ISD 3rd graders organise first virtual Christmas market for a good cause

For more than ten years, students at the International School of Düsseldorf have organised Christmas markets for a cause, under the theme “Together we are Better”. In 2020, however, Corona almost threw a spanner in the works for the elementary school children. 

The Primary Years Programme (PYP) at ISD encourages children to address complex social and environmental issues, and to make positive changes in their local communities. This year, grade 3 students took on the challenge of making sustainable products from salt dough, wood, and paper. These included Christmas decorations, origami sculptures, candlesticks, games such as Tic Tac Toe, and hot 

chocolate and marshmallow packs, which they sold to the ISD community. 

Things ran a little differently this year, with the children making prototypes, taking pictures and selling products online in advance. Unlike previous years, students were required to produce entirely on demand, delivering the finished products to the ISD community this week just in time for Christmas. 

For the students, it was a thought-provoking process. They quickly realised how rewarding it is to make products with sustainable materials. They spent most of their time in the Outdoor Learning Environment (OLE), trying their hand at different techniques such as sawing, welding, sanding and experimenting with different gluing techniques and colours. 

“Following the Sustainable Choices unit, students were aware of how products with a low environmental impact are created,” said Steve Barratt, Elementary School Principal. “This has also been a focus in previous years, but this year the students had to find a balance between using recyclable and compostable materials and creating an online market experience where more packaging is required.” Things like candle holders for example, are made using recycled fence posts and baubles from last year’s Christmas trees. 

We are pleased to report that some 1400 products were sold this year, with €1510 raised, which the students agreed will be donated to local charity, Frauen Helfen Frauen e.V. ISD Director, Frank Tschan, is proud of the school’s long and impressive history of teaching students to apply their learning for a good cause. “This is something we have stood behind with full conviction for more than 50 years.” 


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Meet Advaith, ISD seventh grader and coding whizz

Meet Advaith, ISD seventh grader and coding whizz, whose augmented reality game, Blink Board, was judged best in its category at this year’s global HackTable hackathon.

HackTable is an online hackathon, designed to give students of all ages and coding abilities the opportunity to pursue STEM pathways and connect with like-minded people from all over the world. 

This year’s challenge was to address a problem that has arisen due to the current global pandemic. 

Advaith had noticed that people were spending more time than usual staring at screens and mobile devices, with the result being dry, sore eyes. After some research into eye health, Advaith’s solution was to develop a game that gets people blinking! 

Blink Board is an augmented reality game, where players must blink in order for their character (a skateboarder) to jump obstacles and earn points. 

Entries were rated on ‘business value’, ‘coolness’, ‘realistic capability’ and ‘level of innovation’, by a judging panel including senior managers from Microsoft, Google and Tesla.

His unique approach to a modern-day problem saw Advaith winning the ‘Best Beginner Hack’ category, against competition from around the world.

No newcomer to coding competitions, Advaith won his first hackathon at 10 years of age. The prize was $250 cash, which he unhesitatingly gave to his proud mum and dad. This year’s prize was awarded in resources, which Advaith will use to further develop his coding skills. 

As for the future, his plans include learning more programming languages, and developing deep-fake and voice-cloning software – although he promises he will only use his programming superpowers for good!

For details of Advaith’s winning entry, see here

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Meet ISD student and rapper, ‘24sesko’ 

When he was 12 years old, Elliot’s father made him a deal: practice guitar for half an hour a day, and then you can play video games.

To the gaming-obsessed sixth-grader, guitar practice was simply a means to an end. He never imagined it would be the start of a lifelong love of music and a promising musical career. 

Now, at the ripe old age of 19, Elliot is about to launch his debut album “Seskoland”, a mix of hip-hop, emo-rap, soul and rock-inspired music, that he’s composed, written, and performed himself, with the input of a few close friends and the mentorship of ISD Music Department head and fellow musician, Chris Sabucco. 

While he has had a handful of guitar lessons in his life, Elliot is mostly a self-taught musician. When his father offered him the ‘deal’, the first thing Elliot did was start learning how to play songs by watching YouTube tutorials. Rather than start with the basics, he set himself the challenge of learning an entire song from scratch.

“The first song I learned to play was I See Fire by Ed Sheeran”, recounts Elliot. “It’s maybe not the easiest song to start with, but I had it down in about three hours.”

Performing under the name ‘24sesko’ (an abbreviation of ‘24-7 Esko’, Esko being his middle name, and 24-7 representing his commitment to his music) Elliot describes his music as “rap with a story”. 

He draws on a range of genres, including rock, hip-hop, and soul to give depth to his work, and draws inspiration from artists as diverse as Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran, Rage Against The Machine, and John Mayer. 

While he clearly has a natural talent, Elliot is quick to appreciate the value that the IB music program at ISD has brought to his music.

