Engineering – a wind turbine

The Engineering Club. 17 January 2020.  LCA parent Jessica Houston challenges willing students to find the efficient way to operate a wind turbine, in this case, a windmill.  The turbine’s rotation winds a string on a narrow shaft in order to lift a weight, here, a pair of scissors.  A question is, How does the direction of air flow provided by a hair dryer affect the performance as measured by the time to pull the scissors to the top.  You may ask yourself, why use a narrow rod around which to wrap the string? LCA teacher and club originator Elizabeth Brasher is ready to join in shortly.

Recognition from the community

Special edition of the Las Cruces Bulletin: Outstanding Women of the Mesilla Valley Our founder and Head of School, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, is one of 13 awardees!  She was nominated by friends, relatives, a teacher, and parents of LCA students.  We invite you to read on, here, as well as the mission statement for our school that captures yet more.page11_smaller

Open house, January 14th

On Tuesday, January 14th: The Las Cruces Academy is holding an open house, 8-10 AM and 5:30-6:30 PM, at the school, 1755 Avenida de Mercado in Mesilla. You can meet with our Head of School, Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, in the morning observe students in classes and at play, and talk with our great teachers.  We’re proud of what we can offer for the community and for our students.   LCA is a private school serving academically advanced or motivated students; classes are small, teachers are highly qualified, and we provide a stimulating, supportive environment.  Current openings are for grades early K through 8.  More information is at or by calling Lou Ellen, our Head of School, at 575-521-9384.

The start of our running club

18 December 2019: The inaugural run of the LCA running club.  Teacher and runner Kelly Lin got inspired to start a running club.  The response was strong – about 30 students, several parents, and a second teacher joined in.  They ran around our long building, including through the courtyards, to reach a mile in 12 laps; some went farther.  They came in from the cool outdoors with rosy cheeks.

Walking the Solar System

20 December 2019: pacing off the distances to the planets.   Students joined teacher and Head of School Dr. Lou Ellen Kay to walk down Avenida de Mesilla, placing scale models of the Sun and the planets at appropriately scaled distances.  Starting from the Sun, represented as a paper plate 8” in diameter, they walked 10 paces (30 feet) to reach Mercury, where Lou Ellen drew a pinhead 0.03” in diameter to represent Mercury!   On they went, to place planets out to Neptune at 777 paces!  At the stopping point she spoke about the far greater reaches to the Kuiper Belt, then the scattered disk, then the end of the Oort cloud (at a real distance of 1 light-year, scaled to 50,000 times the distance to the Earth, or 1,300,000 paces, which is 740 miles, a walk down to Mazatlan, Mexico!  We skipped that part.

Solar system model – Earth as a peppercorn

Sun-any ball, diameter 8.00 inches

Mercury-a pinhead, diameter 0.03 inch

Venus-a peppercorn, diameter 0.08 inch

Earth-a second peppercorn

Mars-a second pinhead

Jupiter-a chestnut or a pecan, diameter 0.90 inch

Saturn-a hazelnut or an acorn, diameter 0.70 inch

Uranus-a peanut or coffee bean, diameter 0.30 inch

Neptune-a second peanut or coffee bean

How Big is the Solar System?


This peppercorn is the Earth we live on.

The Earth is eight thousand miles wide! The peppercorn is eight hundredths of an inch wide. What about the Sun? It is eight hundred thousand miles wide. The ball representing it is eight inches wide. So, one inch in the model represents a hundred thousand miles in reality. This means that one yard (36 inches) represents 3,600,000 miles.

Put the Sun ball down, and march away as follows

10 paces. Call out “Mercury                 0.4 AU                       10 paces

Another 9 paces. Venus                       0.7 AU                       19 paces

Another 7 paces. Earth                                1 AU                         26 paces

Another 14 paces. Mars                               1.5 AU                       40 paces

Another 95 paces to Jupiter                 5 AU                         135 paces

Another 112 paces. Saturn                  9.5 AU                       247 paces

Another 249 paces. Uranus                  19 AU                                496 paces

Another 281 paces. Neptune                        30 AU                                777 paces

End-of-term student performance

14 December 2019.  Our students’ end-of-term performance, for our 21st semester!  Students, teachers, families, and friends gathered at 5 PM.  The students were bursting with energy, and ready to sing after weeks of rehearsals in music and Chinese classes.  Families filled tables with food for the potluck dinner.  Here are some highlights as still images.  A YouTube video will go up shortly.  Enjoy.

6 December 2019: A well-deserved award to Dr. Lou Ellen Kay, our founder and Head of School at the Las Cruces Academy.  We students, parents, teachers, Board, volunteers, and friends of the school – are extremely proud of her.  The Las Cruces Bulletin just announced that she is one of 13 Outstanding Women of the Mesilla Valley in their inaugural program!  The Bulletin will recognize all of them in a special publication on December 20th.

Lou Ellen’s nomination for the award cited her extreme devotion of time, funds, and care of students to the Las Cruces Academy.  The Academy is a huge part of her legacy in education that also includes 23 years of caring teaching at NMSU.  Also noted is environmental work since 1990 with Earth Day and the Southwest Environmental Center.  She’s also an accomplished craftsperson (her furniture had been shown at noted galleries:  Shidoni inTesuque as well as in Sedona and Las Cruces), a world traveler (to 40 countries, from which she shares her cultural insights), and a cherished wife and mother.

We at the LCA thank Lou Ellen for all these years of work to found the school, to support it financially from the very start, and to run it as Head and as a teacher.  She used money inherited from her parents for the building renovations at our first site in the Downtown Mall and to support teachers, students, and the programs in the lean first years.  Even now she continues to work 7 AM to 6 PM and on weekends.  She had the vision and charisma to engage so many of us – family, friends, students, teachers, board members, and businesses – to join her in  donating goods, funds, and the time that she and we have spent searching for the site, teachers, and students; building furniture; bookkeeping; doing publicity on the Web and beyond; teaching; running fundraisers; doing outreach programs in the community). She made all of us believe in the school and its mission.  She thinks of the Academy as the best thing she can do with the rest of her life.  It has all come together, recognized by grateful students and their families, and, now, with this award.

The LCA serves advanced and motivated students of extremely diverse origins and family backgrounds, so that they may develop their talents, enriching the community. There’s a lot of the story of the LCA at our website,, and on our Facebook page.

Visit by Fish & Game, and an open house

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019: The students loved this presentation and learned a lot about snakes and what they do that makes our environment a better, safer place. (They eat many of the rodents that can carry diseases, such as Lyme Disease.) Come see what else we do, at our open house, Tuesday, December 17th – 8-10 AM and 5:30-6:30 PM. More information is at or by calling Lou Ellen, our Head of School, at 575-521-9384.


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