These quarter-credit courses may be taken by 9th–12th graders and may be proposed by faculty or students who are especially interested in a specific topic. Because these courses are pass/fail and nearly homework-free, they attract students with a true passion for the subject matter. Courses include songwriting, journalism, trial advocacy, and conversations about feminism. In many ways, mini-courses demonstrate Riverdale's commitment to providing students with choice and variety in what they study.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Creating a NYC Guidebook for Riverdale's Global Studies Program

Creating a NYC Guidebook for Riverdale's Global Studies Program

In this interdisciplinary mini-course students will be an integral part of the creation and design of a “guidebook” for Global Studies students who visit Riverdale. The book will be thought-provoking, visually appealing, and will include a discussion of the character strengths that we promote at Riverdale. It will also serve as a guide to getting to know different parts of New York City and the neighborhoods surrounding our school. Alongside Ms. Klein and Mr. Ruff, students will create, edit, and ultimately publish the RE:Edit NYC Guidebook for Riverdale Global Studies Program to guide and complement the Riverdale/NYC Global Studies experience through an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Creative Writing Workshop

Creative Writing Workshop

"If there's a book (or poem/memoir/short story…) that you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." –Toni Morrison

In this hands-on course, students will develop individual writing projects in a form of their choice. Participants will discuss one another's work in a supportive, fun environment, exploring topics such as voice, character, dialogue, point of view, narrative arc, and genre. Students are encouraged, but not required, to submit to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at the end of the semester.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Debate


Training and practice sessions for interscholastic debate tournaments. Open to members of the debate activity-advisory and all 9th graders. Students new to debate are required to participate in at least two tournaments per semester. Tournaments are held on weekends and typically last all day.

Semesters 1 and 2 - How Doctors Think

How Doctors Think

This is an introduction to clinical medicine by a physician and Riverdale alumnus. It provides a real taste or two of the heart of being a doctor: reaching a diagnosis, applying treatment, and communicating with patients and their loved ones. This means there will be discussions, case studies, and some fun role-playing. The model will be a biopsychosocial method of helping patients. The message will be showing some of the many ways in which clinical care is informed by science on the one hand and the humanities on the other hand. Riverdale faculty will be guest teachers in this class. Be a part of a ground-breaking pre-pre-med course, even if you do not have any clear wish to go to med school after your college years.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Impressions


Join Riverdale's award-winning student art and literature magazine. Participate in showcasing the diverse and creative work of our students while you learn valuable editing, graphic design, and publication skills.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Italian


Italian is one of the most interesting and culturally prominent languages in today's world. Introductory Italian would supply a basic foundation of the Italian language for either a starting point for future studies in the language or to teach the tools necessary to carry out a basic conversation in Italian. The course would have an emphasis on conversational skills and no prior knowledge in Italian is needed (those who have never had any experience with the language are encouraged to try!), although a background in either Spanish, Latin, French, or any other romance language is recommended.

Semesters 1 and 2 - Pop and Rock Band

Pop and Rock Band

For those of you who love playing music, here's a chance to have fun rocking out and get credit for it at the same time! We will pick together to play and perform a wide range of music such as classic rock songs and the Top 40 Pop songs of today. We welcome original songs from budding songwriters! All instruments (i.e.,piano, electric guitar, electric bass, drums) of all levels, singers and songwriters are free to participate! Email Ms. Getter with any questions (

Semesters 1 and 2 - Yearbook


This mini course will design, plan, and produce the school yearbook for 2017-2018. Activities will include editing photographs, designing pages, and making decisions about title, theme, cover, features, dedications, and general tone of the project. Students in all grades with all levels of experience are encouraged to join.

Semester 1 - Alternate Realities in Computer Science

Alternate Realities in Computer Science

Gain hands-on experience in Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Realities (VR|AR|MR) and their potential for transforming our world. Investigate the current uses of devices such as the Vive, Oculus, and Hololens and what’s being planned in the future. Then learn how different industries and research are driving the use and application of these technologies. In this course, you will examine the set-up, use, and application of popular VR, AR, and MR devices including Google Cardboard, HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, Nintendo 3DS, and the Microsoft Hololens. In addition, you will build basic projects for these environments. Bring alternate realities to life this fall!

