Almost as far back as its founding in 1968, Fremont Christian has welcomed international students into its classrooms. Although much has changed over the years, our school’s commitment to hosting students from abroad continues to enhance the educational experience for every member of our student body.
FCS’s international program allows our locally based students to learn firsthand about other cultures, which both enriches their curriculum and provides the opportunity to expand their worldview. In return, international students learn about our culture while improving their English skills and receiving a quality education.
For the 2022-2023 school year, FCS is hosting 13 international students, who hail from such diverse countries as China, Hong Kong, Italy, Myanmar, and Nepal. These students have the options of taking part in a homestay, as do Alex, Junlin, and Ryan with Head of School Dr. Tricia Meyer, or to reside with their own families nearby. FCS has hosted 196 international students over the last ten years.
“I like to teach local students to dive into a different culture and compare and contrast the differences between cultures,” says Ms. Frances Lin, who teaches English language development at FCS. “In my special J-Term class, conversational Chinese, not only do we learn daily conversation that will lead to our field trip to a Chinese restaurant where we can practice ordering, we also discuss the sweetness and temperature of food that play an important role in human longevity.”
Our international students feel a strong connection to FCS, staying with us an average 3.5 years, the majority of their high school career. Although much of this is due to the high level of education they are receiving, the bonds of friendship they form also play a decisive role.
“I thought that no one was going to talk to me because of my English language skills,” says Jerry Yang, a 9th grader from China, about his arrival at FCS. “But everyone is really nice and also patient.” He goes on to say how the FCS curriculum has exposed him to new subject matters, causing him to rethink his future plans. “FCS has built in me a lot of interest in arts and music. I used to think I would become a doctor or a soldier one day, to help others. But now I want to study the arts.”
Cultural exchange programs also have the power to break down stereotypes — on both sides. “A really big misconception I had about American schools mostly came from movies that depicted high school as just a place with long hallways and bullies shoving people into lockers,” says Suwon Htut, an 11th grader from Yangon, Myanmar. “My perspective has changed entirely. I now see American schools as being quite the opposite. FCS especially has a warm, welcoming staff and student population. I was really surprised at how friendly each and every single person I’ve ever talked to has been since I arrived.”
Ms. Lin goes out of her way to make international students feel at home. “During Lunar New Year, I give away treats and money red couplets with blessings from the Bible,” she says. “Every student likes the gifts, and our international students, who are thousands of miles away from their families, feel at home and loved during those special occasions. I teach all students the true meaning of Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter, so they all learn to feel the joy, love, and hope these occasions bring to them.”
"We have a tiny home (1000 square feet!), but we have hosted international students since our son was in seventh grade,” says Dr. Meyer. Even with her son now away at college, she and her husband continue to host international students. “It is such a privilege to provide a second family to these young people. Our lives are enriched with an exchange of ideas and experiences born out of two very different cultural systems. We have even traveled to China, which gave us a special opportunity to experience our students’ culture.”
Dr. Meyer says she treasures her family’s close friendship with the Xu family, whose son they hosted for four years. The Xus’ son sang in choir and played soccer with Dr. Meyer’s son, Jake. The Meyers even traveled to China, where they spent time with the Xus visiting historic sites and being welcomed into their home. “We connected over our love for our children and our love for each other's children,” Dr. Meyer says. “Even several years after graduation, we are all in touch regularly. This is a lifetime connection."
If you are interested in hosting an international student, apply now to be a homestay family.
FCS is proud to highlight two of our standout seniors, Jake Meyer and McKenna Nolasco. No strangers to their classmates, both students have been exceedingly active in extracurricular activities, from sports to performing arts to student leadership.
Although not quite a 13-year student, Jake has been with FCS since the first grade and comes from a family of FCS grads. After graduation, he will attend Grove City College, where he will major in communication arts and enjoy the wide variety of seasons Pennsylvania has to offer. Jake chose his major because, he explains, he wants to help people, and he knows he needs to be able to communicate well with others to do so.
