigger tales to be told. Summer with the Bard gives older campers a taste of Elizabethan verse, Shakespeare-style. Slithery, Scaly Snakes promises some up-close encounters with our forked-tongued friends. And, Games: Unplugged will remind campers that kids survived (and enjoyed!) the summer months long before entertainment involved plugs or batteries.
These quirky, new, outside-the-box camps are exactly the kind of camps I would have enjoyed as a kid, and I’d love nothing more than to roll back the clock and sign up! I’m so thrilled at the creativity and energy that our summer camp teachers have put into their camps already, and I can’t wait to see their ideas unfold as the months roll on.
Take a look at our just-released Summer Camps Guide. Register for camps here. And, sorry…these camps are only for kids!

By John Trout

Director of Summer Camps

I Will Think of You Often… and Fondly

By Ray Dent, Director of Development and Alumni Relations
Lakehill Preparatory School

Although we have been planning it for a long time, it feels a bit strange that I am retiring this Friday. According to the Social Security Administration’s recent letter to me, they first started taking money from my pay check in 1961 when I was a ten-year-old busboy at Furr’s Cafeteria in Lubbock, Texas. I have been quite fortunate in the work I have had, the different lives I have lived, the adventures I have enjoyed, and the people I have known since then.

With regard to future plans, there is a good-looking girl, named Nancy, whom I met when we were eighteen year old freshmen at SMU. We celebrate our forty-fourth anniversary in a couple of months and we plan to spend the next few decades traveling, spoiling our children and theirs, volunteering, playing with friends, and pursuing our creative interests. She loves to paint and I think I still have at least a couple more good novels left in me.

There is no question that I will miss my Lakehill Family. This school, its people, and its programs are a rare treasure that I have seen nowhere else in my twenty years in educational development. It has been an honor, and a true pleasure, to be a part of Lakehill Preparatory School for the past five years.

Update from Lakehill’s Environmental Science Center

By Daniel Bracken
Lakehill Preparatory School, Director of Environmental Education

This term, kindergarten students learned about animal movement. They played a game where they acted out and guessed the different types of animal movements. They studied feathers, animal tracks, snake skins, and silicone fish to investigate the different ways that animals move. They also handled red wiggler worms from the ESC worm farms to feel how the worms are able to slide through soil.

First grade learned about different bird habitats. They observed nests from the ESC collection, and learned about some of the largest, oldest, heaviest, and most intricate nests that birds can make. the classes used cardboard drink containers to create bird houses to take home.

Second grade studied how the form of insects’ legs affects their movement. They observed insect specimens which had jumping, swimming, running, and killing legs. They also made pitfall traps in the forest at the ESC. The students will check their traps on their next visit and add any insects that are collected to the ESC insect collection.

Third grade observed the results from their plant maze experiments. They saw how plants can wind their way around the walls of a maze to reach light. They also learned about the chloroplasts in the aquatic plants from the ESC aquarium. They were able to see that the green pigment of plants comes from these little green blobs. They also helped to replant the garden with brussels sprouts and kohlrabi.

Fourth grade investigated tree seeds and cones as a method of identifying different types of trees. They identified the type of seeds that beans, dates, peas, junipers, red buds, and avocados have. After determining what type of seed each plant had, they had to conclude how that seed could be dispersed. The fourth graders also observed how much their avocado seedlings had grown.

Fifth grade learned about regular composting and vermicomposting (worm composting), using their knowledge about soil nutrients from their previous visit to evaluate the value of the earth worm castings from the ESC worm farm. They observed how nutrient rich the soil from the worm farms is and helped to harvest the castings, building a new home for the red wigglers. The worm castings were also used in the Little Sprouts Garden before the third grade completed their spring planting.
Sixth grade brought tap water from their homes and tested its water quality for pH, iron, copper, hardness, and chlorine. They also learned about the potential risks of having acidic, basic, or hard water, or having high levels of metals.

Seventh grade created QR codes for the trees which they had identified on a previous visit. The QR codes will have information such as tree species and GPS coordinates that will be hung on the trees. The codes can be scanned to reveal the information to other students and visitors. The students also conducted an experiment on variegated plants that revealed that not only do the white parts of plants not have chloroplasts, but they are also unable to produce and store sugar as starch in those areas of the leaf. They removed the green color from variegated plants using alcohol and used iodine to stain starches. They observed how stained starch replicated the original pattern of the variegated leaf.

Eighth grade tested the efficiency of their solar houses. They used the results of the experiment to determine how to better build a solar house that would keep the house cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and provide solar power throughout the year. They also observed how solar energy can be used to create movement by investigating radiometers and solar balloons.

See more pictures from the ESC.

For more information about Lakehill Preparatory School, visit

Symphony in Snowy Delight

By Victoria John
Middle School teacher, Lakehill Preparatory School

The power of snow to delight should never be underestimated. The magic of its rhythmic, almost musical quality inspires adventure and mystery. I admit our recent snowfall awakened my own inner child, as I opened my window blinds anticipating the smiles of my seventh grade Latin students. As they settled in their seats, an unusual silence prevailed. I knew they were getting ready to ask, “Can we go out and play in the snow?”

Their eager, open mouths welcomed the soft coldness of the snowflakes, as baby birds awaiting their mamma’s feeding. In their own rhythm several spread their wings to create snow angels in the faint accumulation. Others, slipping and falling, raced to be the first to gather the cold wetness on the bleachers. I watched the nearby eighth graders frolic like kindergartners, without a care in the world. One remarked, “It is pretty fun.” Snow is a great equalizer of children.

My students were just kids playing, frantically capturing every moment of the white magic falling from the sky. They were children totally engaged in an age-old entertainment that requires no internet, no texting, no headphones – no thoughts of grabbing cell phones between classes to check messages. The simplicity of snow, with all its enchanting wonderment, inspires creative play and breaks down social barriers.

“Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow…,” the opening words in four-part harmony to Irving Berlin’s timeless classic “White Christmas,” echoed through my mind as I marveled at the expressions on their faces. In the swirling haze, I heard, “Take a picture of us!” The photo froze their voices and uninhibited joy as it blended individual personalities in a concert of embraces and laughter. Creativity writer Julia Cameron said, “The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight.” In the remaining last minutes my students stretched out their squeals of delight as they ran headlong, sliding into one another, enveloped in the snowy blanket.

Being with them in that moment was a priceless gift of immeasurable delight.