Award-winning author Jason Reynolds, appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress, has an unmistakable writer's voice. He speaks to young adults through the triumphs and struggles of his characters, capturing the attention of even the most reluctant readers. For our second annual All Middle School Read, our teachers and students read his 2019 novel Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks. To bring this experience even closer to home for our students, Mr. Reynolds visited Severn to talk about his life, his writing process, and of course, his books.
We did it. We made it through. We not only survived, we thrived. From hybrid learning and quarantines through the fall and winter to welcoming each grade back to campus in full and resuming in-person gatherings this spring, this year was a roller coaster of challenges and triumphs, loss and laughter, struggle and growth. As we bid a fond farewell to the 20-21 school year, we pause to celebrate milestone moments in our students' lives with graduation and promotion ceremonies, thankfully held in person with guests. Reflecting on the many ways in which the past year kept us apart, we can say with certainty that Severn Admirals are better together.
Community Life offers a platform for middle schoolers to both celebrate and improve student life at Severn. Students join the club to practice advocacy and leadership and to discuss what it means to be part of a community by exploring topics like civility, equality, inclusivity, and more. This year, the club took on two major initiatives to promote a culture of belonging in our Middle School through assessment and action: a DEI survey and a kid-friendly collection of DEI resources for their peers to easily access. With the support of faculty advisor Ms. Whitney Etchison, the club demonstrated that good leadership comes from asking thoughtful questions, listening with empathy, and acting with intention.
Severn is known for a lot of things — dedicated teachers, impressive arts programs, and strong sports teams — but a lesser-known standout is our Battle of the Books teams! Started by a group of AIMS (Association of Independent Maryland & D.C. Schools) librarians ten years ago, Battle of the Books is designed to motivate students to read quality, diverse literature and to boost deep reading skills for comprehension. For the second year in a row, the event went virtual and after months of meetings and preparation, our Lower and Middle School readers were ready to compete with students from Anne Arundel County and Baltimore.
The 8th-grade musical is a milestone for our middle schoolers. Eighth graders hone their theater chops all year to put on a dazzling spring performance for the entire school, family, and friends. But with restrictions in place, separate cohorts, and limitations on visitors, our Middle School performing arts crew had to figure out a way to turn this tradition on its head. Under the guidance of drama coaches extraordinaire Ms. Cathy Hewitt Carper '81 and Ms. Kathleen Donovan, along with the audio recording expertise of music teacher Mr. Kirk McAuliffe, our 8th graders adapted three hilarious stage plays into one of the fastest growing media formats out there. Drumroll please . . . presenting the first-ever Severn School 8th-grade audio series, Podcasts With Fairy Tale Twists! Bravo to the vocal stylings of the class of 2025!
Public speaking is a challenge, even for the most seasoned pros. It involves a complex set of skills, hours of preparation, and the courage to share your voice with an audience. Every fall, our 8th graders face this challenge head-on with the 8th grade speech assignment. Many say this is one of the biggest challenges of their middle school experience, but also the most satisfying.
For 6th, 7th and 8th graders, art class is an introduction to the elements and principles of art in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional formats. And each fall our Middle School artists take over the McCleary Gallery to show their peers and visitors the skills they have developed since the beginning of the year. From self-portraits to sculpture, every project helps our students learn to communicate their unique creative ideas and make broader connections to the world around them.
At the recent Student Council Induction Ceremony, our newly-elected class presidents delivered compelling speeches on service, adaptation, and change, both in-person and remotely. Organized by council advisor and history teacher Mr. Curran, the ceremony was broadcast on Zoom for the entire community to watch from advisory classrooms or home. Their speeches addressed the many challenges of this school year while invoking a sense of hope and unity for our Middle School.
Stories help readers develop empathy. And when an entire community reads the same story at the same time, it's an opportunity to combat intolerance, foster belonging, and explore themes that might otherwise feel intimidating or risky. When empathy and understanding seem to be in short supply around the world, our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders came together, remote and in-person, for our first All Middle School Read with Jerry Craft's award-winning graphic novel, New Kid.
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.
Guest article by Teel Campus Associate Librarian Ms. Diana Ford
Remote learning presented a new challenge for the Battle of the Books 2020, for participants and organizers alike. Typically, students from area schools meet together for this quiz-bowl competition that digs into a fantastic selection of books for young readers. This year, the tournament was virtual. And although the teams couldn’t meet in person, the event proved that our students have a passion for reading (and competing!) no matter the format.
Fitness is a big part of daily life at Severn School. From PE classes and recess to sports teams and clubs, being active and outdoors is something we greatly value in every grade. In addition to the proven physical and mental health benefits of exercise, fitness teaches lessons in character, teamwork, perseverance, safe risk-taking, self-confidence, and more. And although we are not physically on campus together, our values haven’t changed. Severn teachers, coaches, and athletic trainers are keeping us healthy and active during remote learning, raising our collective spirits with creativity, commitment, and love for the kids.