By Nick Yates, ISB Communications
It's been another busy academic year at the International School of Beijing (ISB), one full of innovation and success in the classroom, on stage and on sports fields. There have been many firsts as ISB has pursued programs proven to be most effective for student learning and well-being. There has been plenty of fun plus iconic, memorable moments along the way on our vibrant campus and among our wider community. Here are some of the many highlights from 2017-2018.
Celebrating the arts in Elementary School
Our youngest learners proved their flair and talent for performance with a number of artistic showcases. March saw the second-grade circus, during which students worked together to show off stunts, acrobatics, and their best clowning around.
On April 26, the entire Elementary School (ES) got involved in ISB's 13th CASTA festival (Celebrate and Share the Arts). Each student had an artwork on display in the exhibition, every class gave a performance, and teachers and students brought a splash of color to campus by all wearing tie-dye T-shirts.
And then, on the first day of June... lions and tigers and bears, oh my! A community audience was wowed by the ES Drama Production of The Wizard of Oz.
Inter-disciplinary learning in students' hands
Putting ISB's commitment to innovation and inter-disciplinary learning into action, One Day allowed Middle Schoolers to follow their passions and work on a project of their choice for a day. For the fourth of these annual events, teachers once again acted as supervisors and mentors, helping 460 students through their ideas over about a month of preparation and providing support on the day.
There were trips off campus for photography and journalism projects, classrooms were turned into science labs, and organized chaos generally ensued. DIY Skin Care had students creating their own bath bombs, soap, and color-changing nail polish, using upcycled materials for packaging.
"These things don't happen within the scope of a discipline," said Middle School Principal Jon Hill. "When you make a skin care product, it's not the same thing as doing a lab in chemistry class. You're blending chemistry and art in a way that you wouldn't have done in your science class or in your art class. That's what most real-world discoveries involve. It's really important to cross those divides so the students can see the relevance of their learning.
"Our message is that learning is a process. This is a time to take risks and put yourself out there."
Even younger students are getting to practice technical skills and problem solving with the introduction of ISB's Elementary Design Lab this year. This safe, well-resourced space allows Elementary School teachers to offer design projects with more hands-on processes.
Our annual Seniors Parade, celebrating graduating students' achievements before they sit their exams and leave the school, is always an emotional occasion. For parents, there are the joys and nerves of seeing their children as young adults ready to take on the world. The relationships between parents, teachers and students help make ISB special, and the Parade brings this into heart-warming clarity in the form of applauding parents standing shoulder-to-shoulder with equally proud teachers and high-fiving younger students.
Promoting wellness on campus
Each year, during October and November, the ISB community participates in activities that promote well-being, healthy lifestyles, and making positive choices.
In October, ISB celebrated women's wellness – educating the community on topics of respect and tolerance, health issues affecting women, body image, gender equity, and women and education. Highlights included #WeForWomen Tutu Walks each Wednesday, during which students, teachers, and parents paraded through school in colorful ballet dresses, and faculty-parent vs. student volleyball and basketball games. All funds raised were donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
In November, men's health was on the agenda. Education and outreach activities across the campus aimed to increase awareness of and encourage early detection and treatment for preventable health problems among men and boys. We kicked off the month with a Movember shave-off: Staff, students, and parents turned up to get a clean shave before ditching their razors for a month-long increase in facial hair around the school. All donations went to the Movember Foundation, which tackles men's health problems, focusing on preventing early mortality.
ISB has some seriously talented sportsmen and women. For example, Luke S in grade 11 is the fastest distance runner in the history of the school. He broke the 3000 meter school record three times in the spring season – in Taipei in March, then again at APAC in Shanghai, and again at ACAMIS here in Beijing in May.
Anthea W in grade 9 represented Hong Kong at youth level and broke a long-standing APAC record as a freshman. She has broken four ISB pool records and four age group records this year, beating off many swimmers who went on to compete in prestigious college championship events in the US after graduating.
Giving the gift of English
The students have become the teachers at ISB's Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) Club. Formed this year to help engage school support staff in English language studies, TESOL is a fully student-run club. The learners are maintenance and janitorial staff, kitchen and cafeteria personnel, and school security guards who wish to improve their English-language skills to participate more fully in the life of the school.
Based on ISB's commitment to service learning, the club allows students to give back by sharing the benefits of their language education with others.
New Head of School forging ahead after first year
Head of School Patrick Hurworth joined ISB at the start of the 2017-2018 year and has settled into his role during a busy time. With a diverse background in international education, the dual citizen of the UK and US has spent a lot of time with parents and the ISB community communicating about the health of the school, its programs and its plans. He enjoyed his first Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Board of Trustees in April, a number of parent coffee mornings, and has begun a series of virtual bilingual Q&A sessions online, to make it easier for parents to ask questions and provide feedback.
Mr. Hurworth said he was attracted to ISB because "it doesn't rest on its laurels, or slavishly repeat what it did in the past, or copy other schools. It proactively embraces what's right for its students."
"Ultimately my role is to give this community space; to think, reflect, take risks, and innovate – together," he added.
He will continue with that mission into next year, as the school implements important projects like campus improvements under the Facilities Master Plan and conversations about how to develop additional revenue streams so that it is less reliant simply on tuition fees.
Not a Box
In November, Middle School students performed in an innovative theatrical piece that challenged them to "devise". Devising is a collaborative process in which an original work emerges from the improvisational and collaborative efforts of a company. Not a Box was the result.
"I began the Middle School drama program five years ago here at ISB, and my goal has always been to have the students experience a variety of genres," said Hannah Northcott, middle school drama and dance teacher, and the director of Not a Box. "This year, I felt students were ready to take on a bigger role as co-creators and co-collaborators in the theatrical process."
Using their own experiences, and taking three texts as their sources of inspiration, students worked with support from Ms. Northcott, visiting theater artists, and teachers from ISB, to create a powerful and provocative performance. ISB community members can watch a video of Not a Box here.
Led by Middle School students, ISB's annual Smile Week charity drive raised a record sum of over 131,000 RMB to fund cleft palate surgeries for the children of Ping An Medical Foster Home in Beijing. The whole school came together in April for activities including Smile Week badge sales, a ticketed function for students, and an auction of photos taken by staff and students.
Smile Week is one the highlights of a packed program of service learning opportunities at ISB.
ISB Spring Fair
The Parent Teacher Association's (PTA) tireless work organizing the annual ISB Spring Fair paid off with a day of fun in the sun for the whole family on May 19. Over 5,000 people attended Beijing's largest expat event, which saw carnival games, vendors of arts and crafts, an international food court, live entertainment, and raffle prizes on the ISB campus.
The whole community chipped in to help, with students holding stalls and taking part in a competition to design the logo for the event.
ISB students claim top honors off campus
In January, four ISB students presented projects at the China round of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Harry X and William S (both grade 10) received a Superior award for their work on the impact of companionship on sleep quality, while Sunny L and Drason Z (both grade 11) received an Excellent award for their nutrition project.
In mid-April, 17 students (pictured) from Elementary, Middle and High School attended the Sixth Asia-Pacific Bilingual Festival at the ISF Academy in Hong Kong, where they competed in storytelling, poetry recital, speech giving, and debate against more than 250 students from 20 schools all over the Asia-Pacific region. They took home four out 10 gold medals and a host of other honors from the competition.
New ISB graduate Derek C received his Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award on June 5, after spending 18 months fulfilling the requirements of the international youth achievement award in areas including physical recreation, volunteering and adventuring.
What a year. Let's hope for more of the same in 2018-2019!