Our programs are built around a philosophy and commitment to applied learning.
At KIS our students apply what they learn - they transfer their knowledge and skills across subject areas as they work to solve real-world problems in a safe, caring, and nurturing environment.
We believe a supportive environment is essential to learning as students grow and navigate campus relationships, teaching one another, and learning together. We think each school day is an opportunity for fun and challenge as students engage with curricular content and extracurricular activities. We recognize our students are whole individuals with their own interests, ideas and hopes, and so our mission is to encourage each student to be more who they are, helping to identify and develop their strengths.
KIS is proud of our partnership with Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Each year we fundraise to support the work of Jackson Kaguri, Nyaka founder. This year Pangyo elementary opened the fundraising with a special message from past principal Danielle Rich. Her family visited Nyaka and she shared her experience with us. Here Chloe O, Joonsung C and Kevin C, fifth graders from Christine Canales’s class, tell us more about the program.
What Is Nyaka?
Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project is an organization that helps orphans in need and provides them free education with health care. Their mission is to support vulnerable towns in Uganda so that people living in those towns have a “chance to learn, grow, and thrive,” according Nyaka’s site. Nyaka officially started in 2003 as a two room primary school for 55 students, all HIV/AIDS orphans. Jackson Kaguri, the founder and CEO, wanted to help children so that they could go to a good university and achieve their dreams.
The Reason This All Started
When Jackson was young, he was very poor. Fortunately, he was able to go to school, but with only one fifth of a pencil. Because his dad couldn’t afford to buy one pencil for each child, Jackson and his siblings shared one pencil broken into five pieces. Ultimately, having one fifth of a pencil is the main reason that Jackson went to Columbia University for his college education, because his parents wanted him to have an education.
How KIS Started Supporting Nyaka
Jackson was inspired to make a difference to others after dealing with a hard situation in his own childhood, but he knew he couldn’t do it alone. One day Jackson shared his vision with Kevin Jaramillo, a former KIS educator and also a friend of Jackson. Jokingly, Kevin gave Jackson a few coins from his pocket. But soon, Kevin found out that Jackson was serious, and since then, we, KIS, have been doing our best to support Nyaka.
This Year’s #ONEKIS Goal & Fundraising Efforts
This year’s #ONEKIS goal was raising 24,000,000 KRW to build a field for the Nyaka students. The field will be called the Nyaka Phoenix Field, giving students a place to play. Pangyo and Seoul campus elementary schools made nearly 10,300,000 KRW alone! The incentive was that if you give a certain amount of money – for example 10,000 won – then you got 10 slips of paper that would be inserted into a raffle. If you were chosen then you got a prize. Additionally, students earned extra recess for reaching goal milestones. Besides making flat donations, money was raised through donations to and purchases at the Nyaka Market, through bakes sales, Seoul campus fun run, middle school PE fun run and the 5K family fun run, which was sponsored by the high school’s Friends of Nyaka club.
Destination Imagination (DI) develops creativity. Stretches creativity. Even forces creativity. From the start, teams practice instant challenges. An “instant challenge” is just what it sounds like: no time to think too much about what your team creates in response to the prompt. Instant challenges keep the mind nimble and teach team members to work with one another, quickly, trusting each other to do their role. Learning how to do an instant challenge is not instant though. This year three teams of seven third, fourth and fifth graders are figuring out how to be a team – how to communicate, collaborate and cooperate – and instant challenges fast track a team’s camaraderie and working relationship.
At one of the early practices run by Jeremy and Jessica Jacobsen, a team sat in a circle on the floor reading an instant challenge. Using the materials available – markers, paper, scissors, tape – the team had to create a play set in a garden, with something unexpected happening to the garden. Five minutes to plan, two minutes to perform. DI parameters are tight. Coaches may not guide the creative process so kids who might turn to a teacher for help must now rely on their own ideas, or their peers. This takes practice. Part of practice is falling short.
The garden did not grow. During the five minute prep time, the team talked over one another, argued a little, reached no consensus on the garden surprise. A couple of team members worked alone to cut flowers from the paper, missing conversation about the performance. The first minute of performance was spent hastily planning the performance which was less performance and more wild improv. Really, it can only get better, and that’s the point. Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen gathered the team together to talk about the instant challenge task, what went well, and what needed to be improved. The team talked about how to carefully read a task prompt, the different roles (like materials manager or timekeeper) each person can play to make sure the task is completed.
I joined DI because my mom dared me. She knew I would enjoy the challenges.
– Brandon, grade 4
“Want to try again?” asked Mrs. Jacobsen. Mr. Jacobsen readied a second challenge, another performance task, and the group behaved in a different way. Team members listened to one another, checked the time remaining, assigned jobs, and presented a play that held together.
I wanted more of a challenge than just studying at home. This is different than writing on paper. This isn’t just for winning. It’s also just for fun.
– Soyoon, grade 4
At another practice, coaches Gene MacLachlan and Moon Jung asked their team to set guidelines for their meeting time.
Use positive language!
Use time properly – stay on task!
