ISF Newsletter June 2022

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Our Mission A laboratory for learning where we collaborate to add meaning to a shared future. Our Vision We aspire to build communities of creative makers and doers.

THE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF FLORENCE NEWSLETTER, June 2022 Editor-in-Chief Tanya Bruckner Editor Sue Yiannakis Design and layout Tess Hitchcock Printer Tipografia Color Print ISF alumni, families, faculty, and friends are welcomed and encouraged to submit ideas and articles for consideration. Inquiries may be addressed to:


IN THIS ISSUE... COMMUNITY From the Head of School, David Ottaviano


Monique Farson, Francis Repka


ISF Gala


Graduation + Prom


2022 Faculty Speaker, Jonathan McCarthy


2022 Salutatorian, Stella Franceschi


Human Rights Club, Nina Hohagen


Grade 5 Promotion


Grade 5 Exhibition, Reem Fonati and Maria Donadel


Rethinking Junior School Space, Mike Terrell


Senior Team Math Competition, Andrea Antoniazzi


Role of Student Reflection in Science, Michael Landolfa


CAS Reflections, Weronika Wieczerzak and Katherine Dick


ISF Cantabile Salzburg Tour, Tanja Kustrin


FloMUN, Liliana Halmai


Early Years Outdoor Learning, Karen Gregg


Art Friday: Donatello


Research Programme, Phil Whitehead





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After several years of complications and challenges due to the pandemic, we are finally emerging. Every school has endured countless absences of students and employees during this time. The Covid virus is still with us, but it appears that we are now better able to cope with it. Compared with other countries or even other schools in Tuscany, while we have had to isolate grades at different times, we were never forced to cancel school. Toward the end of the year, we have been able to reintroduce external programs and community events, such as Field Day, field trips, and open school events which have been celebrated by our students. Our teachers and staff while battling with Covid themselves, have risen above the suffering and served our students well.

and McGill University in Canada. In Italy, students were accepted at Bocconi and St. Camillus. In the UK at the University of Edinburgh, Durham, Warwick and the University of London. The Board has worked tirelessly to find a good solution to our space limitations. They made a decision early in the year that it would be good for the school size to expand a little to a 3-form (3 sections per grade) school. This would enable more group activities like school bands and orchestras, and competitive team sports as well as a breadth of additional classes which meet the diverse needs of our students. The decision is an accomplishment. The leaders of the Board have reached out to engage the offices of the Mayors of Firenze and Bagno a Ripoli for help in regards to the current space issue. It looks like a 60-classroom addition to the JS campus has been given preliminary approval and this is a major accomplishment. Finally, the members of the Board have unearthed possible rental spaces to accommodate the pressure on enrollment. During these past several years of administrative change, the Board has been the “glue” that has held the school together.

The second phenomenon has been the high enrollment number of 101% and ISF has been privileged to have a “full house” of students this year. ISS (International School Services) has seen in recent years that there has been an increasing demand to attend ISF. This year, perhaps, was the most difficult for many families who applied, as unfortunately, we had to reject so many students due to lack of space. Anticipating this lack of space issue in September, the Board of Directors passed an updated Admissions Policy which, among other things, specified how each student was to be considered with priorities for admissions.

We look forward to the 70th anniversary of the school, which educated thousands of students, some who came from humble roots and others who came from privileged families. We expect there will be three main events next year. The first will be a “birthday party” at the beginning of the year for the students. We expect to have the history of the school illustrated on a storyboard in front of each school and some special guest speakers. Around the middle of the year, ISF will host the return of Alumni and in the Spring, there will be a special Gala for the school.

The priorities determined by the policy were: •

Upon the successful completion of Junior School (Grade 5), students will be enrolled in the Middle School Program at the Upper School

Siblings of students already enrolled at ISF and children of faculty and staff employed by the school

Children of families who relocate due to their professional needs and will be working for corporations or organizations with a long-standing history at ISF

Children of alumni families

One-year applicants versus one semester applicants when space is limited

All other applicants

A 70th-anniversary book is also being written so that it can be distributed by the Spring Gala. I am happy to re-assert that we have two fine people who will lead the school next year: Sharyn Baddeley, Head of School. Sharyn is an experienced and positive school leader who comes from Beijing on the way from Australia. She is currently the Head of School at the Beijing International Bilingual Academy. Before this, she was Head of Mitchell School in Armadale, Australia where the school was ranked as the top school in Australia. She holds a diploma in Education and a Master’s Degree from Victoria University. She has a second MA in Leadership which includes a specialty in cultural leadership coaching from Deakin University.

These clear priorities were implemented during the Admissions process. We expect continued interest in ISF and to that end, the Board and Leadership are considering renting additional facilities so that enrollment can grow. Over 80% of the applicants are foreigners who do not have access to the Italian Educational System.

