Upper School Curriculum
Ridgefield Academy’s Service Learning program combines community service opportunities with classroom lessons and advisory programs in order to teach civic responsibility, strengthen our school and neighboring communities, and enrich the academic experience. Through guest speaker events, field trips, organizational partnerships, and discussion groups, our Service Learning curriculum addresses broader citizenship matters ranging from hunger, poverty, and homelessness to developmental differences and environmental awareness. These programs encourage and empower students to become thoughtful, reflective citizens who are inspired to serve as active change agents in their community.
Ridgefield Academy’s Service Learning program differs from many schools in that our students are encouraged to find their own voice and use it for the good of others. Passion drives action, and when our students are passionate about a particular cause, they are more invested in the work needed to make a difference. Each year we ask students what changes they wish to make in the world, and help them create an action plan. Student-led programs such as our “Stop Hunger Now” school wide meal-packing event and cooking elective were born from our students’ passion to make a difference in their world. For a complete list of the many Service Learning activities our students engage in and the organizations with who we partner, click here. (this will link to a page with a list of our service learning partnerships and links to websites)
Students in Grades 7 and 8 greatly enjoy our Interdisciplinary Week, which features weeklong, whole-day interdisciplinary courses on a variety of topics. Faculty members collaborate together to create course offerings that fall outside of their usual subject offerings for this fun and immersive week of learning. Students self-select courses, allowing for deep interdisciplinary dives into topics such as the civil rights movement, the space race, and popular culture. A showcase of student work is featured at the culmination of the week for all to enjoy.
As part of our approach to develop the whole child, Ridgefield Academy requires students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 to participate in one of our many competitive sports offerings each of the three seasons. We believe all children should experience the sense of belonging that comes from being a team member and the challenge, reward, humility, spirit, and pride that participation in competitive athletic competition offers.
Our coaches, the majority of which are faculty and staff members, encourage development of sport-specific skills and strategies, confidence, self-discipline, teamwork and leadership in addition to proper sportsmanship conduct. Ridgefield Academy student-athletes compete in the Fairchester Athletic Association League.
Upper School Trips
Upper School overnight trips are one of the highlights of the fall at Ridgefield Academy. Students enjoy the opportunity to take an adventure as a class, spend the night away from school and home, and form deeper connections with classmates and faculty. Each trip extends learning that has taken place in the classroom.
In Grade 6 students travel to Frost Valley, a YMCA educational facility in upstate NY to learn about environmental science.
Students in Grade 7 travel to Boston to see historical sights and walk the Freedom Trail.
Grade 8 students travel to Washington, DC to visit historical sights and museums.
Upper School Musical
Students in Grades 6, 7 and 8 may elect to participate in the Upper School Musical each spring. Try-outs are conducted, and parts are given (and sometimes even created!) so that everyone interested in performing in the play has a role to play. Each lead role is double-cast to enable more students the opportunity to perform in a leading role. The musical is performed for the entire school and during a special evening performance for parents.
Enrichment and exploration are an important part of Ridgefield Academy’s Upper School curriculum. Students enroll in two electives per trimester from a variety of selections such as digital storytelling, yearbook, food service, peer leadership, and photography. Electives provide students with choice, and an exploratory experience in a variety of disciplines. Electives take place on Tuesday and Friday afternoons enable our faculty and staff to share their passions, talents, and hobbies with their students.
RA offers numerous leadership opportunities across our curriculum to help students develop leadership skills and become confident role models for our community. From leading our all-school Monday morning assemblies, to our Kindergarten buddy partnership, to sports team captains and lunch room leaders, to organizing service learning projects, our students have the unique opportunity to work around the RA campus in a leadership capacity in a variety of capacities. Through our Peer Leadership Elective, peer leaders can be found working alongside students and teachers in Lower School classrooms twice per week, assisting in the classroom. RA students often move on to take leadership positions in their high school after leaving our campus.
Grade 8 – Kindergarten Buddy Program
Ridgefield Academy unites students across the Lower School and Upper School by partnering each Grade 8 student with a Kindergartner “buddy” for the school year. This special program brings a sense of community to our school, gives younger students a role model, and offers our oldest students the opportunity to experience responsibility and inspired leadership. Grade 8 students are introduced to their buddies in September and meet biweekly to share in the joy of reading, work on projects, play, and enjoy one another’s company. In June, our Kindergarten buddies escort their Grade 8 buddies to the Graduation Stage.
Faculty/Staff versus Grade 8 Athletic Competitions
Students in Grade 8 engage in friendly and competitive games of soccer, basketball, and softball against a team of faculty and staff members. Coached by our Head of School, the Grade 8 team looks forward to showing off their skills in front of the student body. Anyone is welcome to play on the faculty and staff team, which often includes teachers, cooks, members of the maintenance team, staff members, and administrators.
Secondary School Placement
Ridgefield Academy offers comprehensive secondary school admissions counseling to help our students and their families plan for the years after Grade 8. As students enter Upper School, our Head of School and Head of Upper School lead each student through an individualized process designed to consider a wide range of options.
We want Grade 8 students and their families to make an informed decision about their future schooling. To help them we provide a step-by-step calendar guide and a directory of schools that includes current admissions contact information as well as data on selection criteria. In addition, we prepare students for school visits and the questions that may be asked of them during interviews. Each student has a mock interview with his peers and an RA faculty member.
Our students enjoy a 90% success rate for their first and second choice of secondary schools. Graduates of Ridgefield Academy go on to attend some of the top boarding and day schools in the country.
The Graduation ceremony at Ridgefield Academy is an intimate and celebratory event that involves all students, faculty, and staff in our school. Each graduate delivers a personal reflection speech in front of their audience of family and friends. Our comprehensive public speaking program, which begins as early as Preschool, has prepared our students for this task. Graduates are escorted to the stage by their Kindergarten “buddies” and ring the Patriot Bell to signal their final day at the Academy.
Upper School students enjoy our advisory program as a way to develop meaningful relationships with the faculty and a group of their peers. Each child is assigned to a faculty advisor, and attends weekly meetings to discuss important topics, play games, and discuss challenges. Advisory programs promote open communication and connectedness within the school and provide students with another caring adult with whom they can contact should they need advise. Feeling connected to the school and others in our community is important during these years when children are forming opinions about themselves.
The goal of our Upper School Wellness program is to meet the social and emotional needs of students as they grow and mature. RA is committed to providing children with the information required to make sound decisions, feel good about themselves, build healthy relationships, and develop into well rounded young people. Once students are provided the tools, they are better equipped to handle challenging situations as they move forward in their lives as adolescents and into adulthood.
In Grade 6, students focus on navigating relationships. Students are given tools to manage such things like self esteem and self confidence, understanding and communicating emotions, recognition and understanding how one’s behavior can affect another, problem solving, and following rules.
In Grade 7, students study body and self image. Grade 7 is a time of heightened social awareness and vulnerability. It is also a time where there can be a range in children feeling comfortable with whom they are as individuals. The focus in this age group is on both girls’ and boys’ self image. There is also a focus on Media Literacy. Students talk about different messages they are getting through the media and how those messages affect their sense of self.
In Grade 8, we focus on prepping students to face the more challenging decisions once they approach high school and simply, understanding what it means to make good choices. It is important that our students have the solid decision making skills that align with their values so they will feel prepared to know what to do in particular situations. Children focus on a sense of self, their identity, their values, and what is important to them. Students also discuss how to feel a sense of empowerment to stand behind their values and beliefs.