Severn News

Middle School Kicks Off the Year With Collaboration and Innovation

An annual tradition, the entire Middle School joined together for Get Acquainted Day... but this year with a twist! We paired our annual community-building activities with a cross-grade level innovation challenge. From navigating obstacle courses and storytelling to testing our engineering skills, this was a perfect way to kick off a great year of learning and growing together.

Let’s Get to Know Each Other!

Get Acquainted Day (GAD) is organized by middle school teacher Ms. Diana Talbott and the Community Life Committee. With "collaboration" as the overall theme for this year, every fun-filled activity required our students to listen, share and work as a team.
Severn School middle school students working together.
Can you build a tower out of cups using only strings and your teammates? No hands!
Severn School middle school students helping blindfolded partners walk outside.
Helping blindfolded partners through an obstacle “minefield” using only verbal directions.
Following the whirlwind of morning activities, the entire Middle School gathered in Price auditorium. This reflection time is important for students to think about their own experience and also practice listening to others. Ms. Talbott asked students from each grade to answer questions like:
  • What does collaboration mean to you?
  • What is the hardest part of collaborating with others?
  • How was collaboration important for the activities?
GAD helps forge a sense of camaraderie that is important for our students’ social and emotional development. It’s just one example of how community building and purposeful reflection are part of our every day in Middle School. 
Severn School middle school gather for a group meeting.
Group reflection time in Price Auditorium.

And Now It’s Time to Innovate!

After our GAD activities and lunch provided by the Teel Campus APA, our students broke up into mixed grade level groups to tackle engineering challenges during Middle School Innovates 2018.

Director of Innovative and Entrepreneurial Programs Ms. Kelly Wilson organized this program to introduce our students to collaborative design thinking with real-world context. Each team of 5-6 was given two challenges to complete within an hour.

Challenge #1. Design and build a support tower for a solar heat collector. Solar heat towers have both reflectors that collect energy and a collector which stores it. In this challenge students had to build the tallest tower possible that would hold a solar power collector (tennis ball).
Severn School middle school students build a tower out of pipe cleaners.
Challenge #2. Design and build a robot arm. Engineers and scientists often have to work in dangerous areas and need tools to handle toxic or fragile materials. In this challenge, students had to build a robot arm that could support and move a water bottle at a certain distance away from the body.
Severn School middle school students build a robot arm with every day materials.
For both challenges, students had a limited amount of everyday materials like paper clips, rubber bands, pipe cleaners and twine — each with an assigned cost. The teams were judged not only by whether they could complete the challenges, but if they could do so with the least amount of wasted time and resources.
“I want them to understand that in the real world, you can’t just build without constraints. There has to be a rationale behind the choices that you make." — Ms. Wilson
This is the first of many opportunities for our Middle School students to practice design and innovative thinking. Ms. Wilson offers skills workshops in the Graw Innovation Center throughout the year and works closely with teachers to create dynamic lessons that inspire our students to plan, create, and iterate their way through any problem.


Lower School

Upper School