student working on a laptop


Middle School Transition Ceremony

News Type:  EMS Date:  Friday, June 11, 2021

Landmark Middle School students had a beautiful, in-person Transition Ceremony on Friday, June 11, 2021.  After a year of uncertainty due to COVID-19, the teachers and students commented on how well everyone has adapted this year. From hybrid with remote days to fully in-person, teacher and students alike, have been impressed with the flexibility, perseverance, creativity, and positivity of their community. That being said, everyone was glad to have an in-person celebration to cap their eighth grade year.

"Despite all the challenges of the year, this is a chance to celebrate student’s accomplishments and hard work, and how adaptable they have been," said Ms. Polvinen. "You can feel the buzz of how much they are looking forward to this culminating experience."

While the Middle School Transition Ceremony looked a little different this year, many remarked about how much they liked it. Students gathered in the gym to get ready and then walked down to Swanson Field amid cheers and clapping from their teachers and lower grade students. On the field, eighth graders sat with their family pods and listened to inspiring speeches from their teachers fellow students.

Families, students, faculty, and staff all enjoyed this celebration honoring what makes Landmark such a special and impactful place.

Peruse through a photo gallery of the day.


Key Ceremony at Landmark EMS

News Type:  EMS Date:  Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Elementary•Middle School community gathered for a new twist on its annual Key Ceremony. Instead of one big ceremony with all of the elementary classes, each class held its own ceremony over the course of a week. These more intimate gatherings included students, their guests, and teachers. Teachers commented how nice it was to have a smaller ceremony that gave them time to connect with each of the families.

During the ceremony, elementary students were recognized for their patriotism, responsibility, courage, and many more qualities with "keys." 

"I’m hoping to get the 'persistence' key," Riley, an elementary student, commented, "Because it is purple."

Kenyon, a father of one of the students, said, "We are so happy to be on campus to celebrate in-person and watch our students continue to grow and flourish."

Ms. Sullivan, Head of the Elementary•Middle School, has this to say about the ceremonies, "This year's Elementary Key Ceremony, held as eight intimate class ceremonies over the course of the week, was nothing short of remarkable. The elementary teachers described each of their students in such profoundly touching ways. The personalized remarks aptly illustrated the connections they all created in their classrooms despite the challenges and obstacles of teaching through a pandemic. It was also a wonderful sight to have families physically present on our campus as they have been an integral part of our success this year in particular."

Families, students, faculty, and staff all enjoyed this celebration that illustrates what makes Landmark such a special and impactful place.

Peruse through a photo gallery of the ceremonies.


Middle School Launches a Book Club

News Type:  EMS Date:  Friday, March 5, 2021

Middle School Academic Advisor Debbie Chandler started a book club for students this winter. The club is reading Torrey Maldonado's What Lane?, a coming-of-age story about a boy of mixed race. Topics include race, prejudice, racism, and white allyship. Members of the club meet after reading several chapters of the book.

About 30 faculty members have volunteered to record themselves reading a chapter of the book so students can listen to the book if they choose.

The Black Lives Matter movement motivated Chandler to start the book club. "I am a white teacher working at a school where the majority of our student population is white," she said. "I thought discussing this book with students would play a part in showing our school's commitment to anti-racism."

Chandler hopes the book club provides students an opportunity to discuss diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as time to socialize.

cover of what lane



Learning to Navigate Race-Related Topics with Students

News Type:  EMS Date:  Friday, February 12, 2021 Byline:  By Jennifer Schley-Johnson and Laura Polvinen

In the fall, several members of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at the Elementary•Middle School attended a valuable workshop, The ABCs of Racism, offered by Wee the People. This training inspired committee members to share a recap of several of the important takeaways from the workshop. In January, more than 20 faculty members gathered virtually in the evening to learn more, and a teacher in-service training day followed, with about 30 faculty members participating.

During this training, participants reflected on their own realization of racial identity and examined the research on the development of racial biases in children. Some of the discussion centered on the concept of how color blindness upholds racism, and faculty explored possible ways to integrate the discussion of race and naming skin color into the classroom. Finally, participants learned and practiced utilizing the ACT (Affirm-Counter-Transform) framework. ACT is a research-informed approach developed by the Center for Social Inclusion that uses empathetic and strategic communication to address topics related to race, racial identity, and racism. Participants discussed ways to use this framework to help navigate uncomfortable or complex race-related topics that come up with students, with the goal of advancing racial equity, thereby creating a more safe, inclusive environment for all at EMS. 

