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  • The Odyssey, Day 2

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 4/27/2017


    Following a well-earned night of sleep, our weary, yet enthusiastic travelers emerged from their rooms to further recharge their energy with a hot breakfast, and for our parent chaperones, a trough of coffee with the request for extra caffeine. The breakfast was clearly effective as the electricity slowly but surely hummed louder and louder as our 5th Grade Cubs found renewed strength for what promised to be an exciting, and our most physically taxing day of the journey.

    We boarded the buses to return into the city, our first stops, the Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin D Roosevelt Memorial, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. The weather was perfect for these venues as the air was still cool while, at the same time, the sun slowly burned the morning haze from the Tidal Basin that sits centrally among these three gentlemen.
    Jefferson Memorial FDR Memorial 1 FDR Memorial 2


    The Jefferson Monument, modeled after the Parthenon in Rome, Italy, housed a statue of Jefferson, whose magnitude soundly represented his contributions to the development of this country’s governing structures, including his role as the 3rd President and primary author of the Declaration of Independence.  We enjoyed the monument and the great view across the Tidal Basin before taking the walk around to the FDR Memorial.   The symbolism of this meandering exhibit is so thoughtfully put together. As we made our way through, there were statues, waterfalls, and motivational quotations by our only four-term President around every turn. The students were inspired and energized by the stories shared by the guides and the surroundings.

    A Stone of Hope

    Our next stop on the walk was the always impressive and inspirational Martin Luther King Memorial.   This massive monument, carved from white granite, stands as a recognition of and commemoration to the father of the civil rights movement. Our Leesville students, at first a little overwhelmed, soon became energized by the quotes and the sheer magnitude of the sculpture. Something we did learn along the way was that the statue of MLK was intentionally facing the Jefferson Memorial, as a subtle judgment of the 3rd President’s hypocrisy when it came to equality and slavery.

    Following the tour of monuments and memorials, we returned to the buses and made our way back to the Smithsonian. At this time, the students and their chaperones enjoyed the option of selecting their own museum. Most chose to either go to the Natural History Museum or the National Archives. It was terrific to listen to the students speak so enthusiastically about their travels through time and the thrill of standing just an arm’s length from the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

    Our next stop on this second and fully packed day was to Capitol Hill. This is always a thrill, and especially when we enter the Capitol, with flags raised high, indicating that both the House and the Senate were in session. We entered through heavy security and very quickly participated in a detailed tour through ornate rooms that most of our students had recognized from news stories. Along the way, the students really saw their learning come to life as our highly impressed tour guides answered their thoughtful and intelligent questions.

    At the Capitol















    As we concluded our time in the Capitol, we congregated outside of the enormous government structure for a whole group picture of the on its steps. As excited as we were to get this awesome picture, a few of us, fortunate enough to be in the right spot at the right time, caught a star sighting of Senator Bernie Sanders leaving congress…. A very exciting first for our group.


    Moved back from the White House We made our way to the next stop for a view of the White House and our annual full group photo along its gates. However, as we arrived, this annual stage on the tour became yet another first for us as we, along with all other spectators in front of the White House, were quickly ushered back to the distant block by Secret Service Officers to clear the path for their preparations for the Presidential motorcade. We stood and watched, hoping for another star sighting, but learned that too much time would pass, so we made our we to our next stop at the World War 2 Memorial. It was really something to see the WW2 Memorial at dusk. And while our Cubs were tired and road weary, they pressed on and reveled in their steps count for the day.    

    Following our brief stop at the WW2 Memorial, we re-boarded the buses for our visit to the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. While this is certainly one of the most somber stops along the way, it is also one of the most memorable. The thoughtfully designed memorial managed to The students listened intently as our guides shared about the symbolism in every aspect of this thoughtfully designed memorial, which so elegantly paid tribute to this still recent moment and defining moment in American history.

    The students earned a real appetite and were excited that our next and final venue for the day was to a Pentagon mall food court for dinner. The crowds were overwhelming and the lines were long, but the determined hunger among our Cubs was not to be deterred, and all students managed to navigate the craziness in the mall and satisfy their need for sustenance.

