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Urban Studies: Comparative Cities This interdisciplinary course uses New York City as our frame. Students are asked to think critically about how the natural environment, policy decisions, immigration, and corporate interests have shaped various neighborhoods and then compare New York’s unique history and experiences with those of other urban landscapes.

Language study at Riverdale is a dynamic, interdisciplinary experience focused on intercultural communicative competency. Students gain a rich understanding of grammar and vocabulary, cultural histories and products, the relationship between language and identity, and the value of engaging with perspectives and traditions that are different from one’s own. All Middle School and Upper School students study a world language, and can select from Spanish, French, Latin and Mandarin. Japanese and Ancient Greek are offered additionally in the Upper School. Students are required to complete at least three years of Upper School study in one of these language areas, but most continue beyond that requirement and take advantage of the advanced elective courses offered in Language. A selection of those offerings is described below.

Immigration, Education, and Race This advanced French course focuses on the polemic of diversity in the key areas of education, immigration and race. We will approach these topics through the careful analysis of diverse texts, including news articles and broadcasts, films, art and literature. Students will not only refine their language proficiency in all four skills areas (reading, writing, speaking, listening) but also engage deeply with current events and critical dialogues from across the Francophone world.


Innovation and Design for Global Issues in Latin America Co-taught entirely in Spanish by teachers in the language and art departments, this interdisciplinary class studies design engineering problems faced by Latin American countries. Students work in the Maker Lab, developing their linguistic, creative, and entrepreneurial skills through hands-on art, design, and engineering projects.

Upper School: Electives

In this course we examine the vivid and tumultuous social, political, and cultural movements of the 1960s across the globe. We begin with liberation movements of the 1950s (decolonization in Africa and Asia, nationalist revolution in Cuba, and the black freedom movement in the U.S.) in the context of the deepening Cold War. These movements not only changed the political contours of the globe but also sparked social movements in other countries, first in support of decolonization and then directed against the structures of authority in their own societies. Topics we explore in depth include the Vietnam Wars; student move-ments of Japan, the U.S., Western Europe, and Mexico; the development of feminism and other social movements; the rise of counter-cultures; Czech challenges to Soviet authority; and the cataclysmic events of 1968 across the world. Our sources include scholarly articles, memoirs, speeches and essays, films, music, photos, stories, and other primary sources. Students write regularly in various formats (informal impromptu writing, online journal entries, brief analytical essays) and are expected to participate actively in each class session. Students have an opportunity to do brief research forays into areas of personal interest.


Novelas Ejemplares This course investigates the implicit dialogues on gender and art between two of Spain’s most masterful and influential Golden Age writers: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and his proto-feminist contemporary María de Zayas y Sotomayor, the most popular woman writer of the period.

Latin Letters An advanced Latin prose course, with emphasis on fluency, an understanding of style, literary analysis, and cultural context. We will read, at a minimum, letters by Cicero, Seneca, and Pliny (including the only first-hand account we have of the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 70 CE written by someone who experienced it). If time and interest permit, we may add Latin letters from later eras (by Erasmus, for example).

Latin Love Elegy This advanced Latin poetry course continues to refine the study of literary style, intertextuality, and cultural context from the ancient world. We will explore love poetry in elegiac form by Catullus (a pioneer or precursor) and then Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid, the three acknowledged masters of love elegy whose work survives today.

Learning Experience

The Global 1960’s

Profile for Riverdale Country School

The Riverdale Learning Experience (2019)  

The Riverdale learning experience is influenced by many factors: the growing science of how children learn, the role of character strengths...

The Riverdale Learning Experience (2019)  

The Riverdale learning experience is influenced by many factors: the growing science of how children learn, the role of character strengths...