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GAIS Oktoberfest

The original "Oktoberfest" occurred in Munich, on October 12, 1810 to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. After almost 200 years, Octoberfest has finally appeared on the GAIS social event calendar in a year marking the school’s own 20th anneversary celebration. Judging by the turnout it is fair to say that it was well received by the school community. Over 120 parents, friends and staff filled the Faultline Brewey in Sunnyvale to enjoy fabulous food, delicious beer and fun, engaging company. Thanks to Uschi Waite for organizing this and to the members of the committee that worked with her. The occassion was also used to wish Uschi all the best for her soon to be coming maternity leave. If you missed it this time, don’t worry. We plan to repeat this fun event again next year so get you dirndles and lederhosen ready. Eins, zwei, drei, are some photos!!

Peace Day Celebration at GAIS

As part of the global community our school once again joined the International Day of Peace sponsored by the United Nations. The day was received with a lot of enthusiasm from students and teachers alike. Children discussed peace, wrote poems and created “peace” art in class. During our extended lunch break the children listened to stories, played cooperative games, created collages (some are exhibited at Café Zoe), painted, fashioned pinwheels for peace… We finished the break with a large circle where the entire elementary school joined into a moment of silence, sang peace songs and listened to poems written by some fourth graders.

GAIS Peace Day 2008 from G A I S on Vimeo.

As a result of Peace Day the second graders decided to add an action piece. Each student has a jar labeled “pennies for peace”. Should you have any pennies in your wallet or at home please consider adding them to any second graders jar at our school. The students will continue their collection until the end of December when they will tally your penny donations. To find out more about pennies for peace check out the following website Thank you for supporting the student’s action!

The preschool celebrated Peace Day in its own way. Our focus was to show that peace to us in the preschool means getting along and including each other. To demonstarte this point, we had a role-play and puppet play that showed a conflict to children and how it could be solved. In the conflict, one of the children was excluded from play and was not allowed to play with a teddy bear. The children, especially the ones that have been with us for more than a year, came up with ideas on how to solve the problem. They came up with good ideas, ranging from taking turns, using a timer, playing together and so on. We also introduced our rule of "You can't say-you can't play" ("Jeder kann mitspielen!") and talked about how it feels when other children don't let one join in the game. They had the right idea but of course it's not always easy to integrate this concept in their own play. We also read a book about being left out and got some feedback that children have been talking about it at home.

Action Day at GAIS

One of our goals for the school year was to raise awareness for the action element of the PYP. At the beginning of the school year we started by looking at our units and thinking of possible service for each unit. We also planned for possible action on the first page of our planner. Nevertheless with all the other challenges and teaching emphasis’s the action focus often took a back seat.

Having the whole school focus on the Unit “Sharing the planet” as a 5th unit we saw an increases emphasis towards action. Children reflected individually on actions they took, whole class activities were focused on action and it all came together on the school wide on action day.

  • In connection with their “garden” Unit Vorschule helped plant bushes in front of the Pre-School and sold plants and smoothies. From the money they earned they will by a tree and plant it on the school grounds.
  • Since we need to keep the earth clean to protect our “oceans” as they learned in their unit, Grade 1 M did an extensive clean-up of the parking lot and some of the neighborhood streets.
  • Grade 1V really cleaned up the school back of the school grounds and some neighborhood streets.
  • Grade 2 R studied “habitats” and in connection cleaned up the neighborhood creek. They also sold lemonade. The proceeds of $ 60 will be donated to Acterra, for Bay Area habitat restoration.
  • Grade 2 P provided hummingbird feeders and placed them around the school grounds.
  • The grades 3B and 3W inquired into “waste management” and set up a school wide recycling system and provided a plan for it to be sustainable.
  • Grade 4 inquired into “Energy Resources” and advises us to preserve energy. They placed signs all around the school.
  • Grade 5 did their exhibition Unit on “Poverty. As part of that they raised money to build a school in Malawi, organized a food drive, distributed food and are still planning to organize an aids walk for our school.
  • Grade 6 advised all students on conflict resolutions skills and created a wheel of choice on the playground. This can be used, when children have difficulties finding a solution for their problems.

Thanks to effort of all the teachers and the help of some parents this day was a memorable and an important learning experience for all the students.

By Maike Silver, PYP Coordinator

Earth Day Celebration at GAIS

On April 22nd, 2008 the SMV (student Council) organized activities during “grosse Pause” (lunch break) to celebrate Earth Day. Earth Day is observed in the United States, Canada, and many other countries around the world with programs designed to educate people about Earth’s environment and threats to the environment. Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970. The idea for a nationwide demonstration in support of Earth’s environment came from Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin. Nelson is considered the founder of Earth Day. On the first Earth Day in 1970 as many as 20 million Americans in schools and communities across the country participated in rallies and demonstrations on behalf of Earth. (

In our school the students organized Earth board games and chalk paintings.

