Special Programs and Activities

The Middle School sets aside time outside the classroom to expose students to new ideas and experiences. Co-curricular activities, a three-season competitive sports program, overnight grade-level trips, parent- and school-sponsored social events, and Exploratory Learning Week give students a chance to explore activities or topics that could spark new interests or identify new talents.

Middle School students have the opportunity to sign up for a variety of activities which meet during Activity Time and occasionally after school. Some activities last the entire year while other activities last a quarter or a semester. In addition to the activities already offered, students are encouraged to pursue their own interests and organize an activity themselves. 

Special Program and Activities

Appalachian Challenge®

Appalachian Challenge® is Park’s nationally recognized outdoor education program. A major component of the program is the Challenge course (sometimes called a high and low ropes course). When initiated in 1974, Park’s program was one of 12 in the country. The course is one of the first and largest in the mid-Atlantic region, and is likely the only high and low confidence course in the country entirely constructed, maintained, and facilitated by students. Appalachian Challenge is an exciting aspect of the Middle School curriculum. Several of the goals of the program are:

  1. To have students explore the world around and within themselves through physical, social, and emotional endeavors;
  2. to enhance their skills of communication, cooperation, and trust through group problem solving;
  3. to increase the participants' comfort level in the outdoors.

Challenge 1
Students are required to take Challenge 1 at some point during their Middle School career. It is offered in the fall, winter, and spring on a trimester basis. In this class, students explore the themes of community, identity, and advocacy by engaging in group games and activities on the challenge course. Whether they are sneaking through the Spider’s Web without waking the dozing arachnid, traversing the Pig’s Trough using force laws, or ascending up and over the 8’ wall, Challenge I participants utilize the resources of their peers to accomplish difficult tasks. Through this process, they explore group dynamics and communication by identifying roles within a group as well as their own, often undiscovered, individual strengths and talents. As the class progresses, there are opportunities for participants to tackle the challenges of high initiatives, including zip lines, swings, and climbing towers. 

Challenge Leadership 1-2
This class is offered to those Middle and Upper School students who have completed Challenge I and are interested in developing their leadership skills and becoming a Challenge leader. Participants learn technical skills to safely facilitate the initiatives on the Challenge course, as well as explore group dynamics and expertly lead group discussions. 

Student Leaders
These students are individuals who have successfully completed Challenge Leadership 1 and 2, plus two additional semesters working alongside a Yellow Helmet Leader. They sign up to facilitate the Challenge I class or any of the outreach workshops.  

Outreach
Low initiative programs have been conducted for Southwest Baltimore Charter School, Baltimore City Police Youth Academy, Afya Public Charter School, visiting Spanish and French exchange students, and many others. Outreach workshops are also conducted for new Middle School and Upper School Park students during orientation, new Park parents, and Park School faculty and staff. Park Lower School students get involved in Challenge with workshops, supporting studies in bridge building and ancient machines, and learning how to work together cooperatively to solve problems.

Civic Engagement and Service Learning

Service Learning has been part of the Middle School program in one form or another since the Middle School was established. It teaches students in a practical way to assume responsibility for their immediate environment and the community at large, fostering greater maturity, self-awareness, and cooperation among students.

Students and teachers care for their school environment by sharing routine daily maintenance in the classrooms and in the cafeteria after lunch. Increasingly, faculty look for ways to integrate service learning into their curricula. For example, in recent years students have created public service announcements for the Middle School community and sixth grade students have volunteered at local community gardens, which related to a class text.

All eighth grade students participate in the Advoc8 program. After first volunteering at local organizations and learning about ways to address social issues, students then develop and execute their own advocacy projects that reflect personal interests while meeting community needs. Recent projects have focused on literacy, pollution, and mass incarceration issues, to name a few.

Additionally, there are service learning opportunities through clubs and the annual Day of Civic Engagement. 

