Rivers and Revolutions aims

to create a learning community in which…

Students consider the holistic nature of knowledge as they synthesize their learning across disciplines to explore a common set of ideas. In doing so, they grow more adept at discovering connections and  learn how to ask better questions. Students develop their capacity to work with others towards a shared goal as they find their own voice and become more capable at receiving feedback and offering feedback to both students and faculty. Students strengthen their ability to think creatively and begin to get a clearer sense of who they are as a learners, so that they leave the program empowered to tackle the challenges – both academic and nonacademic – that inevitably lie ahead. Finally, we hope that students leave with not only the tools, but also the will, to leverage their learning in the program in the service of other individuals and organizations; that in essence, they might leave the program better prepared to shape the world in which we live.


Governed by an overarching thematic arc that is captured in narrative form; the semester is divided into units of study: Rivers, Revolutions, Air, Fire, Love, and Migration. Open-ended essential questions, and accompanying sub-questions, drive the learning community's line of inquiry.

  • How do rivers help us understand the human condition?

  • What is the role of revolution in our world?

  • How can air offer perspective on ourselves, others, and the world?

  • What does fire teach us about the relationship between creation, destruction, and change?

  • What is love and what does it drive us to do?

  • What are the pushes and pulls that cause a migration (as individuals, as a community, as a world)?


Each Rivers and Revolutions cohort is intentionally comprised of a heterogenous group of students who possess diverse talents, skills, knowledge, needs and abilities. For this reason, students are discouraged from competitively comparing themselves against their peers. Instead, students are routinely asked to honestly gauge and assess their own process and performance, and set personal improvement and growth goals. This growth model fosters a culture in which assessment is personalized and rewards effort and perseverance. Each student enters the program at a particular point and completes the program at a particular point – assessment focuses on improvement and growth for each individual student.

Throughout the semester there will be numerous opportunities for students to receive informal and formal feedback on their work. And when it comes time to record grades into Aspen, the Rivers and Revolutions faculty sits down to collectively and methodically look at each student’s cumulative assessments. Together we calculate one letter grade for each student. This grade is then applied to all five disciplines that comprise the program: English, Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, and Art.


Over the course of the semester, students will participate in five main areas of work: Learning Community, Stewardship Project, Artifact Creation, Synthesis Papers, and team teaching.

Each of these five areas of work have been carefully developed and considered, with emphasis on allowing students to continuously develop and practice skills and capacities across a range of learning environments and scenarios. Alongside learning content and expanding each student's knowledge base, the curriculum aims to set students up for substantial skill and capacity growth – this fusion of content and skill-based learning is foundational to education in the 21st century.

These five areas of work provide students with numerous opportunities to practise and succeed while they are in the program. Additionally, students frequently reflect, self assess and offer feedback, all of which helps them become aware of the learning process. This heightened awareness makes it possible to better transfer skills and capacities learned in the program into future pursuits, both academic and nonacademic.


  1. Learning Community: Students will co-create and maintain our Learning Community.

  2. Stewardship Project: Students will work with various community organizations.

  3. Artifact Creation: Students will create and submit Artifacts that demonstrate learning.

  4. Synthesis Papers: Students will write Synthesis Papers that communicate interdisciplinary thinking.

  5. Team teaching: Students will work in teams to develop, plan and deliver full-day lessons.



A learning community includes a group of students and faculty members working together to progress and support the advancement of learning for all. In order to create and maintain an academic environment that is conducive to the growth of all members, we consider the ways in which individual and collective success are interdependent. In a learning community, members must be simultaneously self-aware and community-minded, as this helps to build a safe environment of reciprocity and trust that is constructed by all participants. As members become more and more connected within the learning community, which we refer to as a “cohort”, people become more willing to make mistakes and take the risks necessary to advance their learning. There are many ways in which someone can contribute to the strength, safety and quality of a cohort’s learning experience. To simplify, four key areas have been identified as critical to creating and maintaining a learning community: Self-Care, Learning Dispositions, Environmental Sustainability, and Cooperative Actions. These four domains cultivate a culture in which an attitude of readiness to learn, of being prepared to be engaged, of being self aware and motivated – is of central importance. Ultimately, these are the skills that will to propel students towards their goals, while also advancing the goals of other people and the whole group.


Eight full days of the semester, spread out over approximately two and half months, are dedicated to students collaboratively working on stewardship projects. Over the years, Rivers and Revolutions has partnered with dozens of local community organizations, individuals, and schools to create opportunities for students to bring their classroom learning out into the “real world”. Students select a project from a menu of options that have been generated based on timing and the current needs of the broader community. Then students become an integral part and contributor to a host site’s larger mission and present goals. Through this area of work, students experience how their learning in Rivers and Revolutions can effectively support other people, ideas, and projects. Through collaboration, communication, and creative thinking, they develop their voices and grow more confident working within professional arenas that require active participants who readily engage with discussions and problem solving. Since student conduct their Stewardship Projects in smaller groups over a substantial amount of time, this work allows for explicit discussions about the dynamics of group work, and how to define what effective group work looks like, feels like, and can accomplish. They also learn to recognize and address when group dynamics are not working effectively.


It is time to make something! The world around us has a lot to say and teach – and it does not always speak to us with words and language. Our surroundings are full of poetry and ideas and ingenuity and beauty. Everyday, humans are enveloped by a staggering array of exquisite forms, innovative functional items, boundless wonder, and persistent curiosity.  The creative impulse is alive in the world and that impulse is essential to learning! Daily lessons in Rivers and Revolutions often include making student understandings visible and tangible through the creation of an artifact. At the conclusion of two units of study, students are asked to independently create an artifact of their own inspiration (stemming from curricular experiences and content). This assessment is a rare opportunity to shine light on who they are and what they are capable of doing. In creating an artifact, students demonstrate that through the creative process, they can deepen their understanding of course content and the world. And conversely, when these artifacts are shared and displayed, they help to deepen the cohort’s understanding and appreciation for the student.


The opening line of the Learning objectives read, “Students consider the holistic nature of knowledge as they synthesize their learning across disciplines to explore a common set of ideas. In doing so, they grow more adept at discovering connections and learn how to ask better questions.” Synthesis papers are a formal opportunity for students to understand, practice and cultivate these skills. At the conclusion of two units of study, students are asked to write a synthesis paper that explores their own question or line of inquiry (stemming from curricular experiences and content). This question is then illuminated by course content from each of the five disciplines – math, science, English, history and art – that students choose to include in their paper. The question and the content connections bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the curriculum and open up unexpected intellectual journeys. This assignment is robust, so there is a great deal of informal feedback and support in class to help students with organization and preparation. After submitting the first paper, faculty provide rich formal feedback that sets students up for even greater success in writing subsequent synthesis papers.


Core to Rivers and Revolutions is the idea that the only way to improve teaching and learning is to open up an honest and authentic dialogue surrounding instruction – allowing students to teach necessarily helps to further that process. Each student is be a member of a teaching team that begins working together in the first half of the semester. Together, they facilitate a faculty member on his or her instructional days. In stages of increasing responsibility, students observe, learn and experience what it means to teach and be a classroom leader. At the end of the semester, students are well poised to take on the enormous challenge of offering interdisciplinary, experiential, and creative teaching to their peers and teachers. This collaborative teaching process is critical to the program’s curriculum as it aims to authentically empower students in their learning. When students take on the role of teacher, they develop a more nuanced understanding of the classroom, and develop empathy for teachers as well as their peers

©2019 by Rivers and Revolutions.