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.

My Lakehill Top 5

By Lisa Bracken
Director of Admission, Lakehill Preparatory School

I love lists. So when the New Year approaches, I get especially energized. Now this will date me, but growing up, I always looked forward to listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 best songs of the year. And, I still love hearing the year-end lists of best movies, books, etc. Now, I’m busy making my own New Year’s lists of goals and ideas. Some are on paper; others swirl in my head hoping to materialize. My family laughs at me when I talk in lists. I’ll often say, “Well first, now second, and finally…” You can imagine how I felt when David Letterman retired. What, no top 10 lists? What to do?

So, when I offered to write Lakehill’s January blog, of course I knew I had to make a list! My twin middle school girls proudly call Lakehill Prep their school home, and it’s where I serve as the Director of Admission. So from the perspective of both a parent, and an admission officer, here is my list of favorite things about Lakehill!

This list can go on and on, but for brevity’s sake, here are my top five:

  1. The Headmaster greets children at the door each day. And warmly. With a handshake.
  2. The faculty is passionate about teaching. It shows. Students shine.
  3. Class size is small and interactive. On purpose. With thought.
  4. You’re not a number at Lakehill. You matter.
  5. Our graduates rock college acceptances. 100% of them. Every year. With scholarships.

So, please have a wonderful 2017, and our best to you and yours. Come by and visit to check out my list for yourself. You’ll find that and so much more.

Happy New Year!

Lisa Bracken


Applications are currently being accepted for the 2017-18 school year. To find out more about Lakehill, visit

Magical Moments in Teaching

By Julie Riggs
English Department Chair, K-7, Lakehill Preparatory School

There have been many moments in my life as a teacher when I have felt the presence of a Power greater than myself, and today was one of them. Using feedback from my students from year to year, I often modify annual lessons, and I had spent several days of my holiday doing exactly that to a unit of study and research related to William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker.

I find the story of Keller and Sullivan fascinating and inspiring on so many levels that I once voluntarily read the over 800-page “definitive biography” of both women and a few years ago even wrote a short play about Sullivan as part of an international effort called 365 Days of Women. 

My seventh-grade classes began our unit in earnest today, touching on the primary themes of our research and reading the first dozen or so pages of Gibson’s play. As my students and I began to see connections that I had not consciously incorporated into the assignment, I experienced that triad of excitement, gratitude, and humility that can only be properly called magical or blessed.

Undeniably, teaching is hard work, but days like this are why I’ll never give it up!

This Term at Lakehill’s Environmental Science Center

By Daniel Bracken
Director of Environmental Education, Lakehill Preparatory School
Kindergarten learned about animal life cycles. They examined how some animals are born and grow while some experience large changes as they get older. Each student decorated a “metamorphosis cookie” using different types of candy to represent the stages of a butterfly’s life cycle.
First Grade
First grade learned how a bird’s diet determines the type and shape of their beak. Students used pliers, pipettes, tongs, chopsticks and tweezers to simulate beaks in order to pick up nectar, seeds, wax paper, Swedish fish, and rice (standing in for food sources).
Second Grade
Second grade learned about insect camouflage. They observed real insect specimens within their habitats and later created their own camouflaged stick bugs out of bamboo and leaves.
Third Grade
Third grade studied plant movement, learning about the different types of stimuli that induce plants to move. They set up an experiment to examine how light can cause plants to move. Pairs of  students constructed mazes that bean seedlings must navigate in order to reach the light source.
Fourth Grade
Fourth grade studied tree rings, learning how to determine tree age and the causes for the markings on their tree slices. By the end of class, they could describe some of their trees’ past experiences.
Fifth Grade
Fifth grade learned about soil nutrients, testing samples for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and pH levels, and determining which plants are best suited to live in different types of soil.
Sixth Grade
Sixth grade examined the water quality of the stream and pond at the ESC, testing water samples from the each. They learned about the nitrogen cycle and discovered the levels of nitrogen, ammonia, dissolved oxygen, and pH in the water.
Seventh Grade
Seventh Grade identified and researched their assigned trees at the ESC. Their findings will be used to make a QR tree tag on subsequent trips.
Eighth Grade
Eighth Grade built model solar houses complete with solar fans and lights. They will conduct an experiment to investigate the efficiency of their houses on a future visit.

