Category Archives: International Understanding

Our International Community: A Letter from our Head of School

By | Alumni, International Understanding, Leadership by Example | No Comments

The following is the introduction to Bob Carignan’s February 2, 2017 newsletter to the Riverstone community. To read previous Riverstone newsletters, you may link to our archives here. We invite you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

A few years ago, I remember teaching a unit on Persepolis, the Iranian graphic novel, and a student pondered what life would be like in Iran. As if magically, the classroom door opened and I heard “Hi Bob!” coming from a recent Riverstone graduate who had spent the summer in Iran with her family. So I gave her the floor to discuss her experiences and what life was like in Iran for her and her family. I remember the enormous pride I felt that we at Riverstone, in Boise, Idaho, had built an authentic international community in thought and deed that connected our kids everywhere. I am no less proud now.

We have welcomed immigrants, refugees, exchange students, and green card holders from throughout the Middle East and Africa, including most of the seven countries experiencing the current immigration and travel ban. In all cases, these students and their families made Riverstone a better place by deepening the richness of our community and widening the perspective of our students. Included below are pictures from our 2005-06 school yearbook, featuring our international students. We are proud of this tradition and of bringing these incredible students into our community year after year.

I want to make it clear where we stand as a school. Riverstone will continue to welcome students from around the world. We will continue to read and teach from a global curriculum. We will continue to give our students an understanding of the Middle East and the worlds great religions. We will continue to encourage free and open inquiry. We will continue to encourage critical thinking in which facts matter. We will continue guiding our students through difficult conversations in an atmosphere of respect.

These changes are already impacting our community. Please read this article from a major German newspaper concerning one of our graduates, Kat T (’10).

Places like Riverstone, places that strive to teach students empathy through a diverse curriculum including the study of global art and music are places that can serve as antidotes to hatred and ignorance.

Yes, the world is a difficult and complex place that can be dangerous. But, we need to stand for opportunity and understanding; optimism and realism can exist side by side. A disciplined, “liberal education” that is global in reach, asks difficult questions and does not settle for easy answers, encourages 21st Century skills like collaboration, celebrates diversity, and encourages understanding is the best way to prepare students for the most important job that lies ahead: being informed and responsible citizens who seek peace and make the world a better place.

Bob Carignan
Head of School

Celebrating the Chinese New Year and Carnival!

By | Elementary School, High School, International Understanding, Middle School | No Comments

This week, international understanding was front and center as Riverstone students celebrated two international holidays: Chinese New Year and Carnival.

To kick off the Year of the Monkey, High School students learned from their Chinese peers how to write their names in Mandarin, and Middle School students cooked an authentic Chinese feast for lunch.  Our Preschool students set the stage for the Elementary School festivities by making a giant dragon and parading through the hallways and classrooms. Later in the day, Chinese students from Northwest Nazarene University shared stories, games, and music in an Elementary School assembly.

On Tuesday, the festivities continued when our International Committee hosted a lunch time celebration of Carnival in the Elementary School. They shared decadent treats that would traditionally be offered in Brazil, talked about traditions and listened to Brazilian music. Additionally, the committee provided teachers with materials to decorate masks to take home. The committee also created a beautiful display that demonstrates the many ways that Carnival is celebrated around the world. 

Please stop in the Elementary School atrium this week and check out the Carnival and Chinese New Year displays. Photos are posted on Riverstone’s Facebook page and Instagram. 

Launching Our Residential Program

By | Academic Excellence, High School, IB, International Understanding, Middle School | No Comments

Exciting news from Head of School, Bob Carignan, was originally shared on November 19, 2015:   

Dear Riverstone Families, Faculty, Staff, and Friends,

As we near the Thanksgiving holiday and end of our 2015 Annual Fund campaign, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for the time, energy, and dedication of the Riverstone community. Since the school was founded in 1997, there have been countless people and organizations who have helped us steadily grow and improve the education we provide. We continue to reflect and refine who we are as an organization and how we best meet the needs of our students. Just as we strive to inspire our students’ journeys, we too have our own journey as an institution.

I am delighted to share news of the next big steps in our school’s journey.

Earlier this week, the Board of Trustees authorized the administrative team to begin taking the necessary steps to build Phase 1 of a new Middle and High School building with a goal of breaking ground during 2016. Phase 1 will replace our current modulars that are nearly 20 years old and have reached a point of diminishing returns on maintenance expenses. Although plans are still being developed, the footprint for Phase 1 will cover approximately the area where the modulars currently exist. In the future, when Phase 2 of the Middle and High School has been completed, the architecture for the entire structure will complement the Elementary School building.

