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.
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). It comprises an 8-acre, 40-initiative Challenge Course with aerial, low element, and group activities, founded as one of the first 12 in the country. Begun in 1974, and developed since, our course was on the cover of National Geographic World in 1978 and passed the internationally used ACCT standards for design, performance, and inspection in 2014. Park’s Challenge Course is unique within the Maryland Independent Schools network and contributes to academic, social-emotional, and leadership development. It is one of few confidence courses in the country originally 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:
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 10’ wall, Challenge 1 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.
Challenge Leadership 1-2
This class is offered to those Middle and Upper School students who have completed Challenge 1 and are interested in exploring their personal leadership style and becoming a Challenge leader. Participants learn technical skills to safely facilitate the initiatives on the Challenge course, as well as explore group dynamics, techniques for leading group discussions, and develop their own personal leadership style.
These students are individuals who have successfully completed Challenge Leadership 1 and 2, followed by two additional semesters working alongside a senior Black Helmet Leader. They volunteer to facilitate the Challenge I class and outreach workshops.
Low initiative programs are conducted with KIPP Ujima Academy, Afya School, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, John’s Hopkins Biomedical Containment Unit, Park School’s Parents’ Association, Upper School Physics Classes, Baltimore Policy Youth Academy, Foreign Exchange Students, and Shank’s Mare Outfitters. 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, and learning how to collectively problem solve.
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 recognize and assume shared 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. In addition, students have service learning opportunities through civic engagement days, Advoc8, and clubs that allow them to support local non profits.
Moreover, 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 immigration, pollution, and mass incarceration issues, to name a few.
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 auditioned ensembles have many performances throughout the year including assemblies, concerts, the Hershey Park Festival of Music in the spring, and a variety of Park community events. They are as follows:
The B#s is our Middle School auditioned, soprano, alto, baritone, a cappella group. They work on advanced choral repertoire and have more performance opportunities than the Middle Cs. The group rehearses for one hour, once a week, on Wednesdays from 7:30–8:20 a.m.
Big Band Jazz Ensemble
This 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.
This concert band explores a variety of styles and arrangements specifically tailored for brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. In addition to work on traditional band repertoire, the group will also work on adaptations of folk and pop music, focusing on refining their sound and playing as a unit. The band meets Tuesdays from 7:30-8:20 a.m.
Chamber Strings performs advanced popular arrangements, chamber orchestra, and small chamber group repertoire for a variety of events throughout the school year. Students auditioning for the Chamber Strings should have at least one year of experience on their instrument and, if in sixth or seventh grade, be enrolled in the Strings class. This group meets on Tuesdays from 7:30–8:20 a.m.
Modern Music Band
This auditioned group is comprised of vocalists and instrumentalists who are enrolled in private lessons or have two or more years of experience. Students in this group will work through more repertoire and will practice their stage presence at various performances throughout the year. This group’s repertoire is modern music from rock to funk to soul. It meets Thursdays from 7:30-8:20 a.m.
The objectives of the Interscholastic Sports Program are:
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. Practices consist of continued fundamental skill work coupled with more complex, game-oriented drills and scrimmages.
The following interscholastic sports are offered:
Student Government organizes social events, some community service, and other issues of concern to the general student body. The Government is made up of four elected officers and representatives from each grade. Meetings occur on a bi-weekly basis or more frequently, as needed.
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: Winter Camping in West Virginia, Street Art and Advocacy, Write a Play for Center Stage, Edible Art, 3-D Printing and CAD, Hack Your Teddy Bear, Wood and Metalworking, Futsal, Nature Photography, and My Money, My Future.
Outdoor education trips at Park aim to strengthen the social, emotional, moral, and practical dimensions of each student’s character, simultaneously providing opportunities to extend classroom learning. Our program is designed to create transformational moments in children 11-14 years old by taking students briefly beyond their comfort zones to a space where adaptation to changing circumstances is required for success, the confidence to thrive in unfamiliar situations is discovered, and bonds of community are deepened.
Outdoor trips are significant experiences in Middle School life. Every effort is made to accommodate the individual needs of a child and safely manage medical conditions. Students’ participation is deeply valued and participation is expected.
Sixth Grade Fall Teambuilding Trip
Early in the fall, the sixth grade students travel to Outward Bound at Leakin Park for community and teamwork building activities.
Sixth Grade Spring Ecology Trip
In May, the sixth grade camps at Sandy Point State Park for two nights and spends each day visiting the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and Annapolis Maritime Museum to perform ecological studies linked to the Chesapeake Watershed and bay health. The trip is an extension of sixth grade science and the grade theme of community. Cooperation, academics, and maintaining community within the sixth grade are central to the trip and reinforced 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 Fall Museum Trip
In October, students choose to visit one of several museums to explore primary sources of America’s national identity. Locations include the National African American Museum of History and Culture, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Newseum, National Gallery of Art, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, and others.
Seventh Grade Spring Social Justice Trip
In the spring, the seventh grade travels to Washington County, staying near historic Harpers Ferry. Students 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 Fall Social and Emotional Intelligence Retreat
In the fall, the eighth grade retreats to River Valley Ranch (RVR) for a two-day workshop
on the fundamentals of social and emotional intelligence. Through a frame of adventure programming, students experience team, group, and individual games that explore the dynamics of inter-and intra-personal relationships, value clarification, and self awareness. The goal of this trip is to strengthen students’ connections with classmates and enrich their affective skills.
Eighth Grade Spring End-of-Year Retreat
In June, the eighth grade returns to River Valley Ranch for a guided reflection on their journey through Middle School in both fun and thoughtful ways. Activities include journaling, performing tableaus, reprising cherished school songs, and RVR-led programming.
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.
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.
Students participate in Advoc8, a multi-disciplinary project designed for students to use skills and knowledge developed during Middle School in order to take on roles as advocates for change. During Advoc8, students choose a topic about which they are passionate and, with faculty and peer collaboration, create an individualized or group project that culminates in the creation of authentic, innovative, solution-oriented advocacy.