Lower School | K-Gr.5

Character Education

The Good in Every Child

Children have an innate foundation of basic goodness. We support and build upon that foundation with direct instruction to help students develop important social and emotional skills for the benefit of themselves, their peers, and the communities of which they are a part. A well-rounded student should not only be academically successful but also possess a strong, principled character. We believe that good character can be taught, and we teach it here.
Character education in our Lower School nurtures the emotional, social, and psychological development of every student — it is something we do every day. In addition to our Heartstrings, Helping Hands, and Open Doors programs, we have school-wide projects, assemblies, classroom discussions, and other activities on service, bullying, ethical behavior, and conflict resolution. Our goal is that students are curious about, understand, and accept others through developing personal and social responsibility.

Ms. Renee Spears

These lessons build character, morals, and integrity, and help students reach continuously to a better self. Students need lessons on how to be a better friend, how to be respectful to everyone. They need to understand that empathy and compassion are good values.

Open Doors

Open Doors is a program designed to educate students about diversity and inclusivity. It is geared toward fostering an appreciation of others — how we are different from one another and how we are similar. The ultimate goal is to reflect upon barriers that people create based on these differences. Teacher Ms. Spears creates thoughtful lessons, incorporating a diverse selection of literature and resources, for students to openly discuss their thoughts in a safe environment. Click below for recent Open Doors lessons.

List of 6 items.

  • Compassion

    Students read Beatrice's Dream by Karen Lynn Williams and discuss how children's lives in Kenya are different from in the U.S. with questions like, "How does Beatrice get to school?" "How do you get to school?" and "Do you go to school on Saturdays?" The classes also learn Swahili greetings.
  • Diversity

    • Students in grades K-2 read I Don't Have Your Eyes by Carrie Kitze and discuss adoption, celebrating differences, and acceptance.
    • Students in grades 3-5 read A Family Is a Family by Sara O'Leary and discuss questions like, "What is a family?"  "What makes some families different from others and in what ways is your own family unique?" "What does it mean to accept someone who is different from me?"
  • Empathy

    Students watch a video on the history of human rights and talk about what it means to be able to identify with other people's feelings or experiences. They "take a walk in someone else's shoes" by choosing a shoebox with a pair of shoes and a scenario and talking about how it might feel to be in that scenario.
  • Honesty

    • Students in grades K-2 read The Empty Pot by Lauren Berrios and discuss questions like "Are you an honest person? What does that mean?" "Would you admit to a mistake?" and "How can honesty create trusting relationships?"
    • Students in grades 3-5 discuss a news article in which an 11-year-old won $50K for making a hockey shot in a charity fundraiser. The boy's twin brother had actually been the one to make the shot. 
  • Kindness & Gratitude

    • Students in grades K-2 read Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler by Margery Cuyler and explore how acts of kindness at home or school can make a big difference. They also talk about how to react when someone isn't kind to you or others.
    • Students in grades 3-5 discuss how to make meaningful personal connections and engage with others to share and develop ideas. The also explore the concept of gratitude and make gratitude journals in the art studio.
  • Respect

    Students talk about treating others as you would like to be treated. They discuss questions like "How can we honor Martin Luther King Jr.'s wish for a more peaceful world?" "Who are the peace-makers and peace-breakers?" and "How can we show our respect for others?"


In Heartstrings, students develop strategies to deal with academic and emotional challenges, to manage their own learning, and to help their peers. With counselor Ms. Karin Mitchell, students work through lessons to develop empathy and problem-solving skills, and to learn how to handle difficult emotions. This social-emotional curriculum strengthens social responsibility by building a foundation of understanding and respect for others. Session topics include: 
  • Empathy
  • Problem solving
  • Conflict resolution
  • Mindfulness
  • Bullying prevention

Mindfulness for Grades 3-5

Mindfulness is simply being fully aware or paying attention.  It is the awareness of what’s happening in one’s mind and body without resisting it or judging it.  Ultimately being mindful allows one to make conscious proactive choices about all aspects of one’s life.  Introducing elementary-aged children to the concept and practice of mindfulness is both simple and profound at the same time.  Children more naturally take to this idea of being more ‘present’ and embrace practices such as meditation, gratitude, and mindful eating readily and openly. 

At Severn School, students in grades 3rd through 5th are involved in a regular Mindfulness curriculum throughout the year.  Grades 3rd and 4th receive Mindfulness lessons every other week, while 5th grade students have lessons monthly with homework that allows them to really ‘practice’ the specific lesson all month long.  Some benefits of having greater mindfulness include: increased attention and focus, better emotional regulation, improvement in relationships with others, and a feeling of being more empowered over one’s life. 

Helping Hands

In our Helping Hands program, students in the upper elementary grades are paired with students in the lower grades. Throughout the year, Helping Hands meet to work on activities, read together, eat lunch together, attend assemblies together, and more. These relationships give older students an opportunity to practice leadership and act as good role models. Our younger students develop a stronger sense of belonging as they look up to and learn from their older peers. Our students truly value these relationships that often last throughout their years at Severn.

Admiral Attitude

The Admiral Attitude is our honor code; it guides our interactions and responsibilities as members of our community. It lights the way as we help our students develop a sense of empathy and compassion, learn how to work with others, and radiate kindness and camaraderie as we walk the halls together. As Severn Admirals, we do the right thing all the time — even when no one is looking.

List of 1 items.

  • Admiral Beliefs

    Preschool - First Grade
    • I am safe. I will act safely.
    • I belong. You belong. We are a community.
    • I am respected. I will respect you.
    • I will learn. I will help you learn.
    • I will celebrate you and me.
    Second - Fifth Grade
    • I have the right to a safe school; therefore, I have the responsibility to act in a safe manner that supports positive relationships and a positive learning environment.
    • I have the right to belong to my school community; therefore, I have the responsibility to accept and support others in my school community.
    • I have the right to be respected; therefore, I have the responsibility to be respectful to all students, faculty, parents, and guests.
    • I have the right to learn in a manner that promotes creativity and excellence therefore, I have the responsibility to come to school ready to learn and to listen and respect others’ ideas, experiences and learning styles.
    • I have the right to celebrate my achievements; therefore, I have the responsibility to recognize and praise the success of others.

Lower School

Upper School