For the next few months, they will reference these guidelines as they practice instant challenges and build their team challenge. Each Pangyo elementary team chose a different team challenge. Mr. MacLachlan and Ms. Jung’s team chose Game On. Mr. Jacobsen’s team is working on Monster Effects, and Mrs. Jacobsen’s team picked On Target. Each group will have until the Korea DI competition in February to ready their team challenge.
But on this afternoon, Mr. MacLachlan offers a silly game. Make 3D shapes with your bodies. One girl decides the group will make a triangular prism and directs her peers to make lines and angles with their arms and legs. Much like Mr. and Mrs. Jacobsen’s instant challenge task, this is a chance for team members to see how they work together, and to later decide how to work better together. When the group realizes they were making a pyramid, not a prism, they talked about what information they needed to know before starting. When Mr. MacLachlan asked why the team used their whole bodies to make shapes – why not make a shape using just arms or hands? – the team talked about being flexible in their approach to a task.
Learning how to work together and be flexible may be the first DI challenges for each team. Throughout the DI season, we’ll check in with the three teams to see what they are learning, and we’ll follow them through competition.
What made it look fun? Video clips. All the cool things featured on DI US.
– Nathan, grade 5
This year Terry, a senior at KIS, had an idea about how to work with refugees living in Seoul. Over summer break he interned at pNan, an NGO serving refugees from many different countries, and while Terry was only with the organization for three weeks, he learned about the challenges refugees face in South Korea. He also connected with a few refugees who also love to rock climb. Once school started again, Terry asked John Miller, rock climbing club sponsor, to help him organize a trip for refugees. The day trip would accomplish a couple of things. First, rock climbing in Gwanaksan gave refugees staying at pNan a chance to see a different part of Seoul, in the middle of nature, empowered by their own strength as they climbed. Second, Terry wants to show his fellow South Koreans who refugees are: people like any of us.
I believe that the best way to connect to a country is by being physically connected to its nature.
The political issues and personal assumptions about refugees challenge us to really take opportunities to make connections with people who are from somewhere else, who may have arrived here because it is not safe or feasible to stay in their home country. Terry grew up understanding that people must leave their own country for a variety reasons. His grandfather was exiled to Canada in the 1980s, as a political dissident, taking his family along, including Terry’s mom who was then in elementary school. Now Terry wants South Koreans to practice empathy toward the refugees here. “Now refugees are not considered as guests, but as burdens on our society,” Terry says, “If we can make them feel welcome, that’s a good thing.”
From Terry’s blog post about the day:
“Thank you so much for organizing this trip and giving us the opportunity to climb the wall. We have so much stress and all we see everyday in Korea is roads and buildings. I did not know that there was such a fun and beautiful place in Korea.”
This is what Edwin, one of the refugees, said to me on the way down from the hike. Yesterday, I went on a rock climbing trip with the refugees and students from my rock climbing club at school. We went on a hike to a natural rock in Gwanaksan and climbed there with the refugees for almost four hours. At first, the refugees were a little worried about their safety and one of them jokingly said to me, “Don’t let me die, please” before I belayed him for a climb. However, after a few tries the refugees started loving the climb and enjoyed the struggle of going up the rock. I personally enjoyed climbing too because it was my first time ever to go outdoor rock climbing after only rock climbing artificial rocks for two years.
I feel like it was a great opportunity not only for the refugees, but for the students of KIS as well. In times when xenophobia towards refugees is growing stronger than ever in Korea, to be physically connected to the refugees through a single rope and a carabiner, one dangling above and one supported from under, creates this invisible bond that told us that the refugees are not some people do get rid of, but our friends who can help us and happily live with us in Korea.
And for John Miller’s perspective on the day:
There is a climbing book that starts with the sentence “The mountain had been there a long time.” If I were to parody a story starter for the tale of Terry Lee, rock climbing club president, it could begin with: Terry had been there a long time.
In a way, Terry is like that mountain, a presence in the climbing community. A naturally talented athlete, he is predisposed to the reachy, powerful contrivances of climbing, the mental puzzles and contortions. After he quickly mastered the challenges of our KIS climbing wall, it was natural for Terry to want to stretch his imagination and skills and take his climbing to the next level, this time including his climbing club friends and refugees he met through pNan.
I put Terry in touch with Eddie Park, a rock climbing guide. Terry scouted the rock climbing site, preparing to lead the excursion for his peers. Eddie and I also scouted the climbing location beforehand to assess risk, ensure safety and guarantee an appropriate experience for beginner climbers.
Terry and I trained the younger members of climbing club to belay and give instruction to others. Because I know that the best way to learn something is to try to teach it yourself, I was confident that this experience would be a true service and learning opportunity for our students. As the day neared, our excitement grew.
The alarm blares. Early. Much earlier than your average high school student is used to waking up on a Saturday. I hope they show up, I thought to myself. I drove out to our appointed meeting spot and there they all were, five KIS high school students, all ready to go. I sent them up the hill to the rocks to get started with Eddie, and waited for the refugees to arrive on the subway a bit later. When they arrived, we shared introductions and walked up the hill.
