Lower School News & Stories
A third grade classroom on the River Campus.
At a Lower School reception for prospective parents on Sept. 19, Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph explained the mission of Riverdale Country School. Here is an excerpt from his remarks:
What do you dream for your children? Not an easy question to answer.
My daughter is soon to be 30 years old. She is thriving, and I am happy for her. I am not sure what I was wishing for her when she was 4 years old, though. Should I have been thinking about her future 26 years later?Let me digress a bit … I have been involved in helping begin several non-profit startups. It is interesting work that informs how we think about education here at Riverdale. As we were beginning the Character Lab, we talked to many consultants who got us to think about our 1-, 3- and 5-year goals. The most interesting person we talked to was a successful entrepreneur … she asked what are your 30-year goals? I was shocked by this question. It kept me thinking for days. And yet, that is the very question we should be asking about our children. Now, that I know more about the science of development, wellbeing and flourishing through people like Marty Seligman, Angela Duckworth and Barbara Fredrickson, I think I should have had a much longer horizon as I considered my daughter’s development.
It is indeed a marathon, and, as parents, we should be thinking that way. It is not a question about how they feel tomorrow, or how they do on a given test or project. We have to think in much longer terms. We want your children to flourish, to become autonomous thinkers, to develop a sense of agency for themselves that provides them touchstones for their entire lives. That is at the heart of the value-addedness of a Riverdale education: it is intentionally thinking about the longer term future of our students and your child’s wellbeing begins here in the earliest years. We want our students to flourish, to develop a capacity for a sense of purpose in their lives and find meaning and as the research shows those foundational stones are best laid in the early years of education.
If this is all true, how do we backward engineer flourishing children? Our mission is the answer: Riverdale Country School is a Pre-K through Grade 12 independent school in New York City committed to empowering lifelong learners by developing minds, building character, and creating community in order to change our world for the good.
We develop minds: that means that we get children to think well. We prize question-asking, and having students learn to communicate their ideas effectively in letters, paragraphs and numbers on this campus. We also get students to step back from their thinking and reflect upon the moves that they have made. Just as in math classes you were told to “show your work,” they need to be able to show their thinking.
We build character: we want our students to use and grow their character strengths such as optimism, grit, and gratitude to build out their ideas, build friendship, build confidence. It takes a lot for children to come up to Riverdale, navigate the campus, and find their own paths, but that is what is great about Riverdale. Riverdale offers the right challenge to our students to make them grow as individuals who can change the world for the good.
We want them to create community here. They do that by sharing their ideas, sharing their lunch, sharing who they are with their peers and teachers, sharing their wonderful differences, their uniqueness with everyone. Much of learning we envision as a solitary pursuit and some of it is, but the very best learning is very social. It is through morning discussions, through listening to others, through play with others that you learn.
THINK-BUILD-SHARE-REFLECT: this is our simple model of what constitutes dynamic and contemporary learning experiences that prepare students for their amazing futures. Great learning experiences are an alchemy of developing minds, building character, and creating community. It is a modern liberal arts education with a 30 to 40 year timeline that will help your children grow into who they are and to find their potential. We aspire to provide to everyone in the Riverdale community an education that is transformative for our students and for our school.