ISD team of ‘trash busters’ join RheinCleanUp effort

The International School of Düsseldorf once again joined the annual RheinCleanUp effort this year, with around 175 students and parents taking part in the CleanUp in Kaiserswerth on Saturday 12 September. This is the second consecutive year ISD has supported the event. 

ISD worked alongside a number of local community organisations on the Rhein’s shores, including:

  • Judo Club Kaiserswerth
  • Kinderhaus Kaiserswerth
  • Aquilla Dance Team
  • KREA
  • Kollmorgen

ISD staff member, Laura Maly-Schmidt, coordinated ISD’s sizable team of volunteers. 

“Our students are genuinely passionate about making a difference and doing their part to build a more sustainable future,” Ms Maly-Schmidt said. 

“We know that every single year, millions of tonnes of rubbish enter our oceans via rivers and waterways. RheinCleanUp has come to play a critical role in raising awareness of this issue by mobilising communities along the Rhein’s banks, from the source to the mouth.

“The Rhein River is in ISD’s backyard, and we’re committed to doing our part to preserve the amenity of this beautiful natural resource.”

Grade 12 ISD student, Fynn Pajonk, is leading the charge among students.

“My personal connection to the Rhein is through fishing. I started fishing in the Rhein when I was six years old and since then I’ve monitored the decrease in fish and the increase in non-biodegradable material in the water and on the shores,” Fynn said.

“I’m helping at the RheinCleanUp because I want others to be able to enjoy fishing for years to come.”

The event has been carefully organised this year to allow for cleanups to proceed under COVID conditions. 

More information about RheinCleanUp events is available at

Read More



ISD turns the tide on plastic pollution

Eight ISD elementary school students joined today’s inauguration of a sophisticated aquatic waste collector – dubbed the ‘River Whale’ – at Düsseldorf’s MedienHafen.

The device was partially funded by proceeds from the students’ sustainable Christmas market event in December 2019 and was ‘launched’ by Düsseldorf Mayor, Thomas Geisel.

The River Whale (so-called for its mimicry of the baleen whale’s filter-feeding system) captures floating waste in waterways 24/7 and can retain up to three cubic metres of litter.

With billions of kilograms of plastic waste entering oceans through river systems each year, the River Whale is a sustainable, eco-friendly solution to minimise the growth of “plastic oceans”.

ISD’s Director, Frank Tschan, also joined the inauguration with the students.  

“What we’ve seen today is a tremendous example of our students taking local action to address global issues,” Mr Tschan said.

“Our belief at the International School of Düsseldorf is that learning should inspire students to be curious, to be creative, and to find imaginative solutions to problems in their world.”

As part of the Primary Years Programme (PYP) at ISD, children are encouraged to contemplate complex social and environmental issues and to effect positive change in their local communities.

In grade 3 last year, as part of a unit of inquiry that examined supply chains, our students set themselves the ambitious challenge of organising a sustainable Christmas market fundraiser with a negligible waste output.  

They quickly discovered that this wouldn’t be easy: baking supplies often use single use plastics; much of the fresh produce they consume is transported from overseas, thereby contributing to atmospheric pollution; and unwanted plastic Christmas ornaments can endure in landfill for centuries. 

The students overcame these obstacles by repurposing recycled clothing and materials to make biodegradable decorations; eliminating virtually all plastics; and investigating different recipes with a view to using local products and minimising waste.

The market raised around 1620 euros, which the students agreed would be donated to support a River Clean-up initiative.

Mr Tschan said that the school has a long and storied history in Düsseldorf and is “joining forces” with the city to make a difference. 

“ISD is firmly committed to forging strong partnerships here in Düsseldorf so that we can multiply the impact our students will make on this beautiful city. This is something we’ve done for more than 50 years.

“We look forward to joining our Kaiserswerth neighbours at the Rhine Clean-up on Saturday 12 September!”


Read More



Salute to frontline healthcare workers: Orla Noble, ISD graduate 2008

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, residents took to their balconies to offer raucous cheers of support for their nations’ healthcare workers. The practice quickly spread to the rest of the world; applause would ring out nightly in the streets, as communities united in solidarity behind the men and women on the frontline. 

2008 ISD graduate Orla Noble is a trauma nurse at Klinikum im Friedrichshain, Berlin. For Orla, the public’s showing of support for the healthcare sector was a welcome boost, as the vast human toll of the virus became ever apparent. Importantly, though, she believes this sense of appreciation needs to be sustained.