Jan Stipek was appointed as Deputy Head of School. He has proven himself as a calm, positive leader who is adding many systems to the growing Upper School. Jan has been an international school educator since 1998, having taught EAL, English B, and TOK, and having worked as a school leader at schools in Europe and Asia. Jan worked at the IB Global Center in The Hague for five years as a Head of Global Professional Development for IBDP and CP. He has been a DP examiner and MYP moderator. He holds a master’s degree (MSc) in Curriculum and Pedagogy from SUNY Buffalo (USA), a master’s degree (MEd) in Leadership and Policy from Monash University (Australia), and a Certificate in Management and Leadership from Chartered Management Institute (UK).

This year, during the first semester, the teachers, administrators, and staff were feverously preparing for the extensive re-accreditation of the school. Ten virtual visitors devoted a week to reviewing policies, teaching practices, our facilities, student test data, university acceptances and IB test results. The result was the unanimous conclusion by the Council of International Schools, Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, and the International Baccalaureate Organization to re-accredit the school for 5 years. We were thankful for all of the hard work of the Faculty, Board, students, and participating parents for their assistance in this important task.

And finally, I would like to say that ISF is a fine International School with potential to be even better. I enjoyed my time with ISF, its students, teachers and parents.

In terms of personnel changes, we have had a reduction in teacher “turnover” this year which is in line with other international schools. Congratulations to the class of 2022! University acceptances have been to varied and prestigious universities from all around the world. Such schools as NYU, Bates College, UC system Universities, and the Berklee College of Music in the United States/the University of Toronto

I hope in some small way, I helped to make the school a better place for learning. As I live nearby, I will be back to visit ISF in its 70th year.


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Madame Farson passed away on May 15, 2022 in Lisbon, Portugal on her 85th birthday. She taught at the school for 33 years, from 1968 to 2001.

especially her friends Horace Gibson, Kevin the art teacher _I forget his last name_, Michael Petrucione and Carlo Palusci. I had known them at that time.

Many students expressed their emotion and memories when this sad news was announced, so it is for them and the whole ISF community that I am writing these words in her memory.

At Bellosguardo, I remember the very special but serious atmosphere and historical setting, and especially Monique with her students: her joy of teaching, that mixture of authority and benevolence. In spite of her high standards, I never heard her express a negative opinion. Monique knew how to look for and find the motivating factors in everyone. Her students and more generally those who were in contact with her could blossom.

Mrs. Farson was both my aunt and my godmother and our lives intersected throughout several decades in France, Florence and Lisbon. She was born Monique Repka in a village in the Jura region in eastern France, to a family that had fled Slovakia a few years earlier in search of a better and more peaceful life. Monique was the eldest of 3 brothers with whom she remained very close despite the distance and the diversity of their life paths.

Her husband Bertram, passionate about Florence, translated Piero Bargellini’s reference book “Florence the Magnificent” from Italian into English. He died suddenly in December 1985, leaving Monique distraught but more focused than ever on her vocation as a teacher.

I am grateful to have had the chance to see Monique in Lisbon 6 weeks before her passing. She wanted to talk about her youth, her family, her life in Italy and most notably about what she was so passionate about at school: her profession as a teacher. Those who knew her well could speak of her vocation as a teacher. She always spoke of her students and colleagues with such enthusiasm and kindness!

She was then motivated by a major project: to make the school an accredited school for the preparation of the International Baccalaureate, the IB. She succeeded in doing so in the 1990s. In the 80’s and 90’s I lived in Paris and I remember seeing her there on a school trip, which were always so important to her. She was eager to introduce French culture to her sometimes boisterous but always enthusiastic students. A few years later, an IB trip to Lisbon was a turning point in Monique’s life. She reconnected with José de Sousa e Brito simply by looking up his name in the phone directory, and a few weeks later José visited her in Florence. The young student from Vienna had become an eminent jurist, professor of law and member of the Constitutional Tribunal of Portugal (the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the United States). This new meeting with José proved to be decisive: the following year, in June 2001, Monique left the school and also left Florence. With her love of the city and after her years of strong involvement with her students, she needed a good reason!

Monique’s life was not an ordinary one. A succession of chance encounters and bold choices at the time forged her unique life path. Her first contact with the English language took place in the context of the conflicts of the last century and left her with an unforgettable memory. After the landing in Provence in September 1944, the Germans retreated and the Allied troops moved up north. American soldiers passed through her home village, Moissey, and Monique, a little girl of 7, offered a peach to a GI: she heard “thank you” for the very first time. Her second significant encounter with the English language was with Mademoiselle Badaire, an exceptional teacher in the traditional secondary school system of post-war France. Teachers can play a crucial role in shaping our destiny: Monique then went on to study English and French Literature at the University of Dijon. Literature has been a common thread in Monique’s life, and a lifelong passion.

