By Emily Merwin Olk and Kali Mick (Grade 8 Students)
At first glance, ISDenver may look like your typical school. Big grassy fields, tall play structures, large buildings filled with students. It may not seem special until you take a look inside one of these buildings. Whether it be loud and colorful music class in Kindergarten; immersive and hands-on French class in fourth grade; or action packed and creative design class in eighth grade, ISDenver is a unique and wonderful place to learn.
Kimak is where ISDenver students begin their journey, in our K1-K3 grades (ages 3-6). Through these grades, they will begin to be immersed into the diverse community of ISDenver. They will learn basic words in their target language of French, Mandarin, or Spanish, and be slowly exposed to the culture of their language. ISDenver does an exceptional job at making sure every child is at their comfort level in their learning. In addition to being very patient and kind people, the teachers also have fun with the students. They make sure that their students are entertained with their academics and are doing active, hands-on learning. In addition to learning the language, the students also learn from a very early age all about the culture and history of their language. In Kimak, the students learn a lot about teamwork and expressing themselves. They do active challenges that help with their communicating skills along with their collaboration skills. Their teachers also understand that not all students are at the same level, and will be there to provide any extra assistance and guidance to their students.
Grades one through five are called Lower School. Through the time spent here, students will be exposed more to the English language, whereas in Kimak the students have more limited exposure to English. Progressively through Lower School students’ language courses begin to advance. They are expected to learn more challenging vocabulary as they move through the Lower School. The students will also have their first school trip in 3rd grade. Although it is only a three-day ski trip, the chaperones understand that it can be hard for not only the students but also the parents to have their kids away from home for what is commonly the first time. The ski trip is a wonderful time for bonding experiences and gives the ISDenver students a leg up later in life when we take more trips. The fourth graders also go on a science trip in Keystone for a couple of days. They learn all about Colorado’s environment and nature there. They go on hikes and have a camping experience with all their friends. This is yet another of the many amazing bonding opportunities the students at ISDenver get. While many parents and kids find it unnerving to send their student/be sent away at such a young age, the older students at ISDenver think it’s beneficial, even though at the time it can be quite scary. Since we were exposed to traveling away from home at such an early age, it helps us a lot when we’re older and take trips away from home more often. When other students from different schools start going on school trips or camps away from home, we as ISDenver students have already been exposed to traveling and are relatively used to it. Although it was scary when we went away from home for that long, looking back on it now, we’re glad ISDenver has a program like this one. We get a lot less homesick when traveling away from home, because we got to experience traveling away from home at such a young age.
The third and fourth grade trips all lead up to the biggest voyage in fifth grade. Depending on their language program, students go to France, Spain, or China for two weeks to practice their language skills and be fully immersed in the culture of that language. This is a highlight for many kids at ISDenver because of how one-of-a kind the experience is.
ISDenver is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school, so the sixth through eighth graders are a part of the Middle Years Programme. Through this program, students learn valuable life skills by following the IB Learner traits. They learn how to be reflective, balanced, principled, and many other techniques to be a well-rounded young adult. The IB program also offers many classes that aren’t normally a part of an average school curriculum, like Design class. Through the IB MYP Design course, students will learn about many different subjects, like video production and architecture. Whenever we start a new project, we have to write down our process in a process journal. We document our research and materials, and most importantly, reflect on how we can make our projects better and what we learned. In eighth grade, we recently finished a project on Lego EV3 Robots. Our class assembled and learned how to program the robots, which is relevant since we’re growing up in a very tech involved community, so knowledge of robotics and tech will be very useful in our future. This is just one example of many about how ISDenver learning is special and has prepared us for high school.
In conclusion, ISDenver learning is unique in many ways. From trips like the ski trip in third grade to a service project in Costa Rica in eighth grade, hands-on learning, and life skills being taught, ISDenver is a wonderful place to get a jump-start into the real world. ISD has taught us so much about friendship, creativity, and the importance of learning, that we know that when we graduate we chose the best place to spend our childhood. Even though the outside of ISDenver looks like any other average school, the vibrant learning happening inside the classrooms is like no other.
Emily Merwin Olk and Kali Mick are 8th grade students at ISDenver, both of whom came up through our Mandarin language program. Emily is a "lifer," having enrolled in pre-K, and Kali joined the ISDenver community in 4th grade.