Why Riverdale

Learning from

Frank S. Hackett, the founder of Riverdale Country School, believed that learning should move seamlessly from the classroom to the outside world. We still believe that the most powerful learning happens in the real world. Experiential learning at Riverdale encompasses service learning, global studies, outdoor/adventure education, community engagement, and interdisciplinary programs.

Our students do research in Alaska; they backpack in Patagonia; they perform in Manhattan theaters; they create business plans for new software applications; they travel internationally and domestically for academic enrichment and service-learning. Some of these experiences are built into the curriculum and occur during the school day; others occur in the evening, on weekends, and on school breaks.

Financial aid is available for school trips, giving all students an opportunity to experience other parts of the country and the world.

When I came to Riverdale, it was this whole new world. There was so much to do and see, so many people to meet and different opportunities to take hold of. I learned how to branch out into the different directions that Riverdale offered.



In an article for the National Association of Independent Schools, “Going Global Without Going,” Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph described how “serendipitous” learning experiences that happen outside the classroom lay the foundation for success in school and in life. These experiences can spark curiosity and creativity, illuminate a human need or problem to be solved, and give students a sense of purpose. “Good grades and SAT scores are seen as a minimum requirement for entry to many colleges and universities,” Randolph wrote. “Admissions officers want to see applicants who are passionate about some topic or endeavor and who have demonstrated deep interest and focus in that pursuit. They want to know if an applicant has shown creativity and imagination in approaching the high school years while preparing not only for college but also for life.”

Realizing that there is a lot of ambiguity — there isn’t one solution or just one approach —is important if you are going to take on the work of serving your community, which is what I hope to be doing.


Change Agents

Riverdale introduces students to artists, speakers, and thought leaders who are influencing contemporary life, and gives students opportunities to go out into the field and observe change for themselves. The faculty models a mindset of lifelong learning, traveling around the world with students and for their own professional development, and meeting here on campus with visiting educators and exchanging best practices. In the Middle and Upper School, students have time in their schedules for leading activities, starting clubs, and doing service-learning. In the Upper School, students can teach mini-courses, pursue independent projects with a faculty advisor, do an exchange program in their junior year, and in their senior year, do an intensive six-week or month-long senior project that replaces their course load.