Touring Riverside, I felt like I was in learning paradise; a paradise where children smile at passing strangers, where learning takes place outside the classroom, where even a daily activity like walking up stairs becomes a lesson on counting in Spanish, where the faculty and students are referred to as a family, and where people are excited to educate and learn. Shaded by beautiful leafy green foliage and surrounded by mosaics of blue tiles, I was reminded how far away from home I am. Back home, thinking of Phillips Academy and even the schools I attended before then, the buildings and campus are much more stoic—beautiful, yet in a vain way. There was neither stoicism nor vanity reflected in the people or atmosphere of the Riverside School; instead, there was an aura of open-mindedness and down-to-earthness.
This was well reflected in the architecture of the building itself as well. Because the building was open and there were no windows or doors to the outside, I felt that it encouraged both students and faculty to teach and learn there with a creative mind—to think outside the box, or the walls of the school.
Everyone and everything at Riverside seems to think outside the box. I heard from a student that very little homework is assigned each night. As a Phillips Academy student, this sounds heavenly; however, I do not find the prospect of not having too much homework each night appealing because it would allow me to sleep more or have more time on the Internet or be with friends, I find it an appealing aspect of the School because it allows for students to reflect on what they learned that day and truly process it. I often wonder if I would learn or absorb more of the material if I had the time to let it ruminate in my mind. Obviously, it must work, for it seems to be working very successfully at the Riverside School, as it is producing confident, healthy, and friendly students.
I am so inspired by the School’s openness, not only physically, but also atmospherically and curriculum wise. The School blends two of the themes Niswarth has been studying: redevelopment and education. Riverside combines both and creates a School focusing on the redevelopment of education. Other institutions and schools would gain by studying the Riverside School, for it provides an excellent model of what future education may look like.