Semester 1 - Archival Research: The United Nations and The Cold War

Archival Research: The United Nations and The Cold War

This mini-course will give students the opportunity to work with digital primary sources on the UN and the Cold War to write an original research paper directed towards their own interests. We will explore questions such as: How did an international organization help to rebuild following the devastation of World War II? What role can an international organization play in a world divided by superpowers, ideologies, and the threat of nuclear war? How has peacekeeping changed? How do historians answers questions like this one? This course is open to students who participate in the Summer Archival Workshop and 10th–12th graders with the recommendation of their current history teacher. Students from the summer program will use this time to write an original paper from their research. Students new to the topic will use digital archives on the UN and the Cold War to develop a research question, conduct primary source research, and write a substantial research paper. After the first few weeks the course will be dedicated to writing, workshopping, and research. At the end of the course students will submit their papers to the Concord Review. The course will include a one-day field trip to the United Nations archives in Manhattan.

Semester 1 - Baking Raspberry Pi: Build Your Own Computer, Wearable, or Internet Connected Device

Baking Raspberry Pi: Build Your Own Computer, Wearable, or Internet Connected Device

Have you ever wanted to build your own computer, wearable, or Internet connected device? In this mini-course you will build your own computer using the Raspberry Pi 3 to investigate different hardware components and gather an in depth look at an operating system (OS). Use your Raspberry Pi computer to learn Python, then create your own projects with the Raspberry Pi. The possibilities are endless: a retro games console, a media server, a home security system, a radio station, or maybe even an air guitar or LED weather sensing jacket. No previous coding or hardware experience is necessary to build your own internet connected device.

Semester 1 - Basics of Web Design

Basics of Web Design

Have you ever wanted to build your own website? In this mini-course, learn the basics of building and styling websites using HTML, CSS, and Javascript: the code languages that websites are built on. In this mini-course, you will build your own web pages to create fun and interesting projects you can run in your browser. No previous programming necessary.

Semester 1 - Evo/Devo


The important question of ‘How did we get here?” can be addressed from an evolutionary perspective, looking at evidence spanning millions of years, or from a developmental perspective examining embryos that develop in as little as 3 days. The synthesis of these two areas of biology is known as Evo/Devo. Comparative anatomy provides an excellent starting point. We’ll look at the external and internal features of a variety of animals (mealworms, crickets, lobsters, grasshopper, crayfish, perch, frog and rat) and investigate their evolutionary significance. For the developmental biology segment we will look at the development of insect embryos and discuss common themes in development that are highly conserved in a broad range of organisms.

Semester 1 - Introduction to Coding and Robotics

Introduction to Coding and Robotics

Have you ever wanted to learn to code? Ever wanted to build a robot? In this course you'll do both! In this introductory mini-course you will learn the fundamentals of programming and then build your own robot and investigate major hardware components such as motors, sensors, and servos. Combine both programming and robotics to learn how sensors can be used to gather data or handle robot events. Sensors include ultrasonic, light and path, temperature, humidity, pressures, and accelerometers and gyroscopes. This course will make use of different programming languages and robots to illustrate how learning the fundamentals of CS and robotics can be used on several computing and robotics platforms.

Semester 1 - Patriarchal Lenses

Patriarchal Lenses

Patriarchal Lenses is a mini-course designed to, first, define and clarify what patriarchy means and then examine how its influences and consequences manifest within American culture. In addition to exploring movies and music, students will also investigate how patriarchy has affected their lives, beginning with their childhood. Moreover, the course will include and center conversations about feminism, focusing on how it potentially counters and remedies patriarchy.

Semester 1 - Science Research

Science Research

This course is designed to accommodate the independent research interests of students in grades 10–12. Students are eligible if they have previously participated in the RCS summer research program or have completed an internship experience off campus. Students will use the mini-course periods to write up results for publication, conference submission, and for presentation preparation. The mini-course culminates in a formal presentation by each student in Riverdale's Science Symposium which takes place toward the end of term 1. Students must be individually approved for participation in the mini-course.

Semester 1 - Urdu/Hindi


Have you ever wanted to pick up a new language but simply never had the time? Well, here's your chance! In this mini-course you will attain conversational skills in Urdu/Hindi. With around 410 million speakers worldwide, Hindi will be a useful language to know no matter where you go. In the process of learning Urdu/Hindi we'll also learn about Indian/Pakistani culture. No prior knowledge necessary.

Semester 1 - Vex Robotics

Vex Robotics

The Vex Robotics mini-course involves students in the development, building, and programming of robots using the Vex Robotics platform. Students work hands-on in teams to design, build, program, and document their progress. Topics include motor control, gear ratios, torque, friction, sensors, logic gates, timing sequences, propulsion systems and binary number systems. Students will design robots to compete in the 2017–2018 Vex Robotics challenge called Starstruck. The object of the challenge is to obtain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by scoring your stars and cubes in your zones and by hanging your robots on the hanging bar. Students may also opt to compete in official VEX robotics competitions and scrimmages in the surrounding tri-state area.

