Students and teachers help develop an online toolbox against discrimination


The International School of Amsterdam partnered with the Anne Frank House in an educational project to combat prejudice and intolerance

“In a world where discrimination is pervasive, inescapable, and rooted in the entire history of humanity’s existence, the next generation must be equipped to take on injustices wherever they may be found,” says Rania Khan, a Middle Years Programme (MYP) student at the International School of Amsterdam (ISA), in the Netherlands.

Rania is part of a group of students at the school, who have helped to develop Stories that Move, a free online toolbox for schools, which challenges learners (aged 14-17 years) to think critically about diversity and discrimination.

Created by the Anne Frank House with partners from across Europe, it is available in seven languages and has five learning paths, featuring assignments, information and short films of young people’s experiences of discrimination.

ISA was approached to become a project partner by the Anne Frank House in 2015, explains English teacher Shannon Hancock, who is one of the programme leaders. The school was able to offer extensive experience with online learning, a diverse student population (60 nationalities), innovative pedagogical practices, as well as an IB ethos of international-mindedness.

“The aim of the project is to create a framework and space for safe, open dialogue about identity, discrimination, and to inspire students to take positive action in one’s local and/or global community,” says Hancock.

It fits with the MYP, which encourages students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world and aims to develop active learners and internationally minded young people who can empathize with others and pursue lives of purpose and meaning.

Testing the toolbox

Students and teachers at the school have made an important contribution to the project. Hancock piloted the materials online and offline with students, as well as providing input on teaching strategies, content, design of lesson tracks and refining the learning paths. While Michael McGlade, Director of Educational Technology at ISA, has acted as a technical design consultant.

“The grade 8 teaching team also collaborated closely, by trialling the materials in their homerooms and providing feedback to the Stories that Move partners on both the look and feel of the online learning tool,” says Hancock.

McGlade and Hancock presented the project at two conferences and helped facilitate the international project launch and teacher workshops in Berlin in July.

Student input

Four students from ISA—Rania (from Bangladesh), Zozi Lencz (from Hungary), Trinabh Banerjee (from the Netherlands) and Leilani Hancock  (from the US)—participated in workshops at the Anne Frank House and provided feedback and ideas. They were also asked by the Stories that Move team to present and lead a social media campaign at the international project launch.

The project has made a deep impression on the students. Leilani says: “Through these experiences, I have learned that we all deal with discrimination and intolerance each and every day, granted to varying extents. No one is immune.”

Trinabh adds: “I consider myself well-informed. Every day, I read the news stories of people who have faced discrimination, prejudice or racism as a result of a multitude of factors. Despite this, there is only so much information one can receive from a news story. And as I reflected personally, I began to realise the importance of personal stories. It’s not every day that someone who has faced discrimination comes up to you and shares their story with you face to face.”

The students have been asked to continue as ambassadors for the tool. This autumn, they launched a creativity, activity and service (CAS) club with the goal of creating a larger team of students to develop a series of parent workshops; to reach out to other schools in the Netherlands; to continue to act as speakers for the project at conferences and workshops and to prepare as teacher/student trainers for the tool.

The school has also expanded its use of Stories that Move—it is now being used in grade 10 English as an additional language, grade 7 individuals and societies, and grade 8 homeroom. ISA’s grade 9 individuals and societies team plans to use the discrimination learning path section this semester. The Dutch department has also expressed interest in using the online learning tool in the Dutch language.

The toolkit is already garnering praise. It won the prestigious 2018 Comenius EduMedia Medal for excellent teaching materials, and will be presented at the UN headquarters in New York on 2 November 2018, at a conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Kristallnacht 80 years ago.

With antisemitism, racism and discrimination still prevalent today, Stories that Move is even more necessary to combat prejudice and help create tolerance and social cohesion.

As Trinabh, says, “If we cannot value another person for who they are, then we have failed to make society work. We must value each other for who we are, as individuals and as a collective global community.”

For more information, see Stories that Move.


From the IB Community Blog

October 11, 2018 in Inside IB classroomMiddle Years Programme (MYP)

Alumni Spotlight: Wendy Lee Oldfield ’99

Wendy Lee Oldfield graduated from ISA in 1999, having spent grades 6 to 8 at the old A.J. Erntstraat ISA campus, and then grades 11 and 12 at ISA’s current location.

After leaving ISA, Wendy studied graphic design at Chapman University in California, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2004. Since then, she’s co-authored two books on creativity; Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Caffeine for the Creative Team. She has also worked on a number of design projects for brands such as Google, Blizzard Entertainment, Pepsi, Chipotle and the NFL. Two years ago, Wendy joined a tech startup in Southern California as Design Director, allowing her to work with “a wonderful team of fellow designers, videographers and creatives,” a role which she thoroughly enjoys.

It is no wonder that Wendy has chosen to work in a creative industry. “I loved art [at ISA]. I loved the lab and all the paints and pencils and canvases and tools in the room that helped to bring concepts to life. I loved that the art room was quiet and had lots of windows and light, and I thoroughly looked forward to spending time there.”

Wendy has fond memories of her time at ISA including “the great group of friends I made”, which helped Wendy feel welcome and less isolated during her senior year at ISA.

Wendy and her husband, whom she married in 2011, currently live with their adorable Yorkie, Puck, in Anaheim, California where they can see the fireworks from Disneyland in their front yard


Pictured above are Wendy and her husband in the art room during their recent visit to ISA.