Committing to the construction of this new building is consistent with our 2014-2019 Strategic Plan with respect to facilities, academic excellence, and managing enrollment. As you may recall, we prioritized the use of permanent building space for instructional purposes and in fact have limited the number of classes being taught in the modulars this year. Both students and teachers will benefit from the improved learning environment of this new building. We also anticipate benefits in terms of greater retention and recruitment of students and faculty.

The early success of our endowment campaign, Navigating Forward, has enabled us to pursue building Phase 1 of the new Middle and High School. In fact, the financial assets of our endowment fund have enabled the Trustees to pursue this opportunity to build Phase 1 without additional fundraising efforts such as a capital campaign. As with any endowment, the principal remains intact and will continue to grow with additional contributions. There will be more information about our endowment campaign in the near future, but please know that we are very grateful to everyone who has contributed to the endowment campaign thus far.

Secondly, we are transitioning our model for hosting international students. We have partnered with a developer to design and lease a new residential community in downtown Boise opening in the fall of 2016. Currently, our international students live with host families, predominantly relying upon our school community to open their homes to our students. We have many students and families for whom this has been a wonderful experience. However, you may have noticed by the repeated requests in our newsletter that finding host families for the number of international students who would like to study at Riverstone has been a challenge that has become increasingly more difficult each year. We have in fact, had to turn away students who would be an excellent fit for our school because we could not find host families.

Our residential community also expands our ability to enroll students from other parts of Idaho and even throughout the United States. Although sometimes we take this for granted, an International Baccalaureate World School with small classes, strong teacher relationships, and outdoor education in a friendly, safe city like Boise is a very unique educational opportunity. By providing a residential option for both international and domestic students, we can positively manage our enrollment, build diversity, and expand the global perspective that we strive to develop in all of our students. We will continue to offer families the opportunity to host students who attend Riverstone on a cultural exchange, typically one year or less.

Our approach to both our new construction and residential program will be mindful and thoughtful, with a clear eye towards ensuring that we maintain the values that Riverstone International School holds dear. Our goal has always been to improve the educational experience of our students through the five pillars and ensure financial sustainability of the school; these next steps in our school’s journey are exciting and hold great promise for our community.

I look forward to sharing more as details unfold.


Bob Carignan
Head of School

Middle School Celebrates Diversity

By | Academic Excellence, Community & Service, IB, International Understanding, Leadership by Example | No Comments

Riverstone’s Grade 6-8 held their first Diversity Celebration on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 28 and 29. Middle School Director, Alex Ide, organized the celebration and provided the following recap.

We had two great keynote speakers! The Honorable Judge Gutierrez has spent time to promote various diversity, education and leadership causes within the judiciary, the legal profession, and the larger community in Boise. He is a member of the Diversity Section of the State Bar; a past board member of the the National Job Corps Association; and a board member of the Idaho Latino Scholarship Foundation. Our students were graced with stories of his upbringing, and were privileged to hear his words of advice for the future. Dr. Janet Kaufman has integrated diversity work into her college courses, in High School, and in Middle School. She has led diversity trainings for a range of organizations. Mostly, she enjoys facilitating conversation that helps people of any age discover new ways of thinking about themselves and others. Dr. Kaufman introduced our students to activities that helped them to consider how we make the world a place where everyone has a voice, feels safe, and gets to contribute.

Over the two days, students rotated through the following sessions:

  • Celebration of Diversity Though Art (finished product below)
  • Perspectives: Ethical and Moral Dilemma Role Play
  • Human Rights and Diversity: LGBT Topics
  • Acceptance Through Tolerance and Repsect
  • Insider vs. Outsider: A Mini Theory of Knowledge Lesson
Students were surveyed before and after the event. After the event, the students rated themselves in the following manner:
  • I am more comfortable about who I am as an individual and what my values are 91%
  • I feel more compassionate and empathetic towards others 93%
  • I feel more empowered to speak up to support my peers when issues arise 93%
  • I have increased my knowledge and awareness of issues of diversity 97%
 Special thanks to Judge Gutierrez, Dr. Kaufman, our Middle School Staff, Sarah C, Olivia D, and the International Parent Committee for helping to make these celebration days a success!


Technology Use Across Cultures

By | Academic Excellence, Elementary School, High School, IB, International Understanding, Leadership by Example | No Comments

Reposted from Trevor Lindsay and Stacey Walker’s Gr 5 blog:

This afternoon we had a unique opportunity to learn how technology is used in the native countries of Riverstone’s international students. Students from China, Norway, Germany, France, Israel, Spain, and Albania shared the technology use in their home schools. It was a great way to make international connections, learn from the experts at our school and inquire further into our line of inquiry. Surprisingly, Riverstone uses technology more than any of the other students’ home schools. Students from China shared how many teachers view technology as a distraction and entertainment rather than an educational tool. Norway was the only country similar to Riverstone’s technology use in school. In relation to our central idea, technology enables individual expression while diversifying interactions with others, these students shared how frequently they use technology to communicate with their friends and family in their home countries.

