Middle School Honors Initiative

The Riviera Ridge Middle School Honors Initiative is a signature program that offers an accelerated academic program to students who are passionate about a specific academic content area with increased vigor and provides a deeper dive into the curriculum.

A variety of RRS Honors optional courses meet three times a week from 8:00-8:45 am before school begins. Open by application only to students from 6th-8th grade, all Honors Courses are capped at a maximum of 12 scholars per course, for a truly personalized experience.  

All honors courses are graded, with additional assignments outside of class, and conclude with an integrated course project or assessment. In addition, all Honors courses will appear on each student’s final transcripts, preparing them for advanced coursework in their secondary educational program.

RRS honors initiative

Fall 2023 Honors Initiative Course Descriptions

Philosophy, Rhetoric, & Media Intensive

Taught by MS Faculty, Mr. John Penton

From Plato to Socrates, Aristotle to Marcus Aurelius, this course begins with the ancient Greeks and Romans, where short readings will lead to class discussions, journal reflections, and analysis of these philosophies’ effect on present day societies.

Students will explore the concepts and practical applications of rhetoric and argumentation, including how modes of persuasion are utilized in present day advertising, media, and social media platforms. 

A comprehensive study of logical fallacies, as well as the concepts of metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, and logic, will complement students’ philosophical explorations in order to enhance their ability to compose well-developed, evidence and rational-supported writings. 

Throughout the Spring, students will read excerpts from three major philosophical movements: The Enlightenment, Transcendentalists, and Existentialists including Kant, Thoreau, Emerson, Kierkegaard, and others. 

Students will conclude the course with a culminating writing project and presentation, empowering each student to compose their own essay on personal philosophy.

Assignments and graded work will include brief journals, short creative writings, reader-response, and critical essays, as well as class discussions and presentations.

Math Intensive

Taught by Director of Academic Innovation, Mrs. Melissa Wilder

Math Intensive Honors combines skills in algebra, geometry, probability, and statistics through a survey-based approach. 

After students learn the basics of these mathematical disciplines they are engaged in complex problem-solving that requires them to access their knowledge of linear and non-linear relationships, exponential functions, geometric design and proofs, and statistical analysis. 

An integrated approach to these mathematical disciplines has been shown to increase mathematical fluency, problem-solving ability, and creative thinking. 

Taught at an honors level, this course moves at a quick pace. Weekly homework and a final exam are required.

Spanish Intensive

Taught by MS Spanish Faculty, Mr. Damian Deveze

The primary focus of this class is to increase each scholar’s ability to communicate in Spanish with ease and confidence as they grow in understanding the perspectives, processes, and products that represent the unique contribution of Hispanics to world culture.

Scholars will continue to expand their use of higher-level vocabulary as they acquire a knowledge base of more advanced grammatical structures while they read, write, and discuss topics presented in class. A selected literary work will serve as source material in conjunction with the base text. 

Reading comprehension will be a primary focus for the class, as it is a vital part of creating sentence structure and understanding how to convey an idea or point of view in a coherent way. 

Understanding the foundations of Spanish grammar, including grammatical and sentence structures, parts of speech, and mechanics, scholars will better understand how to create sentences in the Spanish language.

Students will read, discuss, and analyze poetry, short stories, and essays, allowing for a higher exposure to different authors and writing styles. 

Scholars will be exposed in a more in-depth manner to the geography, history, and rich cultures of the vast Spanish-speaking world. 

This class will have monthly quizzes or short-answer written assessments.

Visual Arts Intensive

Taught by Alex Shennum, Visual Arts Faculty

Art Honors is a combination of art history, looking at the masters and their pivotal works, as well as gaining skills in painting and drawing techniques for more sophisticated products. 

Students will refine their observational drawing abilities, as well as their understanding of the seven elements of art. Scholars will take time to evaluate art and artist’s themes as well as critique their own work and the work of other scholars using the elements of art. 

This class is an opportunity for individuals to explore many different mediums including acrylic paint, oil pastel, watercolor, printmaking, and clay. In some cases, scholars will bring home pieces to complete or have a single assignment to complete for homework.

