At Severn School, we are scholars, innovators, athletes, artists and more. We believe in character conduct, scholarship, leadership and service. And most of all, we believe in each other — we are family. These are the stories that tie us together.
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.
Being part of an athletic team at Severn is about much more than playing a sport. It's about learning how to keep going in the face of adversity with the support of your teammates to pull you through. Last week, Severn’s athletic department hosted our Senior Athlete Recognition Assembly on Zoom. With opening remarks from Athletic Director Mr. Julian Domenech '84, the presentation included touching speeches from every coach, highlighting team perseverance and camaraderie — that Admiral spirit we see on and off the field. Although the 2020 spring season was cut much too short, we are grateful to all of our student-athletes for their contributions to Severn’s programs over the past four years.
Each semester, our Lower School student council takes on a service-learning project to support our global or local communities. Part of our leadership program for second through fifth graders, it’s a chance for young students to develop advocacy and organization skills — thinking outside of themselves to make positive change. Most recently, the council wrote thank you notes to Severn parents and alumni who work in healthcare and are dealing with the stress and challenges presented by COVID-19.
It has fast become a tradition for our kindergarten and first-grade students to visit Teel Campus and deliver homemade letters of advice for seniors during their last few weeks of school. It is a beloved event for our community — a bookend to the year that begins with those same students paired together for Convocation. And although we are in remote learning mode, the tradition carries on thanks to our dedicated faculty and students. This past Thursday on Zoom, we watched the kids’ faces light up as over 160 Severn Admirals joined our virtual celebration — we are grateful to each and every one.
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.
The visual and performing arts at Severn are more than outlets for creative expression. They provide a lens through which to view our world with both self-awareness and empathy for others. The ability to express oneself in unique and creative ways is a skill our students need perhaps more now than ever. Held this past Friday through Zoom, our annual Fine Arts Assembly was a chance to celebrate the achievements of our student-artists, together.
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.
Sophomore year is a sweet spot for upper schoolers. They’ve moved past the nerves of freshman life. They have yet to reach the peak of academic rigor typically associated with junior year and college application deadlines haven’t quite come into view. That makes it a great time to think more purposefully about college. To help our students and their families make the most of this time, our college counseling department introduced a new seminar program for all 10th graders this year. The goal is to empower our students with the information they need to make the best choice when the time is right.
Word problems can be intimidating for even the most confident math students. The language is typically complicated and students often don't understand exactly what is being asked. To help our 5th graders tackle word problems and equations with ease, “math missionary” Greg Tang invited Severn to a Zoom workshop last week. The group used number relationships and visual models to make better sense of seemingly complicated math.
Is there any problem or crisis that wouldn’t benefit from simply slowing down and taking a breath...or five? Increasingly, we point to mindfulness as a powerful tool to help students manage stress and reduce anxiety — whether nerves about an upcoming test, an issue with friends, or adjusting to changes in the world around us. But how does it work? Before spring break, our Upper School biology classes conducted some interesting and strikingly relevant research by putting mindfulness and meditation to the test.
The past several weeks have been a storm of uncertainty, presenting challenges that many of us have never faced before. But like a beacon of light through the fog, we find direction and strength in our community. Starting with meetings in early March and through spring break, our faculty and staff worked tirelessly to ensure that we deliver our promise of excellence to families and students while our physical buildings are closed. Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 marked the first official day of comprehensive remote learning for our Lower, Middle and Upper School students. As we navigate through this together, we grow stronger in every way.
Written by Carolyn Campion for the Alchemy issue of The Bridge (abridged version)
For many, the word alchemy conjures up images of wizards, potions and magic. It is the medieval forerunner of chemistry whose practitioners once aimed to convert base metals into gold. But by another definition, alchemy can be viewed as any process through which change or evolution occurs in a seemingly magical and impressive way. Throughout our 105-year history, education at Severn School has continually and intentionally evolved to keep pace in an ever-changing society. What are the elements, the alchemical ingredients, that have helped transform education at Severn into gold?
What makes someone an author? Writing and sharing your stories! Last week, award-winning children’s book author Erica S. Perl took our preschool through second-grade students on a journey through her life as a writer and into the captivating (and hilarious!) characters in her books. With a positive and sincere message, she encouraged our young students to read everything and share their stories no matter how big or small.
Our annual APA Admiral Auction brings together parents, alumni, staff and friends for a special night of fun and fundraising — this single event funds all APA-sponsored extracurricular activities at Severn in addition to teacher wish-list items at the end of the year. While early March rain showers fell outside, our hardworking auction committee transformed the Edward St. John Athletic center into a hip night out in Nashville filled with laughter, toe-tapping music, and a fantastic array of donated items (with plenty of bids to take them home!). Together, we raised over $100,000 for the kids!
Beware the danger of a single story. This concept, inspired by the Pollyanna Racial Literacy Curriculum and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk by the same name, forms the basis for our new 6th-grade class, I.D.E.A.S. (Identity, Diversity, Equity, and Action at Severn). Developed by Middle School History Teacher Ms. Lisa Clarke, the class navigates historical perspectives on race, culture, and inequity in the U.S. through the lens of groups and individuals whose stories have been hidden throughout history.
Each year, art teacher Ms. Yehee Shin searches for exhibits and contests for Middle School artists to show their work. It’s not about competition or determining who is the most talented, it’s about giving our aspiring artists real-world experience in interpreting ideas and creating for a wider audience. Whether it’s a local art show or a nationwide contest, these opportunities motivate our young artists and help build confidence in their abilities. This spring, four of her students will be featured in the Maryland Art Education Association’s quarterly magazine, MAEAGazette.