    We returned safely to the hotel and the group quickly settled into their rooms for deep sleep with dreams of tomorrow’s adventures and explorations.

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  • The Odyssey, Day 1

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 4/26/2017


    Bus 1 Bus 2 Bus 3


    As our intrepid travelers arrived at Leesville, the electricity could be felt in the cool morning air and the buzz of excitement could be heard dancing through the crowd. Among the parents, there was the annual air of uncertainty… Is my child ready to leave for three days? Is it too late to pull my child from the trip? Is it too late to change my mind about being a chaperone? Among the students, questions also loomed… Is my iPod charged enough? I wonder how long it will be until until the first bathroom stop? Is it too late to get my parent to NOT be a chaperone?

    Despite these trepidations, the expedition would proceed, as scheduled. We boarded the bus, and by 6:35, pulled away from the Leesville microcosm to find adventure in our nation’s capital.

    The drive was easy… minimal traffic, a short pit stop to eat lunch, and voila!… we unloaded at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum by 12:15. For most of the students, barring dinner in the Reagan Building Food Court and the visit to a Washington DC souvenir shop, Air and Space was the favorite part of day 1.  Most of our Cubs have never been here and there are not many places like it. There is really no way to articulate the wonders of these exhibits; the Wright Brothers Plane, NASA space crafts, the evolution of the drone… imagine the best and most comprehensive Tonka set, only life-sized. 

    Air/Space 1  Air/Space 2

    Following the Air and Space Museum, we all met out front and made the walk through the Capitol Mall to the National African American History and Culture Museum (NAAHCM).   As you know, we have been coming on this trip annually. For the past three years, we have watched this museum being built. Year after year, level-by-level, we’ve watched this building rise from the ground. This is the first year it is open and we were not certain that we would be able to get tickets, so for the 5th Grade Teachers and me, this has been one of the most anticipated stops on this year’s tour. Let me tell you, it did NOT disappoint. The NAAHCM has about five levels, each of which share a different period in African American history and cultural development, so starting at the bottom, and working your way up, visitors are taken from pre-Civil War Slavery all the way to current pop culture on the upper floors. The exhibits were graphic and detailed and the imagery tapped the range of emotions from heart wrenching on the lower floors to entertaining and inspired on the floors that portrayed athletic and artistic contributions.

    National African American History and Culture Museum  NAAHCM 2

    The museum was so packed and dense in its displays and information that it was not possible to really absorb it all in one visit. Many of us found ourselves getting saturated to the point that we needed to just sit and process the information and all we have seen. I hope that we are able to return to this newest member of the Smithsonian family as it will require further visitation to really travel through these centuries of American history.

    After the NAAHCM, we took a short, but determined walk to the Ronald Reagan Building for dinner and an opportunity to absorb and process day 1. Dinner seemed to hit a much needed spot and to give our students the energy they needed to bolster a consumers enthusiasm for the stop and shop for souvenirs.

    Day 1 definitely gave our students a taste of what’s to come, and I can only hope that we all enjoyed a deep night’s sleep in preparation for day 2… our longest and most packed undertaking of this trip.

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  • Leesville Carnival and PTA Silent Auction... Exceeding the Expectations

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/25/2017

    A Great Event Last Friday, March 24 the Leesville Elementary School community came together for our annual Leesville Carnival and PTA Silent Auction.  We always enjoy the event and it is always great for drawing a crowd, , but as is often the case at LES, even our very high expectations for success has been exceeded.  I have never seen this event bring in such a remarkable attendance.

    Maybe it was the amazing auction and raffle items, perhaps it was the carnival with enough games to completely line the Leesville Middle School Gym, or maybe it was the opportunity to watch UNC defeat Butler in the Sweet 16... whatever the reason or combination of attractions, the event was indisputably a success.  

    HUGE thank yous go out to all of our PTA members who organized the event, to the members of the school community who contributed items, to the MANY, MANY volunteers who set up, worked the event, and cleaned up afterward, and to the faculty and staff who contributed auction items and bake sale items to contribute to this incredible event.

