Students at Four Rivers are encouraged – indeed required – to experience the world around them, to form to develop interests and ideas of their own, to communicate their ideas, and to produce actions or artifacts that capture their unique contributions. We hope to help them develop independence over their years with us, equipping them for college and the big wide world. Here is a progression of projects that helps our students develop independence at Four Rivers.



Students in eight grade act as editor-in-chief of their very own magazine. Their job is to create a magazine, cover to cover, that is centered on a theme or interest of their choice. The final product will be a bound and included as a major portfolio piece. Students have about four weeks to complete this project, with a checklist of required components – a feature article with illustrations, an editorial with illustrations, a biographical piece with illustrations, a pictorial page, and two advertisements. With additional optional elements, students try to capture interesting aspects of their topic and communicate in ways that engage their audience.


I-Search is a project based on student inquiry, discovery, and personal growth. An I-Search is a personal (hence the “I”) quest for information about a topic of intense interest to the researcher. The first step is brainstorming topics of interest and then selecting a topic for this in-depth study. There are three general categories: professions, topics or issues, and activities. Students pick a topic to which they are really committed. They spend the next few weeks researching their topics for background information. They must have at least two sources of written material. While they are probing written material, they prepare to conduct interviews with experts on their topics. They are required to conduct at least two face-to-face or phone interviews. Students then write up their process and what they learned in a paper and they present to students and parents at an I Search Fair.


Students in tenth grade create an anthology that is the culmination of an investigation on the American Transcendentalists, especially Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Their project use Emerson and Thoreau’s writings as a jumping off point to explore themselves and their world. The aim was for students to take risks, reflect on who they are and what they value, and know themselves a little better by the end. Using National Public Radio’s This I Believe series as a model, students crafted their own narratives about what they value and then stand behind their beliefs in a public setting. The final step is for students to take action, to do what matters rather than just talking about it. Their charge is to commit conscious action in service of their beliefs.


The Junior Internship is a key part of the final division of the school. The internship happens outside the school in the community, with students finding a mentor in a professional setting connected to their interests. Students spend a week – sometimes more – in the work place with their mentors *and then create a display that documents their internship experience. The Junior Internship Project is a step toward preparing for the Senior Expedition.


  A successful Senior Expedition is a graduation requirement, but more importantly, it is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their highest level of learning at Four Rivers.  Students choose a topic that interests them, they develop guiding questions around it, they learn all about the topic and become an expert on it, they do something with the knowledge gained, and they give a presentation to the community on what they have learned, how they learned it and what they did with their knowledge.   Senior Expedition is a time-intensive, demanding project requiring a level of commitment beyond that of any other academic endeavor at Four Rivers.