In July 2002 Monique and José were married, and I had the pleasure of attending this beautiful ceremony. Many of Florence’s friends and former students also wanted to be there to accompany her in this new beginning. I saw Monique as often as I could, and while living in Brazil I sometimes stopped over in Lisbon to visit her and José. She read a lot and kept up an intense exchange of letters. Monique loved her new life with José and gradually discovered Portugal. She told me that knowing Italian helped her learn Portuguese. She continued to travel until 2019 to see her family in France, to return to Florence, to accompany José on his business trips. From time to time she would also receive news or even a visit from a former student passing through Lisbon.

I realized this when she lent me The Stranger by Albert Camus: it was the version she had annotated by hand when she was 18. Just a few weeks ago I asked her about her favorite author in American literature. Without hesitation, she cited Herman Melville! Highly motivated by her studies, she often volunteered to broaden her horizons. While on an academic exchange in Vienna, Austria, Monique met a law student, José de Sousa e Brito, and upon her return to France, she became an English teacher in a French high school in Chalon-sur-Saône, in the Burgundy vineyards. But Monique needed to broaden her horizons.

Thanks to José, Monique always felt well surrounded and well supported in her last years. Those who knew Monique well will remember her communicative enthusiasm, her open-mindedness, her intellectual curiosity, her human warmth, her passion for teaching and for helping young minds grow. As I finish these lines, I am reminded of a phrase from the farewell speech she gave in 2001, when she left the School, “Learning is an encounter of the mind and the heart.”

On a trip to Lisbon in 1967, Monique met Bertram Farson, a native of Scotland who had just arrived from South Africa where he had lived for several decades. With his car (left hand drive) and a single suitcase, Bertram was free. He wanted to stop in a place he had always dreamed of: Florence. A few months later, Monique Repka became Mrs. Farson and the new couple moved to Florence near the Porta Romana. Monique soon learned Italian and, thanks to a new acquaintance, returned to teaching at what was then called St. Michael’s Country Day School.

Speaking for all those who knew her, who benefited from her teachings, who loved her, I will simply say, “Goodbye Monique and thank you Madame Farson!”

In 1975 Monique invited me to spend a week in Florence and to sit in her classroom. I saw her at work in Bellosguardo and despite my rudimentary English at the time I remember thinking, “Wow, I wish I had teachers like that!” Monique often talked about faculty members,


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JUNE 10, 2022


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Parents, aunts and uncles, sisters and brothers, faculty, and staff, it is my honor to address you today. Per usual, Ms. Van Forst was the class’ first choice, followed by Mr. Blackstone, who’s been so bogged down with exam schedules and invigilation that he’s hardly seen his family in weeks. We love you, Jason!

hard-wired legacy issues that endure within our families and society, big and small My grandfather on my father’s side married 6 times. He and my father’s relationship was non-existent, and mine with my father was going in the same direction. I only met my grandfather once, and when I was around 10 I recall being at his funeral wondering how I would reflect on my relationship with my father when his smokey dust seeped off into the abyss.

Then there was me, so here I am. To give some context to the film crew out there, I teach the Diploma Programme History course - shout out to both classes for surviving the exams. Anyway, the History rubric for paper 2 and 3 outlines that to reach the highest markband, essays must include an “evaluation of different perspectives”.

From that moment on, I vowed to take the initiative in our relationship and strive to change it for the both of us. Within a month I moved into his house, and over long days in his pickup truck and breakfast in front of the TV drowned out by Jim Kramer’s Mad Money, our new relationship began, one that, I’m glad to say, is thriving.

To use some teacher-speak, today’s exercise will employ the key concept of perspective to discuss which definition of life, based on a cursory internet search, you like the best. •

In general, us Gringos know and think very little about the world. Growing up I didn’t know a single person from another country– and to this day none of my friends I graduated with speak

There’s option A: “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death”

Then option B: “a particular type or aspect of human existence”,

Or the even more simplistic option C: “the period from birth to death”

any other languages. My dad’s international experience is limited to vacations in Cancun, and my 68-year old mom, who got engaged last week to her longtime partner, Bob, got her ring at Walmart. Now it really doesn’t get any worse than that.

Back in fifth and sixth grade I used to lie awake at night in my IKEA bunk bed, wondering what happens when we pass. I imagined my spiritual essence as some grayish smokey dust drifting aimlessly in the vast infinity of space. Overwhelmed and somewhat lost, it was in those moments that I wrestled with the purpose of our collective existence, and it was in those moments that I first concluded that there is no inherent purpose — and that it’s up to us to create it.