They passed out earth songs and played music and offered face painting.

They offered coloring and explained the significance of supporting the earth’s environment.

All the students enjoyed the activities during the extended brake and kept working on Earth Day posters, poems, writing pieces… in their classes which they also show cased around the school.

Congratulations go to the SMV who did a wonderful job organizing the day. I can’t wait for next years activities.

By Maike Silver, PYP Coordinator

German-American International School marks International Day of Peace with Moment of Silence

As an international school with the mission to foster global thinkers, the German-American International School (GAIS) is joining schools throughout the world to participate in the United Nations-declared International Day of Peace in helping to raise awareness about a global ceasefire. This week, students at the school are learning about peace through a variety of activities, including a moment of silence for peace on Friday, September 21, 2007, at 12:00 noon, and followed by an extended lunch break session during which the children will be encouraged to participate in peace-focused songs, art, readings, face paintings, and more. Some students will also gain a better understanding of war and peace by establishing correspondence as “PeacePals” with other school children in conflict areas. With thousands of events planned in hundreds of participating countries across the globe, the International Day of Peace was established by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly as a day "devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace, as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence.”

The International Baccalaureate Gains Ground

Public and charter schools are increasingly using the academically stringent international baccalaureate, long the exclusive offering of private schools, as a way to challenge students and pull up test scores. Since 2000, reports Newsweek’s Pat Wingert, growth in the number of high schools offering the program has been brisk, reaching 758 high schools this past academic year. The international baccalaureate was developed after World War II to provide diplomats’ children with a credential that would demand respect across borders. Students study six core subjects for two years, earning their diploma after taking five-hour written exams in each subject, along with a 4,000-word thesis. Private schools in the U.S. have long used international baccalaureate, which can earn college credit, as a more stringent form of the Advanced Placement courses and to prepare students for college.

Educators are trying to spread those benefits more widely. Many schools offer it to their best students. Some charter schools offer it to every student, but have admissions standards that winnow out those who might not be up to it. Only two schools in the U.S. teach the international baccalaureate to students of any level, selecting them by lottery. The executive director of one of them, the Sturgis Charter School in Hyannis, Mass., says even if not all his students earn a full international baccalaureate diploma, “everyone here develops the kind of mind and skills that will ensure their success in college.” The main obstacle to the international baccalaureate program’s spread is its cost: a minimum of $8,000 a year, along with payments for the exams themselves and teacher training. Its global perspective upset a school board in Upper St. Clair, Pa., which voted to end the program last year because it felt students should be taught a more American perspective. Parents rallied to have the baccalaureate program restored, winning a pro-baccalaureate majority in a school board election May 15.

By Robin Moroney

The Berlin Connection

“Connections between the German capital of Berlin and the San Francisco Bay area crop up from time to time. The union between these two cities has evolved over the years and is grounded in a tradition of culture which is often at the creative edge. A recent German language Film Festival entitled Berlin and Beyond is being complimented by a student exchange involving students from Berlin and Menlo Park. The German American International School (GAIS) in Menlo Park has embarked on an ambitious program of cultural and linguistic enrichment including a Middle School student exchange with the SalvatoreSchule in Berlin. A group of 9 students and 2 teachers are currently being hosted by GAIS for a period of two weeks. Students from GAIS will visit their trans-Atlantic sister school in the month of March.

Student exchanges are a valuable learning experience and are a normal feature in German schools for students from the Middle School upwards. Whereas the Berlin school organizes various exchanges within Europe, this will be the first intercontinental exchange for both schools. Monika Dorsel who teaches English and French and is the accompanying teacher from Berlin, was surprised by the more that 40 students that applied for the 9 places available for this program. GAIS Head of School, Hans Peter Metzger, is very pleased at the success of this first time initiative which he sees as a great opportunity to promote cultural and linguistic enrichment for his Middle Schoolers.