In addition to the numerous sports teams he played on, Jake has been performing in student plays since elementary school and considers his castmates an extended family. He was also previously a member of class council and has served in other leadership roles. “I try my best to be kind and to reach out to everyone,” he says, adding that being voted homecoming king felt like a recognition of those efforts.
During his freshman year, Jake founded the FCS chapter of Best Buddies, an international organization whose mission is to create awareness of intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and to provide support for those with them. As president of the chapter during his sophomore year, he attended a national leadership conference where he met other likeminded students from across the country. The experience is one of the main reasons he cites Best Buddies as a high school highlight, in addition to how the organization helped him to grow personally and learn more about treating others with respect.
“The idea of high school is really fun,” Jake says, “but when it comes down to it, you’re going to be safe at FCS, whether it’s with other classmates or teachers. You feel very valued.”
Classmate McKenna Nolasco has Jake beat by one year — she’s been at FCS since preschool. She will be attending Chapman University in the fall, where she’ll study business management and play soccer.
Looking back at McKenna’s school involvement, it’s a wonder she fit it all in — volleyball, basketball, school board, chorale, handbells, plays. She credits this ability to diversify to FCS and its staff. “Teachers work together to allow you to be part of multiple programs,” she explains.
“The school makes it possible to do anything you want to do.” As an example, she cites how her advisors allowed her to alternate one period between handbells and choir, rather than having to choose just one.
The faculty also made sure McKenna could participate in The Sound of Music her sophomore year, even though she had broken her leg. Their creative solution: cast her as a nun in a wheelchair so she could still use the gift of her voice. McKenna’s FCS performance history dates back to elementary school, when she and Jake both appeared as Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.
Her affinity for leadership led her to participate in class council, where she helped plan Spirit Week and fundraisers. “I like to be a part of making those decisions and seeing it all come together,” she says. She was also the vice president of Best Buddies.
McKenna’s family is another exemplar of FCS school spirit. Her brother Jeremiah graduated in 2013, and her mother has coached volleyball and basketball and served on the school board.
McKenna cites FCS’s small classes as one of its benefits. “You get to know teachers personally,” she says. “They know what’s going on in your life. That helps build a good connection, trust, and respect. I’ve always felt comfortable asking for extra help, which I think I’d be intimidated to do in a larger class.”
One of her favorite memories was the Mexico mission trip during J-Term, where she had the opportunity to travel with a small group of friends to work together for a bigger purpose. She says the first house they built was for a family who had lived in a tent. “It really put things into perspective about being grateful for all we have here, including the opportunities,” McKenna says. “Seeing that your hard work means something is both humbling and rewarding. It’s something I’ll carry with me forever.”
On Friday, March 18, elementary parents were invited to our annual S.T.E.A.M. Showcase, which was facilitated virtually this year, with teachers providing classroom tours and their S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) projects via the web. Each grade level learned about the engineering design process, which includes the following steps: ask, imagine, plan, create, test, and improve. Using the curriculum from Engineering is Elementary, a curriculum developed by the Museum of Science in Boston, students solved real-world problems connected to stories of students around the world.
Our transitional kindergartners designed a house for various environments, utilizing the names and characteristics of shapes they had learned together in class. They first planned their house using a variety of materials such as blocks, rubber bands, Unifix Cubes, and Legos, then created structures for the environment of their choice, such as the beach or mountains. The structures were tested for strength and whether they provided shelter from the environment of that region.
The concept of habits was the focus for our kindergartners, whose engineering project included creating animals with UV-light-sensitive beads, then creating habitats for their critters. The test portion of the project saw the students bringing their habitats outside mid-day to see if the UV beads changed colors. If not, their animal was in a safe environment!
First graders explored insects and plants and applied agricultural engineering to solve a pollination problem. The unit begins with the storybook Mariana Becomes a Butterfly, in which a girl living in the Dominican Republic explores the field of agricultural engineering to determine why her ohelo plant won’t make berries. Over the course of the unit, students learned about agricultural pest management, the life cycles of plants, and the interdependence of insect pollinators and plants. Like Mariana, students then followed the steps of the engineering design process to imagine, plan, create, and improve their own hand pollinators.