“One of the most important things that came out of this was this sudden showing of appreciation for healthcare workers, but it seemed to wear away pretty quickly,” Orla said. 

“I wasn’t working in a COVID ward, but when you’re presented with a trauma case, there’s always a risk the patient could carry an infection, whether it’s hepatitis or something else. This is the daily reality for hospital workers and it’s important for people to recognise that that’s our experience.” 

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, various wards were designated for patients infected with the virus. Virtually all elective surgery was cancelled and doctors were given crash courses in using new respiratory equipment.

“The main impact we felt was in the lack of equipment,” Orla explained. 

“At the beginning there were cases of protective clothing being stolen from the hospital. Hospital pharmacies started mixing their own disinfectant so we’d have enough. Despite all of that, we were still able to get by. If infection rates were on the scale of Italy or Spain it would have been a different story.”

Nursing was not always Orla Noble’s preferred career path. After graduating from ISD, she travelled to her home country of Ireland to study German and French. After two semesters, she returned to Düsseldorf feeling a bit uncertain and in search of a new direction. It was around this time that she first discovered a passion for nursing during an internship with an anaesthetist. 

Now, nursing is a career path she enthusiastically recommends.

“Nursing can be an amazing job for a lot of people. It’s not just about what you learn in maths and science; a lot of the skills and qualities you learn in the IB prepare you for this career,” she said. 

In addition, Orla points out that the international environment at ISD prepared her well for life beyond school and shaped the outlook she holds today. 

“Internationalism is omnipresent. The other day I was in the operating room and there were something like nine nationalities represented. It reminded me a lot of ISD. 

“Growing up at ISD, you don’t think about what a privilege it is to learn and grow with other cultures. And for me, that’s the most fantastic thing about the school.”

Read More



Sebastian fulfils restaurant dream

Opening a new restaurant is a daunting prospect at the best of times. 2009 ISD graduate Sebastian Staudinger has recently done just that. And, what’s more, he’s managed it in the midst of a pandemic.


Inspired by his grandfather, who owned a bakery, Sebastian always loved to create food. In grade 10 at ISD, he wrote a small cookbook and created a meal for several friends for his MYP Personal Project.

When Sebastian graduated from ISD, he hadn’t imagined a career in hospitality; in fact, he wasn’t clear at all on what his future held.

“I went to university to study international business management so that I could keep doors open in the future,” Sebastian explained.

“I began working in a consultancy after university, but it wasn’t a good fit. My parents encouraged me to stay in the role for at least a year, so I left on day 366.”

Eager to break free and discover his true passion, Sebastian embarked on an adventure to the Antipodes. Australia offered the promise of unique, exciting experiences and a chance to meet new people. But it was a chance encounter in a fancy Melbourne restaurant that set Sebastian firmly on his culinary path.

“I needed to earn some money, so I asked the chef in this restaurant if he needed any help in the kitchens. He gave me an apron and within two weeks I was working there full-time,” Sebastian said.

“I quickly learned that being a chef and host was what I wanted to do. You really can change a person’s world with a plate of food or a glass of wine.”

When Sebastian returned from Australia to Germany, he began taking steps to make his dream a reality. He worked as a co-manager at Bricks restaurant and built the skills and knowledge he would need to own and operate his own restaurant.

An advocate of experiencing cultures through food, Sebastian was clear that he would create his restaurant – Staudi’s – with a focus on modern German cuisine. It is a neighborhood restaurant using locally sourced ingredients and embracing the German love of seasonal foods.

The restaurant space on Münsterstraße used to be a butcher shop; it has beautiful high ceilings and is great for a fun night out to experience German culture and food at its best.

And, you never know, if you strike up a conversation with him, you could get a job in the kitchen or find a new friend…

Read More



Student athletes remain in the game

Kelvin and Gonzalo are 2018 ISD graduates. Kelvin spent all 14 years of his school career at the school and Gonzalo started at ISD in grade 3.

Both began playing soccer for ISD in the Sportverein’s U10 competition and transitioned to local clubs for U16 soccer (different clubs). Due to COVID-19, Kelvin and Gonzalo have been back home in Düsseldorf and maintaining their training through conditioning at home and time at the ISD fields.

Kelvin is now playing soccer for University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine), an NCAA Division 1 school, where he is undertaking a double major in business and technology.

He follows a rigorous schedule of sport and academics; training, match analysis, classes and study can easily fill 14 hours on a regular day. During the summer, Kelvin trains twice daily and, from August through December, he and his team play a competitive game every three days. During the off-season, the demanding schedule remains the same, with more focus on conditioning.

