Category Archives: Middle School

International Achievements: IB Diploma Programme and International Schools’ Assessment

By | Academic Excellence, Elementary School, High School, IB, Middle School | No Comments

The following is the introduction to Bob Carignan’s July 18, 2016 newsletter to the Riverstone community. To read previous Riverstone newsletters, you may link to our archives here. We invite you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

Hi All,

At Riverstone International School, we are committed to ensuring that our students have both the personal and academic skills to interact with others and contribute on a global stage. An international community of families, students and staff provide excellent opportunities to connect on a personal level. Additionally, we evaluate our academic programs through two important measures: our International Schools’ Assessment (ISA) exam results and our International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) scores.

International Schools’ Assessment

In 2015-16, over 76,000 students from 355 schools around the world participated in the ISA.

Yes, I can tell you how Riverstone’s Grade 3 measures up against third graders in Poland in Math or how our Grade 9 performs against their peers in Finland in Writing.

The graphs in the bottom of the newsletter highlight that our students in Gr 3, 5, 7, and 9 are outperforming their counterparts in every area that is tested: Mathematical Literacy, Reading, Narrative Writing Narrative and Expository Writing.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme

The Diploma Programme pass rate is another method that we use to evaluate our students’ preparation.

I’m pleased to share that the percentage of Riverstone Diploma Programme candidates earning the IB Diploma exceeded both the United States and the global rate for the third straight year. Please see the graph below. Additionally, our average score was 31 whereas the US average score is 27 and the global average score is 30. Read the IBO announcement regarding DP results here.

I would highlight that our ISA scores and DP pass rate are not achieved by rote practice, but achieved because our school and teachers provide an atmosphere where both skills, knowledge, and innovation are equal parts of the daily education. We balance the emphasis on project-based learning with skill acquisition. We develop students who have strong 21stCentury skills, who can research and read critically, who complete a rigorous math and science curriculum, who find mentors and ask for help, and who engage daily in a global community. We strive to bring the IB mission to life, “…to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.”

I am proud of, and grateful for, our faculty who provide a challenging, yet supportive educational experience and am proud of each and every one of our students. I am excited for the upcoming school year and know we will continue to engage, teach, and learn from one another.

We will return to school at the end of August. Until then, enjoy time with your family.


Call for anything,

Bob Carignan

Head of School

Riverstone Breaks Ground on Phase 1 of New Middle & High School Building

By | Academic Excellence, Elementary School, High School, IB, Middle School | No Comments

Riverstone International School is expanding!

With an eye to the future, Riverstone International School has broken ground on Phase 1 of a new Middle and High School on their campus in southeast Boise and will be opening a new residential program this fall.

Phase 1 features a 6,962 square foot building that will include two music classrooms, a recording studio, two science classrooms with laboratories (one wet and one dry), a general classroom, restrooms, and two offices.

This new building was designed by Erstad Architects and will connect to a larger, Middle and High School building to be constructed at a future date. The overall design compliments the striking, light-filled Elementary School that Erstad Architects designed in 2009. PETRA, Inc. is the general contractor for the project with an anticipated completion of December 2016.

According to Bob Carignan, Head of School, “Upgrading our Middle and High School facilities to reflect the innovative education we offer at Riverstone is part of our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. Our goal is to create a distinctive learning environment that fosters inquiry-based learning, encourages engaging discussions between students and teachers, and builds a strong community.”

The school is opening a residential facility in downtown Boise in the fall of 2016 with a long-term goal of housing 32 domestic and international residential high school students. Improving the school’s academic facilities is necessary to meet both the educational needs of students and future growth of the school.

Phase 1 of the new Middle and High School replaces the original modular buildings that were purchased in 1997 when the school first opened as the independent Hidden Springs Community School in Hidden Springs. The modulars were moved and installed at the school’s campus at 5521 Warm Springs Avenue when the school relocated to its current 14-acre site in 2000. The school bid a fond farewell to the modulars in late May.


