A Senior Independent Project Celebrates Wordsworth, Visual Arts, And Butterflies

In the closing weeks of senior year, Riverdale students have an opportunity to pose a challenging question or think deeply about a human experience. It’s a chance to do something they’ve always wanted to do as they look to the future.

There are a few requirements: they must submit a detailed proposal, check in with their advisor regularly, and present their work to an audience of teachers, students, and family. If the project is approved, students are relieved from their usual coursework for four to seven weeks.

This year, 31 students worked individually or with a partner on projects that encompassed a range of disciplines. Visual arts projects included painting, photography, and multi-media art installations. Several projects incorporated design engineering and carpentry: a footbridge, a surfboard, and a tree-based device to harness wind power.

Some took interdisciplinary approaches: Connections were made between Latin poetry and contemporary pop music and 20th Century history and 20th Century fashion. Students studied NBA draft statistics, the physics of pitching, and trends in prime numbers. Two students combined science and technology; one creating a simple device to purify water and the other looking at factors that affect the flying capabilities of drone pilots.

The senior project of Cate Pasquarelli ’16 began as an exploration of William Wordsworth’s poetry and widened into a multimedia art installation that documented her emergence as an artist.

Wordsworth’s poems about childhood resonated with her. She went back to her childhood art projects and incorporated them into the exhibit along with new works and a butterfly habitat, which she designed and built on campus. When she presented her project, she released the butterflies, marking a new trajectory in her own life.

In this video, Cate describes how the project gave her a deeper sense of her own identity and purpose.

Does your school do something similar?

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