Fostering an environment of learning that is active, creative and safe, we value and celebrate each child as a unique individual. Foundational skills in literacy and communication are developed through active listening, reading, singing and writing activities.
We believe that play is essential to support a child’s imagination, creativity, communication and motor skill growth. Hands-on experiences allow children learn to explore the world around them. Our curriculum is designed to engage children with activities that involve the senses, build on existing skills and help their minds open and blossom. Thematic units are created to foster students’ curiosity as they learn to express themselves through speaking, writing and art, and explore science and math.
Early Primary (1st and 2nd Grades)
In our primary classrooms, students remain with their classroom teacher for the majority of the day, while specialists teach music, art and physical education. Project-based learning drives thematic instruction, especially in social studies and science. These projects and independent research are an integral part of the primary experience.
Students in the primary classrooms rotate through two different courses of study with diverse themes for each grade level: “Systems” covers city systems, plant ecology, anatomy/senses, Native American history and culture and ocean ecology, while “Connections” focuses on school and neighborhood community, world holidays and celebrations, force and motion, paleontology and life cycles.
A wide array of field trips complement and enrich the concepts explored throughout the curriculum. Examples of past day trips include the Oregon Coast, OMSI’s paleontology lab, Oregon Children’s Theater, Jackson Bottoms and Luscher Farms. In addition, many community outreach programs bring specialists and guest speakers into the classroom.
Upper Primary (3rd and 4th Grades)
In the upper primary classrooms, students remain with their classroom teacher for the majority of the day, while specialists teach music, art and physical education. An investigative, hands-on approach is used for science and social studies. Content includes the water cycle and climate; structures of life; soils, rocks and landforms; introduction to chemistry; electricity and magnetism; motion and matter; environments; bridges; city structure; geography; the city of Portland; and Oregon mapping, Lewis and Clark, the pioneers and Westward Expansion. Learning is extended beyond the classroom through exciting, relevant field trips such as exploring Bull Run Watershed and walking tours of Portland and its bridges for 3rd graders, and a day in the life of a laborer at Fort Vancouver and an overnight "pioneer" field study experience in 4th grade.
Reader’s Workshop stresses reading strategies, vocabulary building, comprehension and analysis of literature. Students are encouraged to develop reading for pleasure as a life-long skill through independent reading, small group instruction and whole class lessons. They also enhance their writing skills through a focus on ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation.
Intermediate (5th and 6th Grades)
Riverdale’s intermediate team consists of four teachers instructing our 5th and 6th grade students in the core content areas of math, science, social studies and language arts. We recognize students in these grades can benefit from a nurturing pre-middle school environment. In addition to the core content areas, all students participate in art, music, physical education, integration of technology and health. Riverdale 5th graders make their instrument selections and begin to play in the band. Students are also encouraged to participate on athletic teams beginning in 5th grade.
Unique educational experiences include a fall field study trip to Mount St. Helens in 5th grade. Parents join the faculty and students for several days of geological inquiry in a camp-like atmosphere. Other significant 5th grade units of study include a space study and a focus on United States history. 6th graders focus on environmental education during a science-focused field study trip to Outdoor School in the spring, and explore World History and Geography of the Western Hemisphere. Both grades participate in the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s classroom Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program, raising and releasing fish each year.
Upper Grades (7th and 8th Grades)
The Riverdale upper grades more closely resemble a traditional middle school model, while preserving our signature small class sizes and personalized learning. We add Spanish to the students’ daily schedules, giving them five academic courses and two elective periods daily. Technology is integrated into class curriculum. Our team of teachers does an outstanding job supporting a rigorous middle school academic experience. There are frequent opportunities for students to apply their knowledge through relevant learning experiences. For students who love science and trivia our Science Bowl team has grown in popularity over the last few years. Academic highlights for students include a hands-on math experience, Mock Trial, Book Club and Science Club.
Middle School Essential Skills (one period four days a week) is divided into trimesters of Health, Leadership, Technology, Math Extension, Language Arts Extension and Current Events. This course is designed to give students more time to explore key subjects in order maximize the depth with which they are covered. Students self-select a daily elective, including art, band, choir, physical education, Spanish culture and more. Throughout the 7th and 8th grade, students are offered opportunities to nurture their critical thinking skills and become more independent and responsible learners. The emphasis is on developing the ability to use their minds well, which will serve as the foundation for a smooth transition to Riverdale High School.
Riverdale 7th graders enjoy a unique field studies program constructed to enhance their focus on World History – a week-long medieval-themed camp in the spring. There is also a service-learning focused “Amazing Race” geo-caching day that takes students all over downtown Portland. The 8th grade field study is a capstone trip to Ashland that ties directly with the English curriculum. Students explore the town and see two to three Oregon Shakespeare Festival performances. Not only does this trip serve as a culminating activity for students’ grade school experience, it also makes for many positive and lasting memories.
