Welcome to the Diocese of Lake Charles

A Louisiana Experience Like No Other 

By Pamela Seal
Diocese of Lake Charles 

LAKE CHARLES — Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic School “rolled down” the Mississippi River during its week-long symposium held March 11-15. Complete with a Cajun band, Gumbeaux Gator, and ribbon-cutting to kick things off in the school parking lot, “Louisiana: Rolling Down the River” was open for viewing in the gymnasium to the surprise and enthusiasm of students in grades pre-K through grade 8. 

Second grader Emma Heape’s reaction to seeing the impressive showcase for the first time: “I was not expecting to see how the gym changed into all of this!” 

The interactive educational experience featured exhibits — assigned to each grade level — sharing the state’s rich history and culture. It was a group effort on the part of students, teachers, and parents highlighting different regions of Louisiana from landscapes, food, culture, and more. The transformation of the school gym to an immersive Louisiana experience was constructed in three days. 

A Symposium Showcase on the evening of March 14 offered the community a chance to “roll down the river” and experience for themselves Sportsman’s Paradise, Crossroads region, Plantation Country, Greater New Orleans region, Cajun Country, the Kisatchie National Forest, the Natchitoches Christmas Festival, St. Fort Juan Baptiste, Cajun Music Hall of Fame, collages inspired by paintings of Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter, the history of Cafe du Monde and their famous beignets, learn about Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Patroness of Louisiana; and so much more.

Within the exhibit were many resources and QR codes redirecting guests to information about subjects like the Spanish Influence, Christmas Levee Bonfires, Crawfish Mounds, Sugar Cane, Oak Trees, Jambalaya, St. Joseph Plantation, Cajun Recipes, and Paddlefish. (Visit: https://www.olqhs.org/resources/symposium-2024.cfm) 

A lot of time, effort, and creativity goes into putting the symposium together. All grade levels learn about the subject chosen and take part in activities throughout the year on that topic.  

“The students start the school year knowing what the symposium theme is, so they spend the better part of six months learning about the topic and creating what they need for their section of the exhibit,” said Pam Fontenot, Director of Religious Education.  

“Guest speakers were invited to speak to students about various exhibit topics throughout symposium week,” Fontenot said, noting that each class was given 45 minutes to spend time in the exhibit. 

Some of the interactive things to do included celebrating bonfires in the Plantation Country by building a bonfire using Lego bricks. In Natchitoches, students could draw their own fireworks using a colorful assortment of crayons. 

“QR codes throughout the exhibit featured downloadable recipes, and what was really cute were students singing Louisiana songs that music teacher Colette Tanner taught them,” said Fontenot. Other QR codes showed video recordings of second and fourth graders talking about the history of plantation homes. 

Third-grade student Camille Credeur’s class was assigned Natchitoches, of which she said she knew a tiny bit about before the symposium project. 

“I have never been to Natchitoches but now that I have learned more about it, I would like to go,” said Credeur. “I would like to see the fireworks that are part of the Christmas Lighting Festival.” 

Third graders made artwork featuring fireworks that were on display in their section of the exhibit. 

“For the artwork, we used salt, glue, and paint, and for some we used glitter and glue,” said Credeur, who also noted that she has never eaten a Natchitoches meat pie but would like to try one. 

The crawfish mounds were made by lots of little hands from second graders. 

Callen DeRouen said, “I have never seen a real crawfish mound in the ground, but I made one with tiny pieces of clay and shaped it around a cup.” When asked if he has ever eaten a crawfish, he replied emphatically, “I never ate one in my entire life.” 

On the other hand, Avery Yelverton said she likes to eat boiled crawfish. Her method: push and pull, then eat. 

“I liked working on the mounds for the little crawfish. They are cute,” said Yelverton. “I named my crawfish Eon.” Other crawfish names were Spirit, Pinchy, Cotton Candy, Mr. Red, Lilly, Snappy, and Choppy. 

Avery Bruce was among the eighth graders who were assigned to the region of Louisiana known as the Greater New Orleans area.  

“We learned quite a bit about the Patroness of Louisiana, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, especially in our Social Studies and Religion classes. We also went to New Orleans on a field trip,” said Bruce. 

“The students in art class painted a picture from a statue of Our Lady. Our art teacher gave us each a square to paint a small section for the painting. My part was the face, which was hard to do,” Bruce noted. 

Another large painting was a mural that served as a backdrop for one of the exhibits created by the seventh-grade class. 

“Our class painted a mural, made a cypress tree, and wrote poems called Ramblings on the River,” said Henry Courville. “We put real moss on the tree. We all wrote poems about Louisiana.” 

Courville said that some of his favorite things about living in Louisiana are the seafood and crawfish, and he likes to go crabbing and fishing. He shared his secret to catching crabs. 

“I use raw chicken and tie it to a little weight before putting it in the water,” he said. “I remember one time we were lucky because the tide was low and there were all these crabs everywhere. We just got a net and scooped them all up.” 

Trevor Donnelly, OLQHS principal, commended the school for the group effort and collaborative study of Louisiana. 

“This was an incredible experience for our students. They loved seeing their own work and research highlighted during symposium week,” said Donnelly. “It was our time as a school — for teachers, staff, and students — to all come together for a common goal. 

“Symposium week was a chance for the students to enjoy the final product, seeing their hard work come together,” he continued. “They should be proud of their work! 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM SYMPOSIUM WEEK


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