Merging the arts, science, engineering, technology, and math, STEAM integration at Riverdale occurs in multiple disciplines as students design, create, and build projects that reflect their personal interests and use skills they have learned in their coursework.
This interdisciplinary approach allows students to build a kayak out of reclaimed wood, design and fabricate furniture, design and build electronic carnival games, and create three-dimensional, computer-controlled wood carvings. At both campuses, a "maker culture" is flourishing in spaces that have been outfitted for tinkering and innovating, and that encourage problem solving through working with hands, minds, tools, and technology.
Lower School: Students are introduced to computational thinking and various programming environments, including Scratch and those designed for robotics, as well as apps used during the Hour of Code. Robotics begins in first grade as students collaborate on how to control a robot while developing an understanding of direction, distance, measurement, and estimation. At the end of fifth grade, they will have built their own robots, and programmed them to move and respond to sensory input. In fifth grade, students get a taste of “maker” culture through a course called “Making T.I.M.E.” (Tinkering, Innovating, Making, Exploring), which looks at circuitry, free-form robotics, wearable tech, and small-scale energy sources.
Middle School: Students may join the robotics club, which meets twice a week after school and participates in the First Lego League’s annual design challenge, and the iOS programming club, which meets once a week. With no prior programming experience necessary, students learn Xcode and the new Swift programming language to solve problems, create applications, and apply computational thinking. In iOS programming, students get a chance to play and tinker with code and design to ultimately create their own application. During Middle School Project Week, students will have an option to learn robotics, coding, computational thinking, and interactive design using Sphereo, the programmable robotic ball. In addition to all of this, 6th graders take a course called MS design, which exposes them to design and problem-solving though tinkering and making. Students use everything from screwdrivers to soldering irons to design and build furniture, electronic circuits, their own inventions, and more.
Upper School: Three computer science courses are offered: a full-year course, an advanced course, and a mini-course in coding. In computer science, students learn programming methodology, algorithmic design, documentation, and collaboration. In the advanced course, they pursue a long-term topic that incorporates analysis, design, development, implementation, and testing. Students record their progress in a journal and create a portfolio. In the coding mini-course, students identify a problem and then work in teams to develop a digital solution. Three interdisciplinary “maker” classes are offered, which allow problem solving using science, math, art, microcontroller programming, and electromechanical systems design with programming in C and Java. We have made robotic and mechanical human joints in biology, designed huge angry bird launchers in physics, robotic fish feeders for marine biology, sculpture-bicycles in 3-D sculpture, and musical stairways in our Design Engineering and Maker advisory.