“As well as composition and recording, we also study musical theory, which gives you new ways of improving and thinking about your music. At ISD we have some really talented teachers who are also musicians, so their experience and feedback are super helpful. And we have access to some pretty amazing equipment as well.”

Elliot’s musical abilities aren’t limited to guitar. He’s taught himself how to sing, rap, play drums, mix and master tracks, and is also a talented lyricist.   

“The beauty of story-telling”, he says, “is that you don’t need to have experienced what you’re writing about. You can channel emotions and experiences from your own life – joy, love, sorrow, pain – and apply them to someone else’s story.” Which is reassuring, given that Elliot’s new album contains songs dealing with near-death and a pact with the devil!

“With Seskoland, I’ve tried to create a narrative. The first songs start off quite upbeat and positive, but then you reach a turning point, where the lyrics become darker and more sinister.” And how does the story end? You’ll have to listen to Seskoland to find out! 

You can listen to a sample of Elliot’s music here: 



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ISD ‘quick change’ keeps theatre arts alive

Anyone who has sat in the audience at an ISD theatre production will understand the passion, artistry, and ambition that drives this programme. Our students really do experience the full theatrical gamut: professional sound and lights, original set designs, exquisite costumes lovingly sewed by parent volunteers. 

At ISD, as in the world at large, performing arts have taken a severe hit due to COVID-19. Fortunately, our creative theatre teachers have enabled theatre studies and performances to continue in a dynamic – and COVID-safe – environment.

When the International Schools Theatre Association’s (ISTA) annual Theatre Arts Programme Symposium (TaPS) in London was cancelled this year, ISD worked in tandem with ISTA on a trial of virtual workshops for our DP students. 

TaPS allows students from across the world to connect with, and benefit from, top international theatre practitioners, as well as to see productions by some of the world’s most accomplished and well-recognised theatre companies. The programme offers immensely valuable and inspiring opportunities for young people interested in theatre. 

Dinos Aristidou is a playwright, director, and education consultant working in the United Kingdom. He is also an IB curriculum author. Dinos recently conducted a series of performance skills workshops with our grade 11 and 12 theatre students via Zoom, as part of the trial.

“The theatre students were a joy to work with,” Dinos said.

“They were open-minded, curious and willing to engage fully in all the activities, working with imagination and creativity. Though we were working from different locations, they were fully engaged so that I felt connected and ‘in the room’ with them.”

In addition to the success of the virtual TaPS workshops, our grade 11 students recently had the opportunity to hear from a heavyweight in the European cinematic scene: Finnish screenwriter and film director Aku Louhimies. 

Louhimies has directed feature films, TV series, documentary films, and music videos. His film The Unknown Soldier is the highest-budget feature film to be made in Finland. 

The students enjoyed a thoughtful and far-reaching discussion with Louhimies about the creative process and the elements of film-making. 

Congratulations to Kate Olson and Sam Ward for their ingenuity and focus, which has ensured the show goes on at ISD.


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#PANDEMOCRAZY is Leah Fosbenner’s magnum opus: a mammoth, 574-page collection of photos, news articles, memes and quotes that reveal the stark absurdities and divisive politics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leah, who graduated from ISD in 2015, has recently completed a BA in Communication Design at the Hochschule Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. #PANDEMOCRAZY, her final thesis submission, received the highest possible grade award and placed her in the top ten percent of her cohort.

“I wanted to use this work to show how the basic rights we enjoy as humans have been challenged,” Leah explains.

“It’s a mix of English and German, because I wanted to reach international people with it as well as Germans. I started working on it when things got bad – around February or March this year – and tried to gather as much text and as many images as I could.”

#PANDEMOCRAZY is simultaneously satirical, touching, and shocking. Above all, Leah says, she hopes it is a work that will give people hope and provoke them to think.  

The inspiration for her thesis was a poster competition sponsored by the Sparkasse to commemorate 70 years since the establishment of Germany’s Grundgesetze (basic rights). Students were tasked with promoting the Grundgesetz through a social design campaign.

“Love is not mentioned in the Grundgesetz, so my designs took basic principles and replaced words with ‘love’. Many German people will recognise these important phrases. I think it was this work that triggered my idea for my Bachelor thesis,” Leah says.  

In a separate poster competition for Deutsches Studentenwerk in 2017, Leah’s design was displayed throughout Berlin. Following a public vote, hers placed in the top four of more than 700 entries.

It was at ISD that Leah Fosbenner discovered her passion for writing and design.

“I was interested in design technology. In fact, Mr Livingstone played a big part in supporting my interest in design,” Leah recalls.

“Even the teachers who had nothing to do with the field I’m interested in still inspired me in certain aspects. We were doing so much writing and creative writing at ISD and this is a huge part of my work. 

“ISD is a great school and it helped me get to where I am today.”

Leah has been accepted into the Masters programme and resumes her studies later this year. 

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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 https://www.rhinecleanup.org

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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!”


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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.”

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