Upper School English teacher Marcia Flaherty was initially a little nervous about running the Middle Grades Partnership (MGP) during a pandemic. Like so many other programs, MGP, which brings together middle school students from BL and from City Springs in downtown Baltimore for a few weeks each summer, faced the challenge of going virtual to comply with social distancing regulations. Despite the new format, MGP adapted to the situation without missing a beat. Twenty-five students (twenty from City Springs and five from BL) logged in regularly to take part.
This year’s MGP included core academic training in reading, writing, and math, as well as separate health classes for boys and girls. Enrichment classes like Yoga and Fitness, Videography, and a special course on artists from Baltimore also proved popular with students. To supplement the curriculum, MGP took students on “virtual field trips” to an array of interesting destinations: the Smithsonian Ocean Hall, the Grand Canyon, and a virtual amusement park that featured rides on several world-famous roller coasters, and culminated in a Disney Fireworks display.
For Ms. Flaherty and for the students, one of the summer’s true highlights was the speaker series, organized by City Springs English teacher Wyatt Oroke. Each week, local artists (D Watkins, Kenneth Morrison, Black Chakra and many others) told their stories, and shared their creative process. The series, Ms. Flaherty reports, was “informative, energizing, and inspiring for all.”
For Ms. Flaherty, the most gratifying part of the program was the way it brought together students from the two schools, even in spite of the lack of face to face contact.
“Interestingly, the virtual classroom removed [the students’] physical proclivity to sit and congregate in different cliques,” she says, “The BL and CS scholars were actually more collaborative, and formed authentic friendships even in the virtual world. Go figure!”