This week, ISA was lucky enough to be visited by ‘The Xtreme Librarian’ and ‘The Chicken Whisperer’, aka book ambassador John Schu and children’s author Sam Copeland, as part of our highly-anticipated Book Week 2019. This annual celebration of all things book-related, much loved by students and staff members alike, is designed to nurture a love of reading in students that will stick with them for life.
Our wonderful librarians organised a host of activities for students throughout the week, including quizzes and challenges, while tents are set up in the library to give students a quiet space to enjoy their current read. Each morning, a Mystery Reader read to students in the Lower School Library, with over 25 staff members volunteering this year, including ISA Director Dr. Bernadette Carmody.
Schu is a blogger and the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs. Library Journal named Schu ‘The Xtreme Librarian’ for the high level of exertion he uses to get students reading! At ISA, Schu presented to students in grades PK-7 throughout the week, held a Librarians’ Workshop after-school and an All-Faculty Book Week Breakfast Workshop.
Copeland, a literary agent, children’s author and self-professed ‘Chicken Whisperer’ met with our Lower School students to talk about his new chapter book series, Charlie Changes into a Chicken and the sequel Charlie Turns Into a T-Rex.
Recently, Kindergarten students have been working on the “Communication Through Art” unit. As part of the unit, they visited the Van Gogh Museum to get inspiration.
On Wednesday, 7 February, local Amstelveen artist Anne Leegstra visited the Lower School to give the students a taste of a real artist’s work. Anne set up a canvas in the centre of the classrooms, which the students gathered around to watch and ask questions as Anne breathed life into his artwork.
Using sponges and a pallet knife, Anne created a painting using bold colours. The students have also been using these same tools and materials to create their own artwork. Seeing them used in action by a real artist was a wonderful experience for them.
For teacher Cathie Ellis, it was valuable for the students to meet a real, living artist, to add to the students view of art and the artist’s work as a process which compliments wonderfully the artwork they saw hanging in the Van Gogh museum. Cathie believed that the students gained a deeper understanding of the process of creating a piece of art, by seeing the artwork not as instantaneous but as something that is added to over time.
As a culmination of the unit, Kindergarten students will hold a week-long Art Gallery exhibiting their work in the ISA foyer, starting on 12 December.
Written by Megan Amelia
Following the earthquake in Mexico in September, ISA’s Hispanic community came together to raise funds to help those affected by the disaster.
A key aspect of the fundraising efforts was the Hispanic Community Solidarity Breakfast held on November 1st. The breakfast was kindly supported by the Mexican embassy, who loaned the decorations and sent their representative, Mr Jorge Delgado Sumano, to speak at the event. The breakfast was a great success, selling over 220 tickets and attracting a large crowd.
Both the Upper School and the Lower School held bake sales to raise funds. Staff, parents and students across the school worked tremendously hard to make these sales a success. The Upper School bake sale alone raised €548.35, a fantastic achievement that the students can be proud of.
As a result of the combined efforts of the solidarity breakfast, the upper and lower school bake sales and personal donations, the Hispanic community raised a fantastic total of €3834.65.
The funds will go directly to UNICEF Mexico, an organisation who specialise in relief efforts for children and families in the hardest hit regions of disaster, providing them with life-saving resources. This is a fantastic example of how our ISA community can come together to do something truly amazing.
Written by Megan Amelia
Connecting with people from different generations is important for developing compassion, respect and empathy in a child, all of which are key beliefs of the International School of Amsterdam. Exploring and developing these intergenerational relationships is vital to the growth of children as it provides opportunities for empathy and guidance, while fostering respect between people of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. In developing the leaders of tomorrow, the real wisdoms and life experiences of older people is an invaluable tool for teaching students values such as integrity, compassion and reflection.
At ISA students are provided with many opportunities to engage with elderly community members in the Amsterdam region, ultimately resulting in a mutually beneficial relationship of understanding, friendship and admiration.
De Luwte and Middenhoven
These intergenerational connections were on show recently when residents from local care homes, De Luwte and Middenhoven, visited the school to watch, and take part in, the bi-annual ISA music concert, organised by Middle School Music teacher, Judy O’Callaghan.
The presentation featured solo performances from students on the piano, violin and guitar as well as a group ‘tin-whistle’ performance from the Grade 6 music class. The songs ranged from traditional Irish compositions to newer popular songs including When We Were Young by Adele, performed by student Cezere on the piano.
“Through the preparation and then the performance the students are learning really important skills about collaboration, being respectful and working together. Skills such as thinking, social, communication, self-management and research are encouraged and developed through the music programme,” O’Callaghan commented.
The audience was also treated to a special performance from the popular Dutch accordion group TAVENU who performed a range of traditional Dutch songs. O’Callaghan herself was a former member of group, having participated and performed with them at a number of events.
O’Callaghan believes the bi-annual event was a great example of everyone working together really well for the benefit of others. “We want the students to leave having experienced what is to share their time, energy and skills. The students grow together through the semester and they are intimately involved in each part of the presentation – including the event program design, and the preparation and serving of the afternoon tea.”
These relationships are mutually beneficial too – the developing minds of children are open and willing to learn, and their optimism was reflected in the smiles of the senior community during the performance.
ISA students have also previously connected with local senior community groups through the Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) part of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum. Recently, students participated in the Global Issues Network conference in March this year to present projects that connected them to the local community and overcome linguistic barriers. One of the projects included a visit to the local elderly centre, Klaasje Zevenster, where students used art as a tool to connect and integrate with the local Dutch-speaking community.
Another CAS project, ‘The Buddy Project’ will also be hosting a community event at the end of the school year, inviting refugees and the elderly community for a day of fun and activities in Amsterdam Bos. CAS Coordinator Vlad Gogelescu remarked on the positive experiences gained through students interacting with the elderly community.
