A Lion’s Share of Sporting Opportunities at ISD

In 1995, ISD teachers Barry O’Farrell and Jens Heun capitalised on the German fervour for clubs and soccer, by founding the ISD Sportverein (ISD SV). Since this undertaking, the ISD SV has morphed into a sports club with over 700 athletes representing not only soccer but also basketball, volleyball, rugby, and swimming. This involvement has fostered a real love for sports and teams and is an integral part of the ISD school community.

The ISD SV provides ISD students an opportunity to compete alongside local German students. Additionally, some local Rheinlander’s have joined the ISD SV as members. Approximately 85-90% of the student-athletes for the ISD SV are from ISD, the other 15% attend local schools in the greater Düsseldorf area. ISD SV’s seasons intertwine with both NECIS and ISST yearly schedules, allowing for plenty of quality competition. Practices occur twice a week and student-athletes compete in an average of 20-24 club games, typically on weekends. Clint Olson, ISD’s U-18 Varsity basketball coach remarks, “The ISD SV offers the chance for year-long team and individual development against local opposition. It is also a great way to experience the culture and language of the country. Playing in ISD SV competitions gives ISD athletes an advantage in preparing for NECIS competitions because of the extended time the team spends together prior to NECIS finals.”

Overwhelmingly, the ISD community benefits from the social and competitive opportunities that the ISD SV offers. Challenges do exist; it can be especially difficult to find coaches with the time to dedicate to their club team over the 8-9 months. It can be difficult for students as well, particularly those who are beginning the IB Diploma Programme. Georgia, a former varsity soccer player provides her perspective, “Soccer is a year-round sport at ISD. There are competitions for the ISD SV, ISST, and NECIS. Given how long our season is, in addition to schoolwork, it is a challenge to stay motivated and remain committed to the team.”

Despite these challenges, we strive to create a great place for student-athletes globally, and locally, at ISD. We strongly believe that ISD student-athletes learn social empathic skills, in an organic way, while participating in competitive sports. ISD’s strong coaches help with this learning as well. Obstacles are continually overcome and the ISD Sports and Activities programme is dedicated to overcoming the challenges that arise, while staying true to our commitment to providing student-athletes an authentic and meaningful competitive environment.

— James Cochran-Director of Sports and Activities-International School of Düsseldorf

James Cochran, is in his third year working as the Director of Sports and Activities at ISD. Before coming to ISD, he spent time working in Kuwait as a teacher and Assistant Principal. James also played professional basketball in three different countries (Australia, Kuwait and Luxembourg). He is a strong advocate for the character and leadership opportunities given to students through sport and being on teams.

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Virginia Woolf and Rocket Stability

A snapshot of the IB extended essay

As part of the IB Diploma Programme (DP), students are required to undertake a self-directed research project, culminating in an essay of 4,000 words. The ‘extended essay’ prepares students for the rigour of undergraduate study by equipping them with important research, writing and time management skills.

The specific topic, which can be chosen by the student, is related to one of their six DP courses. Although the topics they choose are incredibly varied, many of the students face similar challenges as they design and execute this academically demanding project.

Five grade 12 ISD students agreed to share their extended essay topics, and provide their thoughts on the challenges they encountered.

Maxi (Theatre)

Supervisor: Ms. Olson

My extended essay was about theatre. I was looking at how a particular director – in this case, Robert Wilson – uses lighting in his productions. I chose Robert Wilson because he’s well-known for the way he uses sound and lighting to create an immersive atmosphere. Also, at the same time as I was doing my extended essay, there was a show in the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus called Der Sandman – that piece was directed by him. Seeing that production definitely helped me explain his theories and concepts. My research has helped me to understand the intentions behind certain usages of lighting and sound and how these can be used to help audiences draw meaning from a theatrical piece.

I think the biggest challenge of this project was staying focused. I know from other people as well that this was a common problem for the extended essay. You’re motivated at the beginning and then other things get in the way.

Moritz (Humanities)

Supervisor: Ms. Bevington

I investigated how African American athletes were involved in the civil rights movement in the US between 1960 and 1972. I’m very interested in boxing and I always admired Muhammed Ali, even before I got into boxing. As I got more into the topic I came across names like Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were the athletes who used the black power salute during the 1968 Olympics. I thought this would be a good topic for an extended essay.

The biggest challenge was definitely time. I took a lot of time at the beginning to plan everything and undertake detailed research, but I don’t regret that time I spent planning. It helped a lot when it came to writing my essay.  

Stacey (English)

Supervisor: Ms. Williams / Ms. Gürtler

For my extended essay I examined how Virgina Woolf uses physical space to portray the isolation of two main characters in Mrs Dalloway. Virgina Woolf wrote an essay called A Room of One’s Own, where she uses the room as a metaphor for female oppression and sexuality, so that’s where I found the connection. I didn’t notice anything in particular about physical space when I first read Mrs Dalloway, but as I read it again with those reflections in mind, I saw how many subtleties there were.

