At Sun Valley Community School, students are encouraged to follow paths of inquiry, dig deep into topics that spark a passion, and share their love for learning with the school community.
Several hallmark projects and presentations in the Middle and Upper School years reflect our students’ engagement in this journey of discovery. To sit in the audience at these presentations is to see our school's mission manifest; our students exude an earned confidence and mastery of material that is unique and inspiring.
In fifth grade, students work on a semester-long Genius Hour project, which allows them to explore topics of interest, focus in on an area of personal passion, conduct research, engage in hands-on learning to create an end-product, and then present their process and product—be it a musical performance, a video, a comic strip, or an electric car—to the school community. The process involves in-depth research, reflective journaling, goal setting, and creativity as students invest themselves in their subject. The projects then culminate with a three-to-five minute presentation in which each student shares their topic.
In eighth grade, Middle School students embark on a self-directed research project that allows them to become experts in subjects they’re passionate about and represents the culmination of the project-based, experiential Middle School curriculum. Through in-depth research, interviews, and practical experience focused on their area of interest, they produce a written paper and a 20-minute presentation.
Throughout the school year, seniors give two presentations: one at graduation, called “Senior Reflection,” and one at Upper School Assembly, called “Senior Speech.”
Senior Speeches are meant to deliver valuable advice to underclassmen and to provide seniors an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned during their time at Community School. The advice is honest, candid, and comes from the hearts of our students.
In the Spring Term of the twelfth grade year, students who are in good academic standing and who successfully apply may be approved to earn the final five credits required for graduation through the senior project program. A Senior Project is not mandatory, but it is strongly encouraged. It is the primary goal of the Senior Project program to provide every student the opportunity to culminate his or her secondary education with an experience that synthesizes all that has come before. It is our wish that each student combines the intellectual, academic, and experiential pursuits of his or her career at Sun Valley Community School to pursue a serious interest and to explore the world beyond campus. A successful project is of benefit not only to the individual who has undertaken it, but to the wider school community as well.
I think the Senior Project program encapsulates and showcases many of the core skills and values of our school. Students create projects that are wildly different in the interests, styles, vision, and ideas they reflect because the students are very different people, but they are similar in the confidence they have to speak their passion out loud and to pursue it. They neither seek to be like their peers, nor expect their peers to be like them. They go out into the world and engage with a confidence and self-awareness that I didn't have until I was much older.
Chauncy Gardner, Co-Director of College Counseling and Senior Projects Coordinator