Before moving abroad, I definitely didn’t, so I sought about doing my part to change this. Crossing the border into Honduras while crammed into the back of a sweaty minivan, international travel taught me more about my Yankee-ness than the demolition derby or funnel cakes at the Maryland state fair ever could have. Returning home from my first experience abroad, a 15-month backpacking odyssey through Latin America, I found it hard to wrestle with the US’ culture of consumerism, convenience, and egocentrism- it’s true when they say that culture shock is worse when you return home. Whereas a three hour break for lunch and siesta might seem like the pinnacle of laziness to my dad, that’s just his perspective, and his family life might have been a lot different, and better, if the US valued pause, balance, and connection just a little bit more. In my twelfth year abroad, I no longer hang my hat on taking digs at my home country, yet I proudly beat the drum for travel as a powerful tool for expanding cultural narratives and observing and appreciating different approaches to life.

Which brings me to my first point. If that’s the case, and we’re left to make sense of it ourselves, I’d like to argue that one universal truth about the goal of our time here is to identify and strive to improve

So, what is it that you would like to change? What do you see in yourself, your family, your city, or society that could use some improvement, and make that part of your life’s work?

Perhaps you’ll agree that those are shockingly vague, and when it comes to definitions of life, there are surely countless perspectives, and a ton of room for evaluation. Here I am before you today, to analyze and evaluate mine: Let’s start with a clear limitation: I’m from the United States.


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Second, my perspective is colored with YES, and I’d like to recommend yours be, too. Say it often, and quickly, without hesitation or excessive deliberation. Say it without fear of failure or regret for potentially making the wrong decision. Careful now, this doesn’t come without its limitations, and YOLO isn’t always the solution. Use reason and good judgment - I’m not recommending you throw all caution to the wind. Rather, learn to identify that queasy, retching feeling in your stomach and embrace it, because that’s the feeling of YES. You all know what I’m talking about.

Lastly, don’t complain, and don’t feel bad for yourself. Complaining rewires your brain for negativity, making you look for and attract problems. Research suggests that the average person complains 15 to 30 times per day without even realizing it - now just imagine how many times that you quietly rock yourself to inactivity as you complain inside your head. The thing about complaining is that it is self perpetuating, like a virus, and once one person becomes a willing host, patient zero, then an outbreak begins to spread to everyone with whom they come in contact. Complaining is the best friend of procrastination. It leads you to feel bad for yourself, to remove yourself from the solution, then inactivity, blame, and finger pointing set in. Adopt a growth mindset, reflect on your ability to influence outcomes, and be positive.

Take me for instance - the only thing I don’t say yes to is pane Toscana, and maybe Casu Marzu. Cappuccino after lunch? - yes. Chicken on pasta? - please, yes. In all seriousness, saying yes is a way of life, a code to live by, that if you follow, your life will be marked by new experiences, tremendous personal growth, and unexpected friendships. I said yes to moving to Bolivia before I had ever been to the country, and was about to do the same and move to Tokyo before being offered a job at ISF at the very last minute. Upon arrival in Italy, I said yes to sailing from Livorno to Capraia and back with Bruno and Gianni, two dudes I had hardly met, and speaking no Italian. Hey Zeynep, I said yes to writing this speech, didn’t I? I started getting a nervous fear just thinking about it, and that’s exactly what let me know that it was the right thing to do – it’s an honor, the students deserve it, and I could use the practice. Kumusta sa lahat, now I’m moving to the Philippines, yet another country I’ve never been to, to pursue some exciting personal developments.

Don’t hide behind closed doors. Not complaining means practicing healthy communication skills, and speaking directly to the person who can resolve your problem. Most students leave class and complain to their classmates about their teacher, only to go home and complain to their parents about their classmates. This is the complaining virus that has too many of us trapped. It’s negative, it serves little purpose, and it’s destructive to your health, your happiness, and your relationships. Bust down that door and have the hard conversations – ultimately people will respect you for your frank nature, and will trust you, always knowing where they stand with you. So here we are, saying goodbye to the International School of Florence. What your parents and teachers wouldn’t do to be in your shoes. Today is literally the first day of the rest of your life - whoa, I got excited for you just saying that! Then I go.

I’ve seen a lot of yes-saying during my time at ISF. Avery and Luisa said yes to organizing FloMUN, and while their foray only lasted a few months, they got a lesson in web-development and some CAS along the way. Nereo, your long lost classmate, said yes to studying abroad. Jack and Ardalan said yes to speaking at TEDx, and Ericka Bonner, boy did she ever say yes to singing Alicia Keys.

In summary, we learned that life is pointless, so give it meaning. That everything is possible, but nothing is certain. That you should take risks, smile, have fun, and respect the process. That attitude trumps preparation. And that life is beautiful, confusing, and messy all at the same time.