The Right Balance

By Salma El-Feky, ’17
Marking Intern, Lakehill Preparatory School

Going into my senior year, I wanted to do everything I could possibly do and be involved in every activity. I wanted to make every minute of my senior year count.

Throughout the school year, my parents and I would sit down to discuss my schedule and what was going on that week. We also spent a lot of time talking about my future plans.

During those discussions, my parents gave me some good advice: “Be honest with yourself and find a balance between school, friends, and family.” This advice helped me change the way I approached my school work and my extracurricular activities. I realized that I can’t do every single thing, every single time. I prioritized my responsibilities and focused on those that were the most important. With my new focus, I could make a schedule and stick to it. I learned how to better manage my time. In the past, it was hard for me to admit when I needed help. By communicating more with my teachers, I gained confidence and certainty in completing my assignments. Most importantly, I feel better prepared for the future and for the college experience that is just ahead.

High school is definitely a challenge and can be overwhelming – if you let it be. While I wish I could go back and share this advice with the freshman version of myself, I am glad that I received it now and will carry it with me to college.

Enjoy every moment in high school, get involved, and be active–but remember to be honest with yourself and make sure you seek balance in your life. Schedule your school work, but remember to leave enough hours to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy some down time for yourself. This will keep you from becoming stressed and will allow time for you to enjoy the little moments and make memories.

While I was writing this, I received my first college acceptance letter! I am so grateful for my Lakehill experience and the environment that has allowed me to stay positive and focus on my goals. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Salma El-Feky

A Thank You for Veterans

By Kaye Hauschild
Head of Middle School, Lakehill Preparatory School

Having a family member who served in our nation’s armed forces pretty much guarantees that Veterans Day is noted on your calendar. This in not because your beloved veteran brings it up or requests that the family come together for recognition. Instead, they hold their memories and experiences close to the vest, sharing only with those whose experiences are the same.

In our school, we make sure that Veterans Day honors veterans through assemblies or music or study. Through this and our service clubs and activities, students have come to recognize both the contributions that have made our country safe and the challenges of our veteran population.  They think of their great grandfathers who served in World War II, and consider uncles who fought in Desert Storm.  They also remember former military men and women they have met during a Bingo game at Austin Street Shelter or while serving a meal at Dallas Life Foundation.

When asked what they planned for Veterans Day this year, the students’ answer was unanimous.  Through an e-mail or a phone call or a personal visit, they are going to say thank you.


Delivering Smiles

By Nia Rasheed, ’11
Marketing Intern, Lakehill Preparatory School

When I was younger, we always knew that when my grandmother came into town we would have less responsibilities because she was always willing to help cook and clean. As she has gotten older and less independent, she has not been able to do various things, including cooking essential meals during the day. Thankfully, my grandmother has a friend volunteer to help her purchase food and make sure she is receiving the necessary things for her health.

Seeing the assistance that my grandmother needs allowed me to witness the importance of caring for senior citizens. As Marketing Intern, I have the privilege to participate in Meals on Wheels, a program motivated to increase the lifespan of seniors by providing health food and nutritionists facts. Through this program, I have the opportunity to deliver food to residents in the Dallas community.

The best part about participating in Meals on Wheels is seeing the smiles on the residents faces when they receive their meals. From the moment we walk in, we are greeted with hugs and gratitude. Knowing that your service may be the only love some of residents see that day makes the experience even better.

“Caring has the gift of making the ordinary special.” – George R. Bach


Three Simple Rules

By John Trout
Head of Lower School, Lakehill Preparatory School

How may rules did you have when you were in elementary school? I remember giant lists hanging on my classroom walls when I was growing up, and they all seemed to be telling me what I shouldn’t be doing. Ask any Lakehill Lower School student how many rules they have, and they can tell you. Three. Just three! And, rather than telling students which behaviors are unwanted, our rules remind children how a Lakehill student should behave. Students are expected to Be Safe, to Be Respectful, and to Welcome Others.

