Gun control. COVID-19. Incarceration rates by race. Degrees earned by gender. Are these topics you'd expect from a typical precalculus assignment? Mr. Andrew Otero's Upper School precalculus class is anything but typical. He has a passion for challenging his students to think independently, to form data-based arguments about topics that matter, and to develop habits of mind that reach beyond math. As data literacy becomes an increasingly valuable skill, Mr. Otero's precalculus classroom is a practice ground for translating big mathematical ideas into real-world solutions.
For the past several years, our Upper School chapter of the Junior Classical League (JCL) has hosted an array of events including toga parties, Saturnalia celebrations, and certamina (quiz-bowl-style contests) to celebrate and expand their knowledge of Latin and Roman history, mythology, and culture. This year, the club brought some light-hearted fun to Price Auditorium, following guidelines for COVID safety, for one Friday night of game-show-inspired shenanigans with a Classical twist.
Multicultural Alliance (MA) is a student-led club that aims to promote cultural awareness and unity in our Upper School. Since its inception, it has served as an unofficial affinity space for students of color to share their daily lived experiences at Severn, and where allies are encouraged to join in and support. Over the past two years, under the leadership of ChélaCunningham '21, YealaGrimes '21, Abijah Pennant '21, and Maddie Skinner '21, the club's mission has grown to include more outreach and education as they examine issues and amplify the stories of historically underrepresented communities.
Written by Chéla Cunningham '21 and Sarah Dixon '24
On January 26th and 27th, Severn Upper School students, both remote and in-person, came together to focus on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Organized by students for students, Unity Day is the culmination of club planning and open-minded conversation. Though it’s not an academic day, students walk away with a new-found understanding of the different perspectives held by their classmates.
From drama productions in the stone amphitheater to team-building exercises on the challenge course, teachers and students use the James M. Stine Environmental Center in many ways. But that is only part of the value it provides our school. Situated along the Severn River, the center is home to a diverse selection of native tree and plant species. It is a rich carbon sink that offsets some of our community's carbon footprint. But as climate change progresses and sea levels rise, the center is vulnerable. To explore what that might mean for our community, our Upper School Climate Science class conducted a in-depth study, bringing their understanding of global climate change home to our backyard.
Over the past few months, our Water Street Players faced more challenges than ever in creating their annual fall Upper School drama production. With distancing guidelines and rotating schedules, a typical performance simply was not possible. But they rose above these obstacles to create a truly impressive dramatic experience with the 1940s radio play, Gaslight. The result? A gripping, chilling performance that reached beyond the limits of traditional theater and kept the audience on the edge of their virtual seats.
Adding purposeful positivity to our daily routines can make a significant impact on students' well-being, but often this is much easier said than done. Upper School Counselor Ms. Sam Straub shares her expertise on how to bring positivity into the classroom despite a seemingly endless string of challenges in today's world. She wrote the following piece for teachers, but any adult can use her ideas to help the children and teens in their lives.
The many voices that make up our school speak to our varied experiences and united ideals. At the National Honor Society and Cum Laude Society assembly, four students spoke about the core tenets of NHS: leadership, scholarship, service and character. Mentored by Upper School English Teacher and Severn Oratorical Society Advisor Dr. Jackie Baugh, Chase O'Malley ‘22, Mori Sokoloff ‘21, Aislinn Murray ‘21, and Robert Isper ‘21 spoke about their growth as members of our school community and as individuals finding their way in the world.
Every fall, the Upper School gathers for the Honor Code Assembly during which all new members of our community sign the Honor Book and pledge a promise of integrity and respect for others. Because we can't gather in large numbers, this year's assembly was held on Zoom with the book-signing to follow in advisory. But that's not the only change to come for the Honor Code this year. Following a brief introduction by Upper School Head Mr. Steve Soden, Student Council President Daniel Babalola '21 called upon his peers to consider why Severn has an honor code and how we can use this unique time in our school's history to rewrite it. The following is an abridged version of his remarks.
With so much going on in the world, acceptance is necessary to get through the day-to-day. But accepting change is only one part of the process. At a morning meeting Zoom last week, representatives from our annual Leadership Lab Retreat urged the entire Upper School to move beyond acceptance and embrace change. That means using creative thinking, perseverance, and inclusive leadership to make the best of what we have now and improve our school community for years to come.
The end of the year is always a busy time at Severn. As students finalize projects, take exams, give presentations and get ready for the next big step, our faculty and staff plan celebrations to mark important milestones in our students’ lives. Each ceremony gives our community a moment to reflect on all that we have accomplished this year and in years past. Although unable to gather physically due to the COVID-19 shutdown, we recreated these occasions on Zoom with every resource possible, including student performances and speeches, heartfelt messages from faculty, and even an in-person (properly distanced!) diploma ceremony for our seniors. Things looked a little different, true. But the unfaltering love for and from our community couldn’t have shined any brighter.
Through the Van Eney ‘09 Fellows Program, select seniors take on a year-long project with the potential to reach beyond our community and into the future. Outside of the normal curriculum, these projects reflect our students' growth, maturity, and thirst for learning. Last week, program director Ms. Mary Ellen Carsley hosted a Zoom for our 2020 fellows to share their experiences with families, teachers, and peers. As we watched each student take the screen, speaking eloquently and with true passion, we were impressed by the incredible work our students are capable of when given the time, freedom and support to dream big.