Learn more about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives at Landmark School.

black lives matter woodworking sign

Winter Fest

News Type:  EMS Date:  Monday, December 14, 2020

The annual Fall Festival at the Elementary•Middle School was put on ice this year because of the pandemic, but students were not denied an activity-packed celebration. Fall Fest morphed into Winter Fest, which took place on two Fridays in December to accommodate the two-pod format.

Students were treated to decadent hot chocolate, garnished with chocolate chips, marshmallows, and whipped cream, and hot, buttery popcorn. An assortment of hands-on, winter-themed activities kept students and faculty engaged and entertained. Activities included a photo booth, freeze dance, reading by the fire, snowman and mini-sled making, basketball shooting contest, corn hole, and more!

"It’s fun to see teachers I haven’t seen in a while," said Caroline, a fifth-grade student. Judging by the participation and the bright eyes (masks hid smiles), Winter Fest was a big hit for both students and faculty.

"Winter Fest was a success! The day highlighted once again how special, flexible and dynamic our faculty and staff are. Because of their willingness to step in and support this special event the students were able to have positive experiences," said Tara Joly-Lowdermilk, the assistant dean of students. "Given the changes and restrictions that we've experienced this year, Winter Fest gave campus a more 'normal' feel. While we still enforced and followed safety guidelines, kids were able to be with their friends, playing games, listening to music, enjoying special treats, and creating pieces of art to take home. Winter Fest gave the students the opportunity to come together outside of their academic classes and have a chance to 'see' each other."

ems sled making winter fest


Bringing Government to Life

News Type:  EMS Date:  Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Students in Amy Conant and Liz Scola's classes were treated to a first-hand lesson in government in early November, when Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken visited the Elementary•Middle School via Google Meet.

"We have been studying U.S. government, and our goal was to bring this subject to life through a living visit with this mayor," said Mrs. Conant. "The students practiced their questions, and each student spoke clearly and respectfully. It was a great success!"

The questions included:

  • What does your job entail? 
  • Why did you want to be the mayor?
  • What is your greatest accomplishment? 
  • How can kids help their communities?

landmark school zoom class with Mayor

Innovative Ways to Act

News Type:  EMS Date:  Wednesday, November 4, 2020

With a hybrid format at the Elementary•Middle School, electives are more important than ever to provide students a break from screens and an opportunity to be active and creative. Drama, a new elective at EMS, offers both. Drama teacher Carolyn Aliskevicz, a talented actress herself, has found innovative ways to help the students continue to express their creativity, whether in an in-person or remote environment.

"When we're on campus, we hold classes outside, moving, stretching, pretending, and using our voices," Aliskevicz said. "Remotely, we focus more on facial expressions and language expression, including group and solo storytelling."

In a previous teaching position, Aliskevicz taught drama to students in grades K–12 at the Dr. Franklin Perkins School. She developed activities for elementary students to help them improve their communication skills by first having them use only their physical bodies and facial expression, and then adding voice. 

"To be able to be expressive using your body makes you a more interesting person and it allows you to begin to develop characters that have certain walks and different attributes," she said. "The elementary students really enjoy this sort of work. Electives are a super important part of the school day because they allow our students to exercise talents other than academics. Drama allows students to stretch, move, and be creative. It allows the students to shine in ways that academia can not allow."

Ever the optimist, Aliskevicz sees a benefit of the mask mandate. "Masks have challenged the students to really project their voices and articulate behind a mask," she said.

ems drama elective

Eighth Grade Leadership Kicks Off 2020–2021 Program

News Type:  EMS Date:  Tuesday, November 3, 2020

A key component of Landmark School's mission is to empower students to reach their academic and social potential. The Eighth Grade Leadership Program at the Elementary•Middle School fosters that growth, as well as builds community and emphasizes the importance of service.

"The program aims to empower eighth graders to create a stronger school community, while allowing them to recognize, grow, and develop who they are as individuals," said Tara Joly-Lowdermilk, the assistant dean of students at EMS. "We also instill the value of community service."

While this year the program will look different, traditionally students participate in community service initiatives both on- and off-campus. They host fundraisers to collect money for their eighth grade cruise, class gift, and off-campus activities. The students have partnered with elementary students as a part of a pen-pal exchange and organized special milkbreak events for the other classes.

"The students spend a good amount of time each year talking about leadership roles, skills, and traits they have or aspire and have or appreciate in others. Part of our goal is to help them see that as individuals they all have leadership qualities," said Joly-Lowdermilk. "Throughout the year they have the opportunity to use those skills in different ways. For example, they make a presentation in morning meeting, draft a proposal for an activity, and lead their smaller groups in discussion."

