April 26, 2006
Kids Making Global Connections
Five Ross School families are hosting six exchange students and teachers from Tensta Gymnasium, a public school in Stockholm, Sweden that integrated the Ross model of education.
|Independent / Courtesy Julie Iden
Students attending Tensta Gymnasium, an international public school in Sweden, visited Ross students this week during an exchange program. Tensta adopted the Ross model of education in 2002. Front Row (left to right): Nicholas Zaccour (Ross); Roman Mardoyan-Smyth (Ross); Marie Sajedpour (Tensta); Juan Felipe Eriksson (Tensta); Ahmed Abdirahman (Tensta). Back Row (left to right): Jessica Tovar (Ross); Shola Farber (Ross); Sofia Omidvar (Tensta); Anna Aro (Tensta); Jessica Casanovas Vera (Tensta); and Alexandra Aldredge (Ross).
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The students, most on their first visit to New York, flew in on Saturday, and have been touring the area and attending classes with their host students. In 2004, Ross students visited Stockholm on a similar exchange trip.
Tensta is an upper secondary school with a high immigrant and refugee population. Ross partnered with the City of Stockholm to implement the private school's interdisciplinary curriculum into Tensta Gymnasium in 2002. It is the first international school in the Ross Institute network.
Six hundred and fifty students attend Tensta, from grades 10-12. Eighty percent of them are first or second generation immigrants.
Jessica Casanovas Vera, a junior at Tensta, is staying with Ross's 10th grade history teacher Mathew Aldredge, his wife, Alison and their children.
The difference between Tensta's curriculum and the other public schools in Sweden is "We have a lot of history," said Vera. "It's not so normal in the other schools. Then we have the computer. That's really strange." Wireless technology is still a novel addition for Swedish students.
Also unique to Tensta is its special interdisciplinary project that applies lessons from each subject the students have taken into one topic to show how they all connect. The students recently wrote a paper on World War I and discussed the types of chemicals used in warfare, combining history and chemistry.
Tensta's curriculum offers three "national programs" — Business Administration, Natural Science, and Social Science, which include math and history. The Ross model shaped the development of the interdisciplinary components within these programs. A key principal in this model is that global interconnectedness breeds tolerance and cultural understanding, which are believed to be essential factors in meeting the changing demands of a global economy. Art, music, drama, nutrition and health are also part of Tensta's curriculum.
Vera's host student, Margaret Aldredge, a senior, is well-traveled. Through Ross, she has visited seven countries during her four years in high school on mostly community service-type expeditions. The experiences taught her how to adapt to different environments.
"I know that a very important part of how I view myself is that I am kind of an international person and I do know how to interact in different situations and different cultures and to me, that's a really important thing," she said.
Despite her cultural exposure, Aldredge noted that there is one skill Vera has that she doesn't. "[Vera] speaks four languages fluently and I speak English . . . she is so much more lingual, she can pick things up and her language is just a lot more robust. I think it's really helpful when you're traveling and I'm kind of jealous."
Ross School parent Obron Farber and her daughter Shola are hosting Sophia Omidvar and Marie Sagedpour, who are in the 11th and 12th grades, respectively. Both girls are from Iran and "as a Jewish-American family, I feel it's so wonderful that we have the opportunity to expose them to a happy American home and let them know that with all the differences people have, that if we're open to communication, we can all be friends," said Farber.
Sagedpour stressed the value of the Ross School's philosophy of global interconnectivity as a means toward achieving global cooperation. "It's important to make people work together for helping each other," she said.
Mrs. Farber noted that "[Tensta students] are generally . . . much more worldly aware both in terms of politics and cultures than American children . . . I think they just have more of an awareness than American students generally. You get that immediately in talking with them."
Vera recognized some other cultural disparities between teenagers in Sweden and those in the United States.
"Here young people are driving cars," she observed. "That's really, really strange because we don't have driving lessons until we're 18 and not even then . . . people [who] are 18 don't really drive cars. And here they're 16, 17, and they're already driving cars. It's just so weird."
The exchange students will visit New York City tomorrow and return to Stockholm on Saturday.