While aligned with the Common Core Curriculum, what sets our academic program apart is our integration of the 10 Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools. We focus on helping students learn to use their minds well, emphasize depth over breadth to instill mastery of subject matter, personalize our teaching for our students and stress high expectations while fostering an ‘unanxious’ environment in which students feel empowered to learn.
English Language Arts
Our language arts program has a key goal in mind – to develop a love of reading and an appreciation for language. In our pre-primary and primary grades we strive to build a strong foundation of skills. Throughout our K-8 environment our instructional focus and activities encourage students to read voluminous amounts of material in a variety of genres. Science, social studies and enrichment courses support language development through non-fiction text, vocabulary development and more. Students develop skills in previewing, listening, speaking, reading, research and writing. We implement the methods developed by Lucy Calkins for writing instruction – an effective, research-based model for teaching and evaluating writing. Both reading and writing are assessed using the benchmarks of the Common Core State Standards in English language arts.
Math instruction is lively at Riverdale as students actively use math, problem solve and develop strong mathematical skills with confidence.
Riverdale Grade School follows the Common Core State Standards for math, yet we do so by utilizing the Math Learning Center’s Bridges Math Second Edition curriculum in K-5 and Connected Mathematics 3 (beginning with Algebra 1 and progressing to a high school geometry course) in grades 6-8. These studies emphasize rigorous, deep understanding of mathematical concepts through investigations, direct instruction and open exploration. The activities within the program provide a structure that is consistent as students advance through the grades and variety to keeps students motivated and engaged.
Our youngest students analyze number relationships and look for mathematical patterns as they flip another calendar card to start the day. Our 1st graders design community parks within a fixed budget and watch it come to life. Our 2nd graders make cardboard ramps to determine what variables affect the speed in which the marbles roll. In 3rd grade, students research and build their own model bridges, collecting data to graph and analyze. The 4th graders engage in workplace games as they build their fluency with addition and subtraction of multi-digit whole numbers. Our 5th graders present their work, discussing their strategies and solutions for solving problems during a math forum. Middle school students plan and conduct interest surveys, collecting the data for interpretation and analysis.
Social Studies and Science
Our youngest students have one period per day for the exploration of social studies and science. There are some days when the focus is entirely on one subject, yet often the concepts are combined. English language arts concepts are also discussed and applied during these periods.
Upper grades begin to study science and social studies more deeply. Our 5th-8th grades have dedicated science and social studies classes, with at least one period of each per day. In 5th grade, we build extra room into the schedule for double period blocks of science and math per day, while 6th grade students have double period blocks of English and social studies per day. Once students reach 7th and 8th grade, they return to one period per day for each unit of study.
Our social studies curriculum in kindergarten through 4th grade serves as a great time for exploration. Many field trips enhance learning through real world experience. While we focus on the Oregon state standards for social studies, we believe in students using project-based learning. We also find meaningful connections to the Habits of Mind with our social studies curriculum. We strive to empower students to be mindful and thoughtful citizens, which applies to the teaching and learning of social studies.
Topics of study progress over the years, beginning with the idea of community and our immediate world, then advancing to learn about themselves through the history and cultures that have shaped local and global civilizations throughout the years. As students grow, so too does their understanding of geography, civilization, the early days of America and our government, the earth, ecosystems, environmental factors, population, economics, other countries, Ancient Rome, the rise and spread of Islam, medieval Athens and Europe, the Renaissance and more.
From preschool on, Riverdale students are exploring and investigating science concepts both inside the classroom and out. They use the school’s Outdoor Classroom and Garden to plant seeds, measure, make predictions and hypothesize. They also use local resources such as nearby Tryon Creek State Park and the Willamette River, which are both on the edges of our district boundary.
While our science curriculum adheres to the Next Generation Science Standards, we support student inquiry and investigation through all avenues of study. Science and social studies really follow our philosophy of “less is more, depth over coverage.” Scientific exploration throughout the grades includes thorough coverage of topics that include farms and insects, dinosaurs, the ocean, senses, weather and climate, the water cycle, balance and motion, magnetism and electricity, chemistry, earth systems, space exploration, engineering, cells, DNA and chemical reactions.
Highlights of our science program include a partnership between kindergarteners and 6th graders in which they explore the salmon life cycle – culminating in an excursion to the nearby river to release the salmon. Our 5th graders attend their first field studies experience, exploring and applying the Next Generation Science Standards on a four-night stay at Mount St. Helens. Our 6th graders also apply scientific principles during a weeklong Outdoor School adventure in the spring.
Learning Beyond the Classroom
Grade school students are encouraged to spread their wings and expand their minds through a variety of field trips, including overnight field studies programs ranging from two to four days for students beginning in 4th grade. These excursions provide the opportunity to use classroom knowledge in real-world, experiential settings. Learn more on our Field Studies page.