Nestled in the heart of Atlanta’s Garden Hills neighborhood is a community of 90 different nationalities and over 60 languages. English may be the common language, but at the Atlanta International School (AIS), students receive an enriched education, broad cultural outlook and personal evolvement.
Half of the student population at AIS are from North America and the other half hail from across the globe, creating a diverse and inclusive environment. From 3K to 12th grade, families of the “globally-minded” youngsters invest in a level of intercultural competence that is hard to beat, not only in Atlanta but anywhere in the world.
Creating the globally-minded approach depends on several factors, including the International Baccalaureate curriculum, a student population from many different cultures and a unique approach to language acquisition and immersion.
“Our language program is world-class. Its success has also created a few urban myths, one of which is that you need to speak multiple languages to come here. Not true! It’s a certain spark we are looking for, not a certain language,” explains Reid Mizell, Head of Admission for AIS.
The school takes full advantage of the fact that young children can acquire language skills faster than adults. Students in 3k and 4k always learn in French, German, Chinese or Spanish to develop skills naturally through play-based activities, storytelling, songs and games.
From kindergarten to grade five, the French, German and Spanish programs transition to dual immersion, allowing students to split their time learning in English and a second language. There is a separate learning ratio of 70 to 30 for Chinese-speaking students.
The primary language of all teachers is their target language, allowing them to share a deep understanding of the associated cultures.
An AIS German teacher explains, “Learning a language and appreciating different cultures go hand-in-hand, and we believe that true cultural awareness should be woven into every aspect of school life.”
Those who wish to continue an immersive language experience can do so in middle and high school by studying language, literature and the humanities (geography, history, individuals and society) at an advanced level.
As Head of AIS Kevin Glass points out, “Our mission goes far beyond just preparing our students for the good colleges and prosperous careers they go on to have. We want to create globally-minded and critical-thinking innovators ready to shape the world for the better.”
Cultural immersion remains a top priority in secondary school. From starting a brand-new language as a beginner to those receiving bilingual I.B. diplomas, students can travel abroad, debate in different languages through programs such as Model U.N. and participate in cultural and linguistic school events. Events range from celebrating individual occasions such as Chinese New Year, La Feria, Harambees and the German Christmas Market to celebrations of all nations, including U.N. Day and the Worldfest celebration.
Worldfest is a celebration of food, traditions and live performances from different countries represented in the AIS Community. Traditionally, the event is held annually on the last Sunday of October on the AIS school campus and is open to the public.
To learn more about the Atlanta International School, visit www.aischool.org.