    This is going to be a tough one to beat, so thank you LES, for all you do.


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  • Talent and Generosity... An Amazing Partnership Once Again Benefits LES

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/25/2017

    City Serve... Providence Baptist Church

    Finished Product










    Our friends and community partners from Providence Baptist Church have done it again.  They have committed to a volunteer day, spent a Saturday morning with a huge volunteer force, and they have successfully improved and beautified an important area of our school.  

    Now, because of their generosity of time, effort, and resources, our school has added a wonderful meeting and eating space for our teachers and their students, as well as a comfortable and aesthetically appealing space for our families to wait for their "walkers."  This is yet another way that the Leesville community has once again exceeded the expectations at LES.  Thank you again PBC :)


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  • First in Fitness, First in Our Hearts

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/23/2017

    #1 in Our Hearts While I was not able to stay for the competition, I was so excited to be there as our Leesville Elementary Scholar Athletes shuffled off the bus for their day sport... the premier elementary school Track and Field event of the year... WCPSS First in Fitness.

    Our LES Cubs were in high spirits as they prepared for their contest, and as you can see from the picture, ready to represent LES in a way that would certainly make us proud.  We had a few of our Cubs to place strongly in their events while others were awarded simply for their participation, but our belief at Leesville is that more important that winning or losing is the opportunity to experience the thrill of the occasion.  

    A special shout out thank you to our PE Teacher, Ms. Mary Byrne, as well as the many many Leesville parents, who gave so much of their time to facilitate the training and the preparation as well as the actual First in Fitness day.  Thank you for once again showing why we say that The Pride Starts Here Leesville!


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  • Our Leesville Stars were Shining Bright on Stage

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/9/2017

    A Full House Every year I am so excited that Leesville has inspired another acceptance into the annual WCPSS Showcase of Talent, Pieces of Gold.  Then, as I sit in the audience at the Memorial Auditorium in Downtown Raleigh, I am reminded about how utterly impressed I am by our Leesville Cubs and the courage to stand on the stage before a packed performance hall of almost 2,500 people.  

    As they performed, I Wanna Be Like You, from The Jungle Book, one would have believed that they were a professional Theater Company touring the area.  The confidence, and well, the PRIDE they demonstrated in their efforts only made me that much more excited for our May performance of our school musical.  I only hope that you all will be able to join us as well for this very exciting opportunity.Gifts of Gold

    While we are at it, I also wanted to congratulate another of out 5th grade artists, Our own Amelia Griffith, who earned a spot in the lobby of the auditorium for her painting

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  • Chess Reborn

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/7/2017

    65 Strong

     When Ms. Slock approached me back in the fall to ask for permission to re-start the Chess Club here at Leesville Elementary School, I was really excited.  I encouraged her to speak with members of the faculty who may be interested in serving as staff representation.  Never, in my wildest imagination, would I have guessed what would come next.

    More tough play With the help aTough rounds nd leadership of our LOGIC Teacher, Ms. Kim Guza, and our 5th Grade Math Teacher, Mr.
     Nick Simpson, our club now welcomes as many as 65 students per session.  They started with Chess for beginners and have since developed the program to field a small, home-grown tournament just last week.  I have h
    ad so mus fun watching our Chess Club meet and really discuss the game, the history of the game, and especially the strategy involved.  
    Well Casey, did you ever think it would be this big so quickly?





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  • Friday, March 3 - Oh, the Places You'll Go College T-Shirt Day

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/3/2017

    Oh, The Places You'll Go

    Tennessee, or... ... UNC Going Places





    All Around NC Hawkeyes Family

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  • Thursday, March 2 - Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss Thursday

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/2/2017

    Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss One Fish... ... 2 Fish

     If I Ran the Zoo... the Zookeeper







    The Grinch and her dog Max Where's Thing 1

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  • Wednesday, March 1 - The Cat in the Hat Weird Hat Wednesday

    Posted by Ari Cohen at 3/1/2017


    All shapes and sizes Twinsie Hats

    Homemade Hats Principal Hat

     Teacher Hat


    Mushroom Hat



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