This week, I crossed into the German speaking part of Europe and visited the Franklin International School (FIS) and the Zurich International School (ZIS). The schools have a different feel than the boarding schools I have visited near Geneva; there was more technology and less bilingualism.
Here are some unique features. FIS has a required Design and Technology course from the fourth grade through tenth grade. The course has kids combine creative design and functional technology in different projects. Some projects are individual and some are group projects. I saw two examples in the hallway displays. Younger students had worked on new mobile phone designs. The phones had to be artistically and synthetically pleasing, and they had to meet some engineering/function specifications to qualify as mobile phones. An older group was given the task of designing a space ship that would spend two years in space. There were functional parameters but there were options in the shape of the ship. The groups also had to think of aesthetic design. They had to think about: “What would you want in your spacecraft of two years?” They used hand-drawn designs as well as 3D computer design programs.
In terms of global education, FIS had an interesting program in “language in translation.” They would read a passage or a poem in one language and then either try to translate the piece or study a translation. The translations led to better understanding cultural differences. I watched one class look at a passage from Zola’s Germinal. It is a passage where a group of miners are venting their anger at the mine owners and the government. The kids were then looking at both a British and an American translation of the passage. They had two were very different translations from the original French. There were enough native French speakers in the class to make it a great discussion. It made me think of: how would one translate the scene in Huckleberry Finn when an angry Jim compares Huck to the trash on the raft?
In the small world department the head of the Elementary School, Caroline Joslin-Callahan, earned her Master’s Degree at Plymouth State. She grew up in Europe but went to Plymouth in the summers on a recommendation from a colleague.
Over at ZIS, they chose not to have the Design and Technology class, but they have a big push for advanced use of technology in the classroom. There is a one to one tablet program at the school and students from science classes to PE could be seen doing work with their tablets. They had done a series of professional development programs to introduce the work. ZIS’ learning and teaching assessment is rigorous. For example, each teacher gets twelve 5-minute visits during the year to check on the use of technology. The school uses the data from the visits to shape its professional development program going forward.
Both FIS and ZIS have redesigned their libraries. The switch can be described in what FIS had written about the changes in their library.
- From books to readers
- From getting information to creating and sharing information
- From silent individuals to active groups
- From term papers to multimedia projects
- From how to find info to how to evaluate and use info
- From directed by the librarian to whole-school ownership
- From copyright enforcers to intellectual property counselors
- From developing print literacy to developing print, auditory and visual literacy
Both schools also required the study of German through ninth grade, but they are not bilingual. The two schools seemed to have more of a focus on design and technology than the schools near Geneva.
FIS and ZIS have a somewhat transient population as families move in and out for different jobs. To help kids transition, they do have ESL support and they have mentor programs or buddy programs for both students and parents to help with the transition. Parents from similar countries are matched up, and kids are matched by grade. The mentor programs have some training in the spring and summer. ZIS also has a summer program before starts that new families can opt to join for a fee. The program hires teachers, alumni and rising seniors to help new families move to the Zurich area and become accustomed to a new school.
Both FIS and ZIS are exciting, growing schools in growing cities. Next we go to Istanbul to see a bilingual school and the Grand Bazaar.
PS. No snow on the ground in Geneva yet, but the Alps are very white.