Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Orientation Visit - Chapter 4 - A Possible New School for the Boys

One of the main reasons to visit Basel in November was to narrow down the options for school for the boys.  There are a fair number of choices to select from, not the least of which and fairly enticing was the normal public Swiss schools nestled into the different neighborhoods. If we were to be in Basel for longer than a one year stint, we may have seriously considered a complete immersion into the Swiss Public schools as the language of instruction is German.  However, because our duration is project to be a short year, we didn't want to sacrifice learning capacity for the sake of learning a language.

So, we had two targets during our six day orientation. The first was the International School Basel (primary language of instruction is English). The second was the Swiss International School (a bilingual German/English program).  Both schools have a solid academic reputation, but are located at entirely opposite locations - ISB being 20 mins by tram outside of the city, and SIS located in the City proper.

For me, a hallmark of a great school is the tenor of and climate for the kids.  Sour and dour kids is a leading indicator of a schools not paying attention to making learning enjoyable.  On the other hand, happy, laughing, and jovial kids mean the teachers and staff are fostering an environment conducive to supporting the building of lifelong learning skills.

At both SIS and ISB, the kids we witnessed about the different hallways all seemed happy, engaged and like they were enjoying themselves.  The teachers and staff we met, all were happy to talk and share some insight into their teaching philosophies.  We even got to lean into a few ISB classrooms as the sessions were going on.  Some of the older kids played a few bars for us while rehearsing their ensemble. 
After visiting both schools, we made the decision to apply to ISB specifically, and only, because we felt it would allow for the smoothest transition for our boys. Also, given the short duration of our stint, we felt that having English as the primary language of instruction would work best for our boys, and they would pick up German by being out and about, and through their daily instruction in the language.

While SIS (or even a Swiss public school) might have been a good option if we were there for a longer period of time, we are very much comfortable with our decision to apply to ISB and hope we get in.   The facilities are wonderful. The proximity to the tram stops is perfect.  And, as you can see from the images in this post, the spaces are top notch.

Here are a few more pictures from the ISB property.  Bear in mind, there are no children in them although the kids were on site while we were touring because the school policy is that you can take as many pictures as you like so long as you are not snapping images of other people's children.  To be respectful, I did my best not to get any images with children in them.  

One of the cool things about ISB was that they had a dedicated shop classroom, kitchen classroom, and laboratory.  Our oldest is pretty excited to have an opportunity to focus on food design (which is how they are selling home economics these days). 

There is lighted pitch for various game playing once the sun goes down.  All is very neat and clean, and very appropriate for learning. 

While we didn't get a tour of the upper level school, the split is both physical as well as age based. The younger grade levels are on on campus. The middle school children in another. And, the upper grades in still another.  While we didn't get a tour of the third school, I'm sure we will have a chance to visit once we are there.  And, the older children get a tour of their own as they consider the options for High School - or the IB (International Baccalaureate) as they say there.

In the end, our main hope is that the boys soar as they enter this new experience.

Adios for now,

The Trailing Spouse.

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