Sharing Numicon at ISD

At the ISD Elementary School, David Lyttle – ES Support for Learning, Maths Instructional Coach – has helped to create a mathematics program that helps our students understand the building blocks of the world around us. The ES maths program focuses on concepts over skills and uses the PYP approach of guided inquiry combined with Numicon and Singapore Maths to help students develop a solid mathematical foundation.

Recently, David, a certified Numicon Accredited Consultant, was hosting a full day Numicon Professional Development Workshop at ISD in which Andrea (Andy) Fowler, Maths Resource Teacher for the elementary school at Berlin International School, was a participant. After the Numicon course, Andy implemented some of the Numicon ideas at her school and decided to visit ISD again once more. In mid-January, Andy spent two days at ISD working with and shadowing David, with the objective of seeing the maths program at ISD in an authentic context and to connect the dots from theory to practical implementation. 

Andy’s visit included observing classroom maths sessions, taking part in Numicon teacher training, touring the school’s flexible learning spaces, understanding the transition from PYP to MYP at ISD, and talking with faculty and students about ISD’s maths program.

Overall, Andy was impressed by the consistency and focus throughout ISD, the professionalism of the faculty, and the confidence of the students. She believes there is a great deal of work that happens in the school that isn’t seen by the casual observer – ongoing teacher training being the primary activity. Andy also appreciated how the flexible learning spaces informed and allowed for Numicon instruction, and the Numicon work transitioned flawlessly into using Singapore maths, creating a seamless structure for maths instruction. A key component to all of this working together is the strong collaboration that exists between ISD’s teachers.

ISD was happy to share our school with Andy. And, we are happy to know that we have left her with an impression of the mutual respect that exists between the faculty, staff, and students. We look forward to seeing Andy at other international school events and welcome visitors to learn more about our innovative maths program at ISD.

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From ISD to Ivy League

“[Sending me to ISD] was a choice that set me up for an international life and…gave me almost endless opportunities.”

David Paffenholz graduated from ISD in 2018 and has embarked on a new academic adventure, studying at Harvard University. Here he talks about the challenges he set himself and the values instilled in him during his time at ISD.

Back in 2005, after we moved to Düsseldorf from Boston, my parents decided to send me to ISD. It wasn’t an obvious choice – after all, I spoke fluent German and could’ve gone to a Grundschule, as both my parents did when they were children. But it was a choice that set me up for an international life and, although I didn’t realise it at the time, gave me almost endless opportunities in my continuing education.

I spent my first years at ISD revelling in the freedom that ISD gave us, even at a young age. I remember comparing it to my Montessori school in Boston, which was undoubtedly also a great school, yet already constrained my ambitions by giving me set tasks with specific instructions for completion; at least to the extent that is possible for a four-year-old. In Boston, I learned to tie my shoes and count marbles. At ISD, I learned how to interact with my classmates from all over the world.

While ISD’s Elementary School gave me a lot more freedom than other comparable schools, it also gave me the opportunities to challenge myself. I enjoyed making new friends each year in new classes, meeting new students at the beginning of the year and visiting friends that had moved abroad. This continued throughout my time at ISD and culminated in the final four years.

I set myself the goal of attending Harvard University, and, with my 9th-grad ignorance, felt unshakeably confident in that high aspiration. Being supported by our fantastic high school counsellors, I began taking steps that seemed appropriate towards reaching my goal – I attended three summer programs at U.S. universities during consecutive summer breaks, continued to focus on my academics, and spent vast time on my extra-curricular activities.

But those ideas aren’t exclusive to ISD. Rather, it’s our values of promoting and encouraging excellence that are unique to ISD. It’s not only our teachers and counsellors that support us, but also each other. Instead of criticising or denying success of others, we aim to recognise and value it.

At university, I am hoping to continue to find what ISD started to build in me. A passion for learning, discussing, and analysing the world around us. I’m excited to join a vibrant group of students who share passions both similar and contrastingly different to mine and learn from their experiences and opinions.


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The art of persuasion

ISD 8th graders practiced the art of presentation and persuasion on the final day of their first semester interdisciplinary unit (IDU). The topic of their inquiry was water issues around the world. Their IDU incorporates learning in English, humanities, math and science. Instructors from each subject worked together to create an inquiry-based course that allows students to use skills from each discipline as part of their final project. Students were invited to interest, educate, and persuade a potential donor to support their cause. Students explored the issues facing countries all over the world, not all of which have obvious water supply issues. They included: Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar, Singapore, Tanzania, U.A.E., and U.S.A. (California).

Ray and Mara created a detailed presentation about the water supply issues in Tanzania. Their presentation highlighted the need for clean water and the barriers to accessing water each day. To amplify their message, they created a display that showed the varying water quality levels available in the country using coffee grounds to represent the waste in the water.

Qatar is a wealthy country that relies heavily on desalination and imported food, however Finley provided data on how the country could face a water shortage in 15 to 20 years when their oil supply is depleted. If this happens, the country would no longer be able to afford the high cost of clean water or fresh food.

