Riverdale Reinvents New Mandatory Course for Freshmen
Last year, Riverdale launched a new course for freshmen titled “Design Your Life”. However, for the 2016-17 school year, the course has been refined and renamed “RCS Delta”.
The name of the course hints at some of its goals including teaching students to change (inspiring the term “Delta”) parts of their current lives and learn to be self sufficient, whereas Design Your Life had the focus of students designing their futures.
Kevin Mattingly, who taught Design Your Life last year and worked to create RCS Delta, shared that unlike Design Your Life, RCS Delta has clear goals: community building, collaboration and communication, reflection and purpose formation, wellbeing, identity formation, learning to learn, as well as app design.
Mattingly recognized the flaws in Design Your Life, seeing as teachers “tried to put too much into it. [They] were launching a brand new app which involves bugs, which is a new experience. We didn’t build time for that to be used, and we had advisors as well as [separate teachers] for Design Your Life [who] didn’t really meet together as a team,” he said.
In June 2016, Mattingly, along with a group of approximately 20 Middle and Upper School faculty members and administrative figures, went on a retreat where the group debated and discussed how to structure the RCS Delta program.
In coordinating RCS Delta with Jenna King, a few changes were made. Students’ advisors are also their RCS Delta teachers, meaning that concepts discussed in RCS Delta can be reinforced in advisory groups. In RCS Delta, there will be more coordination and clearer connections between concepts and activities. Teachers are taking “these goals and instead of trying to do them all at once over three weeks, [they are] going to spread them out so [students are] going to come back to different goals in different times to help build so there’s more coherency,” said Mattingly.
Ninth grade dean Cat Crocker explained that Design Your Life ran for the first time last year and “as is the case with all the courses we offer at Riverdale we, as educators, are always refining and tweaking what we teach to meet the needs of the course and to teach the material in an effective and meaningful way,” she said. Therefore, feedback from students, teachers, and advisors were all taken into consideration when designing RCS Delta.
Ms. Crocker also mentioned that overall, in teaching students to succeed in meeting their goals, RCS Delta teaches students to figure out why they make decisions in the Upper School and beyond and how to properly think through their choices.
Freshman Grace Gallen has enjoyed the few RCS Delta classes she has participated in so far this year and believes the course will help her career at Riverdale immensely.
Gallen enjoyed figuring out her character strengths and what she could improve on and set goals for herself to complete throughout the year. “[My goal] was running. I want to run more, but someone could also do spirituality if they want to explore that a little bit more if it was lower on their character strengths and they wanted to improve it,” she said.
Gallen stressed the importance of setting academic as well as non-academic goals, and she was excited to find that RCS Delta could help her carve out time during the school day to think about both. Although the goals of the class have not been directly stated to students yet, she is optimistic that the class is useful and well organized.
RCS Delta will continue evolving in coming years and students and faculty alike are excited to participate, learning everything from their own character strengths and weaknesses to designing and coding apps to improve Riverdale