Kelvin has had a relatively easy transition to university. He tells us that his ability to manage his time effectively and negotiate the pressures of academia was acquired at ISD. 

“The IB Diploma Programme provides you with a grasp of Uni classes and helps to ensure that you are successful as you begin your university career,” Kelvin said. 

“Being familiar with people from all around the world has allowed me to relate to my teammates and classmates at UC Irvine.” 

Gonzalo’s experience at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL has been similar to Kelvin’s. Gonzalo is undertaking a double major in communications and economics and competes in Division 2 soccer.

As a Division 2 school, Eckerd is smaller (2-3,000 students) and has many international athletes. The age rules are different in this competition, so Gonzalo’s team mates are a few years older than him. As a result, he is challenged to play at a very competitive level.

Like Kelvin, Gonzalo trains 2 times each day and takes part in games every 3-4 days during the season. Since he is in Florida, his practices are often split up between the very early hours and evening hours each day. While athletes are given priority registration for classes, they have more time during the day to take classes with this split training schedule. 

Nearly all international students at Eckerd are athletes. 

“The friendships and experiences that I’ve had are really special and different from students who don’t participate in athletics,” Gonzalo said.

“The IB prepared me so well for my first year of college. ISD provides the foundation for students to go anywhere you want in the world and gives you the courage to try something outside the norm – particularly as a student-athlete.”

Having had such a rewarding experience in his first year, Gonzalo is eager to offer a word of advice to ISD’s current cohort of student-athletes.

“You have the opportunity to study anywhere in the world – so go for it!”

Read More



ISD students’ tales of Wanderlust


Each year, as part of a travel writing competition, ISD’s grade 9 students are invited to inspire awe, wonder and joy with their personal stories of travel. This year’s winner, Sarah, animates the African landscape with her lyrical prose and distinctive voice. With the long-awaited summer vacation finally here, allow Sarah’s beautiful piece to awaken your sense of wanderlust!


It’s that moment just before dawn; everything seems to be frozen, waiting to see if the sun rises again. There’s a T’swana myth where the stars have finished their dance; the last echo of the drum has faded and there is no sound, no breath. It has been stolen by the main dancer; he spins, twirls, leaps and arcs. In that moment, all eyes are on him; for he is the moon. He freezes, holding his final pose. Then as one, the world takes a breath, with a flourish, he bows, and clears the stage, for the act of the sun.

We park near a water hole for breakfast; which consists of sausages, bacon, eggs, fresh bread with lavender honey and homemade cheese, hot chocolate, tea, coffee and, for a final touch, the best cookies I’ve ever had. Still warm, homemade chocolate chip, with a rough farmhouse texture that crumble to perfection. As we eat, we watch the sun rise; feel it heat the ground beneath us, seeping through our many layers; smiling as it sets the water hole on crystal fire, bathing the golden grasses in a warm orange glow. There’s nothing like it.

We finish our breakfast and climb back in the truck.

The greenery surrounding the water is amazing. Trees of every kind lean lazily, trailing leaves in the water. Fresh grass of the most electrifying green has sprung up overnight and is covered in a dusting of dew that shines like a trillion baby diamonds. Blackjack bushes have sharpened their needles in preparation for the onslaught of hungry grazers. There’s every animal you could think of at the water hole but there’s one that outweighs all others, literally. An elephant. 

A matriarch, saunters up to the water; her subjects skittering away before her might. She has the look of a queen. She moves with such grace, swaying slightly, her tusks curving perfectly to a point are stained and cracked but that only adds to her decadence. There is no rush to her step. She knows she’s got time and is here to wake up at her own pace. Deeming it safe, she calls her family to break their fast on the fresh fruits growing in abundance around the life giving water.

All at once, somehow melting out of the shrubbery, a herd of elephants surround us. Moving like oil, they breeze past, paying us no heed; they know, with that amazing knowledge elephants have, that we mean them no harm. The matriarch waits patiently in the water greeting each member with a rumble or stroke. They return the courtesy, nodding in deference. They carry an unexplainable warmth, of love, and family. The babies squeak and squeal as they galumph through the pool, splashing each other, flapping their little ears. The adults drink deeply, keeping a watchful eye over the mischievous young ones.

The matriarch stands watch; she has seen more than the others and knows to be wary. She does not stand guard against lions, or leopards; they don’t scare her; she is queen of the wild. She fears that which does not belong to the wild. She fears us, humans. She has seen the horrors we’ve committed. Yet in her wisdom, knowledge of the ages, knowledge given to her by the earth itself, that our group are not the ones to fear. She nears, wading through the grass. Close enough to touch.

