Bend International School recently celebrated its first year serving the students and community of Bend. Tucked away off of O.B. Riley Road on the north side of town, BIS is a public charter school teaching kindergarten through eighth grade (K-8) using a world language immersion program. It makes well-rounded education the main focus for its students, incorporating culture in lesson plans, presentations and even in its daily lunch program.
"When we can teach children in a way that is related to the real world, it becomes a lot more meaningful," says Meera Rupp, the director of the school. "They are part of the world and they can make a difference," she says.
Rupp and her staff at Bend International School are bilingual and world traveled. Rupp grew up in a multicultural home, her father being from India and her mother, Irish-American. She has lived in India, the Dominican Republic and Spain, and is fluent in Spanish. The school uses the immersion method to teach Spanish. Half of the day is taught or experienced in Spanish, including electives, lunch, project-based learning and specials. The other half of the day is in English.
The school teaches a basic education outlined by state requirements, but does not stop there. The teachers' lesson plans instill in each pupil knowledge and familiarity with other world cultures. Mixing up the everyday routine within the educational experience is a key concept for the school. "It's easy for students to be in school and get bored," says Rupp. Although America is a melting pot of culture, religion and race, the actual study and involvement with these groups can be lacking in everyday life. It's the experience, curiosity and interest that is important in retention.
BIS involves their students in as much diversity as it can in every way it can. Each day of the week features the cuisine of a different country through the school's local-global lunch program. Young palettes get a taste of international fare with the menu changing daily to cater to the different flavors that come from a variety of different world regions. This allows for the students to be stimulated to learn through all five senses.
Bend residents hold culture and arts in high regard and international knowledge is greatly sought after and appreciated. However, there are limited opportunities for firsthand experience with other cultures available within the community. BIS is changing that, one student, one project and one lunch at a time.
By making diversification a normal part of the students' routine, and an everyday experience, students are presented a unique perspective on not only their own lives, but on others, no matter how far away that may be.
Starting at such a young age, these students communicate with children in other countries. The goal is bilingual fluency (Spanish/English) and advanced reading and writing skills for native and non-native speakers. Every student and teacher at the school is matched with a partner in Tiaquepaque, Mexico, to communicate and work together throughout the year.
Meaningful learning at Bend International includes projects that benefit the local and global community. There is a focus on the natural world, including environmental education and outdoor learning, as well as service-based learning. In addition to bilingualism, the school also places great value on the unique expression and learning style of the individual. It teaches non-violent communication and conflict resolution as well as critical thinking to help resolve social problems, and one day, society at large.
Bend International School
Public K-8 Charter School
63020 O. B. Riley Rd., Bend