As blustery winds blow and the temperatures drop, we can’t help but long for the warm days of summer fun. Those carefree days seem lightyears away...bring them a little closer by planning your Summer at Severn! This year we’ve got big news — we’ve added Jumpstart Academic Camps to the lineup! Registration is open and space is limited. Choose your adventure and get ready for the best summer yet.
On February 25th, our Middle School was proud to welcome Brooklyn-based author and educator Taylor Mali to workshop with our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders on performance poetry. The first in our new Writer in Residence program, the daylong event was an inspiration for our budding writers. From choosing meaningful, tangible imagery to adding emphasis with purposeful phrasing and speed, Mr. Mali shared practical tips to help our students make an impact and move the audience.
The Water Street Players have done it again! From mastering the operatic songs of Pirates of Penzance and acrobatic choreography of Chaplin! to capturing the renaissance spirit with Once Upon a Mattress and The Tempest, our Upper School theater troupe sets the bar higher with every performance. Last weekend's Sunday in the Park With George proved to be no exception. When the audience spied the strobe lights and fog warning upon entering Price Auditorium, we knew we were in for an avant-garde treat.
From February 18th-21st, the Zimmerman crew transformed the Teel Campus library into a multimedia celebration of Black authors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers with a culminating read-in event on Friday. Librarians Ms. Whitney Etchison, Ms. Diana Ford, and Ms. Mary Carrington covered the shelves in everything from literary classics to contemporary graphic novels. They filled the walls and windows with artwork and quotes, inviting our Middle and Upper School students to read, interact, observe and share. With comfy seats and quiet nooks around every corner, our students explored the stories of Black Americans throughout history and today.
Friday, February 14th was all about the love at Severn School — our love of lifelong learning! While students enjoyed the day off, faculty and staff gathered on Teel Campus for a morning of workshops to develop new strategies to use in the classroom. These classes were taught by our teachers, for our teachers and included everything from design and computational thinking to mindfulness and inclusivity. Our professional development program supports personal enrichment, encourages collaboration, and provides a platform for our entire community to benefit from the wide-ranging expertise of our exceptional faculty.
Black History Month provides a perfect opportunity to investigate an important segment of the American higher education system – Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Some of these schools date back more than 150 years, so they are undeniably historical. But more importantly, these schools are essential to the fabric of American academia.
On Thursday, January 30, our entire Upper School took a break from their regular class schedules to participate in Unity Day, a school-wide conference focused on bringing our community closer together. The full-day event included a keynote speaker, workshops, and reflection activities — all organized by student leaders from clubs including Multicultural Alliance, Faces of Severn, Umbrella Club, United Spectrum, Supporting Women Across the Globe, and more. Unity Day has fast become a cornerstone of our Upper School community — it’s a forum to discuss big, relevant issues that affect how our students view themselves, each other and the world around them.
Students today are growing up as digital natives — immersed in technology throughout their entire lives. Adults often marvel at how quickly young people pick up a device or app and start using it right away. And complex technology is increasingly designed for the casual user. Anyone can build a website or create a professional-looking video from the palm of their hand. New kid-centric social media apps and games seem to pop up daily. But with that widespread ease of use comes even greater responsibility to teach the kinds of lessons that an app never will. As technology jumps lightyears ahead with advances around every corner, we return to the word “character” that has lived in our mission for over a hundred years.
For our 2020 Dillon Moran Musician in Residence program, New York-based singer-songwriter Mackenzie Shivers joined us for two days of performances and workshops for our Middle and Upper School students with a final show open to Severn families and friends on Friday evening. From Irish music with Chamber Ensemble and vocal training for our choral groups to discussion sessions about songwriting, Mackenzie gave our students a peek into the life of a professional musician, offering practical advice to let their creativity shine.
Striving for perfection is a risky and fruitless pursuit for teens — “perfect” will always be out of reach. Generally, adolescents develop perfectionist tendencies when they feel insecure and seek to deflect that insecurity by presenting to others as flawless. There is little debate that this push and pull can take a considerable emotional toll on any individual. As students emphasize surface achievements such as high grades or college admissions and increasingly compare themselves to others, both perfectionism and anxiety are on the rise.
Early afternoon is a quiet time on Teel Campus. Students work in their classrooms, most visitors have come and gone, and we settle into the peaceful hum that eventually comes each day. But once in a while, something happens that draws us out. There’s a voice. And then another. We peek our heads into the hall and see ten students in the rotunda, singing their hearts out as the warm acoustics amplify the sound. It’s Breakwater, our Upper School a cappella group, and they are bringing popular harmonies to Severn School that stop us in our tracks.
Last week our 6th, 7th, and 8th graders took a break from their regular class schedules for a morning of innovation, collaboration, and fun. Through a technical writing competition, complex engineering challenges, and NASA-inspired problem-solving scenarios, middle schoolers worked in teams to develop the fundamental elements of the innovator's mindset: curiosity, creativity, perseverance, collaboration, and reflection.
Sixth graders face unique challenges during their first year of middle school. They step onto Teel Campus with an influx of new classmates, newfound independence, and high academic expectations, all while managing the dramatic physical and emotional changes of adolescence. Stress and anxiety are normal responses to all of this change, but young students need practical strategies to manage those emotions. Part of our Transition to Teel curriculum, Health and Wellness is a class designed to help our 6th graders understand these changes, self-regulate and advocate for themselves and their peers.
Searching for the right college isn’t always easy. From location to cost and curriculum to culture, each school offers a different mix of what our graduating seniors may (or may not!) want for their futures. With so many factors to consider coupled with natural anxiety about the unknown, it can be all too easy to feel stress rather than excitement about the jump from high school to college. To help ease this transition, a group of Severn alumni visited campus to share words of wisdom with our seniors.