Each year a select group of Severn School seniors embarks on a yearlong project to pursue their interests outside of our regular curriculum. These projects aren’t graded and don’t apply toward graduation requirements, but they offer something quite significant for our students — the chance to explore their passions outside of school but with the support of our community behind them. Sharon Tegler from The Capital Gazette interviewed our 2018 fellows in May just before they presented their completed projects and findings. The following is a reprinted version of her article. See the article in its original location here.
Around the Park: Severn School ‘Fellows’ Independent Projects Fascinate
Though working separately, Severn School seniors Aidan Wang ‘18, Jake Wilson ‘18, Yasmeen Meek ‘18, Jimmy Diamondidis ‘18 and Benjamin Carsley ‘18 came together this May to discuss progress on the Van Eney Fellows Program projects they’ll present before an audience of family, faculty and students on May 29.
The students applied for the independent study program at the end of junior year and were chosen Fellows based on their proposals, passion and determination to accomplish their goals. Matched with mentors, they were required to accomplish 40 percent of their work over the summer and to complete the remaining 60 percent during senior year.
Jake’s fascination with science, technology and astronomy motivated him to build a Dobsonian telescope for his project. He based his design on the reflector telescope developed by John Dobson in the 1960s that revolutionized amateur telescope making.
“I’m creating a telescope that’s portable and cheap to build with a 12.5-inch mirror that focuses light through eyepieces and lenses to produce a sharp image,” Jake said.
Finished the design phase and into the building stage, he’s attending class at the Foundery Makers Space in Baltimore to acquire the computer numerical control routing/cutting skills needed to finish. This autumn, he’ll attend the University of Maryland majoring in aerospace engineering or computer science.
Yasmeen’s approach to science was broader.
“Over the summer, I developed an after-school science program that I ran during first semester at the Stanton Center off West Street in Annapolis,” she said. “Because women don’t currently make up an equivalent amount of the STEM workforce, I wanted to work locally to improve their participation nationally. So I targeted my program specifically toward girls from kindergarten to eighth grade.”
Yasmeen said she’s found younger girls have an equal amount of interest in science as boys until they reach middle school age. She hoped that by making each part of her curriculum fun, she could sustain those girls’ interest. Though planning to study political science at Tufts University, she’ll continue encouraging girls to pursue science.
Jimmy has a passion for theater so he wrote, scripted, edited, rehearsed and produced a play for his Fellows project. Following “grueling rehearsals”, his play debuted April 13 before a large audience. The production featured the madcap antics of two couples at a dinner party and was well received. Jimmy will pursue his theatrical aspirations at Harvard University this fall.
Citing a lack of education about Asian cultures, Aidan developed an online history course on “modern” Chinese history. His course begins with the end of China’s last Imperial “Qing” dynasty in 1912 and moves forward through the conflict between the Nationalists and the Communists during World War II, Mao Tse-tung’s chaotic reign and “cultural revolution,” and ends in1992 when Deng Xiaoping stepped down after Tiananmen Square. Wang analyzes the challenges China faced trying to reinvent itself during the 20th century. At Brown University next year, he’ll major in history.
Benjamin’s curiosity about the spoken word was the impetus for his Fellows project — an etymology podcast exploring the origin of language.
“I decided to explore how words could be used as a pedagogical tool to teach history and philosophy and present the results of my research as a lecture-based course,” he said. “Instead of writing an online history, I chose to produce a SoundCloud podcast focused on the cultural development and broader philosophy of language.”
Benjamin received guidance for his project from St. John’s College which he’ll be attending this fall.
About the Van Eney ‘09 Fellows Program at Severn School
The Van Eney ′09 Fellows Program at Severn School is a program based on the pillars of individual passion, scholarship, and inquiry that enables Severn School seniors to transcend the traditional academic program with a year-long intellectual pursuit that reflects their growing interests and passions. The selected Fellows are provided an opportunity to pursue their passions for the experience and the intangible rewards of learning for learning’s sake and personal growth.