Co-Curricular Activities

Middle School students have the opportunity to sign up for a variety of activities that meet during activity time and occasionally after school. Some activities last the entire year; other activities run for approximately half the school year. Students are encouraged to pursue their own interests and organize an activity themselves, but will need to find an adult to sponsor them and to let students know it is being offered. We ask that once students have signed up for an activity, they continue with it for at least six to eight weeks.

Middle School students may audition for a variety of advanced ensembles that meet before or after school and last the entire year. These are the groups that will prepare for the Hershey Park Festival of Music in the spring. They are as follows:

ADVANCED CONCERT BAND

This concert band explores a variety of styles and arrangements specifically tailored for brass, woodwind, and percussion. In addition to work on traditional band repertoire, the group will also learn contemporary pep band and look at traditional American jazz bands (think New Orleans!). The band meets Tuesdays from 7:30-8:20 a.m.

ADVANCED JAZZ ENSEMBLE

This auditioned group focuses on learning jazz vocabulary and polishing arrangements to achieve an authentic jazz style. Students in this group must either be enrolled in private lessons or play in the Advanced Concert Band. Rehearsals are Thursday from 7:30-8:20 a.m.

B#s

The B#s is an auditioned Middle School chorus that meets weekly, on Wednesday morning from 7:30-8:20 a.m. Any Middle School student may audition for the group. The B#s learn about and perform music in a variety of musical styles, from classical to “pop.” Each semester, students aim to master challenging three- or four-part pieces. Students will also be given the opportunity to learn about, and experiment with, arranging their own piece of music. The goal of this chorus is to provide worthwhile musical challenges and to allow students to experience the unique joy of making music with others.

BIG BAND

This non-auditioned group learns music from the classic era of jazz and explores contemporary styles. Playing traditional and non-traditional jazz instruments, students focus on improvisation and authentic engagement. Rehearsals are Friday from 3:15-4:15 p.m.

MODERN MUSIC BAND

This auditioned group is comprised of vocalists and instrumentalists who are either in B#, the Advanced Jazz Ensemble, or Advanced Concert Band. This group’s repertoire is modern music from rock to funk to soul. It meets Fridays from 4:15-5:15 p.m.

STRING ENSEMBLE

In this Ensemble, students will focus on chamber music repertoire and will have the opportunity to arrange pieces for the sixth and seventh grade ensemble performance. Students auditioning for the String Ensemble should have one year of experience on their instrument and, if in sixth or seventh grade, be enrolled in the Strings class. This group will meet on Tuesdays from 7:30 –8:20 a.m. 

Interscholastic Sports

The objectives of the Interscholastic Sports Program are:  

  1. To give students thorough knowledge of the rules and strategies of each sport; 
  2. to develop in students both the desire to compete to the best of their ability and an understanding of the importance of team play; 
  3. to help students learn from the experiences of victory and defeat;
  4. to develop a skill set within a sport to prepare students for high school competition.  

Students sign up for teams before each season and compete at the A, B, or C level. Coaches attempt to play every child as much as possible, without sacrificing overall team performance. Practices are held Monday-Friday (for A teams) and Monday-Thursday (for B and C teams) from 3:30-4:30 p.m. (winter: 3-4 p.m.). Practices consist of continued fundamental skill work coupled with more complex, game-oriented drills and scrimmages.

The following interscholastic sports are offered: 

  Fall Winter Spring
Girls'
  • Cross Country
  • Field Hockey
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Lacrosse
  • Softball
Boys'
  • Cross Country
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Lacrosse
  • Baseball
Coed  
  • Squash
  • Tennis

 

Student Government

The government is made up of four elected officers, representatives from each grade level, and two faculty advisers. Meetings occur bi-weekly, with executive meetings on the alternate weeks. The government is responsible for voicing student opinion, organizing social events, coordinating service projects, publicizing community activities, fundraising, working with the Parents' Association, and mentoring new faculty and students. New officers are elected each spring for the following year.