I didn’t begin with that topic. I had to narrow it down a bit and I think that’s something most students go through. Your question has to be very specific. I’m quite a wordy writer – I like to go off on tangents. When I first wrote my essay it was almost twice the word limit. From that point on it was a case of distilling the topic further to make it succinct and focussed.  

Alessandro (Physics)

Supervisor: Mr. Collins

Later on I’d like to study aerospace engineering so physics was the obvious choice for my extended essay. I decided to investigate factors that influence passive rocket stability. I focussed mostly on the positions of centre of mass and pressure and how this affects the general stability of the system. The tough part was trying to figure out how to measure rocket stability. You can see that if you launch a rocket and it tumbles over, then surely that’s not stable, but how do you actually quantify that? I developed a model to mimic real life, with propellers and electric models at the top to simulate wind speed around the rocket and four sensors at the bottom that measure the tendency for it to move around.

The biggest challenge was finding the methodology that would allow me to get the data I needed. I had a general idea at the beginning of what the setup would look like, but I had to develop it along the way and solve small problems. The research part was relatively easy because there are plenty of resources available.

Florian (Physics)

Supervisor: Mr. Collins

I designed and made an electric motor. It was quite a long process. I started with a horizontal rotating system, which is not ideal because gravity is acting on it, so I made all kinds of improvements until it became a good product. It really evolved, but there is still a bit to do to perfect the design. By addressing some of the motor’s ‘quality of life’ issues, I think it could be excellent.The biggest challenge was getting started, honestly. I was just about to leave for a CAS field trip in the last week of 11th grade and I had to show that my motor worked otherwise I would have had to change my topic. So on the Friday prior, I had to change the design and print the model overnight, then spend Saturday and Sunday trying to get the motor to work. It performed well and was rotating at a moderate speed. I almost feel like when I’m under stress I produce a better quality of work.

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A group like no other: ISD friends of the arts

What makes a school great?

World class instructors? Check.
Diverse and meaningful curriculum? Check.
Enthusiastic students? Check.
A strong athletic and after school programme? Check.
How about dedicated and supportive parent volunteers? CHECK!

The ISD Friends of the Arts (FOA) began over 25 years ago to support the rich and diverse theatre curriculum at the school. What started as support for school theatre class productions has transformed into professional-grade set construction, prop design, costume creation and alteration, and theatre-quality makeup. All of these activities are supplemented with volunteer-led programme creation, photography, and day-of-show support for the cast and crew.

This group of volunteers is not the norm within international schools, or any school for that matter. Samantha Ward and Kate Olson, the senior school drama teachers, are very appreciative of the help provided by the FOA.

Samantha notes how in previous schools, it was more of a one woman show, helping with all aspects of production. In fact, her closet was the costume department for many productions prior to moving to ISD.

Kate believes that the drama department is the biggest department in the school; while there are only two instructors, when you include the enormous team of volunteers, they overshadow other departments.

Several members of the FOA have volunteered with the group for over eight years. It has become a place for creating not only sets, props, and costumes, but also friendships.

Tracey Woodrow is the longest-standing member. When she arrived to Germany, she was afraid she would be terribly lonely. She immediately jumped in as a volunteer with FOA, doing hair and make-up for a production of Oliver, and is now in her tenth year and leads the group. (Needless to say, she hasn’t been lonely!)

While the group has shared numerous successes, there have been some hiccups over the years. This is show business after all and the performances are live…

Members of the FOA, along with Samantha and Kate, have been forced to manage a few on-stage disasters. Tom Fitzpatrick was once stuck on stage during a scene change for The Wiz. He tried to signal to the team in the sound booth to keep the lights down, but without success. The lights went up and there was Tom, a part of the scenery.

During the show 39 Steps, actors were handcuffed together one by one. The only catch? The key to the handcuffs was left offstage and they couldn’t extract themselves from the melee without help from the wings.

FOA members recall The Wiz as the most involved project. The students helped create the giant papier mache masks, which now hang outside the administrative office in the senior school. And the most complex set? The one created for the show Bugsy.

Theatre at ISD is a social event, whether it’s in the FOA, on stage as part of an MYP production or in the audience supporting fellow students. There is always much excitement as the curtain is raised. Much of this is due to the wonderful work of the FOA.

Bravo! Brava!

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Trust the kids! A student perspective on ‘agency’

A committee on Architecture for Learning met throughout the fall and winter of 2018 to discuss strategies for providing students with more agency. To learn more about the committee’s work, which included faculty, staff and students, a grade 4 student, who is a member of the committee, provided her insights.

