Senior Exhibition

Title: Riverdale High School and Senior Exhibition
Grade: Seniors
Content Areas: All

Project Description
Since its inception in 1996, Riverdale High School has been a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools and implemented practices with the Ten Common Principles in mind. The school’s mission is to “cultivate in students a passion for personal interests, a habit of critical thinking, and a deep understanding of civic virtue.” Teachers and students pursue this mission through classroom curriculum, but also through the school-wide activities that lead up to and produce the senior exhibition.

The senior exhibition has three parts: an in-depth research paper, service-learning project, and a public presentation. All of these elements are driven by the students’ essential questions. As students develop each component of the senior exhibition they benefit from thoughtful peer and teacher review.

The high standards we set for academic achievement we are now setting for civic engagement and service. Ninth graders begin by contacting outside organizations, planning projects, and creating campaigns of awareness around public service issues. Students at every grade level complete service-learning projects as part of classroom learning and participate in senior panels. Read more.

The senior exhibition process takes place over three trimesters during student’s senior year. During the fall trimester, students refine their research skills, frame their guiding essential questions for their paper, and develop a plan for a service-learning project that is derived from their question. They deepen their inquiry and their project design based on feedback they receive from their peers and teachers. During the second trimester, they deepen their inquiry and their project design based on feedback they receive from their peers and teachers, refine and complete their service-learning projects, and write the first draft of their research papers. The spring trimester focuses on the public exhibition of all elements accompanied by reflection and documentation.

Thinking critically and creatively—core values at Riverdale—are essential to the senior exhibition and to the preparatory work done at lower levels. Senior exhibition is a powerful opportunity for students to apply their thinking, research, and knowledge to a service-learning project, which makes a positive impact on their world.

Riverdale High School is one of the top-scoring schools on Oregon’s state tests. Students are motivated to achieve in academics, athletics, and the arts. Our students tend to be from comfortable and influential families. There is both a great obligation and an opportunity to take a holistic approach to education: it is as essential to develop a student’s conscience, sense of justice, and civic engagement as it is to develop the student’s ability to reason and communicate well. Senior exhibition and Riverdale’s habit of including and developing essential questions in every course, unit, project, and field trip engage students’ minds and hearts.

Teacher Profile:

Santha Cassell
This is Santha’s second year at Riverdale High School. Previously, she taught for six years at Roosevelt High School in Portland. In the year between, she went to Oaxaca to immerse in Spanish and found out first-hand how much a person learns in an unfamiliar situation. She loves service learning for the way it opens students’ eyes to how the world works and to the challenges we face in fulfilling our civic responsibilities. Email her at scassell@riverdale.k12.or.us.

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