Senior Seminar: a capstone of every Sage Ridge Upper School experience.
This course asks the student to critically examine the historical and cultural genesis of the foundational values of our representative system of governance and our belief that such a thing as “civil” or “human” rights exists. The readings explicate the origins and universalization of these values and celebrate the struggles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries to defend the idea that all men—and women—are created equal and with certain “inalienable rights.”
Students quickly realize that thinking about human rights is essential for any citizen of a free society.
Each night, students read challenging books from different perspectives to gain a background of expert opinion. In class the students lead a discussion grounded in the books as the teacher guides them. They start class by asking questions about the book, but by the end of class the conversation has usually developed far past the scope of the initial questions. In fact, students become so engrossed in the conversation that it is not surprising to see two or more students continuing the conversation as they walk to their next class. Indeed, intense analyses by the group and friendly debates are integral to Senior Seminar. These discussions and debates give an extra level of depth to the books by compelling students to think logically through every argument posed. Students are not only exposed to new ideas, but also practice posing their own ideas to peers.
At the end of each book, seniors use to take a position on a question related to the last book’s topic in a 500 word paper. The essay is short so that students focus not on length, but on the quality of their ideas and arguments. Students are always free to ask their teacher for input on the flow of their logic. These papers extend the implied lessons on critical thinking and structuring one’s ideas to the realm of formal academic writing. While the essays are not what the majority of class is spent on, they are still instrumental in making students more comfortable with college-level writing.
Our Senior Seminar is designed to be a bridge course between high school and college. Offering this type of a unique developmental course sets us apart as a college preparatory school. What we do is unique as our teachers use a wide array of teaching modes to bring the excitement of the past into the classroom. Students engage in class discussions, interactive lectures, hands-on activities, role-playing, and one-on-one feedback sessions with teachers. They learn by closely reading texts, doing guided research, preparing presentations, and writing on a regular basis.