Why did you join the Architecture for Learning Committee?

I joined because I am interested in helping the community and I want the school to become a better place. I liked the idea of developing spaces for classmates to work in. As we went along, we were joined by more students which was great because we got lots of different perspectives.

What is “student agency”?

Student agency is letting students have opinions on what they do and don’t like. It’s also about giving students choices in what they do and how they do it, with regard to teaching and learning.

What did the committee do?

After a discussion in the first meeting, the committee decided to focus on two things. Students providing feedback to their teachers, and a room in each of the buildings on ISD’s campus that could be used as a relaxing space.

What was the general feeling about student-teacher feedback?

We made a video of students responses when we asked them how they would feel about giving feedback to their teachers. Most of them liked the idea but there were some who did not. The committee also sent a survey to the teachers asking if this is something that they do already and for examples of how they are collecting this feedback. The majority of teachers, who responded to the survey, said that they request feedback from their students in a range of ways, from Google docs and exit tickets to class discussions and anonymous surveys.

And how did the relaxation space design go?

We found out that a group of senior school students were already working on a relaxation room, so we talked to them to see if we could help. On the elementary side of the road, we started thinking about rooms and spaces that could be used for a relaxation room.

What did you learn?

We learnt that our teachers need to trust their students and give them responsibility for student agency to happen. At the same time, teachers need to help the students and support them every step of the way. They should work with them, ask questions, but don’t help with every detail. We also learnt that we need to ask specific questions about the learning, not the teacher.

What are your next steps?

To continue developing conversations between students and teachers about learning. To get all teachers comfortable with asking for feedback from their students and to help students be better at giving feedback.

Any final reflections?

We didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to but we learned a lot about the role of students and teachers in student agency. This needs to be a partnership where both groups have responsibilities.

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Exploring what’s next for our students

I am interested in many things. How shall I decide what to study after the IB?”

“Shall I study at all?”

“Can I change my career path and when?”

“Do I have to commit to a subject for the rest of my life?”

These questions and concerns are not uncommon to hear from students who are entering the IB diploma programme. Many students feel pressure when having to decide what is next in their journey once their time at ISD finishes.

During the first half of the current term, the school offered a career seminar series to help answer some of those questions. The series was designed for grade 9-12 students, who are now in their decision-making process.

During late start mornings, parents from the ISD community with a background in science gave seminars explaining their personal career paths and how they arrived at their current careers.  

As part of their presentations, they explained how they made important (and not so important) career decisions and how their jobs have evolved as a result of planned and unplanned changes. They outlined what helped them to decide whether to pursue one path over another.   

Organised by an ISD parent-scientist, Britta Lindner-Stuart, the presentations included scientists who studied pharmacology, physiology, molecular biology, physics and environmental chemistry who all started out with a basic passion for science. It became quite clear to students that none of the speakers had a straight journey from their studies in university to where they are today – university researchers, entrepreneurs, financial investors, corporate strategists.

Hopefully, this seminar series showed students that life is not always a predictable, straight-line journey – there are endless possibilities of ways to use our talents.

The important message that all speakers passed on was: follow your passion and the rest will fall into place.

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Think globally, act locally

“Kö-Peter” is a recognisable figure in Düsseldorf. Despite being homeless and having very few possessions, Peter is committed to making a positive difference in the lives of other vulnerable people in the city. At the end of last year, ISD’s Didaktische Lehrerin, Andrea Wagner, invited Peter to share his touching story with grade 8 and 9 students.

Last year I saw a homeless man, who was on his way to a park to sleep outside on a cold winter night, when the weather forecast had announced temperatures around -10’C. He told me that he was used to these temperatures, as he had been homeless for many years. When I asked him if there was anything I could do to support him, he was modest and said that he had everything he needed, but that he only had one blanket for his dog, which might not be sufficient for the low temperatures.

I gave him an extra blanket and saw him disappearing in the dark. Weeks later I met him again in the park nearby. He told me that his dog had had an operation and that he had not been able to walk around to get something to eat. He never asked for anything, but received food for the dog and hot meals from the neighbours, who also invited him for breakfast and washed his clothes.

Peter (also known as “Kö-Peter”) is well known in Düsseldorf and has been invited to speak on various TV shows about homelessness and animal welfare. Now 72 years old, Peter regularly uses his contacts to collect goods for the homeless in Düsseldorf. Remarkably, he has organised several festivities for them to share what he has collected and to give them a chance to meet and celebrate with other people in a respectful environment. More than 1,000 visitors have attended these events.

Peter impressed me because he, who does not possess anything and lives on the streets, takes care of people and animals in need. When he told me that he is often invited to speak to students, visits Kindergarten children being dressed up as Nikolaus or present at universities, I asked him if he would be willing to talk to ISD students.