A well-lived life is a casserole of preparation, luck, and “fake it till you make it”, with ratios unknown. There are diverging perspectives on what makes one an adult - is it that you’re 18 years of age or older, all the bills are in your name, or, in my case, you have an extreme case of male pattern baldness. But students, let’s not pretend like the adults out there have it all figured out, and maybe that’s not so important, after all. If it excites you, yet you’re embarrassed, not sure if you’ll succeed, or insert any other limiting factor or lame excuse, then think of me, and say YES.

I wish each and every one of you success, happiness, and most of all, contentment. Treat people well, and be nice to yourself. On behalf of all of the faculty and staff at ISF, it has been a pleasure and a joy to usher you to this point. Now step off this stage and into the big, wide world. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you the graduating class of 2022.


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As I’ve always done throughout my high school career, when I found myself at a loss of words, and didn’t know what to write, I turned to Ms.Van Forst. And while she has been so helpful with my introductions, because I hate writing them, I realized that this is something I had to do for myself. Even though the salutatorian speech is typically an introduction to the ceremony, which is why I was struggling in the first place, this speech is an ode to the people sitting up here with me. So dear classmates, be proud of everything that you have achieved throughout these past few years. We haven’t had it easy, but we made it through with great fortitude. I know I wouldn’t be here without each and every one of you. It is thanks to the healthy competition and immense support that you have provided, not only for me, but for each other, that we manage to say that we are the graduating class of 2022. The first time I knew I was going to graduate this year, I was in fourth grade, ICT class, and I had to put some sort of document in a folder called class of 2022. I have to say, I thought it was an eternity away, a date in the far future. Then all of a sudden I was a middle schooler, I was at the upper school campus, terrified of the upperclassmen, dodging them in the hallways trying to get to my locker before lunch. Almost as quickly as I became a middle schooler, I became a highschooler. Freshman year passes, and along comes sophomore year. The word sophomore comes from the Greek word ‘sophos,’ meaning clever or wise, and the word ‘moros,’ meaning foolish, making us at the time wise fools. While we might be seniors now, I still believe that we are wise fools at heart. It is this trait that will accompany us into the exciting world that now awaits. The fire of this class burns truly bright, bright enough to set off the fire alarm during senior prank day, that one is for you Pietro. Of course the restless nature that has always defined our class has never left us, but in many ways we’ve grown up. And while that excites some, it also terrifies many, because to quote the breakfast club “Oh god are we going to be like our parents?” While our coming of age story might be coming to an end as the credits are rolling, the difficulties that we have had thrown at us, but still overcame, have assured an auspicious future, with endless possibilities. Those possibilities come with choices that are now within our own grasp. A, believe, achieve, succeed, type of thing. Sorry my bad, wrong motto, that was changed. Despite the many failures and mistakes that are still waiting for us ahead, despite the countless setbacks that our adult life is waiting to throw at us, despite the world around us, I am positively sure that each and every one of you will succeed in fulfilling the goals you have set for yourself, because if these past few years has taught us anything, it is resilience.

I hope for all of you that when you look back at these years, you will choose to remember the laughs, and the friendships, instead of being yelled at for being late. Most of us will go our separate ways, some of us are heading off to university, while others have chosen a different path. Yet we will always be united by the memories that we made here at ISF. From enjoying the sun in the pergola, to playing in the cage, to cramming for exams, to this moment right now. We will remember each other in this way: Snippets of life connected together by people, and for the past 12 years you have been my people. Our existence is made up of so many individuals and when people become parts of our lives, some parts remain long after they leave. I believe to seek comfort in the idea that all of you will forever be a part of me.


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On Friday 13th of May it was an important day for the 5th Grade. It was Exhibition Day!

proud, scared, happy and nervous. Everything that they had done, led up to this point.

What is an exhibition? An exhibition is when students pick an area of inquiry that they are passionate about. Here are some pictures showing a few of our inquiries from Exhibition Day.

Grade 5 students said, “The entire 10 weeks of exhibition was a great experience and really fun but at the beginning I was very nervous. Over time I realized that it wasn’t bad at all. Once the exhibition was over I was really proud of myself, I feel so independent, but I’m kind of sad it’s all over.”

There were many different parts of the exhibition, the most important part was the process and documenting our learning in our journals. The journals showed all of our learning throughout the exhibition. We also had to use three different languages in our work.

Reem said “In my opinion the easiest one is probably writing a piece because I was able to use lots of my research. The hardest one is probably creative piece because I made a whole animation. However my favourite part was the research because I got to learn about 9 ASTRONOMERS!!!! The best thing about this unit exhibition is that I always wanted to learn about Astronomy but never got the chance because of homework and school but this unit let me do it.”

