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April, 2004- Nr. 4


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German in Kindergarten
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German in Kindergarten and Beyond

  TWIG - While schools across the United States struggle to keep foreign language programs alive, some are pioneering the way to a multi-cultural society by making language learning a pillar of their lesson plans.

The German-American School of Portland, Oregon, now celebrating its tenth year and the first year in its new facilities, is accomplishing just that. An elementary school that holds bilingualism and global understanding in the highest regard, it thrives on the belief that you are never too young to learn a language and that the easiest way to become bilingual is through immersion.

The German-American School is a private undertaking that encompasses kindergarten through fifth grade and combines the best of both the European and American educational systems. Lessons are given in both German and English, providing a foundation for early development in both languages while fostering abilities in all academic subjects.

There is an unparalleled liveliness at the school that permeates its walls — not the least of which comes from Blake Peters, the 29-year-old director who joined the school last August. Peters knows what it is like to make a life out of studying a foreign language. He has been around the world learning, and then teaching, German. And like many of the teachers at the German-American School, he wears a lot of hats.

Peters’ job requires an extra level of engagement — he’s the jack of all trades. In addition to his regular responsibilities, he also designs the school’s website and newsletter, spearheads events, and even substitutes when teachers are ill.

The teachers are similarly talented. They are doing more than just teaching German: They are creating mini diplomats. With teachers from Switzerland, Austria, the United States and Germany, as well as an exchange program with the nearby French International School, the German-American School is at the forefront of multi-cultural education in the United States.

Just as important as the administration’s commitment to the school are the parents, who are in on the action. The school sees itself as a community of families who have found a different approach to education, a method that includes parents at all levels. Each family is asked to volunteer 25 hours a year to the school — doing everything from painting and chaperoning to planning events and festivals.

And the learning doesn’t end in Oregon. Recently, a group of 24 pupils and parents visited sister schools in Austria and Germany as part of an annual exchange that brings children into the homes and schools of native German-speakers. The trip is especially important for the many children who don’t hear German at home.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


German American School of Portland


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