Upper School Orientation Sets the Tone for a Great Year

Aly Morrissey
There’s nothing quite like the “back to school” optimism that greets us with open arms each September. The first few weeks of school represent a clean slate, a chance to reset goals for the coming year, and, if we want, an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Each year in the Upper School, Fessenden faculty members host grade-specific orientation events to foster friendships and to set a positive tone for the next ten months. During this time, brotherly bonds blossom, new outlooks are adopted, and intentions are set. Here are a few snapshots of last week’s student orientation events:

Ninth Grade Spends Three Days in Western Massachusetts

Ninth grade students are the upperclassmen at Fessenden. From our Pre-K students to our eighth graders, all eyes are on our oldest boys to model good behavior and the School’s core values of honesty, compassion, and respect. Ninth grade students don’t take this responsibility lightly. So, over the span of three days at Camp Becket in the Berkshires, boys learned more about each other and about effective leadership so they can become role models for years to come.

"The weekend is designed with two main objectives in mind,” notes Director of Placement Tim Murphy. “Venturing off campus to Camp Becket helps the boys to build a class identity, and the activities we engage in prepare our oldest students to lead the greater Fessenden community throughout the year.” The boys embraced the spirit of the weekend, and many faculty and staff members attest that they have already seen how the boys have begun to incorporate the lessons they learned into their daily lives.

A number of faculty and administrators joined the boys in Camp Becket, including Headmaster Dave Stettler, Assistant Head of School Angela Garcia, Upper School Head Todd Eveleth, and several teachers and class deans. The trip included a combination of recreational activities, team building exercises, leadership training, and collective work on a service project to benefit Camp Becket.

Eighth Grade Sets Out for Fessy Amazing Race

Throughout the year, learning opportunities in the eighth grade are centered around an essential question: "What shapes my identity?" And so, these veteran Upper School boys begin the year with the annual "Fessy Amazing Race," which serves as a catalyst for personal growth and development and collaboration.

During their orientation day, the entire grade ventures into Boston for a scavenger hunt and breaks into smaller groups of 9-10 boys. Each group is led by an experienced eighth grade faculty member charged with guiding the boys in their hunt, as well as assisting them in connecting the smaller tactical objectives with larger philosophical goals. Even with their guidance, the day is truly a student-driven exercise in which boys must actively collaborate and problem-solve an array of riddles and photo challenges while visiting landmark sites in the city.

The learning outcomes of the Fessy Amazing Race are twofold. Boys discover each other's personal identities, which become the collective genetic makeup of the eighth grade throughout the year. Eighth Grade Dean and History Teacher Brad Belin remarks, “Although it was a long day of walking around the city, we could not have been more pleased with the ways in which the boys carried themselves and represented the school as the proud Class of 2017. We’re looking forward to a great year.”

Seventh Grade Takes Over Campus

While the seventh graders do not leave campus for their orientation, they become the oldest boys at Fessenden for a day, and settle into their new roles as Upper School students. With the familiar backdrop of the school, boys were empowered to focus on the tasks at hand. This orientation program provides students with an opportunity to strengthen old connections, establish new ones, and build a sense of collaboration and community within their grade.

The day is structured around five activities to enhance collaboration and teamwork. First, boys got to know each other by partnering up and learning what makes each person unique. Then, they traveled to different locations on campus to embrace fun challenges. A “Spider Web” station was set up to teach boys to listen effectively to their peers. A “Blindfold Spaghetti Tower” helped boys to set accomplishable goals. A “Minefield” showed the benefits of working as a team while also playing to one’s strengths. And finally, a “Maze” proved that it’s a good thing to ask for help when it’s needed. After these tasks were completed, boys enjoyed each other’s company while swimming during free time. A snow cone truck also paid a visit to help boys cool off on the late summer day.  

According to Seventh Grade Dean JJ Morrissey, “At first, many groups experienced failure, which ultimately led to the revelation that working together and communicating clearly allowed them to be successful.” The History Department Chair believes these were great learning opportunities that will be revisited frequently throughout the school year.


Learn more about our Upper School experience here
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