Riverstone International is a private, independent school with 325 students from preschool through high school. Recently recognized by The Washington Post as “Idaho’s Most Challenging High School,” Riverstone is the only school in Idaho, and one of 17 in the nation, authorized to provide the three International Baccalaureate programmes. About 20% of the families receive tuition assistance. Riverstone International School inspires courageous journeys of academic and personal growth to enable students to lead purposeful lives.

We will waive the $75 application fee for families who start their applications* for the 2016-17 academic year prior to August 15. Please inquire at the button below. We will send instructions and the appropriate code via email.

*Day students only; not applicable for residential students.

Inquire here

Photo includes  Andy Johnson (RIS Middle & High School Director), Andy Erstad (Erstad Architects), Katrina Kulm (Erstad Architects), Mark Liebich (RIS Chairman Board of Trustees), Bob Carignan (RIS Head of School), Rachel Pusch (RIS Director of Enrollment Management), Jerry Frank (PETRA, Inc), and Melinda Quick (RIS Class of 2009).

Celebrating the Chinese New Year and Carnival!

By | Elementary School, High School, International Understanding, Middle School | No Comments

This week, international understanding was front and center as Riverstone students celebrated two international holidays: Chinese New Year and Carnival.

To kick off the Year of the Monkey, High School students learned from their Chinese peers how to write their names in Mandarin, and Middle School students cooked an authentic Chinese feast for lunch.  Our Preschool students set the stage for the Elementary School festivities by making a giant dragon and parading through the hallways and classrooms. Later in the day, Chinese students from Northwest Nazarene University shared stories, games, and music in an Elementary School assembly.

On Tuesday, the festivities continued when our International Committee hosted a lunch time celebration of Carnival in the Elementary School. They shared decadent treats that would traditionally be offered in Brazil, talked about traditions and listened to Brazilian music. Additionally, the committee provided teachers with materials to decorate masks to take home. The committee also created a beautiful display that demonstrates the many ways that Carnival is celebrated around the world. 

Please stop in the Elementary School atrium this week and check out the Carnival and Chinese New Year displays. Photos are posted on Riverstone’s Facebook page and Instagram. 

Launching Our Residential Program

By | Academic Excellence, High School, IB, International Understanding, Middle School | No Comments

Exciting news from Head of School, Bob Carignan, was originally shared on November 19, 2015:   

Dear Riverstone Families, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,

As we near the Thanksgiving holiday and end of our 2015 Annual Fund campaign, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for the time, energy, and dedication of the Riverstone community. Since the school was founded in 1997, there have been countless people and organizations who have helped us steadily grow and improve the education we provide. We continue to reflect and refine who we are as an organization and how we best meet the needs of our students. Just as we strive to inspire our students’ journeys, we too have our own journey as an institution.

I am delighted to share news of the next big steps in our school’s journey.

Earlier this week, the Board of Trustees authorized the administrative team to begin taking the necessary steps to build Phase 1 of a new Middle and High School building with a goal of breaking ground during 2016. Phase 1 will replace our current modulars that are nearly 20 years old and have reached a point of diminishing returns on maintenance expenses. Although plans are still being developed, the footprint for Phase 1 will cover approximately the area where the modulars currently exist. In the future, when Phase 2 of the Middle and High School has been completed, the architecture for the entire structure will complement the Elementary School building.

Committing to the construction of this new building is consistent with our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan with respect to facilities, academic excellence, and managing enrollment. As you may recall, we prioritized the use of permanent building space for instructional purposes and in fact have limited the number of classes being taught in the modulars this year. Both students and teachers will benefit from the improved learning environment of this new building. We also anticipate benefits in terms of greater retention and recruitment of students and faculty.

