Upper School News & Stories
The givens: 20 sticks of spaghetti, a marshmallow, a straw, tape, and string. The problem: build a tower from the tabletop up. The unknown: diverse minds collaborating, inventing, and using their hands to solve an engineering challenge.
On Tuesday, Riverdale held a professional development day, entitled “Renew,” which was designed to bring the student experience to all departments in the school and to share new ways of working and thinking with colleagues.
During the morning, all faculty and staff took part in the marshmallow challenge (shown above) as well as three other workshops: improvisation, led by the performing arts department; a sensory and navigation activity led by the outdoor educator and advisors involving blindfolds and animal sounds (slideshow below); and either yoga or guided mindfulness, led by the wellness faculty.
The afternoon featured a range of discussions and workshops related to technology, brain science, communication, teaching strategies, environmental science, service learning, and enrichment. Faculty also could learn welding, Pilates, or go off campus to an art exhibit.
“It is clear that a major challenge in our school and others is how to make learning and knowledge more experiential,” said Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph. “It is through actual application of knowledge and skills that true understanding is attained. We need to grapple in an ongoing way with how to make learning as active as possible.”
While acknowledging that some of the day’s activities might make faculty members uncomfortable, Randolph noted that students are asked to take creative and intellectual risks everyday. “I think we need to experience and model facing that type of risk and challenge ourselves,” he said. “It is true that many of us do that in our personal lives, but I also think it is good to do this as a community.’’
Sean Dagony-Clark, director of academic technology, Karen Fierst, the Lower School assistant head for curriculum and academic programs, and Jed Silverstein, coordinator of the Learning Research Team on the Hill campus, put together the afternoon programs.
"Our faculty is just so talented and diverse that basically we ran a mini-conference!" Dagony-Clark said. "People were so energized by learning from each other. And the feedback we’ve received is hugely positive. It was just so rewarding to be a part of this."