Louise talked about the poor water quality in Brazil and the impact that has on the residents, as well as the meat and food products that are exported from the country. And Anita and Melis highlighted the water issues facing the UAE. The country also relies heavily on desalination and this is exacerbated by the extremely high water use per person, per day: 550 litres; compared to Germany’s 125 litres/per person/per day. The students pointed out how the combination seems unsustainable.

Next semester, the students will expand on their learning and will apply their skills in research, presentation and persuasion in real world situations. Specifically, they will look at how valuable presentation and persuasion can be in fields like politics, business, product design and more.

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ISD Project Nepal – Culture Shock

During the 2018 spring break, a group of grade 11 students traveled to Nepal as the culminating part of their CAS project. Our purpose was to help spread hygiene awareness to children and paint two early learning classrooms at a local school. During our service project, we stayed with a local family within the community and gained an understanding of daily life in the rural outskirts of Kathmandu. The trip also included a team-building three day trek across the Annapurna Foothills and cultural visits to temples and local restaurants.

We’re not going to lie to you, it was difficult. It was a trip filled with laughter, dancing, unimaginable experiences, tonnes of curry and amazing pictures. The diverse Nepalese culture is something that none of us had experienced before, and can only really be understood and enjoyed firsthand. But, even though we didn’t manage to get a tan, we did manage to encounter an astonishing culture and improve the learning environment for the sweetest kids that we’ve ever met; which some might argue is slightly better than a tan. Here are the 4 stages that you will most definitely experience on your trip to Nepal. 

Stage 1: The Fantasy Phase

This is the phase in which you realise that you have actually arrived in Nepal, and is probably a once in a lifetime destination. Not only are you here with some of your best friends, but you also have a tour guide and translator, because Nepali isn’t your best polished language. In addition, you have a personal, luxury minibus to take you around Nepal including Kathmandu, Pokhara and tiny Nepali village. You are staying in Hotel Premium, the peak of your first night, and you enter the building with a smile on your face and a traditional orange, marigold lei around your neck. None of us managed to wipe that smile from our faces the first day.

We were 13 ISD students and 2 teachers, ready to tackle our customary Nepali Momos served to us on the rooftop restaurant overlooking the bustling streets of Kathmandu, but still careful not to use our left hands (a big no-no in Nepali culture). As we ate, we chatted about our dreams of cultural tours across mountains and beautiful pictures of landscapes to show our parents.

Stage 2: The Jet Lag Phase

This stage occurs when you are 3,000 metres high in the Himalayan mountains and only now does jet lag kick in. Three days of tiresome trekking are behind you and your legs are beginning to tone up thanks to the hundreds of stairs climbed. however, the fight against jet lag is easily won considering the incredible view at the top of Poon Hill and most of the trip still before you.

The beautiful rice fields and encouraging Nepali porters’ faces helped us to continue the trek which, ultimately, is an unforgettable experience. The extremely nice and experienced tour guides helped us to navigate our way through the windy mountains, that just added to the Nepalese beauty we were seeing.

Stage 3: The Enjoyment Phase

After the battle with jet lag was won and we settled into Nepalese culture, we were simply enjoying this trip. It is hard not to when you realise the incredible experience that you are currently shaping. Arriving at the school, ready to teach hygiene awareness and painting classrooms, was a highlight for everyone. The Nepalese children were simply some of the most fascinated and happy kids on earth. Playing in their small schoolyard and watching us paint their classrooms in enchantment, encouraged us to make every painting better. One classroom had a space theme, where the other was nature-oriented. Numbers, shapes, colours, planets, fruits and so many other images were painted, with labels in English. Watching the new furniture be brought into the painted classrooms only added to the satisfaction we were feeling, as we had done something good for these kids and their school community. The day that we finished painting the classrooms, no adult, teen or child stopped grinning.

Perhaps even more satisfying was watching the young kids practice brushing their teeth with the toothbrush and toothpaste that we had supplied through a hard year of fundraising. We had thought of games and songs that everyone appreciated, and the celebratory ceremony at the end of our time at the school was a moment of mixed emotions. We were all happy to have helped this Nepalese school community and improve their educational and sanitation supplies, but were sad to have to say goodbye to these cheerful and lively children we had played and bonded with over the course of the three days.

Stage 4: The OMG Phase

When you are standing in the Düsseldorf Airport after a 24-hour journey, across 3 different countries, and realising you don’t even know where to begin your story; that’s when this phase kicks in. You show your parents and friends the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of remodelling two whole classrooms of the local school, as well as the pictures of children climbing on you like monkeys during your breaks. You begin to ponder on the times you spent playing cards with a friendly troop of porters, enthusiastic to learn, or the one time you were pecked on the head by a large peacock at our cultural dinner (just to clarify, it was a man in a costume, not a real peacock).

The photos don’t speak to the incredible atmosphere and our stories don’t do a single bit of justice to this absolutely amazing, beautiful, and chaotic country otherwise known as Nepal. And we leave you with one word, the Nepali term for hello, thank you and goodbye: Namaste.