Throughout the 10 weeks of exhibition, there were some steps and things that we had to include, these were: • Creating a passion pitch (to prove that you wanted to do your inquiry). • Creating a journal that showed all of our learning experiences. • Lots and lots of research about the inquiry • A written piece ( it could be any style of writing). • An action piece ( use your knowledge of the inquiry to make a difference to others). • A creative piece ( use your knowledge of your topic in a creative way). • A display to show our learning on Exhibition Day On the day of presenting our exhibition Grade 5 were feeling excited,


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Several months ago, the staff at the Junior School were contemplating the internal and external spaces of our historic villa in the Tuscan countryside. It is beautiful, but it could be better, so we have started to make some changes.

was ‘I See’, ‘I Think or Don’t See’’ and ‘I Wonder or Suggest’. The ensuing discussion was really amazing: it seemed like everyone saw the school in a fresh way and the suggestions came piling in. I love primary school teachers! It looks like we will have many projects to get on with over the next couple of years, but to begin with, we thought the entrance to the school, the part that opens everyone’s day, or first visit, needed to be attended. Where else do you begin if not at the front door?

While it cannot be denied that the villa is an amazing place and that it is surely a privileged environment for our young learners, is that what they see and think? Reflecting on this question, thinking in particular about my own children in EY1 and Foundation, I started to wonder about seeing the school through their eyes, from their height, their interests, from what they actually see and experience walking through the building, not the eyes of an I an adult yet anyway?

One of the guiding statements at ISF is: “At ISF we promote and honour home language learning in recognition of our unique identities”. With this in mind, the entrance way was stripped of its 4000 year old plastic map and various boxes and containers. Holes were filled, walls given a fresh coat of paint. The pharaoh head sculpture was…put somewhere else and now you are welcomed by these fun cheeky chappies that mysteriously appeared, all saying either ‘welcome’ or ‘hello’ in one of the nineteen different languages spoken by our multilingual students at the Junior School.

Many things started to occur to me, for example: maybe they don’t think too much about the incredible history of the villa. Maybe they aren’t that impressed by massive stone blocks of varying shades of beige and the delightful layout of our Italian garden. Maybe they don’t see the charm of ‘old’. What do my little ones think? Probably, where are the dinosaurs? Where are the touchy feely bits? What can I break? Where can I sit comfortably and have a chat with my friends? Sorry buddy, just the three hundred year old stone bench for you, and don’t draw on the ancient flakey plaster!

Now we have a bright, fun welcome for all who enter the Junior School.

I started to notice large, blank empty spaces and the lack of interactivity. The mismash of a colour scheme. Posters celebrating our 60th anniversary…back in 2012. Old doors, probably once beautiful, now looking a little like they needed love. In fact did the entire space need a bit of post COVID love? In my opinion it did.

All this cannot be done without the support of many magnificent people. Thank you to the amazing maintenance crew at the Junior School for all the help with ladders and freshly painted walls: grazie Fabio, Guillermo e Tommaso! Thank you to the teacher crew: Stefania, Jennifer, Nicky and Amy, and thank you Eva (Grade 5) for your help with the painting. Of course a final thank you to Tony and Ylenia for signing off on the materials and the project itself.

So off I went to annoy the entire Junior School staff. Happily, everyone actually wanted to have an open discussion on how to improve the learning spaces, how to celebrate the learning and our students’ identities, and how to design spaces that encourage wellbeing. Woohoo, win for me!

We will keep you updated with the ongoing ‘beautification’. Next stop Early Years and more student-led projects. Mike Terrell

To facilitate our discussion, teachers split into groups and took a walk around an allocated area of the building. They were told to see the spaces through the eyes of either a ‘student’, a ‘teacher’ or a ‘parent’. To record this visual adventure, we used an adapted thinking tool from Harvard Project Zero (See, Think, Wonder), although this time it

Grade 4 Classroom Teacher


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Above Left: Before shots of the JS hallway. Below: The new space!


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On Saturday 11th of June, ISF hosted a senior Math team competition, which saw fifteen of our Grade 10 and Grade 11 students competing in teams of four against their peers from three other International schools in Italy, St. George’s and Southlands in Rome, and the International school of Brescia. In total there were 43 students and 11 teams.

Students were engaged in tackling challenging problems for more than three hours and everyone enjoyed solving them together in teams. After the open questions round, they had a well-deserved lunch, followed by a scavenger hunt around the Upper School campus, where students from different schools were mixed up to make six teams.

The competition was made up of three rounds, each of which included different types of activities. For the first round, students had to complete five sets of multiple choice questions, with problems ranging from Algebra, to Geometry, to Probability and some Number Theory. The only help students had was their graphical calculator, but in most of the questions they had to rely completely on their logical reasoning and algebraic skills. For the second round, they were given a crossnumber, which works like a crossword, but instead of letters, each square must be filled with a digit, forming 3-digit or 4-digit numbers. To make things more complicated, most of the across and down clues require the answers from other clues to be solved. To get high scores in this puzzle, students need strong team working and communication skills. The winning team found 127 out of the 132 digits correctly, an outstanding result! ISF teams also did well, with one team finding 102 correct digits and another one 94. In the third round, students were given 40 minutes to solve a set of 10 open questions as a group.

