Annual Traditions

Renaissance School has developed many beloved annual traditions since our founding in 1999. They have evolved over the years, but the focus on building community, showcasing student talents, pursuing education outside of the classroom, and celebrating student achievements never wavers. The Renaissance School academic year takes on a rhythm that students and faculty look forward to each and every season. Our many annual traditions are part of what makes an RHS high school experience unlike any other!

Orientation - In August the week before school, students and parents are invited to the school to hear from faculty about the coming school year and plan for key upcoming events. Parents have a special session with the Head of School while students drop off supplies at their cubbies and get their pictures for their school IDs.

Fall Ninth Week Trip - In the first of our two annual all-school trips, the focus is on Virginia. Often with an ecological and/or historical focus, the trip often includes visits to historical sites and “camping” in cabins at state parks. The week finishes with trips to college campuses throughout the Commonwealth and a research visit to the UVA library.

Shakespeare at Blackfriars - Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet - with the American Shakespeare Company’s Blackfriars Playhouse a short drive away in Staunton, it is a treat every year to see the works of The Bard!

TEDx - As part of their year of training public speaking, the Junior Class hears from a variety of speakers at the Paramount Theater, just blocks from our campus, during the (typically) annual TEDx CVille. During off years, students have the opportunity to watch and critique global TED talks.

National Portfolio Day - Our students who intend to apply to art schools participate in this national weekend dedicated to showing art portfolios, which in Central Virginia takes place at VCU.

Virginia Film Festival - As part of our collaboration with Light House Studio, students regularly participate - and win awards! - in the Adrenaline Film Project, where teams have 72 hours to write, cast, film, and produce a short film that is shown as a part of the VFF.

Middle School Biotech Workshop - Each year, the Science, Business, and Art departments at Renaissance School host a biotech workshop day here at RS. Students lead the learning process for area 8th graders in taking a science idea through the testing process, onto profit & loss, and finally branding and logo. We love this kind of student-led, interdisciplinary learning!

ESU Shakespeare Competition - The school recruits playwrights, actors, and directors to judge our annual schoolwide Shakespeare Monologue Competition as part of the national English Speaking Union contest. The winner goes on to compete in the regional contest at Blackfriars.

Spirit Week & Secret Gift Exchange - The last week before Winter Break is a fun-filled extravaganza hosted by the Student Government! Each day is a different dress-up day (think dress like the faculty, 90’s, dress like your favorite book character, ugly holiday sweater!), with the extra fun on Friday of a school-wide secret gift exchange!

Winter Show - It’s dinner and a show that’s fun for the whole family! In our Head of School’s favorite event of the year, students show off talents from singing and dancing to magic and comedy, with a secret skit by the Student Government! Faculty bring the pot luck dinner and everyone kicks off Winter Break with a big smile.

MAA American Math Competition - It’s the Mathematical Association of America’s big nationwide high school contest! Each year our math team and other interested students participate in this nationwide competition, and frequently place.

Model United Nations - Ethiopia, India, Cuba - Renaissance School’s MUN team has had the chance to participate in this amazing three-day conference representing a wide variety of countries, discussing important current events and international affairs, debating and passing resolutions that impact the global community.

Parent/Teacher Potluck & State of the School - Each year, one of our families hosts parents and faculty for a delicious potluck dinner and an important update from our Head of School on new courses or faculty, recent student achievements, general school news and possible upcoming Ninth Week trip destinations.

Spring Ninth Week Trip - Our spring semester all-school trip is farther afield, focused on unique curriculum opportunities, seeing a variety of different parts of the country, and out-of-state university campus visits. Destinations have ranged from New York to Charleston, Boston to Pittsburgh, and many other locations, including occasional trips outside the country.

Model General Assembly - In this fantastic hands-on civics experience, students meet with Virginia Senators and Delegates, develop legislation proposals, and then spend an incredible three-day weekend at the State House in Richmond debating legislation. Renaissance School has had multiple MGA award-winners, including For Excellence in Journalism, nomination to the National Conference (CONA), and even one of only 12 paid 22x20 internships.

Virginia Festival of the Book - One of the best book festivals in the world takes place in Charlottesville, and each year we have the opportunity for a national or international author to present to the school and then workshop with the English classes. Past visiting authors have included nonfiction writer Dava Sobel and international economist and China specialist Syaru Shirley Lin.

