World Ready, Merci Beaucoup!by Leorah Gavidor January 3, 2018
Many nationalities come together to learn at the San Diego French-American School, on Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, where pre-K through middle school students enjoy a thoroughly bilingual education. Head of School Mark Rosenblum, a French speaker who also happens to be Jewish, said that the most unique aspect of the education students receive at SDFAS is “academic and cultural fluency in French and English combined with character development that stresses empathy, integrity, rigor, excellence, open-mindedness and global citizenship.”
During preschool and elementary school, the majority of instruction in all subjects takes place in French. In middle school it transitions to half French, half-English, and Spanish as a third language is added in fifth grade.
Teachers from such far-flung francophone locales as Madagascar, Cote d’Ivoire, Reunion Island, Quebec, France, Belgium, and Switzerland bring their different French accents and cultures to the students. Rosenblum, who came to SDFAS in August 2017 from the French-American School of New York in Westchester County, said that the curriculum is a well-balanced combination of standards from California state and the French ministry of national education.
Of course, a French education would not be complete without cooking—students practice making chocolate mousse, crepes and pastries. This academic year preschoolers created art inspired by Klee, Mondrian, Dubuffet, Van Gogh and other artists, which was on display at La Jolla Library. Middle schoolers held a mock trial in both French and English, and tried out their Spanish skills at a Mexican food restaurant in Chula Vista. The value of global citizenship imbues all activities at the school.
“Our students’ education at SDFAS opens doors around the world. It is not only the language, but the rigorous education and having an open mind to people of other nations, cultures, religions or those who speak different languages. This is the unique opportunity our bilingual education offers to our students,” said Rosenblum.
SDFAS develops student leadership and team-building skills with an active Humanitarian Club, a Junior Model United Nations Club, and an athletics program complemented by a new sports field completed in 2017. Students participate in a robotics and coding course, as well as in art, world music and theater programs. The theater group benefits from visits by French-American actor Jean-Marc Barr (Le Grand Bleu), who went to high school in San Diego and is the patron of the annual Festival of Film at SDFAS.
Other visitors to the school include famous French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, a scientist who collaborates with Scripps Institution of Oceanography on Arctic research. Etienne talked with students and educators about his work on climate change and ocean temperatures.
SDFAS graduates who return to the school to meet prospective students and families talk about how a bilingual education prepared them for high school and beyond by teaching them how to be organized, juggle various subjects, manage their time and think critically.
“A growing body of research confirms that bilingual children have more powerful brains, better executive function, an easier time transitioning from one activity to another, better focus, less distractibility, and greater capacities in language as well as in math and science. Our students learn the skills of global citizenship: creativity and innovation, collaboration and team work, fluency in multiple languages, facility in multiple cultures, intellectual rigor, and self discipline,” said Rosenblum.
The head of school also shared that students from SDFAS have gone on to attend many kinds of colleges for higher education, including Harvard, La Sorbonne, Berkeley and Oxford.
“They have studied abroad in countries in Europe, Latin America, South America, and around the world. They are lawyers who’ve worked in England, scientists who’ve worked in France, business people who’ve worked in Italy, political scientists who are in Washington DC…and the list goes on,” Rosenblum said of his students’ worldly accomplishments.
San Diego French-American School was founded in 1988 by André and Chandra Bordes in Clairemont Mesa. The current location opened in 2006. The school motto is “Multilingual. Multitalented. World ready.”Α