Recent Activities

A sampling of recent activities offered in Park's Middle School:

  • Asian culture club
  • Poetry club
  • Sustainability club
  • Brain puzzles
  • Tech crew
  • Shakespeare troupe
  • Pétanque
  • Latin dancing
  • Darfur group
  • Partners at Park
  • Outdoor games
  • Gay-straight alliance
  • Robotics
  • Crochet and knitting
  • Meditation
  • Cheerleading
  • Doodle club
  • Habitat for Humanity

Special Programs

EXPLORATORY LEARNING WEEK

At the end of the first semester, Park’s Middle School students participate in Exploratory Learning Week. Faculty, parents, and administrators lead week-long classes and workshops that offer students an opportunity to explore interesting topics, learn new skills, and engage in a range of activities that differ from our regular academic program. Students choose from nearly 50 offerings and the week concludes with a theatrical production by the eighth grade production class. 

The following is a sampling of previous topics: Fun with Programmable Robots, Criminal Justice System, Computational Linguistics, American Sign Language, Animation: Old Meets New, Comic Basics, Winter Camping in West Virginia, Weight Training and Running, and Box Soccer. 

SIXTH GRADE ASSATEAGUE / CHINCOTEAGUE TRIP

Early in the fall, the sixth grade travels to Assateague and Chincoteague Islands for three days of science study and community building. Lodging indoors (with the option of camping), sixth graders on the trip study barrier island ecology and the life and work of its people through multi-cultural and historic lenses. They explore the salt and freshwater marshes on foot, participate in a marine science research vessel trip, and bike through the wildlife refuge with nature guides. Team building and creating community within the sixth grade are central to the trip, and transpire through cooperative cooking, team building games, and community reflection. The sixth grade is accompanied by a trained team of eighth grade peer leaders and committed faculty.

SEVENTH GRADE WASHINGTON COUNTY TRIP

In the spring, the entire seventh grade travels to Washington County, staying near historic Harpers Ferry. Students will camp, cook, and practice civic service while living together and engaging in place-based learning activities designed around, and integrated with, their seventh grade curricula in social studies, language arts, and science. Additionally, they hike Maryland Heights, navigating by map, analyzing military strategy, and exploring the geography of lands upon which the American Civil War unfolded.

EIGHTH GRADE EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE RETREAT

This retreat is a two-day immersion into the understanding of the fundamental tenets of emotional intelligence. This class trip usually takes place in mid-October. Through structured workshops involving mini-lectures, film clips, and interactive exercises, students engage with each other to promote self-awareness and constructive interpersonal relationships. This overnight event involves a combination of individual work, as well as small and large group activities that will strengthen their connection with classmates and enrich their affective skills. Parents attend an evening presentation a week before the trip to hear an overview of the complete schedule and activities offered. Middle School faculty chaperone this retreat and teach all curricular material.

EIGHTH GRADE END OF YEAR RETREAT

This overnight camping retreat gives students a chance to reflect on their Middle School experience in both fun and thoughtful ways. Students travel to Shepherdstown, W.Va. and paddle the Potomac River. The evening passes making music together and writing skits that reflect on the highlights of their Middle School experience.

Special Projects

Each year, the Middle School sponsors special projects focusing on particular subject areas. Speakers may be invited to talk to students, or student projects may be displayed or presented to provide a sense of the breadth of a particular subject area.

SIXTH GRADE SOCIAL STUDIES

The Baltimore Communities Project, which takes place in the spring, is designed to teach sixth grade students basic research skills and guide them through the research process. Working collaboratively in groups, students will learn in-depth about a Baltimore community, exercise problem-solving skills, and present what they have learned using a variety of media.

SEVENTH GRADE ACTIVIST MONUMENTS

As a culmination of their work, each seventh grade student writes a research paper on an activist who sought to change an injustice. The students also create monuments symbolizing their activists or the injustice, which are on display for a short time.

EIGHTH GRADE ADVOC8

Advoc8 is a year-long project designed for students to use skills and knowledge developed during Middle School to take on roles as advocates for change. During Advoc8, students choose a topic they are passionate about and, with faculty and peer collaboration, create an individualized or group project that culminates in the creation of authentic, innovative, solution-oriented advocacy.