The early success of our endowment campaign, Navigating Forward, has enabled us to pursue building Phase 1 of the new Middle and High School. In fact, the financial assets of our endowment fund have enabled the Trustees to pursue this opportunity to build Phase 1 without additional fundraising efforts such as a capital campaign. As with any endowment, the principal remains intact and will continue to grow with additional contributions. There will be more information about our endowment campaign in the near future, but please know that we are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to the endowment campaign thus far.

Secondly, we are transitioning our model for hosting international students. We have partnered with a developer to design and lease a new residential community in downtown Boise opening in the fall of 2016. Currently, our international students live with host families, predominantly relying upon our school community to open their homes to our students. We have many students and families for whom this has been a wonderful experience. However, you may have noticed by the repeated requests in our newsletter that finding host families for the number of international students who would like to study at Riverstone has been a challenge that has become increasingly more difficult each year. We have in fact, had to turn away students who would be an excellent fit for our school because we could not find host families.

Our residential community also expands our ability to enroll students from other parts of Idaho and even throughout the United States. Although sometimes we take this for granted, an International Baccalaureate World School with small classes, strong teacher relationships, and outdoor education in a friendly, safe city like Boise is a very unique educational opportunity. By providing a residential option for both international and domestic students, we can positively manage our enrollment, build diversity, and expand the global perspective that we strive to develop in all of our students. We will continue to offer families the opportunity to host students who attend Riverstone on a cultural exchange, typically one year or less.

Our approach to both our new construction and residential program will be mindful and thoughtful, with a clear eye towards ensuring that we maintain the values that Riverstone International School holds dear. Our goal has always been to improve the educational experience of our students through the five pillars and ensure financial sustainability of the school; these next steps in our school’s journey are exciting and hold great promise for our community.

I look forward to sharing more as details unfold.


Bob Carignan
Head of School

Giving Thanks

By | Academic Excellence, Elementary School, High School, Middle School | No Comments

Riverstone students, faculty and staff enjoyed giving thanks in all classrooms and student activities last week.

On Monday, the Middle and High School students and teachers met with their advisory groups to discuss who and what they’re thankful for followed by a hilarious round of one-word guessing games and charades. A few of the thank-you notes that students wrote are posted to the Middle School bulletin board if you have a chance to stop by and want to read through them.

Our Preschoolers made pumpkin donuts and learned how to skin apples for apple pie with the generous help of parents. The students thought a lot about what being thankful means and related it to their current Unit of Inquiry on “Sharing the Planet.”

Students in Grade 3 are currently focusing on “How the World Works” and thought about why we eat turkey on Thanksgiving and what else we could be eating. In Mrs. Wallace’s class, students made turkey hats and paper turkeys to celebrate the holiday together while also writing persuasive essays about what other foods you might want to eat on Thanksgiving instead of turkey. And Mrs. Stewart’s 3rd graders wrote about the Thanksgiving tradition of eating turkey from the perspective of a turkey.

In Ms. Ramirez’s Grade 8 Spanish class, students wrote what and who they were thankful for in Spanish and then celebrated together with a Mexican-themed Thanksgiving feast.

Pre-K students created thankful turkeys and wrote a dual-language English/Spanish book called “Turkey, Turkey What Do You See?” / “Pavo, Pavo ¿Que ves tu?” to embolden the lessons they’re currently learning about “How We Express Ourselves”.

And our Grade 1 students used an interactive computer program to learn about the Pilgrims’ journey on the Mayflower, tying back to their current Unit of Inquiry about historical experiences and their influence on the actions of the Separatist Pilgrims and the Wampanoags in the early 1600s.

We hope the entire Riverstone community had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving holiday. Check out some pictures from the events mentioned above and feel free to follow us on Facebook for daily posts about what we’re doing!

Rake Up Boise 2015

By | Community & Service, Elementary School, High School, Leadership by Example, Middle School | No Comments

For 17 years, Riverstone has organized a Rake Up Boise team to rake and winterize yards for senior and disabled neighbors who cannot do the work themselves.