By Peter Metzger

In the Footsteps of Great Artists

“For the past 6 weeks, our Vorschule students have been enjoying a Unit on "How we express ourselves", where they followed in the footsteps of the great artists. The children learned about colors and shapes in art, discovered hands on several different techniques and explored the lifestyles of different artists. The long list of artists included Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol (not Andy Waffle), Keith Haring, Georgia O'Keefe, Faith Ringgold and Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. The art they created was done on big and small paper, included the same piece of art in dark and light colors and in the colors of the 4 seasons, they created a quilt, drew with chalk on the ground, created and painted a cardboard house, painted on windows, in some cases on their bodies, created prints, and used recycled materials to make statues. They used crayons, markers, pencils, watercolors, chalk and paint to create the art. A trip to the Cantor Center of fine arts showed that the children were quite observant and appreciative little artists. They showed lots of enthusiasm, creativity and appreciation throughout the Unit. Several parents were amazed when they took the children through San Francisco or in one case Pittsburgh and the children told them: “Look Dad, there is a “Van Gogh”! ” These questions held my thought as I stood sentry over Heike Kaiser’s 4th grade students’ lunchboxes on the front steps of the State Capitol. We had come to Sacramento to visit Sutter’s Fort and the California State Train Museum as part of our California history-focused unit on people and environment.

As a summative assessment the children created their own masterpieces including their choice of style, colors and techniques. To emphasize the meaning of a masterpiece, these were painted on real canvasses.

All around this journey through the world of art will be memorable to all involved and hopefully the work of these little artists will be decorating the halls of their homes for a long time.”

By Maike Silver

The 4th Grade Trip to Sacramento

“Did they get to see the Austrian-born Governor of California? Did they see the murals depicting California’s colorful history? Were they allowed into the State Senate Chambers?” These questions held my thought as I stood sentry over Heike Kaiser’s 4th grade students’ lunchboxes on the front steps of the State Capitol. We had come to Sacramento to visit Sutter’s Fort and the California State Train Museum as part of our California history-focused unit on people and environment.

We had arranged to visit Sutter’s Fort, the earliest major piece of construction in California aside from the missions, on a living history day this past Thursday, January 11. On living history days, volunteers and paid staff at the Fort (a State park) dress in period costume and describe life in the olden days. Students not only walked through old-timey adobe bedrooms and cooking areas, but saw bread being made in a wood-fired oven, blankets being woven on a hand-loom, nails being hammered into shape by a blacksmith, and ratty animal pelts being transformed into little purses for holding (fake) gold. Very exciting! But the highlight, brief as it was, came when a small cannon was fired (a styrofoam ball which melted in a ground-shaking kaboom of smoke had been loaded in with a ramrod).

Soon we were off to the Capitol to eat lunch. I remained outside with the lunchboxes so that they wouldn’t hang up our entry through tight security. While I waited, a man from Mexicali, Mexico approached me and asked a question about the building. “How marvelous a coincidence,” I thought after the man departed with his wife and friends, “that a descendant of the first non-natives should make my acquaintance at the very time the fourth-graders and I were learning about human migration and the transformation of California!”

Next we drove the short distance to old-town Sacramento by the American River. That’s where what must be one of the finest railroad museums in the country stands. After some goofy tree-circling outside (and the purchase of some candy, oh no!) we stepped inside a building that seemed to grow the deeper we walked into it. There was a million pound monster locomotive among several other locomotives. We walked through mail cars and passenger cars and dining cars and a sleeping car that rocked like a real train clickity-clacking across a dark night in 1955 America.

Too soon it was time to cry out “All aboard our SUVs! All aboard for Menlo Park!” Were the 4th graders tired? Maybe that night! All the way back we told silly jokes, and looked at the descendants of California’s mighty rancho cattle herds, and played fine motor-skill electronic games.

A mighty big “Thank You” goes out to our two generous and capable driver dads, Herren Merk und Groenke.

By David Giesen

A New Teacher's Reflections on the Language of the PYP

In June 2006 when I visited GAIS to get to know my new students, words like “IB, PYP, key questions, attitudes and profiles” seemed like a foreign language to me. During the summer break I started to learn some basic vocabulary and when I started school in August I soon realized that this is the language that I have been looking for during my teacher studies in Frankfurt and the one I tried to speak with my students in Germany. Unfortunately, it is not too easy with 29 1st graders - maybe too many dialects

In the 9 students who awaited me in Grade Five, I found the perfect teachers for this new language! Some of these students had already been in GAIS a long time and they knew what they are talking about when they used the IB vocabulary. In our short time together we have already made great progress in this.

The IB and its PYP is a good way to combine all subjects, which German public schools aim to do, but struggle with personnel and curriculum issues. To be able to actually work on a project in all subjects over a time of 6 weeks is what every teacher would like to do. Some days I am with my class for 6 periods in a row and we dive so deeply into the theme that we have trouble concentrating on anything else afterwards. Isn’t that what learning should be like? The strong influence students have on their learning makes teaching easy because I mostly teach what the students are interested in and so motivation comes automatically. With the 5th graders, who already know how to assess themselves, how to reflect on their learning and, almost more important, on their behavior, it is like working with colleagues.