ISA’s Ongoing Partnership with East African Care

Many people around the world today don’t have any access to water; according to WaterAid, a global non-profit, which estimates that as many as 1 in 9 people don’t have any clean water close to their home. To help to tackle this global problem, ISA has been supporting East African Care (EAC), a charity which tackles water-related issues in Kenya, for a number of years.

EAC is a small organisation based in the Netherlands that has been active in the Kwale district of Kenya since 2004. Since they began, with the support of donations from ISA they have built more than 60 wells and latrines for schools and rural communities in an effort to improve access to water and basic sanitation.

EAC’s local coordinator, Suleiman Mwakoja, came to talk to Upper School students at the ISA Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) Fair this past September to underscore the impact that ISA students have and will continue to have, on the lives of local people in Kenya.

Having access to clean water has a “knock-on effect which positively impacts every aspect of people’s lives” noted Mwakoja. As well as improving health and sanitation in rural communities, the time saved by women not having to travel to collect water gives them greater access to education, which will improve their financial prospects and will, in turn, benefit Kenya economically.

East African Care plans to continue their life-saving work in Kenya, with the help and support of the ISA Community.

Alumni Spotlight: Juha Virtanen ’04

Juha Virtanen attended ISA from 1998 to 2004. After leaving ISA, he obtained his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree from the University of Kent where he is now a Lecturer in Contemporary Literature at the School of English.

Juha, originally from Finland, started attending ISA after his family moved to Amsterdam for his father’s job. Originally only meaning to stay in the Netherlands for two years, Juha considers himself lucky that he was able to stay for six years:

“The six years I spent at ISA were definitely an influential period for me. All of the teachers I had for English […] were great at feeding and further encouraging my interest in literature, which obviously played a big role in my decision to study the subject at university.”

At the University of Kent, Juha primarily specialises in innovative British and Irish poetry, but he has also designed and taught modules on materials such as graphic novels. In addition, he is currently serving as the School of English’s Deputy Director of Education, as well as the programme director for Kent’s Master’s degree in The Contemporary, which is an interdisciplinary programme taught jointly by the University and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

Juha is a published poet; his first collection Back Channel Apraxia was published by Contraband Books in 2014, and his chapbook LAND was published through Oystercatcher Press in 2016. His most recent book, Poetry and Performance During the British Poetry Revival 1960-1980: Event and Effect was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017 and examines intersections of poetry and performance during the British Poetry Revival. In 2018, his work was included in the international anthology Wretched Strangers: Borders, Movement, Homes. He is currently researching women poets published in British little magazines, and is writing a new series of poems called Doom Engines.


Rather than setting out to directly follow a particular career path, Juha believes that his line of work allows him to pursue some of his deep-rooted interests in a unique way.

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Juha felt as though he wasn’t done with studying, so he went on to obtain his master’s, and after gaining his doctorate, he was lucky enough to be hired as a lecturer. He considers each step along this path to have been shaped by meeting individual goals rather than following a defined life path.

His proudest moments have included receiving his doctorate, being hired as a lecturer, and seeing his work published. More importantly, he is always moved when he sees his students thrive with their own idiosyncratic interests. He is also very proud of DATABLEED, an open-access poetry journal which he co-edits with his partner, Eleanor Perry. In autumn 2018, they are launching DATABLEEDER, a series of poetry and performance events based in Canterbury, Kent.

While Juha attributes all of his English teachers with furthering his passion for literature, it was his theatre classes that proved to be a life-changing experience. It was during these classes that he first encountered Bertolt Brecht, a German playwright and poet, who remains an influential figure for Juha’s views on literature and art. Even to this day, whenever Juha has to deliver a lecture, present a paper at a conference, or do a poetry reading he utilises the concentration and breathing techniques that he was taught during his ISA play rehearsals.

When asked to offer advice or insights to current ISA students, Juha notes, “I think it’s entirely in keeping with the spirit of what I learned during my time at ISA that I take this opportunity especially right now to emphasise the importance of bridges instead of walls.”


Nature of Science Students Visit Neanderthal Museum

ISA’s grade 12 Nature of Science students have recently been studying a unit titled “the quest for understanding”, which focuses on the universe, the nature of our planet and human evolution. On Tuesday, 11 September, the class visited the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann, Germany, to gain a deeper understanding of how humans have evolved.

The Nature of Science is a pilot IB Diploma programme course that is currently only offered at 20 schools worldwide and was developed developed to meet the needs of students who are not intending to continue scientific study in further education by helping them develop an understanding of scientific methods in order to make sense of the world around them.

The Neanderthal Museum is located at the site of the discovery of the first Neanderthal man in the Neander Valley, which gave its name to the newly discovered species. The students received an in-depth tour, focusing not only on how humans evolved but also on the specific methods that scientists use to map out the story of human evolution. They also participated in a practical workshop where they learned to identify and classify skull specimens from a variety of species.

“Human evolution is an important part of the Nature of Science course” noted Darren Frampton, ISA Nature of Science teacher. “It’s inherently interesting but, of course, doesn’t lend itself to direct observation. By going to the Neanderthal Museum, I’m hoping that the students learned by associating the concepts with real artefacts and appreciate the difficulties faced by real scientists in uncovering the human story.”