Such vague, nebulous rules don’t tell kids very much, and that’s their genius. They require students to think before they act, to imagine the natural consequences of their choices, and to craft a school environment that is warm and friendly. The Safety Rule reminds students to be aware of their surroundings and their bodies. When students push the boundaries, we, as teachers, ask them to tell us what could go wrong, and to decide how to correct the situation. The Respect Rule encourages empathy. Students are asked to imagine how a situation might look from another point of view, and to imagine how they would feel if roles were reversed. The Welcome Rule promotes togetherness. It reminds students to reach out to others to ensure that their peers feel wanted and have a place in the group.
This year, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of a special tradition in Lower School, the annual Triangle Rules Poster Contest. Dozens of Lower School students submitted posters to creatively remind their classmates of our Triangle Rules. The winners and runners up were celebrated at our Triangle Rules Assembly on Monday, October 17. The winning poster, a construction-themed illustration by third grader Madeline Jones, will be reproduced for display in every Lower School classroom and along the hallways as a year-long reminder of who Lakehill students are meant to be.

Taking a Risk

By Heather Dondis
Director of College Counseling, Lakehill Preparatory School

Earlier this fall, I unintentionally performed a social experiment.  A representative from the University of Southern California was coming to present on the university and I had nearly 50 students signed up for the lunchtime visit.  The best place to accommodate this number of students and their lunches was obviously the lunchroom.  So I instructed the students who signed up for the visit to sit on the right side of the cafeteria.  Easy, right?  Well, little did I know how attached students were to their tables and their groups of friends.  I even heard one student say, “I guess I’ll learn more about USC,” as he didn’t want to move from his place, and he hadn’t signed up for the visit.

Fast forward a few weeks later.  At our annual presentation to our freshman and parents of freshman, we had a student panel of seniors offering their advice on how to be successful.  One piece of advice that they offered was to try something new, don’t just follow friends.

So this is my advice to students reading this blog…there are so many opportunities out there.  Do not let something pass you by because you were afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School each has its unique set of activities and events.  College will offer you even more–some colleges have over 700 clubs and organizations!  And to parents reading this blog, encourage, but do not force your children to do something new.  Continue to offer new opportunities and be confident that something will click.

Life is too short to sit at the same lunch table every day.


Aquatic Adventures

Lakehill Preparatory School biology students recently spent five days in Galveston, adding hands-on experience to their classroom lessons. Students visited the NOAA turtle research facility in Galveston where they raise loggerhead sea turtles to use in testing the turtle exclusion devices required in all shrimp and fish nets. They visited the salt marsh and captured dozens of fish and invertebrates to discover what kind of animals live in that habitat. They also learned about the value of the salt marsh to human society, including its role in controlling flood waters, holding the soil in place, and detoxifying the water of chemical run-off from farms and urban areas. Students were also able to understand how freshwater rivers mix with ocean water by measuring the salinity and water clarity.


Students were able to sample marine life in the deeper water of the Houston Shipping Channel using a trawl net similar to what shrimpers use to haul in their catch. They caught a variety of fishes as well as a few invertebrates. They then returned to the salt marsh for a 2.5-mile kayak tour through small channels of water, allowing them to get a close-up view into salt grass habitats far from human disturbance. Students gained a better appreciation for the detail of this habitat by painting a water-color portrait of the scenery. “I think it helped students understand that we need both a scientific understanding of the biome and a personal artistic connection with the habitat to create policies to help preserve it for future generations,” said Biology teacher and trip sponsor Jeremy Holman.


The group enjoyed a tour of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, which houses one of the finest paleontology exhibits in the country. At Brazos Bend State Park, they hiked around the lakes that are home to a robust alligator population. They also participated in a space station simulation and had a star-gazing party hosted by professional astronomers at the George Observatory. In the simulation, students assumed roles in navigation, communication, engineering, geology, biology, life support, and medical to successfully land a probe on the surface of the moon. This team-building exercise is used by corporations throughout Houston, and Lakehill students solved every challenge in under an hour to complete the mission. Through the 36-inch domed telescopes, they were able to see Saturn and Mars, various star clusters, and several nebula (planet- or star-forming dust clouds) in deep space.


They ended their adventure with a visit to the Kemah Boardwalk, where they fed sardines to the stingrays in the aquarium and rode on the various amusement rides, including the famed Boardwalk Bullet wooden roller coaster.