Students in second grade learned how engineers use their knowledge of energy transfer to design solutions for using energy without harming the environment. The unit begins with the storybook Lerato Cooks Up a Plan, in which a girl in Botswana uses her knowledge of green engineering to build a solar oven to cook food for her family. Students explore the life cycles and environmental impact of products, then collect and analyze data to compare how different materials perform as thermal insulators and conductors.
In third grade, students explored magnetism and its applications in engineering. The unit begins with the storybook Hikaru’s Toy Troubles, in which a boy in Japan applies his knowledge of transportation engineering to design a special attraction for his family’s struggling toy store. Over the course of the unit, students analyze the design of transportation systems, investigate the properties of magnets, and build model toys that use magnets.
Fourth graders explored electricity and its use in everyday technologies. The unit begins with the storybook A Reminder for Emily, in which a girl living on a ranch in Australia learns about electrical engineering to build a system that alerts her when she needs to fill the sheep’s water trough. Over the course of the unit, students explore energy and electricity, investigate closed and open circuits, and create diagrams of circuits.
Students in fifth grade explored organisms and recognized how engineering can help provide for the needs of a small animal. The unit begins with the storybook Juan Daniel’s Fútbol Frog, in which a boy in El Salvador uses bioengineering to design a safe environment for his fútbol (soccer) team’s mascot, a small frog. Over the course of the unit, students explored the concepts of biomimicry, conservation, and biotechnology, and tested how quickly or slowly water passes through different materials.
At Fremont Christian School, our early education program is intentionally modeled on a play-based framework. Walk outside mid-morning and you’ll hear the joyful shrieks of elementary students engaged in games on the elementary playground or field. Even our secondary students are given time during brunch and lunch to play basketball, volleyball, soccer, or other physical activities on the secondary field, in addition to the option to participate in our school’s athletic teams after-school.
Playtime at school has many educational benefits besides enjoyment and downtime from learning. Current research not only validates the benefits of play but confirms it is essential for a child’s physical and intellectual growth. Here are some of the key benefits of play in your child’s development.
Encourages Brain Development
Some crucial areas practiced during play include social skills, language abilities, learning, and locomotor development (movement). In a research study published in the Brain Research Bulletin, rats who were allowed to play for even 30 minutes daily had increased production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a key molecule involved in both learning and memory. Physical exercise in humans has been proven to have similar positive effects.
Improves Physical Health
It’s already widely known that exercise reduces the likelihood of obesity and unhealthy body mass index (BMI) levels. Studies also show that children who are physically active are more likely to carry that habit into adulthood.
Reduces Stress & Disruptive Behavior
Children who played, particularly under the supervision of a caring teacher, showed a marked decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, according to a 2017 article in Prevention Science. An article published the following year in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews underscored additional health benefits: “[Play holds] great promise for both preventive and treatment strategies directed at psychosocial problems of children with chronic or life-threatening diseases.” In other words, play helps in the development of children who have serious diseases.
Just as in sports, play helps build relationships and strengthen social skills. Children learn how to work together and communicate in order to achieve common goals. They also form bonds through their shared experiences, whether it’s celebrating the completion of a puzzle or consoling each other over the loss of a baseball tournament.
Promotes Academic Skills
To tie it all back to schooling, playtime also has a positive influence on grades and test scores. Playing pretend improves language skills, while construction play has shown to improve math skills and problem-solving abilities, to name just two examples. “Children who were in active play for one hour per day were better able to think creatively and multitask,” a 2018 study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics stated. The study showed that physical play in 7- to 9-year-olds resulted in increased focus, cognitive flexibility, and executive control (skills that include memory, flexible thinking, and self-control), all of which are crucial for excelling in the classroom.
If all that weren’t enough reason to set aside time for play, remember: It’s fun!
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