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ISD health and fitness students kick-off Erasmus+ project in Barcelona (includes news article/video in Catalan)

Students in ISD’s 9-10 elective health and fitness class are part of an Erasmus+ project that has them work collaboratively with students and teachers from five other countries: Spain, Italy, Finland, Portugal and Turkey. This collaboration will span two years and allows the students to investigate How Movement Improves Learning Experiences in Schools. This will be done through a series of student exchanges as well as through research collected by each participating school. The first student exchange experience took place in Barcelona mid-November. Several ISD students were a part of the exchange and were introduced to the research that will be the cornerstone of the project. In addition to the project work, the students were able to learn about the Spanish and Catalan cultures.

One ISD student who took part in the Barcelona thought exchange has noticed a great improvement in his ability to focus on learning after exercise. He joined the elective class for fun, but has started to implement the strategies from the program throughout his day and has noticed a difference. Prior to beginning homework, he will engage in 5 to 10 minutes of fitness. This helps him feel more focused and he is no longer rushing at the last minute to complete projects. The results from this project have the potential to transform the relationship between fitness and education.

The Erasmus+ project and the first student exchange was highlighted in a local, Barcelona news item with video.

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ISD helps nearly 500 Peacevillage children stay warm over the winter

For the past 5 years, ISD students have been volunteering at Peacevillage/Friedensdorf International in nearby Oberhausen. Since the Vietnam era, Peacevillage has been a rehabilitation centre for severely ill and injured children from impoverished countries torn apart by war and conflict. Without help from Peacevillage, many of these children would not survive because medical facilities are not available or affordable in their home countries. Coming from countries including Afghanistan, the Sudan and Syria, approximately 500 children each year are sent to hospitals across Germany for treatment and surgeries. After their treatment, they make Peacevillage their home during physiotherapy and convalescence. Each year, ISD student volunteers lead educational and recreational activities for children while they are there. In addition, they collect food and clothing donations to make the Peacevillage experience as pleasant as possible for the children who are there. Amazingly, the hospitalisation and rehabilitation are funded almost entirely by donations.

This year, the ISD community has helped the ISD Peacevillage volunteers collect more clothing for the children than ever before. The ISD donations will help nearly 500 children stay warm in the cold German winter!

Vielen vielen Dank ISD families, your generosity is much appreciated!

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A visit from the International Community School of Addis Ababa

Educators from the International Community School of Addis Ababa visit ISD’s fifth grade co-teaching team and learning space

An exchange of experiences and theory were central to the meeting between the ISD fifth grade co-teaching team, Jessica Boerema, Brianna Caldwell, Tasman DeNieverville, Caitlin Howald, and Alecia Staples, and two of the teachers from the fourth grade learning hub at the International Community School of Addis Ababa (ICS), Crystal Thomas and Sabine Grecu. The ICS team was encouraged to visit ISD after a making a similar visit to the International School Ho Chi Minh city. The visit was further solidified after the ES principal from ICS met Caitlin Howald at the IBPYP conference in Vienna this year. 

When launching co-teaching three years ago, the ISD team focused on creating a shared model of the method. Since co-teaching looks different around the world, there wasn’t a specific blueprint to follow. The ICS team shared similar experiences, and both teams agreed that ownership among the teachers is critical to the model’s success. Another key component to a successful co-teaching program is support from the school, which both teams have in abundance. When these elements come together, a co-teaching team can help students build their own skills for assessing what they need and create student agency. 

As the ICS team reaches the mid-point of their first year of co-teaching, they were interested to understand how the ISD team has adapted its strategy to accommodate multiple student cohorts and learning styles over the last two and a half years. Most importantly, the ICS team was excited to see how the ISD team manages their learning space and lessons and to understand their key to dividing and conquering as a team of educators.

Both schools agree that the co-teaching model is best supported by the excitement of the students who participate in the program. Students are happy and proud to show off their learning space. At the end of the visit, the educators from ICS and ISD felt affirmed that their co-teaching models are working and are pleased to have peers around the world to use as sounding boards for the work they are doing.

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Transforming reality: ISD meets Roberto Fassone

On Thursday 29 November, ISD’s Visual Arts department welcomed the visiting artist Roberto Fassone.

Roberto conducted a full day workshop on creativity with the 11th grade Diploma Visual Art students. In this workshop he challenged students to engage with creative process through a series of game and rule based projects. Students utilized Roberto’s project “sibi” a customized software that he designed that acts as a random generator of criteria for making art works through the combination of medium, about-ness and title. Students received these instructions in small groups and had to collaborate in interpreting and creating a new work in a limited amount of time. It was a wonderful and enriching experience.

In the evening the ISD speaker series presented an artist talk by Roberto in which he focused on his ongoing research into creative processes and structures. In the talk he explored the ways in which we can play with and transform reality, using reframing strategies and changes of perspective. For those in attendance it was a valuable exercise in applying creativity to everyday life.

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