Saturday December 29, 2012

DOVER -- The teachers, administrators and School Board at Dover School are hoping to improve students' knowledge of the rest of the world.

"We're a continuous learning institution," said Principal Bill Anton. "We're always looking for methods to help students be prepared for the future."

Anton, School Board members Laura Sibilia and Chip Vicary, along with teachers, Nancy Bake and Sue Neuman visited Salisbury Elementary in Salisbury, N.H., on Nov. 27 to see how a school with an International Baccalaureate accreditation looks.

The International Baccalaureate Organization is a non-profit educational foundation. In the press release from Dover School, it stated "the aim of all IB programs is to develop internationally-minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world. IB offers high quality programs of international education to a worldwide community of schools. There are more than 900,000 IB students in over 140 countries."

Salisbury Elementary took four years to complete its feasibility study. After the study, it was accredited. Dover School is looking into how the study could help its students.

"The first thing that strikes you in this school is the emphasis on the global world," Anton said of the visit to Salisbury.


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"The moment you walk in, there's flags from all different countries, signs in other languages and clocks in different time zones. It's a different feel. It's the feel of being curious with the world."

Anton told the Reformer that his staff is always looking into ways to improve the school.

"Our mantra is, ‘You're either getting better or you're getting worse.'"

He believed that looking into the IB feasibility study may be a good way to get students prepared for a globalized world. There hasn't been any decision whether or not the school will go through with a study.

"This was the first stage. Now, I want to visit a school that has been doing it for a long time. I want to interact with parents and community members."

Anton will be presenting what he and his staff have been looking at in terms of the possibility of an IB feasibility study at Dover School at the Rotary in January. He told the Reformer that he encourages parents to research the study and ask questions. The school is under no time constraints for starting a study.

After returning from Salisbury, the teachers came back and met with the entire staff to share ideas.

The staff thought that putting up representations for different time zones around the building would prove to be a very powerful tool for kids to get a start on thinking globally.

"I want to make sure kids in Dover have adults in Dover thinking about preparing for a globalized world."

A strategic planning retreat in September was held, which gave Anton and others time to talk about what Dover School should be exploring in the next three years.

One of the ideas was to explore the IB and another was to implement changes to the foreign language curriculum.

"We used to just have Spanish and a teacher would come in one day a week. That teacher would teach all grades for a 40-minute period each. That's beneficial but it's limited in the time kids are practicing a language."

Dover School has now started a pilot program that includes using Rosetta Stone, an interactive set of tools that are being implemented in classrooms for grades three to six. There are CDs, booklets and other study aids that help in the process of learning a language.

The students have access to more than 30 languages, but are currently using around nine. These languages include but are not limited to French, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Irish, German and two types of Spanish.

"The program has gone really well. The kids have been really engaged. It provides an extremely dynamic environment. That's the beauty of it -- one class can be taking five languages at a time."

After this year's review of the pilot program, Dover School administrators will decide whether or not it's something that it will continue.

Anton said that the program's beginnings have indicated that it has been "pretty successful."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.