This year, we had over 30 students, teachers, administrators, parents and friends come out to fill 90 bags of leaves from homes in Southeast Boise. With the kind donations from DK Donuts and the HumanBean, the team got an early start on Saturday, November 14.

Thanks to the High School’s Social Change Leadership student group who organized this year’s team.

Taking part in the largest volunteer event in Idaho is very gratifying and a wonderful opportunity to connect personally with our neighbors.

Please check out the photos of Team Riverstone at Rake Up Boise!

Your Gifts Make Riverstone a Better Place

By | Academic Excellence, Annual Fund, Elementary School, High School, IB, Middle School | No Comments

The following is a letter from Bob Carignan, Head of School, from last week’s newsletter touching upon how the Riverstone community’s generous gifts and donations help to make our school a better place. Thank you everyone for your continued support and participation during this year’s Annual Fund.

Hi All,

As we near the final week of the Annual Fund, I’d like to highlight why these five weeks of fundraising and our annual Auction are so important.  All gifts from both of these two important fundraisers go directly to our programs and allow us to say “yes” to making Riverstone a better place for all of our students.

Thanks to your generosity at last year’s Auction during the Fund A Need portion of the evening, we were able to enhance our current science curriculum and implement new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) programs – a direct connection to the initiatives outlined in the Strategic Plan. We have used the funds to improve our science labs, purchase equipment, and provide training for our teachers.

Last summer, three Elementary School staff members — James Hamilton-Vail, Jennifer Smackey and Tina Morgan — attended a STEM-based Project Lead the Way training. Ms. Smackey and Mrs. Morgan then trained other members of our staff to implement the program in Grade 2 and Grade 5. This inquiry-based program, which we are integrating into our Units of Inquiry, is tested and proven to be very effective in getting students excited about STEM.

Check out the short video and photo at the end of this letter highlighting Grade 5 and how they have integrated their unit of inquiry on media with robotics. We will share photos of the other science improvements in the near future.

We also now have an after-school “white hat hacking” club which offers a complicated and advanced level view of computer coding. Thanks to parent Dejan Nenov for making this possible for our students!

We also received a matching grant from the Edward E. Ford Foundation for $50,000 last year. As with any granting organization, they looked very closely at our 2014 Annual Fund participation. Their grant enabled us to purchase robotics equipment and computers necessary to introduce the robotics program that we are implementing in the Gr 9 Design Technology course. Our students are enjoying robotics so much that we have two robotics teams that are preparing for competition. We have been trying to raise matching funds outside of our parent community and are still in the process of doing so with a deadline of December 31, 2015. If you have any suggestions for potential organizations or individuals who would be interested in supporting STEM-education at Riverstone, please let me know.

Finally, thanks to the Parents’ Association for planning a pre-holiday stress-reducer, “A Taste of Riverstone.” I hope to see you there!



Our New Butterfly and Pollinator Garden

By | Academic Excellence, Community & Service, Elementary School, High School, Middle School, Uncategorized | No Comments

Thanks to the recent efforts of ten Riverstone students and parentsour and our partnership with Blake Schnebly at SustainingUS, our campus is now a more welcoming place for pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds and honey bees! The recent installation of a Butterfly and Pollinator Garden between the Elementary School and the Middle School parking lot has also enhanced wildlife by providing seasonal food and shelter for birds.

Concerned about our role in weakening pollinator/plant relationships through the overuse of pesticides and other issues, the students created the garden to provide an oasis for plant and animal visitors. Educational signs will be installed shortly and will help teach our community about the importance of pollinator species.

Additionally, these signs will emphasize the role that the Butterfly and Pollinator Garden will play in the cleansing of pollutants from surface run-off from the parking lot. There’s a lot going on in that little corner of campus: come on over and check it out!

Special thanks to SustainingUS for native plant donations and project design and Home Depot for crabapple and cherry tree donations. Contact Ben Brock with any questions.


