We still believe what our founder, Frank S. Hackett, intended for all Riverdale students: that their learning should move seamlessly from the classroom to the outside world. This year, Middle and Upper School students experienced “learning without limits” during place-based experiences throughout New York City, our surrounding community, and across the country. Riverdale’s first October Experiential Education Days allowed “students to chip away at their preconceptions of what learning is,” said Meg Johnson, History Teacher and Dean of the Class of 2025. “When they return to the classroom, their thinking is more expansive, refreshed, and creative.”

Projects were focused on one or more areas: service learning, global studies, outdoor/adventure education, community engagement, and interdisciplinary programs.

6th-grade students traveled to Black Rock Forest to explore nature, indigenous histories, science, and creative writing. Students rotated through activities focused on poetry, indigenous objects, science, coding, and mindfulness. One station, led by Spanish faculty member Eli Sands ‘14, involved students listening to and recording the sounds of the forest. Students stood in silence for a minute and listened to their surroundings, chose an object in the forest, and found a way to cause that object to make sound. Each sound was recorded and subsequently edited, mixed, and layered together into a single soundscape. You can listen to the soundscape and the individual sounds of each group here

7th graders challenged themselves mentally and physically on ropes courses and during bonding activities at Boundless Adventures, an aerial park in Purchase, New York. 

As part of Global Citizenship day, 8th graders experienced and learned about the histories of different neighborhoods such as Washington Heights, El Barrio, Harlem, Jackson Heights, and Hunts Point. They engaged in dance and musical performances, food preparation and tasting, using their diverse language skills, service learning, urban gardening, and embracing people of different religious and socio-cultural backgrounds. One group visited the New York Botanical Garden right here in The Bronx to think about urban farming practices at their Edible Academy and make connections about humans and the environment on a nature walk and explored alternative ways to use plants in a natural, plant-dye workshop.

9th grade Visual Arts students experienced sculpture on a monumental scale in a beautiful landscape at Storm King Sculpture Park, and then created their own sculptures inspired by what they saw. Music students explored the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then took in performances of Beetlejuice the Musical and the New York Philharmonic. Theater Performing Arts students created, produced, and performed a play in the span of one school day. 

10th graders spent two days at Camp Jewell where they engaged in the first annual Lindy Recycled Regatta, building boats out of milk crates, five-gallon jugs, trash bags, duct tape, and 2x2s. The class deepened their friendships and practiced STEAM skills like design, iterating, and group-based problem-solving.

11th graders traveled to Washington, D.C. to expand on the topics they are exploring in their Constructing America course. During and following the trip, students were asked to explore “How Policy is made in DC” and then meet with lobbyists and experts in NGOs around the city to consider the different influences on policy. By diving into topics that resonate both with what they are learning in the classroom and with their own passions, students can envision themselves as changemakers in the world. 

Dr. Elizabeth Pillsbury, Director of Experiential Education, said, “I feel grateful to work with such an incredible group of teachers who are willing to develop experiences that allow students to engage deeply with the world around them and to draw connections between those experiences and what they are learning in the classroom.”