After the Scavenger hunt, we held the awards ceremony. Both the first two places were taken by teams from St. George’s, and in third place was the team from Southlands. ISF teams did not finish on the podium, even if their final score was only 25 points away from the third position. Our best two teams achieved fifth place (Valentina Xie, Eric Zhao, Alessia Zheng) and sixth place (Marko Mijatovic, Nicolò Petrocchi, Jacky Wu, Angela Zhang). The other ISF students who participated were Ludovica Colzi Bini, Paolo Ge, Lili Halmai, Martin Liao, Kevin Lu, Devaki Menon, Teresa Meoni and Nadia Tang. Well done to all of them! Next year we will try to increase the number of these opportunities and we would like to see more and more students take part in them. The Mathematics Department at ISF


I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


How does reflecting on our learning contribute to the learning process? Does deliberate reflection make us better learners? Can reflection enable us to position our learning within a broader context?

and over again in order to get them right, something that I’ve not often done. Chemistry helped me realize that the struggle and confusion are a huge part of learning.”

The ISF Science Department maintains a culture of placing reflection at the center of student learning. In our Science courses in grades 6-10, students are asked to reflect on various aspects of their learning.

“I did not learn so much because I had to learn a lot of new information in a short amount of time, which made things confusing.” “This class has really shown me the step-up in challenge from middle to high school. I understand school is more serious and we have more responsibility now.”

Do you feel that you have learned a lot? Was your learning valuable? Did taking Science help you to improve your approach to learning?


How did learning in Science class help you to grow as a student and as a person?

“I have really been motivated to study more and instead of memorizing information, I am beginning to understand.” “I consider what I learned in Science classes valuable as the topics are important for my IB classes later on.”

GRADE 8 “I have participated more than any other class I’ve done, so that helped me grow.”

“I became more active with my note-taking in Biology this year, which improved my habits in other classes.”

“I felt that every lesson or almost I came in the class and left with knowledge in my head.”

“Taking this class has provoked me to reflect on my time management skills. But it also showed me that I need to look at difficult material through the lens of logic.”

“It has helped me to grow and realize that my devices are a distraction and prohibit me from learning.”

“I believe the class discussions we had were at times very developed and mature, which helped me grow as a person/student.”

“I learned well when I paid attention and took notes, but I didn’t learn so well when I didn’t do those things.” GRADE 9 “I feel this class has improved my work ethic, and because of the difficulty, eliminated some of my procrastination habits.”

ISF’s Science Laboratory Technician Ossi Yosania recently completed a research project on the importance of student reflection in learning Science in grades 9 and 10. Among many relevant outcomes, she found that 87% of surveyed students considered that reflecting on their learning was useful in improving learning and inquiry skills.

“Getting feedback on lab reports to strengthen my writing was helpful. It helped me identify what I am doing well and next steps I need to work on.” “I understood the importance of working hard and trying things over


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Grade 6 Physics students engaged in a group reflection session, May 2022

Grade 10 Chemistry students conducting the famous “titration experiment,” May 2022


I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


One of my favorite CAS Experiences this year was back in February when the Connectors were working together with the Junior and Upper School in order to send roses and Valentine’s Day wishes to the residents of Casa Di Riposo Villa Santa Teresa, a local retirement home. Grade 5 students at the Junior School decorated cards personalized to each resident of the home. Over the course of the week the Connectors raised money through candy grams at the Upper School, which was used to purchase roses, one for each resident. The cards, each accompanied by a rose, were given to the residents of the home on Monday the 14th of February. We are very grateful for the support received from our community and the possibility to carry out such a heartwarming and rewarding initiative, that put smiles on many faces this Valentine’s Day. I hope to be able to organize more events of this kind in the future. We will now be working on welcoming new students and their families on campus over the summer, we can’t wait to meet everyone at the new family orientation day in August. Weronika Wieczerzak Ponte Nuovo Symposium is 11th Grader Katherine Dick’s CAS Project. It is a personal initiative designed to bring young adults together with experienced professionals whose work involves global politics, government, and human rights. The goal of Ponte Nuovo is to tap into the Florentine community and gain an intimate understanding of current issues directly from experienced professionals. A group of eight students has met with people such as the Former Prime Minister of Canada, a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, the US Consul General, and many more. The students are able to ask questions and have a conversation with each of these professionals. Here is a link to the website to read more about each of the guests: Katherine Dick