DC Adventures & Reflections

By | Academic Excellence, IB, Middle School, Student Travel | No Comments

The following is an excerpt from a note to parents from Andy Johnson, our Director of Secondary Education and one of three trip chaperones with our rising Gr 8 class in Washington, D.C.:

Hi everyone,

Today was a day packed with information, ideas, and some things that are almost too big to think about.

We started at the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial.

This museum limits admittance to 2,000 people per day. Tickets are usually gone by 11.00-12.00 everyday. I was in line at 8.30 and I was waaaaay back. They begin handing out tickets at 10.00. We did get in at 10.45.

For me…the USHMM is the one “must do” in DC. The museum and memorial gives an incredibly sensitive, yet powerful and unambiguous look at anti-semitism and the metamorphosis of the Nazi state’s (and its allies’) response to what they called the “Jewish Questions” while presenting stories of resistance and courage. Ask your kids what they remember – in some short talks that I had with kids, they remembered courage and resistance while being affected by the scale of the Holocaust.

We spent nearly three hours in the museum and memorial. This, I think, is a Riverstone record. The kids really engaged. They read, questioned, listened and thought. I’m not sure they were all ready to go even after three hours.

Afterwards we trundled down to eat lunch in the view of the Jefferson Memorial in the Tidal Pool. After the memorial we went back up to the Mall to see the Natural History Museum (eleven kids, Kendra and I) and three kids went with Tom back to the American History Museum.

We all visited the National Air and Space Museum. There are always tons of people here and today was no different, but it seemed more manageable. I really enjoyed the WWI and WWII aircraft. I also liked getting to see some UAVs (drones) up close. A few of us spent some time looking at and talking about these aircraft that we hear so much about.

After a long day, we came back to G-town and walked down the hill to M Street where we had fantastic burgers and fries at Good Stuff Eatery. We ran into one of our school families there as well. I want to thank Heather for getting us all milkshakes for dessert! The kids (and Tom, Kendra and I) were very grateful. They were delicious.

Tommorrow we are off to see a display of 5th Grade art (including those from Riverstone) at the Department of Education, Ford’s Theater, some more art and, in the evening, in Arlington.

Your kids are amazing. Sweet, funny and super inquisitive. Thank you for sending them with us.


Riverstone Students Receive Idaho Scholastic Writing Awards

By | Academic Excellence, High School, IB, Middle School | No Comments

This week, twelve Riverstone students were recognized for excellence in writing by the Idaho Scholastic Writing Awards — an affiliate of the national organization that works to honor and encourage the voices of young writers. Student submissions were blindly judged by panels of leading writers and artists in our community.

The students who were honored at the Idaho level will be recognized at a spring ceremony at Boise State University, with Christian Winn as the keynote speaker. Each student’s work will be submitted to the national awards, which entails massive scholarship opportunities and a possible invitation to the awards ceremony at Carnegie Hall. For more detailed information about the awards, please visit

Congratulations to the following students for receiving the Scholastic Writing Award’s 2015 Gold Keys, Silver Keys, Honorable Mentions, and American Voices Nomination.

Grade 12

Brian B: Poetry-Gold Key and American Voices Nominee

Grade 11

Sarah B: Poetry-Gold Key

Cat C: Poetry-Silver Key

Rebecca T: Poetry-Silver Key

Grade 9

Aela D: Personal Memoir-Silver Key

Aela D: Short Story-Honorable Mention

Javin S: Personal Memoir-Honorable Mention

Grade 8

Sarah C: Flash Fiction-Honorable Mention

Laurel C: Flash Fiction-Silver Key

Olivia D: Flash Fiction-Silver Key

Olivia D: Flash Fiction-Gold Key

Jordan L: Flash Fiction-Gold Key and American Voices Nominee Semi-Finalist

Anwen R: Flash Fiction-Honorable Mention