I had a chance to snap a couple of shots of Sam’s classroom this week. Since the first day we visited his classroom, I have always been impressed by the size and scope of the facilities that this international school offers for their Early Years Program (EYP). The EYP spans 3 classrooms of students aged 3-5 (both pre-K and kindergarten in America).
Here’s my two boys bundled up for their walk to school:
Once at school, the students from EYP1 through grade 5 all remove their shoes and change into Hausschuhe (inside shoes). This helps the school stay clean. Many students wear Crocs or other comfortable shoes, but always with sturdy soles, unlike American slippers.
Here’s the area where Sam changes his shoes. They also keep gear for all types of weather at the school, such as sun hats, rain pants & boots, and snow gear. The students in Germany go outside in all types of weather. No “rainy-day recess” unless there is a tornado or lightning storm nearby. Below is a playground shot on a sunny day:
Sam is with other 4-year olds in EYP2, and has 11 students in his class, with one teacher in addition to several teacher’s aides and parent helpers that come in at various times. There is an adjoining classroom of EYP1 students and they often participate in activities with those kids as well. Some of my pictures are of the EYP1 classroom, since they have recently reorganized and split apart these two groups, which used to be taught more-or-less together.
It’s a pretty typical preschool space, with areas for various activities. The canopy at the back is for “home play”, Lucy’s favorite spot when we come to visit.
Sam’s favorite activity is drawing and painting. The exposure to peers has improved Sam’s interest in drawing from making monochromatic scribbles in August to the current obsession with stick figures.
The EYP2 students have circle time each morning and each student has a different job for the week. Sam is very proud to tell us about his job and the responsibilities it entails.
The school lunch is catered by a local company, so it’s not cheap. This is much more common in Europe, where school lunch is not as standardized or subsidized as in America. The school lunch menu offers four (4!) choices each day, ranging from rotisserie pork roast, brisket with beet salad, chicken legs with creamed bell pepper, mushroom risotto, fried rice with vegetables, pasta with arugula, and vegetarian winter stew. Sam does really well with all of this variety and often comes home talking about the new foods he’s tried that day. Plus, he’s discovered a love of rice pudding, which they serve once a week or so. For the younger EYP kids, they order one lunch option and serve it “family style”, so Sam is also picking up some good table manners.
Another thing you’ll never find in American schools? At school functions, they sometimes serve beer!
After lunch, all the students are expected to brush their teeth, and have a space to store their cup and towel next to the sink. I love this idea! It’s not something I’ve seen enforced or even encouraged in American preschools as of yet. In the photo below, you can see all the little tooth-brushing cubbies to the right of the sink.
Sam’s class has music, P.E., and library time once a week, just like the elementary grades. The P.E. is not held in the school building, but at a gym a 10-minute walk away. The teachers all have a complicated drop-off and pick-up schedule so they can coordinate walking all the students to and from P.E. throughout the week. There is a sports club close to the school where the older grades hold their P.E. classes at times, but Sam’s class is directed to a center for gymnastics that has soft floors and lots of cushions for jumping and swinging around. It’s great for little kids. They also go to have swimming lessons every other week at a nearby pool.
We have also been very impressed by the selection offered by the library. It’s not an easy task to provide books for such a broad range of students (ages 3-18) in both English and German, but the school librarian has done a very good job. Sam has come home with varied and interesting books each week, with no repeats so far!
The above shot is a cozy reading corner in Sam’s classroom. It’s really hard to find English-language books for kids in Germany, and expensive to ship them here. We’ve become increasingly grateful for the access Sam has at school to books that we can all read together and understand.
Overall, there are more similarities to American preschool than I expected. And Sam has really benefited from the quality of teachers that this school employs as well as the spacious classrooms and smaller student-to-teacher ratio. He’s loved having a lot of responsibility to carry out tasks and has become fiercely independent about packing his backpack and getting himself dressed and ready in the morning. However, we’ve had a little challenge due to the language barrier. At such a young age, there’s a decided split between the native English and native German speaking kids, and they had a difficult time mixing and playing together in the earlier months. It’s also a challenge for the teachers to address the needs of the German students to learn basic English words (colors, numbers, alphabet sounds), while still providing enough challenge to the English-speakers.
We’re grateful to have had such a good experience with Sam’s schooling thus far and are proud to be able to offer our son such an excellent head-start. In America, we couldn’t even afford to send him to preschool at all!
And check out his über-handsome school portrait (says the proud mama):