Upper School Retreat Builds Community and Bonds

By Jake M. ’23

Due to COVID-19 pandemic realities, the past two and a half years have not been easy for the Moses Brown Upper School community. Students have had to see each other with masks on or through a laptop screen. As a result, relationships between students within our community have been diminished. I know from my own experience that I have felt less connected since the start of the pandemic.

As this new school year got underway, the Upper School was determined to restore the sense of connection that was familiar just a few years ago. This motivation led to the creation of the Upper School retreat, a day-long program in which students participated in different activities to create a welcoming environment and construct a closer bond between the community and each grade level.

Senior grade dean Kelly Joseph shared her insight into what went into crafting the retreat day, “How can we start to think about empowering students to embrace the school’s mission and culture? How can we make Moses Brown a school where people feel welcome and safe? In a post-pandemic world, it’s not only more important than ever, it’s also possible!”

Upper School math teacher Brendan Kinnell provided a different perspective on the importance of retreats, “I think it was nice for the entire grade to be together in a familiar setting but outside the realm of academic classes. It put the focus on what that grade could do in their role as students in the Upper School.”

After speaking with several Moses Brown students and faculty who participated in or ran the retreats, I can say that the Upper School retreats accomplished their goals. Talking with my peers, I asked, “How do you think the retreats benefited the Moses Brown Community?”.

Senior William I. said, “I was able to work with about six people whom I’ve never had a class with, and it was awesome to just connect with people in small groups.” William added, “It was really interesting to get students’ perspectives on issues in the Upper School rather than teachers.”

At different times during the retreat, each grade took part in a Meeting for Worship in the Meeting House. Otherwise, each grade’s schedule for the day was quite different.

The 12th grade started their day with a class trivia session that put groups of students head to head and gave them the opportunity to learn more about their peers. Following this activity, they split into groups to tackle issues currently affecting the Upper School. They then got to partake in team-building sessions that involved many fun activities. Finally, all the groups from earlier got to present their issue and how they believe these issues could be fixed.

Junior Mohan D. said, “I got to talk with a bunch of people I normally don’t talk to… I think it’s great to maintain that sense of community.”

The 11th grade’s day began with a team-building scavenger hunt that took the students outside the Moses Brown campus and into the surrounding area. Afterward, they split into groups and participated in a mindfulness workshop to examine how they wanted to take on leadership roles in the community. They then recapped what each group came up with and planned how they would help the community grow. The day ended with small group activities and a period to share thoughts about the day.

The 10th grade started their day by analyzing active and passive engagement and how to utilize these skills when interacting with the community. The 10th grade then participated in a workshop run by Marco McWilliams, a Black Studies scholar. The workshop’s overall goal was to analyze the inclusive and exclusive uses of power and how impactful collective voices can be. In the afternoon, the 10th grade did a scavenger hunt as a team-building activity. They then split into groups in the Sinclair Room to answer several different queries about how to improve the 10th grade experience. To conclude the day, each group presented their creation.

The 9th grade spent the day examining three words they hoped to take with them into the new school year: courage, curiosity, and care. They explored these words through different types of art. They started by examining each word through writing and breaking down the deeper meaning of each word. Following this, they created different types of sculptures to help visualize the purpose of each expression. Finally, they put together their writing and sculptures to make a performance that conveyed the importance of each term.

I experienced retreats as a senior and could not agree more with everyone I spoke with. Retreats taught students the importance of creating a bond with one another and being more in touch with the Upper School culture.Moses Brown values community, and during the pandemic, it had been impossible to experience the community the same way we did just a few short years ago. Retreats brought back the feeling of society as we once knew it.