Semester 1 - Visual Coding

Visual Coding

Explore the application of coding and programming within the context of the visual arts using Processing p5.js. In this mini-course you will learn the basics of JavaScript while creating really cool interactive art displays. Whether you’re an artist, designer, or simply want to learn how to code something evocative, this mini-course will have you creating interactive art right away.

Semester 1 - Wilderness Medicine

Wilderness Medicine

First taught in 1975, Wilderness First Aid has become the standard for basic level wilderness emergency medicine. This course focuses on patient assessment, musculoskeletal injuries, environmental emergencies, soft tissue injuries, and medical emergencies, with a large emphasis on prevention. Upon successful completion students will have the opportunity to obtain their Wilderness First Aid certification.

Semester 2 - Automotive Theory

Automotive Theory

Are you interested in cars? This mini-course will be structured around automotive design, structural concepts, and discussions on real-world applications. We will cover the following topics: engine design and types, chassis, suspension, wheels and tires, aerodynamics, self-driving technology, and emotional response. By the end of this course, you will have designed your own ideal car based on the information we have covered. No prior experience necessary, just an interest in cars.

Semester 2 - Bronx Connections

Bronx Connections

This course will be a mixture of leadership training, context building, and planning time for the Bronx Connections summer program. Bronx Connections is a six-day summer enrichment program here at Riverdale for local public school 7th and 8th graders. The program also involves a small group of RCS juniors and seniors who act as mentors/role models for the younger children. Students should have a strong interest in and/or experience working with younger students. Participation is by application only.

Semester 2 - Experiments in Neuroscience

Experiments in Neuroscience

We begin by examining sensory inputs into the nervous system at the anatomical level and discuss how that information is relayed to the brain. In various activities and student designed experiments, we will test your response to different sensory inputs and test ways to block or alter the way the input is perceived and received. Last year we tested the ability of various over-the-counter topical painkillers to interfere with the sensation of pressure. We'll discuss the cellular and molecular basis for signal transmission in nerve cells. And we will end the year by looking at electrical activity in the neurons and muscles of a mealworm and where we'll apply our knowledge to design new experiments.

Semester 2 - Exploring the Arctic

Exploring the Arctic

Through this course students will explore the ecology, culture, politics, and adventure of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Students will also have the opportunity to participate in a new science research and outdoor leadership program in the Arctic next summer.

Semester 2 - How and Why to Translate Chinese Poetry

How and Why to Translate Chinese Poetry

This mini-course is a journey of discovery that starts in China’s Tang Dynasty and brings us to the present day. We will take a deep dive into traditional Chinese culture and history, reading about Buddhism and Daoism and the great spiritual tradition of Tang poetry that emerged from their fusion. Students will have a chance to learn how to translate on their own a classical Chinese poem – even with no prior Chinese language experience. Tang poetry is one of the richest literary traditions in all of recorded history and the course will provide a first hand opportunity to find out why through reading and translating poems by Li Bai, Du Fu and Wang Wei. We will also explore how this incredible tradition has been a huge influence on modern American writers and poets, from Ezra Pound to Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. What starts out sounding foreign and exotic turns out to be very much part of our own cultural DNA. Whether you’re interested in learning more about Zen and Eastern philosophy or want a first hand experience reading and translating some incredible poetry, this course will provide you with a mind-expanding journey—a lesson in how to find your own voice through the discovery of the Other.

Semester 2 - Trial Advocacy

Trial Advocacy

Trial Advocacy has two separate but interconnected aims. Principally, enrolled students will develop, prepare, and present material on behalf of Riverdale for the ongoing competition held annually by the New York State Bar Association. Once the competition ends the course switches focus to examine the principles of trial advocacy, including the rules of evidence and their usage, along with courtroom protocol.

Semester 2 - Video Art Course: A Hands-On Class in Time Based Media Art

Video Art Course: A Hands-On Class in Time Based Media Art

Students will learn to use video shooting and editing technology to create art, and to utilize time based media as an extension of their artistic thinking. This course will cover all stages of video production to create both stand-alone video works and video components to incorporate into other art media (such as sculpture or installation). We’ll also look at and discuss video art from its inception into the art world (in the 1960s) through today and its intersection with performance, sculpture, installation, and photography. The course will embody, but not be limited to: shooting, staging, chroma-key, compositing, editing, stop motion, audio, and lighting.


Riverdale Country School

Mind • Character • Community



Lower School
1 Spaulding Lane
Bronx, NY 10471
LS: (718) 549-7780

Middle/Upper School
5250 Fieldston Road
Bronx, NY 10471
MS/US: (718) 549-8810

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Project Knowmad allows Middle Schoolers to learn in a different way, using NYC as their classroom. Go There >

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