FAQ Preschool

1. When was the German-American International School founded?

Our school was founded in 1988. In 2007 GAIS was authorized by the IB organization as an IB World School. For more information about the history of GAIS please see our special website ‘History of GAIS‘.


2. How does the bilingual immersion program work at our school?

Children start out with preschool or pre-K 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. We also provide help for students new to the school by tutoring them in English (ESL=English as a second language) or German (GSL=German as a second language).

The level of proficiency your child achieves in a language may also depend on your parental involvement, support, practice and exposure to both languages.

Please check our Resources Section on the website to find more information.

3. How much German is spoken in the preschool?

The teachers speak predominantly German with the children. The goal is to fully immerse the child in the German language. Teachers might help when non-German speaking children are new, to explain certain things in English to make sure that children understand and feel comfortable in their new surroundings.


4. Will my child learn English in the preschool?

Even though the teachers predominantly speak German to the children, many children will speak English with each other. Our experience is that children without prior English skills will be immersed in the English language and will usually have good knowledge of the language after about one year. Children learn at different speeds, while some will start speaking English after a few months, others will take a more cautious approach and take a while longer.

We also offer extracurricular classes that are usually held in English.


5. Which class will my child be placed in?

We make an effort to balance classes by gender, ages, language abilities, new and returning students and social dynamics. We will therefore mix classes every year to achieve a balance. Some children may be placed with the same teacher in their second year, while others may change teachers. Children will remain with the same teacher for a maximum of two years. If possible, we will place siblings in separate classes.

Children stay with the same teacher, assistant and classroom for an entire year to provide consistency for the children.


6. Do you offer gym time or music classes?

Children in the 5-day classes use the school gym regularly for movement activities. Due to limited time slots in the gym and their limited time in the preschool, the part-time classes do not use the gym on a regular schedule, but may be able to do so occasionally. However the outdoor preschool space has wheeled vehicles, a large grassy area and enough space for structured activities.

Music is integrated in the daily schedule and is always incorporated into the daily circle time. We place an extra focus on music during our music unit.


7. Do children learn the alphabet in preschool?

Our preschool is a play-based, child-centered program that includes both an extensive period of time for children to choose activities from a rich environment as well as planned activities, such as circle time and project time. Much thought has been given to the environment of the classroom and outside environment so that children will have the opportunity to experience many types of activities that incorporate language, fine motor, gross-motor, problem-solving and other skills essential for academic success.

There has been much research comparing academic preschools, vs. play-based preschools and children’s long term success and a growing body of research supports the very real benefits of exploratory and playful learning experiences. Children in play-based programs learn through interacting and playing with others, which has an academic payoff, too; it’s more strongly correlated with future academic success than either IQ or early reading and math skills.

8. Does my child have to be potty trained?

Yes, all children need to be completely potty trained and need to be able to use the toilet independently, as we are neither staffed nor licensed for diaper changes. Children in pull-ups are not considered potty trained.


9. What can I do to prepare my child for preschool?

Having some previous experiences with separation from the main caregivers is helpful. Never having had the experience of being away from parents and then being dropped-off at school for the entire day can be stressful for some children. Make sure you ease them into this big new step of preschool. Experience playing with other children in playgroups can be helpful. We encourage a flexible schedule in the beginning of the school year if that is helpful for the student.

Practicing self-management skills (dressing and undressing themselves, going to the bathroom independently, eating by themselves without being fed, etc.) will also prepare your child for preschool.


10. Do you have a waiting list?

When parents submit an application, their child is placed in our ‘pool of applicants’. Applications are accepted year round. Typically, the majority of our children are admitted in the spring for the following school year. Children can be admitted during the school year, should space be available.

We often have more applicants than spots and it is advised to submit applications early. In our admittance process, we give preference to siblings and to those that are interested in the school long term. We also give preference to older children that only have 1 or 2 years of preschool to make sure they have enough time to acquire the German language before entering grade school.


