A world map at the British International School of Chicago, South Loop (BISC-SL) proudly displays the 40+ countries represented within the school’s classrooms, and it also helps students recognize their own connections to the world.
Just as Mike Henderson, principal at BISC-SL, was placing a sticker on Brazil, a passing student showed interest. “I told her the sticker represented one of our students and she said her mother is from the Dominican Republic, so we put a sticker there, too. Our student may be from Chicago, but she also represents our international community,” he says.
By honoring each child’s individual learning style, teachers at BISC-SL provide personalized instruction that extends beyond academics to nurture well-rounded, global citizens.
Small class sizes allow students and teachers to work closely together to achieve real subject mastery. Through spiral-based instruction — the approach of the English National Curriculum — students touch on a concept from the earliest of ages and then revisit it year over year building upon a foundation, consolidating, applying and deepening their understanding over time.
Immersive arts, languages and sciences
From age 3, children learn Spanish and French with primary language specialists and, in middle and high school, students can opt to learn Mandarin or German. Students learn dance and music through an enhanced curriculum in collaboration with The Juilliard School. As very young children, they benefit from creative movement and, as they grow, they learn the fundamentals of African dance, ballet, tap, and other global artistic expressions.
“In middle and high school, students study drama, but they learn much more than how to play a character. They build confidence performing in front of others. They’re learning presentation and communication skills; how to express their thoughts and feelings to others,” Henderson says.
Students also benefit from a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, connecting with scientists and participating in workshops on robotics, bioengineering and coding.
Building life skills
As BISC-SL families have busy lives, teachers recognize the value of work-life balance, so homework assignments always have ample completion time. “For the older students, this teaches them that they have to plan their time. It’s a life skill for completing projects,” says Henderson.
BISC-SL follows the Early Years Foundation Stage, English National Curriculum, the International Primary Curriculum, the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), in addition to skills-based curricula throughout their education, so students have options to pursue their higher education in the U.S. and abroad.
As part of Nord Anglia Education, a family of 68 schools in 29 countries worldwide, BISC-SL students receive a unique global learning experience, with the Global Campus allowing them to connect and participate in activities and competitions virtually, in addition to attending national performing arts and STEAM festivals, and going further afield for international trips, including service learning in Tanzania.
High school students are supported through their applications to postsecondary education by dedicated college counselors. “Students are always encouraged to discover the best fit, and 100% of our students go on to college,” Henderson says. “Last year, about 25% of our students chose to attend college outside the U.S.”
Perhaps the most significant benefit of this unique, multinational environment is what the students learn from each other, Henderson says. “Our students teach each other about their own cultures, religions and favorite foods, and we celebrate those differences,” he says. “These peer-to-peer relationships and sense of belonging make BISC-SL a very inclusive educational environment.”
Learn more about British International School of Chicago, South Loop at bischicagosl.org.
This branded content also appeared in Chicago Parent’s holiday 2020 magazine.