English Language Arts (ELA)
Riverdale Grade School has been involved in an extensive vetting process for instructional materials in English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum.
We are completing our 2-year adoption using materials aligned with the science of reading. Our K-4 teachers are using an intensive program called LETRS training. LETRS instructs teachers in what literacy skills need to be taught, why and how to plan to teach them. In addition, RGS is using 95% Group as science- and skill-based instruction for phonics. Reading Side by Side is our comprehension and writing program for elementary/middle school grades, while our K-2 is completing the adoption by piloting two programs that are aligned with brain science reading practices.
Along with our new curriculum, RGS has purchased Acadience as a universal screener for reading. We have created a testing team to read and screen every student in our school, three times a year, to ensure that every reader, K-8, is receiving targeted instruction.
Here are the two programs we are piloting and reviewing for K-2:
ELA programs that were adopted in 2021-22:
Riverdale Grade School’s visual arts curriculum provides an introduction to a wide range of key art concepts, providing time to develop skills, understand materials and create. In addition to students taking art classes from a full-time art teacher throughout the week, classroom teachers use art as a tool to reinforce understanding of other subject areas.
Our students’ art studies are reflective of the national art standards’ three core concepts: creating, responding and presenting. Often, art projects will focus on one or more of these areas at a time:
Here is an overview of some of the concepts explored by grade level:
- Skill building – learning to use tools and mediums appropriately and skillfully
- Art history – learning about artists and art movements, and creating artwork inspired by those ideas and styles
- Core connected – creating art connected to the concepts students are learning about in core classes such as science, social studies, language arts and math
- Kindergarten Art (once a week) – shapes and colors, medium experimentation, care for and proper use of tools, representing ideas visually and hand/eye control
- 1st Grade Art (three times in each two-week period) – geometric and organic shapes, abstract expressionism, Dada, art based in nature, care for and proper use of tools, representing ideas visually and continued hand/eye control
- 2nd Grade Art (three times in each two-week period) – art styles such as Impressionism, Cubism, Fauvism and Northwest Native Americans; how to tell a story visually, visual poetry, art based in nature, and continued care for and proper use of tools
- 3rd Grade Art (twice a week) – contour, line and shape; art styles such as American realism and Modernism, Fauvism and Post Impressionism; controlling new mediums; and proportion and scale
- 4th grade Art (twice a week) – art styles such as Abstraction, Pop Art and Impressionism; line, texture and pattern; and Lewis and Clark and Oregon's first people
- 5th Grade Art (twice a week) – art styles such as Contemporary and Cubism, storytelling through art, propaganda, perspective, printmaking and slab building
- 6th Grade Art (twice a week) – contours and shading, conceptual art, an art research project, atmospheric perspective, relief pottery and sewing
- 7th/8th Grade Art (choice of electives, two to three times per week) – drawing and painting inspired by Spanish, American, Modern and Contemporary art and artists; multimedia art and sculpture; functional and sculptural pottery; stop motion animation; music video making; yearbook; digital photography; and murals
Riverdale's music program begins with a strong foundation in the early grades and students advance to band studies in middle school.
The kindergarten through 4th grade music curriculum is based on the Orff-Schulwerk model of total, active involvement in the process of music making.
Orff-Schulwerk is music for children – a way to teach and learn music in a noncompetitive atmosphere where one of the rewards is the pleasure of making music with others. There is a place for every child, and each contributes according to ability. The program uses poems, rhymes, children's literature, games, songs and dances as basic materials. These materials can be traditional or original and are accompanied by voice, movement and dance, and body percussion instruments. The art of ensemble is essential. The “Orff Instrumentarium” is the instrument group our younger students progress through as they learn music. Kindergarteners start out using introductory instruments such as sleigh bells and shakers, and by the time they are in 4th grade they are using the full xylophone and metallophone orchestra and more.
"Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand." This is the essence of Orff-Schulwerk.
Students in 5th-8th grades continue their education in music with experiences in both band and choir. Our 5th and 6th graders are required to take a full year of band; each of these classes meets three times per week. Students learn the basics of playing an instrument, how to read melodic and rhythmic notation and how to play in an ensemble. We also offer a Jazz Lab Band and Middle School Jazz Band that meet before school through the Community School (entrance by audition).
In 7th and 8th grade, students take music as an elective. The 7/8 (Advanced) Band is offered as a full year course, while 7/8 Choir (Riverdale Singers) and Marimba are electives offered during the school year.