Her eyes are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen; they sparkle like a lake at moonrise and looking into them, I can see illimitable wisdom, stretching back to a time before man. Passed down to her by her mother, from her mother before her, carrying on to the depths of time. It seems like she has been watching me, watching us, man, grow from everything we were, to everything we are and beyond that. It is she who holds the knowledge of her dominion; she knows where the deepest springs are. She knows where the best fruits grow; she has seen a thousand children born and a thousand children grow and a thousand children die. She is the old one. She will live until the earth itself deems her ready to pass on.


Read More



Passion project earns world record

What have you done during your COVID-19 “shelter-in-place”? Catch up on a few books you’d wanted to read? Learn a new skill or three? Provide guidance to children learning remotely? ISD student, Ben Willis, took a challenge from his physical education teacher, Mrs Burghout-Lemmers, to work on a passion and perfect it during our school’s shelter-in-place spring break.

Ben is an avid golfer, playing in around 30 tournaments around the world each year. He first picked up a club around age 1 and began playing competitively when he was 10 years old. Suffice to say, golf is his passion and quickly became the focus of his passion project challenge.

When spring break during COVID-19 began, Ben’s family had received a delivery of sand to distribute around the garden. There was a bit of extra sand remaining and Ben used it to create a sand bunker in his backyard.

Ben also installed a net, so that he could practise his swing. One way to track distances when hitting into a net is to use a Trackman. This is a device that is placed behind the ball and accurately records the distance of each shot.

Armed with his bunker, Trackman and net, Ben focused his passion project on a test of accuracy, the “Matt Wallace Test”. Together with Trackman, Matt has created the “Matt Wallace Test” as a test of accuracy for golfers worldwide. 

The test gives a golfer ten randomised shots to make at distances from 45 to 170 meters. The Trackman measures the result and provides a score for each of the 10 shots. A perfect score would be 100 (10 points for each shot).

Matt Wallace, holds a score of 92.9 on the test; Tiger Woods, a 92.7. Ben decided he would focus on this test for his passion project and work to improve his technique. 

After three days of focus, Ben’s set a world record score of 94.7! 

Ben has more than successfully completed his passion project challenge! I don’t know about you, but my new recipe for pasta and peas that I found during shelter-in-place doesn’t seem so interesting anymore. Off to think about my potential world record…and get inspiration from Mrs. Burghout-Lemmers.

  • Anna Gsanger
Read More



Masks for Carers

The community at the International School of Düsseldorf is a wonderful mix of families from all over the world. During their time in Germany, many of our international families enjoy connecting with and contributing to their wider community in Düsseldorf. 

Two ISD mothers, one Brasilian and one American, have been a part of a fantastic COVID-19 project that has created and delivered over 1,000 masks for Düsseldorf’s Diakonie.

Patricia Pasquali is an active member of a Brazilian women’s group, Grupo Mulheres do Brasil e.V.. Started in Brazil, the group’s focus is to support and empower Brazilians in any situation and to come up with actions that can help others. Today, Grupo Mulheres do Brasil has 40,000 members spread across more than 15 countries worldwide, including Portugal, Spain, Germany, England, Sweden and Denmark.

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, Grupo Mulheres do Brasil reflected on actions they could take to help others in the city. With the proliferation of mask requirements, the women soon realised that together they could buy fabric, sew masks and donate their finished product to those in need. 

The women reached out to Düsseldorf’s Diakonie. Handsewn masks were not sufficient for their medical staff, but were ideal to provide to the elderly, their carers, and refugees who access care in their facilities. 

30 volunteers, mostly Brazilians, with the support of women from many nationalities, including Germans and Americans, began working on making the masks.

Soon after Patricia started her mask production, she was asked by a fellow ISD mother, Sarah Piepel, how she could join the effort. While Sarah collected fabric donations and Patricia worked on sewing the masks, Patricia’s mother and her two young daughters, Camila and Renata, worked on cutting the fabric. 

Patricia’s daughters have particularly enjoyed being a part of the project, they understand why they are doing it and are proud of the work they have accomplished as a family and community. 

Patricia and Sarah are proud to be part of the ISD community, a community that passionately supports volunteering and service. According to Patrica, Louise Mather, ISD’s Parent Engagement Coordinator, “is a true inspiration” to ISD families.

Central to Patricia’s belief system is that no matter what country in the world we find ourselves in, there are always people who need help. We can all do our part to make a difference.

Read More