Kickoff Event

The 2020–2021 Eighth Grade Leadership Program held its first meeting in the gym on a snowy day in late October. The group's leaders, Joly-Lowdermilk and Laura Polvinen, facilitated the meeting. They asked students what they would like to focus on during their last year at EMS. Most responses focused on increased privileges, such as additional milkbreak activities, spirit week, and, fitting to the day's weather, hot chocolate and sledding. Joly-Lowdermilk and Polvinen also asked students to use one word to describe the entire eighth grade class. The answers illustrated the camaraderie and compassion the students feel for each other: family, respectful, leaders, friends, responsible, kind,  independent.

The students then participated in a community-building game, in which two students stood on either side of a raised tarp. When the tarp was lowered, the student who said the other's name first won the match. The day ended with a viewing of the movie Black Panther.

landmark middle school students playing tarp game

EMS Students Take to the Mats

News Type:  EMS Date:  Friday, October 30, 2020

The 2020–2021 school year is certainly one like never before. However, the administration at the Elementary•Middle School is committed to providing students as much normalcy and continuity as possible. One way to do this is by offering students a selection of on-campus and remote electives. 

New to EMS this year is a yoga elective. EMS faculty member Lisa Nichols teaches yoga to both elementary and middle school students. "It is really exciting to see the confidence and body awareness as it develops so differently in each student," she said.

The yoga elective takes place during both in-person and remote weeks. In class, students practice a combination of breathing, relaxation, positive thinking, and poses called asanas. They are learning and practicing the basic foundations of a yoga practice that can help support balance, strength, and body awareness. Students will also be introduced to a variety of poses to establish a firm foundation in yoga and will participate in guided meditations while in a savasana pose. In addition to the poses, students will be introduced to mindfulness practices to promote self-awareness and positive thinking. 

"Yoga has enhanced my own life, and I wanted to bring that to our students," Ms. Nichols said. "I am hoping that the students will take away some of the pieces of yoga that are lifelong practices to ease the body and the mind."

Given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, yoga is a perfect outlet for our students. 

students doing yoga

EMS Opens in Hybrid Mode

News Type:  EMS Date:  Thursday, September 17, 2020

The 2020–2021 school year kicked off at the Elementary•Middle School (EMS) on August 31 in hybrid mode, with each class divided into two pods, A and B. One pod is on campus each week, while the other learns remotely. Students spent the first week in orientation, meeting new classmates and teachers, getting reacquainted with teachers and friends they hadn't seen in person since March, and learning how to navigate the new model. 

Students returned to find countless COVID-related changes to buildings, the grounds, classrooms, and the covered faces of peers, teachers, and staff. What hasn't changed is the spirit, optimism, and flexibility of the school community.


"Hearing students laughing in the courtyard, seeing them sitting in classrooms, and watching them successfully navigate the arrow-laden hallways continues to buoy us and makes all of the preparations and the carefully-weighed decisions worth the time and effort," said Claire Sullivan, head of EMS. "We can now rely on our community, whether to share innovative lesson plans with one another, cover newly assigned duties, or take on additional responsibilities both in person and virtually, to forge a path together through the different-looking school year that lies ahead of us." 

Amy Conant, an EMS faculty member, shares Claire sense of optimism and collaboration.

"It's wonderful to be back with the students. I'm excited to build two communities, in person and remote. The dynamic is certainly different in the two formats," she said. "We are focussing on gratitude, with students reflecting on what they appreciate about learning in person and remotely. They have been respectful and considerate of each other in both settings."

She sees the benefits of both models. "There's a lot to be said about connecting with students in person, but many students are showing strong executive function skills and independence. It's building their self-esteem."

Students Embrace Both Models

Students are also enthusiastic to be back on campus, learning, interacting, and playing. At a recent milkbreak, several students gushed about how refreshing it feels to see friends and teachers in person and also cited positive aspects of remote learning.

"It's so nice to see my friends and teachers—it feels like real school again, even if it's a little weird to be social distancing and wearing masks," said Somers K. '29. "But I also like to learn at home, in my room."

Riley H. '28 shares Somers's zeal for returning to campus. "It feels nice to see my friends and teachers and have more interaction with them," she said. "I like seeing them on campus rather than on a computer."

Aaron O. '26 much prefers being in person. "I'd rather be six feet apart from my friends in person than see them on a screen," he said. "The environment at Landmark puts me in a good mood and helps me learn."

landmark elementary•middle school reopening


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