Although for a newcomer it is a lot of work to prepare everything and hand in all the necessary papers, it is worth it. The concrete planning and being aware of what to do, knowing why we do it, and being able to explain it to the students in advance, was somehow new to me. But, it totally makes sense as the students and the teachers can pull one string and really work together. I have never seen students learn social and academic skills in parallel as intensely as they do with the IB. I guess that after these 6 months that I have been working with this new IB language I have picked up a wider vocabulary and improved my grammar and I am counting on my students and on Maike Silver to teach me the rest and help me explore this wonderful language!

By Andrea Lenz
Grade 5

GAIS Students Study Space at Chabot Center

Grade 5 is working on a PYP Unit called 'Earth, Space and the Universe' under the theme of How the World Works. In order to give her students some hands on exposure to this fascinating topic, Frau Lenz took her class to Chabot Space and Science Center to explore space, the stars and planets. Besides looking at the exhibitions and finding out about space technology hands-on, the students learned about macro and micro system in a very interesting movie. After lunch they watched another show on the planets of our solar system which provided a lot of information but was very well and appealingly made for the kids. Finally the students attended a class called Space Station One where they were able to ask questions (which they had a lot of!) and gain hands-on experience by letting a self-made rocket fly through the solar system with the power of compressed air, handling tools blindfolded, guided by a partner, as if they were astronauts working on the outside of a space station and undergo a rocket start simulation and feel like a real astronaut.

The students had a very informative and interesting day and drifted a little farther away from the earth, closer to the stars and planets. Thanks to all the parents who helped with the driving of earthly cars.

By Andrea Lenz

GAIS Students Collect Food for Palo Alto Shelter

During the month of November the SMV (student council) collected food for a shelter in Palo Alto. The shelter is called the "FOOD CLOSET" and serves needy families and homeless in the area. SMV put paper bags in each of ther classrooms and all the students in the school contributed to the collection. The SMV decided to do this food drive because they felt it important to give something for less fortunate people and Thanksgiving is a traditional time for giving.

By Phoebe Schuckert -Grade 8

GAIS Parents Get Hands On PYP Experience

As part of our ongoing parent education about the workings of the IB, our PYP Coordinator Maike Silver presented an overview of how the PYP works in the classroom to a good group parents on Friday, November 10. Those parents who thought they could just take in some information got surprised by getting actively involved in PYP work. After an initial overview of what the 6 Units of Inquiry (“Who we are”, “Where we are in place and time”, “How we express ourselves”, “How the world works”, “How we organize ourselves”, “How we share the planet”) entail, we brainstormed on what we know about a central idea on habitats. This is where our learning begins. Next the parents got together in groups and came up with questions about habitats. The questions had to be designed to fit the key concepts of form, function, causation, change, connection, perspective, responsibility and reflection. As it turned out the questions we came up with matched the inquiries the teacher had prepared ahead of time. This activity had all the parents thinking, communicating and getting involved in the learning. After recording the questions we had 3 activities set up to promote inquiry.

Through this set-up the parents had an opportunity to assess how the students gain a variety of social, research, thinking, self-management and communication skills as well as the student attitudes and the learner profile the IB promotes. They also had a chance to see several assessment strategies including student self-assessment.

It was hoped that everybody left this workshop with the understanding that nowadays it is impossible to just give students a quantity of knowledge. In our ever changing world of the knowledge boom, it is important to teach the children skills and an interest in learning. This will be the best way to help them throughout their years in school and throughout life.

By Maike Silver

Biggest Ever St. Martin’s Parade at GAIS

The words „Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne“ flooded the streets of Menlo Park during the lantern parade of St Martin, is a German tradition, which GAIS celebrates together with GASPA at our campus. This year we celebrated on November 10th, Friday night, with approximately 500 people attending. The week before our event, children were busy creating their beautiful lanterns in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Each and every one of them unique and on the evening of St. Martin lanterns and faces were shining bright!

Families gathered at 6 pm on our school yard. First families practiced our favorite St.Martin songs, followed by our St. Martin shadow theatre. The preschool and kindergarten staff told the story of St. Martin with many faces watching in the dark, only lit by the candles of their lanterns. Following the theatre, all the families paraded their lanterns through the neighborhood with many singing voices. Cars slowed to watch as well as neighbors in their homes.

The evening ended with parents eating Weckmänner and lots of lively conversation. Listening to the families voices, one realizes that this event is always a success! Our St. Martin celebration will continue for years to come and anybody who would like to join us next year is welcome!

By Carol Ferrieri.

For more St Martin pictures go to the Gallery