In December he spoke to a group of grade 8 students, who read a short novel in their Phase 4/5 German class, in which a homeless person plays an important role helping the police to identify criminals. A group from the grade 9 German Language and Literature class also joined.

Peter spoke about his childhood, which he spent in various orphanages. His parents had given him away and he suffered tremendously from bad treatment. He has travelled the world, learned how to tailor, and used his sewing machine to make fashionable clothes. The students were very touched when he asked them to be grateful for having a family and parents who take care of them.

Here are some of the reflections the students shared with me: “I really liked the part where he talked about the relationship with your parents, and how you should always take care of them.”

“I found it very nice that everyone who was in the room was quietly listening and not disrupting. I think it is a topic which somehow involves everyone in some way, and maybe some people shared something in common with him, like certain feelings or experiences.“

“I was really impressed by the fact that he is an advocate for other homeless people in Dusseldorf. He is also an advocate for abused animals. I was also
impressed by the fact that he doesn’t keep everything he finds for himself, because he gives it to other homeless people. He feels that he has everything he needs.”

“Although it was hard for me to understand German, I could still feel his passion about helping others.”

Since his visit, Peter has been part of a WDR news program on the relationship that exists between homeless people and their dogs.

Peter will be visiting ISD again soon. He and ISD students will organise packages of toiletries to help other homeless people in Düsseldorf, following the motto “think globally – act locally”. If you would like to support, please let us know.

Andrea Wagner, German teacher and Didaktische Lehrerin, wagner@isdedu.de.

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An ISD tradition: Japanese rice balls

When attending an ISD sporting event there are two primary thoughts, the first is, “Go, Lions!” and the second, “I hope the rice balls aren’t sold out yet…” Started sometime in the late 1970s by a group of Japanese mothers who weren’t confident in their English speaking, but wanted to contribute to ISD, the Japanese rice ball became a way of sharing a Japanese national tradition with the home and visiting athletes at ISD.

Today, there are over 100 Japanese families who are a part of ISD and each year, one person from the group is nominated to coordinate with the ISD sports administrators to manage the creation of the rice balls.  Once the dates are known for all of the NECIS home games, a sign-up genius is created so that rice balls can be a part of the snacks on offer. This year, that includes 25 games.

When the rice ball group was first created, it was called the Lions club Imbiss team. Today, there are 70 parents who participate in making the rice balls for rugby, football, volleyball and basketball games. Many ISD opponents know, when you come to ISD, make sure to get a rice ball!

Each batch requires about an hour to make and each sign-up in the sign-up genius promises approximately 10 rice balls for a given game. In addition to the 700 rice balls created for the NECIS friendly matches, the Japanese families provided 100 rice balls each day during the recent U14 basketball tournament. This means that, in total, the team will create over 1,000 rice balls this year.

ISD is lucky to be a community with traditions from all over the world. But when it comes to snacks, we find ourselves particularly lucky to have a Japanese national tradition that has become an ISD tradition. Thank you to everyone who helps make this happen.

If you are interested in making rice balls (called ONIGIRI in Japanese) at home, this link has recipes for onigiri, sushi rolls and Japanese fried chicken. Delicious.

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Unsere Autorin für Jugendliche

ISD is fortunate to have a dedicated team of university and college-educated, credentialled and professional international teachers from over 24 different countries. In addition to ensuring that each student is supported to pursue their interests and passions, many of our teachers use their expertise beyond the classroom.

Of our nearly 150 full- and part-time faculty, we have 16 IB subject examiners; two IB team leaders responsible for managing examiners around the world; one IB exam author; three IB curriculum review members; two IB workshop leaders who facilitate professional development for schools just implementing the IB; and one faculty member on the IB standardisation team, which is responsible for ensuring that IB assessments are consistent when given in another language.

In addition to the support our faculty provide to the IB Diploma Programme, we have experts in the German Abitur system and native German language programme. As Didaktische Leiterin, Andrea Wagner is responsible for ISD’s Mittlere Reife and, as German University Counsellor, supports our students in need of an IB Abitur equivalent for direct access to German university. Frau Wagner also teaches German to students learning the language and engages them in many thoughtful and creative ways.

When she is not teaching, Frau Wagner is a prolific author. Her books are designed to help enforce German language skills from A1 through B1 levels. When writing her books, Frau Wagner incorporates learning about German culture and the geography of the country. Her books become an adventure of sight, taste and sound as she captures the essence of Germany in her short stories.

Frau Wagner’s ten books, published by Klett, include a short quiz at the end as well as a QR code for the reader to download an audio version to further the learning process.

If you are interested in reading any of Frau Wagner’s books, they are available at the McWilliam library in the Senior School. And if you are lucky, you will have a chance to chat with the author herself.

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