Scholars will leave with a wide range of skills, across different mediums, compiling their own portfolio and building their confidence as artists.

Creative Fiction, Poetry, & Journalism Intensive

Taught by Rebecca Horrigan, Middle School Humanities Faculty

This course will develop students’ abilities to analyze a variety of texts, identify different writing techniques and strategies, and utilize them in their own writing to create an impressive portfolio of pieces. 

The first term will include a study of acclaimed short stories and an analysis of plot, figurative language, and strategies the author uses to make these stories so compelling. Students will implement what they learned by creating effective short stories of their own, which will go through the writing process to hone their editing and revision skills as well.

Term two will feature a study of various award-winning poets, an analysis of the effect of poetic devices in their works, and students' application of this learning in their own poetry portfolio. To enhance students’ speaking and listening skills and practice public speaking, students will also recite a poem of their choice aloud. 

Term three will focus on the fundamentals of Journalism beginning with a brief dive into the history of American media. Students will read and analyze a variety of popular article types including hard news stories, interviews, opinion pieces, and reviews. After gleaning inspiration from and identifying the skills needed to create these pieces, students will gain experience writing articles on subjects they are passionate about for publication on our own website. 

This course will have weekly assessments and will culminate in a well-rounded portfolio of processed writing.

Coding Intensive

Taught by Rafael Cordero, Director of Technology Services

The Honors Coding course offers students the opportunity to engage with Google's CS First program and harmonizes seamlessly with the 2017 CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards and the K-12 Computer Science Framework.

Students engage with instructional videos tailored to their interests, which progressively introduce fundamental computer science principles. 

Through a problem-solving approach, students craft block-based coding projects that not only align with diverse subject areas but also highlight their innate creativity.

Students will access the coding curriculum according to their individual levels, prior knowledge, and expertise with coding.

Model United Nations (MUN) Intensive

Taught by Meg Dana, Middle School Humanities Faculty

The Model United Nations Honors Class is designed to provide students with valuable skills in research, speaking, debating, reading, and writing. Throughout the course, we will focus on current events and global issues, allowing students to delve into the policies and procedures of the United Nations through stimulating simulations.

During this engaging journey, each student will have the opportunity to represent a country and thoroughly explore its unique perspective. Through comprehensive research, they will gain in-depth knowledge about their assigned country's stance on various important topics. These topics encompass a wide range of critical global issues, including climate change, racial discrimination, gender inequality in the workplace, and immigration.

Throughout the year, students will receive ongoing support to excel in their assignments. They will have numerous opportunities to practice and strengthen their skills through engaging in mini-research projects, speaking exercises, reading tasks, and writing assignments.

By participating in this honors class, students will develop essential abilities that are fundamental to Model United Nations and will help them in other classes as well. This course is for the student who wants to experience the world of diplomacy, debate, and critical thinking through an exciting exploration of global affairs!

There is the possibility that the students can participate in a MUN simulation at UCSB in early 2024.

Performing Arts Intensive

Taught by Miriam Dance, Director of Performing Arts

Students who participate in the Middle School Performing Arts Honors course will use critical analysis to improve, refine, and evolve original ideas and artistic choices in theatrical practice and performance work. 

Students will examine and justify original ideas and artistic choices in a drama/theatre work based on critical analysis, personal experience, and historical and cultural context.

Students will train the physical, vocal, and emotional aspects of their actor instrument by examining and performing scenes and monologues from the works of Shakespeare, contemporary, and modern plays. 

Coursework will consist of solo, partnering, group vocal, and physical exercises. Class requirements include readings, discussions, rehearsal assignments, and performance.

 In addition, students will have the opportunity to contribute ideas and accept and incorporate the ideas of others in preparing for ensemble performances and individual drama/theatre presentations.

All Performing Arts Honors participants will be expected to demonstrate mutual respect for self and others and their roles in preparing for class and performances as well as share leadership and responsibilities to develop collaborative goals when preparing for both individual class work and performances. 

Performing Arts Honors Applicants are encouraged to participate in the MS Musical and attend the Junior Theater Festival in February. (More information will be shared at a later date.)