“You got this! C’mon, push it!” Encouragement wafted past the falling leaves as a light breeze shifted around the slanting daylight of the canyon. Our KIS students happily led and belayed new climbers, checking harnesses, providing safety and encouragement in the manner in which they had been trained. I was impressed to see the maturity and skill with which they handled their newfound leadership roles. They puzzled over the moves and worked out the sequences of complicated climbing puzzles.
At the end of the day, everyone had a hard time saying goodbye to one another, and I got the sense that the memory was likely to linger for some time to come. The students and refugees experienced the camaraderie of the rock and the feeling first expressed by Everest pioneer George Leigh Mallory, that “What we get from climbing is just sheer joy.”
Last week, nine storytellers from around the world visited KIS as a part of the first ever Korea International Storytelling Festival. The theme of this year’s festival was peace and cooperation. The purpose of the event was to share traditional stories from both Korea and around the world in order to help students learn about the different storytelling cultures that exist around the world, in different languages, and which are passed down through generations. Storytelling creates a sense of pride in our own individual cultures and also develops a sense of pride for the cultures that exist within our KIS community and throughout the world. Students and staff alike were highly entertained during the interactive experience! This
This Thursday, Friday and Saturday, KIS high school drama department is producing five one act plays written, directed and performed by l students. Go to watch! But first, catch up with a few students working to make this happen. Thank you Lauren Cuellar, high school drama teacher, and drama students for taking time to talk. Happy last rehearsals!
“Beauty Myth” with writer and director Juebin, co-director Clement, and stage manager Jessica
The central character of “Beauty Myth” is a young woman who moves from America to attend an international school in Korea. What she she sees when she arrives is a cultural obsession with beauty. Juebin (grade12) wrote the play to highlight how of the many standards we might measure ourselves by, the standard of beauty is one of the narrowest. Make up is great. Looking pretty is great. But the implication that women must wear make up, must attend their appearance – that’s what Juebin explores in “Beauty Myth.” She hopes the audience reflects on their own beauty choices too.
Writing and directing is a good challenge for Juebin. While writing she met with Ms. Cuellar to work through writer’s block. And once she had a vision for her play, Juebin had to learn how to lead so that her crew also found that vision. As co-directors, both Juebin and Clement (grade 11) have say in the sound, lighting, props, and music. Clement admits things don’t always go as planned, but directing is fun. Once production decisions are made, first time stage manager Jessica (grade 10) is in charge of ensuring a smooth performance. Jessica says she is constantly “on” while the play is onstage.
“Infected With Love” with writer and director Andrew, co-director James, and stage manager Ismail
Before enrolling at KIS, Andrew (grade 12) was already steeped in drama programs at his Korean public school. This is a slightly different challenge, though, because he actually wrote the play. Andrew has the fun of taking an idea from first draft through its portrayal by actors onstage.
Seeing your vision come to life piece by piece is magical. I’m addicted to that feeling.
Andrew and James (grade 12) had doubts about how the play might go. They and their crew had to be flexible to one another to make “Infected With Love” work as lighthearted but thought provoking, and they hope the audience has fun (even laughs!) while watching. Helping to pull the play together is Ismail (grade 11), who interacts with everyone involved in the play, and has fun participating in the show by making sure there is a show.
“Light Of The Blues”with writer and director Hope
Last summer, Hope (grade 12) attended a drama workshop in the US, and there she started drafting “Light Of The Blues.” Hope wrote the play very quickly – ten pages a day – but revising the story was more difficult. The play is complex, centering on siblings revisiting a childhood home, the revelation of family secrets and trauma, and the exploration of relationships.
I’m interested in how stories interact with our lives: guilt, memory, love. Which stories are the right stories?
She is pleased that her cast dived into the content, and as difficult as some of the scenes are, they offer maturity and grace to elevate the play. Hope suggests audience members be middle school age or older, and wants her audience to walk away thinking about how their own actions play out in others’ lives.
“Alternates” and“Light Of The Blues”actor Disha
Disha (grade 11) loves to act. She has been part of KIS productions since grade seven! One of her favorite plays was “Seeing Red,” a dinner theater she performed in her freshman year. The challenge of that production was that eyes were everywhere, making the whole room a stage. Disha likes to shrug off school or home stress and be another person, imagine a different life. She makes a script on paper come to life.
Knowing the power and joy of drama, Disha hopes to continue studying acting.
“Alternates” co-director and general stage manager Emma
Emma most enjoys being behind the scenes, knowing what is going on, and keeping everyone on task. She is good at seeing the logistics of taking a play from its first rehearsals to its final performance. Emma works alongside Ms. Cuellar to ensure each of the one act plays have what they need.
Emma grew up watching musicals, so joining drama during grade six at KIS was natural. Her first two years, she acted small parts, but during grade eight Emma discovered the stage manager role, one she is perfectly fit to play. “Theater gets better every year,” Emma says, “It’s like a small business with Ms. Cuellar, directors, stage managers, crew, cast. Everyone has a role and everyone is needed. You hear that, but it’s true. You find your place here.” Indeed, Emma has grown up with friends she first made as a grade six actor. Now she wants an audience to watch the one act plays, to enjoy the stories, but also to appreciate the work of each person who is part of these productions.