11. How can I as a parent support my child?
  • Help them with their self management skills by helping them do things on their own and supporting them in the process (cleaning-up, dressing themselves, etc.)
  • Support what they are learning in school (e.g.: when they learn about families, talk about your own family, look at pictures of relatives, talk about where they live, etc.)
  • Support classroom learning through family fieldtrips (e.g.: explore your own backyard with your child during the garden animal unit, visit a children’s concert during the music unit)
  • View and talk about their portfolio together (at the end of the unit)
  • Read all class and school information distributed by e-mail or on the website to stay informed about what is happening in your child’s class and at the school in general
12. How can I learn more about the IB and PYP?
  • Visit their website.
  • Attend IB Information meetings
  • Speak to your classroom teacher
13. Do you have extra-curricular activities for preschoolers?

We do offer some extra-curricular activities for the older preschoolers. We often find that the young preschoolers, especially the ones that experience preschool for the first time, need time to adjust to a new long day and do not have the energy to participate in another class right after preschool ends.

The variety of extra-curricular activities expands as the child gets older (e.g.: karate, soccer, dance, tennis, English classes). For an overview of our Extracurricular Classes please go to our Section ‘Extracurricular Program‘ on our website.


14. Do you take any field trips?

We take about 3-5 field trips every year. Field trips are often connected to the units of study (e.g.: visit to the theatre during our drama unit, visit to the fire station during our community member unit). Field trips are either organized with buses or parent volunteers. To enrich our program, we often invite professionals to the classroom, instead of taking a field trip (e.g.: Concerts during our music unit, puppet theatre during the drama unit, insect lab during our garden animal unit).


15. 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 250 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 expose children to worldwide perspectives while ensuring their full academic development within solid core curriculum.


16. 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 inquiry. In the process the children learn social, thinking, research, self-management and communication skills necessary for all learning.


17. 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 four units per year in the preschool and six units per year in the elementary grades. The essential elements around which each unit is developed including concepts, skills, attitudes, knowledge and action. They are applied in a context defined by the six trans-disciplinary 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

We have used a whole school approach to develop a Program of Inquiry (POI) that provides students with experiences that have logical sequence and build upon each other from year to year. The Units are based on science, social studies and personal and social education. However to be truly educated, students must make connections across all the disciplines, discover ways to integrate the separate subjects and ultimately relate what they learn in life. This learning begins in our preschool.

18. How does the PYP foster a student’s personal and social-emotional development?

The PYP promotes the development of a list of behaviors that we call the learner profile. The PYP supports children to become inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk-takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective. The PYP also lists attitudes to be developed in the children that will contribute to the student profile. These are: appreciation, commitment, confidence, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect, and tolerance.

19. How will I know how my child is doing?

The IB promotes the use of a range of assessment strategies, which are designed to provide a picture of your child’s progress. Students in the IB program also learn to self-assess and take ownership of their own education. 

20. How does the PYP promote international mindedness?

By developing the trans-disciplinary skills, investigating the trans-disciplinary themes and addressing the various needs of the child- physically, socially, intellectually, aesthetically and culturally- the PYP ensures that the learning is significant, relevant, engaging and challenging, so that the child can reflect on the connections between life in school, life at home and life in the world. By helping the child make the connections and see that learning is connected to life, the PYP establishes a strong foundation for future learning. The trans-disciplinary themes have global significance; they promote an awareness of the human condition and an understanding that there is a commonality of human experience.


21. What are our teachers like?

All of our teachers have either German or California teaching credentials or both. Many of them have been with the school for five to ten years and are very committed to our program. Most of our preschool assistants are fully qualified as Preschool teachers as well.


22. How much does the school value/expect parent involvement?

Parental involvement is required to keep our tuition and fees at a reasonable level. Our school community is very active and every parent paying the discounted rate is required to take over an area of responsibility throughout the year (at least 20 volunteer hours a year). There are different ways to fulfill your voluntary work contribution: Join a committee or choose one independent job which is suitable to your time schedule.

23. When do I register?

Applications are accepted year-round, but it helps to submit your application early, as we usually have more applicants than spots. Please see more information about the admission process here.


24. Where can I find more information?

Please call 650-324-8617 or email admissions@gais.org to schedule a tour to learn more about the program. We look forward to talking with you!