“I feel that our students have a lot to learn from these experiences, firstly by understanding challenges faced by others and interpreting events from a different perspective, but also by developing and practicing their inter-relational skills with people who have very different backgrounds and cultural expectations.”
The Netherlands is considered a leader in developing innovative ways to connect younger and older generations which includes local initiatives such as the providing accommodation for university students in elderly living facilities to develop lasting relationships between young and older people.
The project, which is currently being undertaken in Deventer, has received worldwide attention for its innovative solutions to the challenges of housing, social isolation and intergenerational connections. Currently, there are six students in accommodation at the facility who are required to offer 30 hours of time to being ‘a good neighbour’ and connecting with the elderly community, in exchange for no cost accommodation. Research has shown that reducing loneliness and social isolation amongst older populations improves wellbeing, which this initiative aims to address.
The initiative also gives young people a greater sense of compassion and connection with older people and build valuable volunteering skills that are continued well after their studies. Providing similar opportunities for volunteering and connection with local elderly care centres in Amstelveen and Amsterdam is key to ensuring that students at ISA develop important life skills including compassion and empathy as well as valuable volunteering experiences that will help them in their careers after school.
Grade 3 students and Upper School French-language students were given an insight into the first-hand experiences of an asylum seeker when Justin, a Congolese refugee, visited ISAthe school to share his story.
Brett Preiss, ISA Lower School English as an Additional Language teacher, invited Justin to come and speak with his grade 3 students as part of their recent unit of inquiry, Believe it or Not. The unit explores students’ understanding of beliefs and belief systems and challenges them to see how this affects their own lives and the broader world in which they live.
“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to those of the children.” noted Preiss.
Justin left the Republic of the Congo five years ago, and arrived in the Netherlands without a home, his family, or any local knowledge of the Dutch culture or language. In the years that followed, he was able to teach himself English and Dutch, and took advantage of social opportunities opportunities to integrate himself in the community, including joining acting classes where he met that are also attended by Preiss.
Applying the PYP to Real Life
The PYP curriculum has a strong focus on the 10 IB Learner Profile Attributes—inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. Preiss chose to use these attributes as a tool for guiding the discussion with his young students.
“We focused on the IB Learner Profile attributes and asked Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land.” explained Preiss.
Being an international school, this concept of relocation was familiar to the students. However, the circumstances in which Justin had to move gave them new insight into how his journey to Holland differed from theirs and allowed them to reflect on the plight of refugees and the sacrifices they must make to start life over again in a new home.
“Justin also emphasised another attribute by discussing how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”
To that end, the school also connected Justin with the ISA IT team, after learning of his interest in video editing and development. He was shown some of the latest editing tools and software used in an ISA student’s daily life to guide him on the technologies that are shaping the future.
Preiss hopes that Justin’s connection with both his students and the Upper School French classes made a lasting impression and that both he and ISA can continue to help Justin and other refugees to get their stories out there to discover new connections in the Netherlands as they build their lives.
Justin also showed a keen interest in video editing and development, so during his visit to ISA, he was able to connect with one of the IT Station staff who showed him some of the editing tools and software used at the school.
Mr Preiss said that he invited Justin to present to students in Grade 3 who have been learning about different beliefs through a unit of inquiry called, ‘Believe It or Not’.
“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to the children. We also focus on the Learner Profile attributes and we wanted Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land. Justin also emphasised how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”
Students and staff all relished the opportunity to listen to and learn something new from Justin, and while his story was at times challenging and confronting, there was opportunity to be inspired by his incredible story of perseverance through adversity.
“For Justin, this visit was a really memorable and rewarding experience, because he truly believes his story should be shared and that by doing so he is able to help our students and others appreciate what they have” noted Preiss.
“He wants to inspire others to help each other and I think he has done that. I know I’ve been inspired by the fact that he has been able to remain true to himself and his beliefs and values, despite having everything taken away from him. He’s overcome obstacles and really taught the children that once you achieve something you really should give back to help make things better in this world.”
Art serves as a bridge across cultures—communicating the emotions, experiences and perspectives of the artists to the world around them. At ISA, the arts play an integral part in the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programmes, allowing students of all ages to creatively share their own views through various media.
Each year ISA’s Kindergarten students, under the guidance of Lower School Visual Arts teacher Frankie Rees, explore how art can be used to as a form of communication through the study of Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Working with their homeroom teachers and in their dedicated art classes, the students create individual art pieces, inspired by Van Gogh, that reflect the learnings in the unit of inquiry (Find out from Frankie what this was).
Gaining inspiration from class discussions and a field trip to the world-renowned Van Gogh Museum, the student extended (name of Unit) to artworks which they displayed for the entire ISA community in a full-scale art gallery set up in the school’s main foyer in March.
Rees was more than impressed. “The Kindergarten artists were able to explore their creative process with all of the students produced a very special painting, on canvas, using acrylic paint and gel medium.”
“They learned how to use palette knives to add shape and texture to their flower forms and experimented with colour mixing and value. To see their own work exhibited in the school foyer was so exciting for the children and their families.”
Parents, staff and students who attended the gallery throughout the week were all extremely impressed by the range of artworks.
“It was really wonderful to see how the kindergarteners have taken such pride in their work and exhibiting each students work showcases how each of them have grown throughout the process.” noted Rika Maja Duevel, ISA Upper School Visual Arts teacher.
“As a teacher who has taught both kindergarten visual arts in the Primary Years Programme and the Diploma Visual Art programme I have seen just how important the exhibition component is to students. In the final year of the Diploma Programme students are both showcasing their work and also curating their shows. Building links between museum visits, artists, and creating is an invaluable experience for any age and I’m happy our kindergarteners.”