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What a unique experience! A giant well done to the ISF Cantabile Choir! After all the choristers’ hard work, many rehearsals, sometimes even on Saturdays, I can definitely say that their performance in the Mondsee Cathedral, where the wedding scene in the iconic film The Sound of Music took place, was simply impeccable. Our school was proudly represented in Austria, the city of Mozart. Dressed in elegant choir’s uniforms, behaving professionally and singing with beautiful voices, hearts in harmony, the ISF Cantabile convinced the audience and provoked a huge applause mixed with tears of emotions. At the end of the concert, each student received a beautiful certificate “in recognition of their dedication and commitment to the success of the outstanding performance in Salzburg.” The day after, students enjoyed a guided tour of Mirabell Garden, sights of scenes from The Sound of Music, Mozart’s birthplace and Hellbrunn Trick Water Gardens. It was such a great and unforgettable experience! A big thank you to Ms Sofia, Mrs Natalia, Mr DiFlorio, and in particular Mr Perrotta!


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FloMUN made its way to Florence this spring. Florence Model United Nations presents students with a superb opportunity to engage with young people from across Italy in passionate, informed debates about the most urgent issues facing humanity. Students were tasked with seeking out a range of views and perspectives when solving problems and they came to understand the danger, in a globalized world, “of a single story”. They examined ideas that challenged their own personal views and came to enjoy the complexity of multiple perspectives.

and a schedule full of events. On Saturday, after opening ceremonies and casual introductions, a guest speaker took the floor. Donata Garrasi, a former Director of Political Affairs for the United Nations for which she led sensitive political negotiations and peace initiatives in several countries in Africa, amazed the crowd with her experience. Thus, she was able to share insight on what work with the UN had taught her. Hosting a range of children interested in the same line of work as what Ms. Garrasi truly allowed them to not only Model United Nations for the weekend, but live it through the esteemed guest’s background.

This conference was organized by students attending the International School of Florence promoting diplomacy, democracy, and diversity to further inspire critical thinking in young minds through the use of global education.

Luckily, the students could enjoy themselves during their breaks with delicacies of the Florentine cuisine provided by Ristorante Accademia. First and second courses, followed by dessert, were cooked and thought up by Gianni Iacovitti. As external students enjoyed the new scenery, the students attending from the International School of Florence guided and supported the newbies.

On a weekend beginning May 30th and ending on the 1st of April, students from the International schools of surrounding boroughs of Florence joined together at the Upper School campus. Not only the Staff and Secretariat enjoyed seeing eager students make their way up the hill, but when they met each other for the first time, diplomacy instantly sparked.

With a total of nine hours of debate, the different committees of the conference: ECOSOC, Human Rights, Political, and European Council finalized resolutions. The chairs of each committee reported being extremely proud of the effort shown by the delegates and specially congratulated the honorable and best mentions. All in all, the very first FloMUN Conference in 2022 was an overwhelming success, paving the way for more conferences hosted by ISF in the future.

Leading up to the event, a range of passionate students signed up for the event and older students also volunteered to help with the practicalities of hosting such a big conference. Ranging from photographers to food servers, ISF accommodated more than one hundred participants with an enthusiastic team, a wonderful venue,


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I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


In the early years, our community connects with the natural world that surrounds our campus by frequent trips to our Olive Grove. Learning opportunities outdoors are essential elements to a well-rounded, balanced connection with ourselves and our world. Young children’s well-being is at the center, as we engage their sense of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sound, helping them to understand and find meaning in the natural world. By recognising basic cause and effect relationships, students in the Early Years become aware of the importance of showing care and respect for living things as well as for themselves and each other. As an example in EY1 recent trips to the Olive Grove have led to investigations of insects and living animals in the stream. Students found a wide variety of the smallest forms of life as they discovered, shared with each other, observed closely and documented what they found. Students brought some of that life back to the classroom to observe over a few days and we were able to see a minute caterpillar transform into a tiny moth. We have found baby snails, baby shrimp, earwigs, ants and many more. The excitement of discoveries, the engagement, the sharing and the caring for these small creatures exemplifies the values we all in ISF are aiming to instill in our students and it starts right here with the youngest learners.



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I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


I S F J U N E 2022 N E WS L E T T E R


This spring, ISF staff experienced our Third Research Conference, reporting on the work of 10 research projects involving staff and parent research teams. We also had a keynote speech on assessment and learning from one of our visiting Icelandic guests Hjordis Thorsgeirdottir. The research page on the website can be accessed at We would also like to invite our community to view the 10 projects, ask questions and leave comments. To do this we have created a padlet that provides you with a short, 5 minute summary of each project via video and slides. By clicking on the + symbol below each presentation you can leave a comment or ask a question. The researchers will check in and hopefully be able to answer your questions and appreciate your comments. We will be inviting parents again next year to join our research programme - invitations to join will follow in May. You can access the research conference padlet at rmccue/actionresearchprojectcohort3ert.


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