Principal Darrell Herring, who has led the school in its first three years, said having a senior class is a different, exciting experience.
“We will have been with those students for four years, and we’re finally to a point where they’re graduating,” Herring said. “We all have mixed emotions. We’re both happy and sad around here for our 2013 graduates.”
River Ridge started with 305 students in the fall of 2009. Now, the school serves about 1,400 students in the ninth through 12th grades.
“You get close to all of them,” he said. “It’s a difficult job but that part, seeing them succeed, I think is very rewarding.”
In addition, the school is offering eight new Advanced Placement classes this year. Some other new course offerings include engineering design, applied therapeutic services, forensic science, zoology, astronomy, math decision-making, math of finances, U.S. history in film, interior design and ceramics.
Herring said creating a diverse course selection has taken a lot of work in the last couple of years to train teachers and garner enough student interest.
“We’ve been waiting a few years to be able to do this because of numbers and we’re excited to give them those choices,” Herring said.
Overall, Herring said the adjustment to becoming a four-year school has been a smooth one, thanks to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank Petruzielo and county officials.
“Dr. P. and his staff made it really easy for us when we opened up as a brand new high school, and the transition has been four years in the making,” Herring said.
In its third year being offered at River Ridge, AP Human Geography — an elective social studies class taken mostly by freshman students — is opening up teachers and students to the district’s Bring Your Learning Device initiative.
The course provided a chance for students to be among the first to use technology devices brought from home on Tuesday for the course’s geocache scavenger hunt.
Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use GPS or mobile devices to find certain objects or markers, called geocaches, by using specific coordinates.
For the class activity, five groups of three students were required to find four checkpoints throughout the school by plugging coordinate numbers into free mapping applications on their devices. Each group then took the clues from the markers, with answers discovered in YouTube videos or Google searches, and tried find the final geocache point before other classmates to win the first-place prize.
Teacher Samantha Fraser said her class did the activity last year with six GPS devices loaned to the school by REI. She said allowing students to use their own technology for the activity was a more effective way for them to learn because they are more familiar with their own devices.
“They know more about technology than I do sometimes,” Fraser said. “But I think letting them play around with it has worked out well.”
Fraser said the BYLD initiative, which allows students to bring technology to school to use in the classroom, has allowed the class to learn about coordinates in a unique way.
“I prefer not to kill the trees,” Fraser said of the traditional written assignments. “Often when I’ve given out a worksheet, it gets lost anyway. This really gives them more control of their own learning.”
Debbie Childress, supervisor of instructional technology, followed students throughout the activity to see how they used the devices. She said the district’s technology department is still in “discovery mode” of how best to incorporate learning devices into the classroom.
“A lot of parents view these devices as just for communication and entertainment,” Childress said. “We’re looking to show them that there are all of these capabilities for learning.”