SJA/Stuttgart, Germany Exchange ProgramStudents from the Kraerherwald Waldorf School in Stuttgart, Germany arrive at St. Johnsbury Academy fall to participate in the Academy’s Global Connections Program, a unique cultural exchange program created by the schools themselves.
The German students, accompanied by a teacher-chaperone, live with host families throughout their six-week stay.
“During their stay, the German students will experience total immersion into America’s educational system and culture,” Glenn Ehrean, director of the Academy’s Colwell Center for Global Understanding and the Academy’s Global Connections Program’s coordinator, said.
The program involves the students attending a full load of classes for six weeks. Each student is expected to take two academic courses, including English, and two electives of their choice. Academy students traveling to Germany through the program have similar requirements, including studying German. The students benefit from the strong arts curriculum of the Kraerherwald School.
The full-time academic experience is coupled with a cultural component, with all participating students staying with host families. “By living with host families, the students experience life in America or Germany and are able to implement the new language they are learning,” Ehrean said.
In addition to providing prolonged exposure to everyday American and German life, the program offers a unique opportunity for students to experience different school environments. The Americans in Stuttgart become part of a kindergarten through 13th grade learning community based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. That program strongly emphasizes the arts and even kinetic learning, as evidenced by Eurythmie, a very specialized form of dance. The German students in St. Johnsbury become part of a large, rigorous high school with high academic expectations.
For many Waldorf students, the St. Johnsbury visit provides their first experience of life without subways. They also “develop an appreciation that our school is a focal point of the community,” Ehrean added. On the other hand, Academy students traveling to Stuttgart arrive in a city that has a larger population than the entire state of Vermont.
During their visit, the German students will visit New York City for a weekend, hike Mt. Wheeler, tackle the Corn Maze in North Danville, and attempt skeet shooting. “They all look forward to New England’s legendary fall colors,” Ehrean added.