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FAQ Elementary School

What is the PYP?

The International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Program (PYP) is a curriculum framework designed for young learners (ages 3-12) in international schools. Over 700 schools worldwide currently use this program, which is sponsored and funded by the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). It focuses on the development of the whole child through an inquiry based learning approach that exposes children to worldwide perspectives while ensuring their academic development.

How do we believe children learn?

In the PYP we believe that children learn when they connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. The role of the teacher is to provide opportunities for students to build meaning and refine understanding through structured inquiry. In the process the children develop thinking, research, self-management, communication and social skills.

What is the transdisciplinary approach and how does it foster better learning?

In the PYP the students learn about globally significant issues through units of inquiry. There are six units in the Vorschule to Grade 4 and four in the Pre-School. Each unit is connected to one of six transdisciplinary themes:

  • Who we are
  • Where we are in time and place
  • How we express ourselves
  • How the world works
  • How we organize ourselves
  • How we share the planet

All students study the subjects of Math, German, English, Science, Social Studies Art, Music PE and IT. Where possible these subjects’ are taught through the units of inquiry. This is referred to as a transdisciplinary approach and ensures learning is more relevant and engaging. Consequently the homeroom teachers plan the units of inquiry together with all other subject teachers.

How does the PYP foster a student’s personal and social-emotional development and enhance international-mindedness?

The PYP promotes the development of a list of attributes collectively known as the Learner Profile. The PYP promotes children becoming inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, balanced and reflective. The PYP also lists a number of Attitudes that should be actively promoted. These are: appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance.

How will I know how my child is doing?

The IB promotes the use of a range of assessment strategies, which are designed to inform the teaching and learning process and provide a full picture of a child’s progress. Summative assessments are regularly sent home for review. Report cards are provided twice a year, in January and June. Parent and student-led conferences occur in October and March respectively.

How can I learn more about the IB and PYP?
  • Visit the official IBO website.
  • Attend coffee meetings and information meetings
  • Speak to PYP Coordinator
  • Speak to your classroom teacher
  • Read unit newsletters from your classroom teacher
How can I as a parent support my child?
  • Help him/her to develop self management (organizational) skills by assuring that homework is done (check the homework book)
  • Inquire into what he/she is learning and communicate your knowledge
  • Support the learning at home (example: when learning to read the clock at school, ask your child to tell you what time it is at home)
  • Support classroom learning through family field trips
  • Reflect together on any work sent home
How does the bilingual immersion program work in our school?

Ideally, children start in Preschool or Vorschule where they are immersed in the German language by participating in circle time and playing with other children. After two years, non-native speakers are usually fluent in the German language. New students can receive some extra support in German or English through our Academic Support and English as a Second language (ESL) programs. It is up to the principal’s discretion to admit a child to first grade whose language proficiency in German may be insufficient.

Is the German-American International School accredited?

The German-American International School is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is an authorized IB World School for the PYP. Our German program follows the curriculum of various German states and our English Program that of the California Common Core language curriculum.

Do German students have difficulties transitioning back into the German School system?

Experience has shown that our students do not have any difficulties reintegrating into the German school system when returning to Germany or any other German-speaking country. They also integrate very well into the American school system. For more information, please review the student testimonials on our Website.

When was the German American International School founded?

Our school was founded in 1988. In 2002 the GAIS explored International school models. It was decided that the International Baccalaureate (IB) provided a curriculum framework for inquiry-based learning that would be the perfect fit for our school. In 2007 GAIS succeeded in becoming authorized for the Primary Years Program (PYP). GAIS was the first IB World School whose curriculum was taught primarily in the German language. Read more about GAIS’ history here.

Why should I immerse my child in a German language program?

As the second strongest exporting country worldwide, following the United States, Germany is an important business partner for the United States. For example, most of the American high-tech companies have transferred their European headquarters to Germany, which has established Munich as the European Silicon Valley, due to the local infrastructure advantages. Increasing temporary international assignments and student exchanges bring cultures together, with the language building the bridge for communication.

Will my child fit in? Does your learning style fit the School’s philosophy?

Our school is known for its caring, family-oriented atmosphere. “Newcomers” at Preschool feel integrated in no time. They start blossoming through the variety of activities offered and our teachers’ high commitment, love, dedication and endless patience. The children’s growth continues to foster beyond Preschool school where the instruction is child-centered. The child is encouraged to participate proactively by voicing his/her opinion through contributing to class discussions, presentations in front of the class, on stage and in front of an audience. Project work, often accomplished in teams, is part of practicing cooperation. Awareness of the world is increased through a strong multicultural emphasis and community service projects. Transdisciplinary and cross-curricular studies are encouraged to help the student gain a broadened and international perspective. The program promotes self-reliant, independent, critical thinking, which is based on the belief that language is the basis for communicating, learning and thinking.


Will my child become fluent in both languages?

German is the language of instruction for all subjects except English. Both English and German are taught by native speakers starting in the first grade. The social language e.g. at recess, tends to be English. Such exposure brings the children up to speed quickly. However, the level of proficiency achieved may also depend on parental involvement, support, practice and exposure to both languages.

What kind of enrichment programs do you offer? When do you introduce a 3rd language?

We offer a variety of after school activities and programs for our students. Please check the website for additional information. Spanish or French are introduced as an optional third language in fifth grade.

What are your teachers like?

All of our teachers have teaching credentials. Many of them have been with the school for at least five years and quite a few of them have had international work experience before they joined our school.

How much does the school value/expect parent involvement? What is the school PA?

Parental involvement is required to keep our tuition fees at a reasonable level. Our school community is very active and every parent is requested to take on some an area of responsibility during the year. Please see the website for further information about volunteer responsibilities.

What are the behavior expectations? Do the School’s values echo my own?

GAIS values tolerance and respect. Relationships with other members of the community and especially with other students must be based on these principles. Essential Agreements have been established to encourage positive behavior and produce a safe environment for all students. Should there be a specific concern a behavior plan may be implemented in consultation with the parents.

When do I register?

Registration usually starts mid-February, but applications are accepted year-round. Please see more information about the admission process here.

Where can I find more information?

For more information please refer to our ‘GAIS Parent Handbook′.