Middle School students learn the principles behind rocketry and physics as they create and launch their own model rockets (March 2021).

At Riverdale, students are encouraged to ignite their passions and to discover and pursue their purpose. Through classroom experience and hands-on learning, students add depth to their knowledge: they work toward solving real-world problems, create connections with other communities, and use their time and talents in meaningful ways. 

Head of School Dominic Randolph observes, “We all need to keep learning throughout our lives and will reinvent ourselves many times over. As educators, we are responsible for providing our students with guidance and encouragement so that they may do so successfully and with intention. Although current educational outcomes—such as acquiring deep knowledge in the disciplines and learning how to communicate well—will continue to be a priority, they are no longer sufficient to prepare young people for the world in which they will work and live.” 

Riverdale currently offers a variety of programs that already work to guide students through their growth. The youngest learners at the Lower School begin developing their communication through unstructured play, where they practice essential collaborative negotiating skills. Middle Schoolers spend their spring Project-based Learning Week discovering how potential future careers are tied to areas of interest like the arts, medicine, or service by visiting parents and other community members at work. Project Knowmad brings Middle and Upper School students out of the classroom and into the field during the summer months, where they can see the impact of what they study across New York City. 

This type of experiential learning has always been deeply embedded in Riverdale’s educational model and its importance has been emphasized by noted researchers such as Kendall Bronk, Angela Duckworth, and Ethan Kross. To continue evolving so that we can best serve the needs of Riverdale students, the school will implement new programming across divisions that will focus on marrying classroom learning with experiences that require the application of academic principles and understanding to realistic scenarios.