A strong school community is one that knows and values every person — one that encourages thoughtful interactions from discussions in the classroom to strategy on the field. In a strong school community, every event and program is intentionally planned to bring students closer together while providing unique ways to develop and apply essential skills. In that spirit, the Upper School Academic Council sponsored our first Severn Film Fest, a day for building relationships across grade levels and social groups while getting creative and having a lot of fun.
Admiral Community Day
Each year, we set aside a day in September to step outside of our class schedules and work toward a common goal. With themes inspired by literature and innovation, Admiral Community Day encourages students and teachers to engage with one another in a collaborative setting that pushes our social and intellectual boundaries.
Severn Film Fest was our first Admiral Community Day centered around film. Before the event, teachers selected films that were meaningful to them in some way and students chose films from that list to review, discuss, and use as inspiration for a collaborative project. The goal of the film fest was to create an interactive experience around our love of films, prompt meaningful dialogue and build technical skills — without the pressure of grades and formal evaluation.
From Analysis to Production
We began the day with viewing and discussion sessions to get students thinking critically about the composition, overall messaging and tone of their chosen films. The groups talked about how narrative fiction is commonly structured with three acts — setup, confrontation, and resolution — and how filmmakers portray that arc in different ways. Teachers encouraged the groups to think about all of this while they watched, prompting with questions like:
What are the three acts of the movie?
What transformations occurred, or what message(s) did this film send?
What tone is the movie trying to set?
After watching and analyzing each film, students were assigned different groups to plan, shoot and edit a five-minute trailer featuring a given genre, character and prop. Groups included two students from each grade allowing upperclassmen to take on leadership roles while giving underclassmen a chance to bond with their older peers. Required project goals included:
Brainstorm the plot and story
Determine the roles of team members (writers, actors, directors, editors, PR persons)
Create a shot list of scenes
Script the dialogue and action
Act out and shoot each scene
Edit the footage using iMovie and upload to a shared drive for review
Create an 11x17 promotional poster using digital or traditional design materials.
This project mimics the type of real-life challenges adults face in the working world with focused goals, a clear (and short!) deadline, limited materials and a team of people with different levels of expertise. Amidst all the fun, students had to organize and work together, developing communication, project management, and presentation skills along the way. As Upper School Head Steven Soden remarked, “Practical applications and moments when students learn without knowing they are learning are often the most effective.”
An Evolving Program
Admiral Community Day takes a different shape each year as the Upper School Academic Council works to create programs that are relevant and interesting for our students, promote empathy and understanding, and provide real-life scenarios for students to use and develop the skills they learn in the classroom. The more opportunities our students have to work together, learn about one another, and engage in authentic experiences, the stronger our community becomes.