Directory Free Newsletter Contact Log in

European-American Topics - Education - Evergreen School

Learning as an Exciting Journey

By Martina Law
Published 2004

There are not a lot of schools out there that describe learning as a journey, let alone an exciting journey. And I dare to say that there are not a lot of students that would portray learning that way, either. The Evergreen School just north of Seattle and its students, however, claim exactly this. Learning can be exciting, especially if its curriculum is as creative and innovative as Evergreen’s.

The school’s Language Department is considered one of the strongest and most diverse primary and middle school foreign language programs in the Puget Sound area.

To learn more about the Evergreen School and its unique educational techniques, I decided to talk to Renate Brendler Grant, an award winning and talented German teacher and one of the school’s many staff members with excellent credentials.

I met Renate in her classroom, where she was teaching German to a small group of 11 and 12 year olds. Renate told me that classes are kept small to maintain flexibility and allow for individual attention. The classroom resembled a cozy niche in a library. The walls were covered with posters of Germany and projects that had been done by the children. The bookshelves were heavy with books. The atmosphere in the class was relaxed. A few students worked at the computers; two others were working on a project about the European Union.

Jennifer and Laura, both age 12, told me that they had already been taking German for seven years. “I thought it would be cool if I could talk to my German relatives.” Laura said. Both students have pen pals in Germany. Jennifer went on: “We are also learning about the geography of Germany as well as of Europe, its capitals, languages and flags.”

A few of the other students told me that they had recently enrolled in the Evergreen School. Asking why they decided to take German, answers varied. “German sounds interesting.” “My father is a little German.” “German is definitely a challenging language.” “I switched from Chinese to German and I really like the language.”

After class, once the students had stormed out, I finally had a chance to sit down with Renate and learn more about the school and its emphasis on learning a foreign language. A brochure given to me by Renate read “Through learning language, we learn about cultures. Through learning about cultures, we learn tolerance for others. Through learning tolerance for others, we can hope for peace.”

The Evergreen School offers French, German or Spanish by Kindergarten. Mandarin  Chinese is introduced in Grade 4. Renate explained that she and her colleagues don’t focus entirely on the grammatical structure of a language. Children, especially in the beginning, learn by listening to their teacher and imitating simple words and phrases. Renate also told me that the Evergreen School normally only accepts highly intelligent and creative children. The school’s goal is to nurture these children through an enriched curriculum, and at the same time to teach them self-esteem and independence.

“But the school is not right for every child.” Renate added. “Each subject is taught by a different teacher; therefore children have to switch from teacher to teacher. Some children don’t tolerate it that well, and (learn) better in a single-teacher environment.”

Renate went on that she is currently trying to find a partner school in Germany to organize an exchange program. This task is turning out to be quite difficult. She praised the GAPP program but added sadly that it’s only meant for high schools.

Towards the end of my visit I got to see Renate’s youngest German students, her 6- and 7-year-olds. I met Kevin, Laura, Brendan, Michaela, and Mathew, just a few of these amazing little children. One of them is even a national chess champion. I was lucky that he didn’t challenge me; it would have been pretty embarrassing.

After their initial shyness disappeared, they enthusiastically told me about all the entertaining games they play during their German lessons. “Hutchie – putchy” they giggled. I’d never heard of that game, but it sounded like fun. There are more games, some with marbles involved, and others with squares, but all for the main purpose of learning a foreign language in a pleasurable way.

Renate also reads stories to them. I was curious to hear what they had learned so far: “Danke” one of them said. And then more German words trickled out of their mouths. ”Guten Morgen,” “der Igel,” “Deutschland,” “Katze,” “kleine,” “Hund,” “gross.” Last but not least a little girl said “Guten Tag”, and just to make sure I would get it right she added: “It means hello.”


© 2006 All content property of European Weekly unless where otherwise accredited