Students are invited to submit a proposal for Academic Distinction at any point during their high school career, in any subject. Achieving Distinction requires substantive work that shows the intersection between at least two disciplines. Students submit their proposal to the relevant faculty, who serve as advisors. All work is student originated and typically ends in a final product or presentation that may be viewed by the school. Successful completion of Distinction in a subject is reflected on a student’s transcript. Distinction has been awarded in Spanish for writing a volume of poetry, and translating it into English; in Calculus for testing the mathematics of harmonic motion (Physics) and presenting it in a formal poster; in Business for writing, filming, and editing a series of day-in-the-life advertisements for the school (Art); and many others. A student’s imagination and willingness to work hard is the only limit on Distinction possibilities!
Annual Curriculum Planning
Renaissance School faculty do not teach the same curriculum over and over again. Every year is an opportunity to update, upgrade, refresh, and change focus, and this is achieved, in part, through a series of all-faculty meetings that take place during the summer. Faculty walk through content and course goals quarter-by-quarter, finding intersections where material may overlap. One year included a focus on Civil Rights and Life Sciences, as illustrated through the amazing case of Henrietta Lacks. Another year saw a focus on Iberian culture, including Literature, Flamenco Music, Cuisine, and Dance. One year in Physics the central project may be on Relativity in conjunction with a Science Fiction unit in English, the next it may be on waves and the mathematics of Music, the next it may relate to stippling in Art and the physics of CMYK printing. We find new connections between subjects every year!
All-School “Ninth Week” Trips
Each semester, the entire student body takes a trip, either in-state (in the fall) or farther afield (in the spring). These are not sightseeing trips, but a core part of the Renaissance School curriculum. Each trip is a wonderful opportunity to make connections between the classroom and the real world, as well as between subjects. One autumn, student explored the natural history of native tree species at a county park. This had clear connections to Environmental Science as well as Statistics, but this led to history and geography, too - when did some species disappear, and why? When did major logging take place in central Virginia? When and how were non-native species introduced? After the research, the project transitioned to Art, with groups of students studying Audubon-style plant illustrations, and then designing their own, each dedicated to a native Virginia tree, including tree shape, leaves, fruits or cones, and appearance in different seasons. Ultimately, this was an opportunity to practice public speaking skills, a core part of the Independent Studies program, as students presented their research and posters to the school. While the focus of each Ninth Week trip is fresh and new, making interdisciplinary connections is an essential part of the curriculum.