Riverdale Country School

Mind • Character • Community

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Global Learning: Character Education in New Zealand
Posted 06/16/2015 03:50PM

A group of Riverdale students and teachers is in Christchurch, New Zealand, this week on a trip that combines global learning, character education, and service to others.

In February 2011, a 6.3 earthquake heavily damaged Christchurch, New Zealand’s second largest city, killing 185 people and becoming the country's second deadliest natural disaster. The estimated cost for rebuilding the city is $40 billion, and it is expected to take 50 to 100 years for the area to completely recover.

The opportunity grew out of a collaboration with Kaila Colbin ‘91, the director of the Ministry of Awesome; the Sumner School (a school serving first through eighth grades); and the University of Canterbury Community Engagement Hub. Assistant Head of School Milton Sipp, who also heads the Middle School, is leading a group of 12 Middle and Upper School students along with two Riverdale teachers to learn, firsthand, about how personal and community resilience is developed and how it is put into action.

Although Riverdale and the Sumner school are separated by two oceans and four continents, the schools both emphasize character education, helping students develop such attributes as optimism and resilience.

At the school, Riverdale students attended an assembly that included traditions reflecting New Zealand's culture and values (see photo above).

They spent a day learning about personal resilience with the help and guidance of Paul Nicholson of Full On, who led a positive psychology experiential course. Susan Polise, one of the chaperones, reported: “The goal of the course was to work as a group to envision goals in life and find strategies and ways of thinking that could help us achieve what was most important to us in our school, outside of school and home lives. Paul referred to this as ‘Making IT happen.’

"Through team building activities, we explored the role of motivation, how to set goals and design one’s own experiences, the importance of slamming it or giving something 100% of your effort,  and the need to take ownership of one’s own success by resisting tendencies to blame, find excuses and deny. We also talked about focusing on the possibilities, stepping out of our comfort zones and harnessing our fears. We realized that in evaluating risk, we needed to distinguish between real risk and the false expectations about risk.”

The group also learned about community resilience, participating in various activities with civic leaders of Christchurch. The visited the Mayor's Office at the Christchurch City Council Building, where they met with Mayor Lianne Dalziel and Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck. Rachel Klein, a chaperone, reported: “Mayor Dalziel spoke candidly with our group of Riverdale and Sumner students about her role in the city government post-earthquakes. She became Mayor of Christchurch after the earthquakes, she explained, because of the need to create and recreate a sense of community. She explained that Christchurch has a great sense of optimism and hope, which became apparent especially after the disasters they experienced.”

Next up was a trip to Quake City, where they were briefed on the history of the earthquakes and the way they impacted the Christchurch community. They toured downtown Christchurch where they witnessed the damage to the city.

The students are expected to leave New Zealand on Friday, June 19th.


By Brianna Fernandez '16


Riverdale Country School

Mind • Character • Community



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Bronx, NY 10471
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Bronx, NY 10471
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