Blue Ridge Area Food Bank Neighbors-4-Neighbors School Food Drive - Renaissance School loves to give back to the community, and we are very proud to be the first place school in four out of the past five years of this spring high school food drive (and second place the other year)!

Tom Tom Youth Summit - Business pitches, music concerts, science booths and art displays - RHS takes full advantage of this wonderful annual event for central Virginia high schoolers at the Paramount Theater as part of the annual Tom Tom Festival.

Senior Thesis Presentations - after two years of research, public speaking training, and writing a 20+ page academic paper, our Seniors take the stage to share with the school community about what they’ve learned and the unique expertise they have developed in a wide variety of disciplines.

Spring Science Competitions, including the RHS Middle School Art & Science Contest - Our scientists in physical, life, and social sciences participate in a huge variety of spring competitions, including the Junior Science & Humanities Symposium at JMU, submitting BioTrek publications, and regional science fairs. This is also when the previous year’s winners act as judges for the contest we host for area Middle Schoolers!

Spring Concert Series - The venues vary from the downtown mall to the Jefferson Theater, our own school stage to live performances on radio, but every year our musicians put on wonderful live performances for the public which include jazz staples, soul classics, and pop hits!

Arts Practicum Showcase - After eight-week intensive projects with community partners like Light House Studio, Live Arts Theater, the Music Resource Center, the IX Art Park, Charlottesville Ballet, and others, the whole school gets to enjoy the short films, recordings, art, and original compositions of each of the teams in a wonderful showcase.  

Spring Show & Art Auction - Every student participates in our biggest production of the year! Actors, musicians, playwrights, composers, librettists, lights, costumes, make-up, sound, stage management, playbill production, marketing, ushering - every student has a role! The Spring Show is also the occasion for our big fundraiser, the fabulous Art Auction, hosted by our wonderful Parent Council.

Senior Thesis Defense - The first Wednesday in May is the time for our Dean’s favorite event of the year, the Senior Thesis Defense. With papers printed and presentations delivered, it is the moment of truth and glory after two years of very hard work. Each Senior stands before the full school community and fields unrehearsed questions from the faculty about their research. It is the culmination of an RHS student’s high school career.

Art & Science Show - On the first Friday in May, in conjunction with Charlottesville’s First Fridays, the whole school displays both science posters and demonstrations from the year’s work, as well as paintings, sculpture, photography, animations, and other artwork. Scientists and artists from throughout central Virginia are invited as judges to this very Renaissance event.

Portfolio Shows - In April and May, Portfolio Art students put on formal gallery evening shows, including proper art display plans, informative description cards, and the opportunity to make pieces available for sale to the public. Hors d'oeuvres and music round out these wonderful events!

Junior Independent Study Presentations - During the month of May,  Juniors take over the daily all-school Assembly to present to the school on their topics of research for the year. Students have practiced different speech techniques and rehearsed with slides throughout the year, and this is the moment for them to shine.

Field Day - Each year before final exams, the family of one of our students hosts the school for day outdoors of fun and games to relax before the final push! We’ve had swimming, hikes, water balloon fights, and epic games of capture the flag! It’s great to get some fresh air and sunshine after a long semester of hard work.

Awards Night & Coffeehouse - The Friday night before graduation, the whole school community gathers to celebrate the year’s crowning achievements. The school has annual awards in different academic and arts categories, for lifelong learning, citizenship within the school and the community, and many others. “Coffeehouse” is a top-secret tribute planned by the Junior class each year to honor the Seniors!

Graduation - Graduation is always special, but one of the unique benefits of our size is the degree of involvement Seniors have in the Graduation ceremony. Each year they brainstorm an invitee list for commencement speakers (several over the last few years include Jefferson School Director Dr. Andrea Douglas, Senator Creigh Deeds, VFF Director and UVA Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa, and Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Edson). Each Senior also prepares a speech to share with the community. It’s a wonderful celebration of their time at RHS and a superb send-off to their next adventure!

Summer Workbook - In addition to our annual all-school summer book selection, students choose three items from a menu that includes diverse choices like performing an original experiment, designing a gallery exhibition, planting a garden, reviewing a live show - and all students and faculty have the opportunity to present a favorite summer learning opportunity to the school in the fall!

Volunteer Day - During midsummer, students, parents, and faculty gather at the school to clean, paint, build furniture, and organize! It’s a great way for new students to get to know our maze-like 18th century historic building, make some friends, and for all of us to reinforce our sense of community responsibility.

Orientation - After a wonderful year, it’s time to do it all again!