Some of these students also shared their family’s email address so we can make contact and share our summative assessment, a creative articulation of expressing themselves to communicate internationally.

Gaining Personal Perspectives on Migration

By | Academic Excellence, Community & Service, Elementary School, IB, International Understanding | No Comments

Gr 4’s current unit of inquiry is based on migration and how throughout time, people have migrated causing change to themselves and indigenous populations. They learn about the factors that cause people to migrate, the many migration routes that have developed throughout history, and affects of migration on the emigrants and the indigenous population.

In order to learn about personal experience with migration, the classes met with and interviewed students at the Learning Lab on the 4th floor of the Boise Public Library. Children and adults new to the United States come to the Learning Lab (LL) for a variety of reasons. Some want to hone their English skills. Other want to learn how to read or complete their GEDs.

Lila Cabrera, a former Riverstone Spanish teacher, who now works at the LL, introduced us to her students when we first arrived. The groups were split into teams, and then the 4th graders traveled to “stations” to interview the Learning Lab students from a variety of countries: Mexico, Afghanistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Russian, Somalia, and Nigeria. The questions covered a gamut of topics. “Why did you leave your country?” Do you miss your friends and family? “Do you have any special wedding traditions, and if so, what are they?” “What are some of the things that you first thought were strange about life in Boise?” Some of our 4th graders learned how to write their numbers and alphabet in Farsi, or how to say hello in Yuruba, a Nigerian language.

The time flew. Students on both sides benefited, having had the chance to share over two hours together. A woman from Mexico remarked, “I haven’t spoken this much English since coming to the Lab!”  Another person commented, “I can’t believe how bright these kids are! Are they really only in 4th grade? They are so perceptive and adept at asking good questions!” What a great time we had!

In the afternoon, after a lunch at Julia Davis Park, Gr 4 went on a walking tour of the downtown area. The students began their journey at the Rediscovered Bookstore (where they picked up another copy of their guide book, Ethnic Landmarks: Ten Historic Places that Define the City of Trees). They visited the old Chinese quarter, the Basque Block and the Star Hotel, the German Turnverein building, the Assay Building, the Spanish Village, and the O’Farrell Building on Fort Street. Students took notes and learned a great deal more about their city.

Thanks to Ms. Fitz and Mrs. Clayton for organizing this great field trip!


Where You're From Is Who You Are

By | Academic Excellence, Elementary School, International Understanding, Teachers & Staff | No Comments

Grade 4As part of the Fourth Grade “Who We Are” unit of inquiry, Riverstone Librarian, Susan Tabb, and the students are creating a map that shows where we have lived. The “we” in this project are the Riverstone staff and students. Gathering this information has been humbling.

At Riverstone, when we talk about International Understanding as one of our five pillars, and creating an international culture at the school, we tend talk about the number of international and expatriate students, we have as well as the international experiences our children have through travel. But we cannot forget the experiences that the Riverstone staff members bring to this equation. The Riverstone staff has world experiences that cover every continent, 40 countries, and 40 states plus Washington, D.C.

Thank you to our Grade 4 students for gathering the following information! And thank you to our staff for creating a truly international experience for our students!

Countries Riverstone Staff Have Lived In

American Samoa
New Zealand
Puerto Rico
South Korea
United Arab Emirates
United States
West Germany
West Africa

States (including Washington, D.C.) Riverstone Staff Have Lived In

New Jersey
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington, D.C.

Gr 7 Visits Synagogue and Anne Frank Memorial

By | Academic Excellence, IB, International Understanding, Leadership by Example | No Comments

As part of their study of the Holocaust and World War II, the Grade 7 students visited the Ahavath Beth Israel synagogue in Boise. The group was given a tour by two volunteers and members of the congregation who answered our questions about the religion of Judaism. The students were welcomed into the 117+ year old synagogue and learned the story of its move from downtown to its current location. Rabbi Dan Fink answered more in-depth questions and read from the Torah.

After the visit to the synagogue, the group stopped at the Anne Frank Memorial for a quick tour and some lunch. It was a great experience to further the students understanding of the religion and the people of Judaism.

Thanks to teachers Tom Dempsey and Hayden Jared for arranging the field trip!

El Día de los Muertos

By | Academic Excellence, IB, International Understanding | No Comments
Jami Whitmer, our Grade 9-12 Spanish teacher wrote the following blog entry:

“Students in Spanish 9 have been working within a unit on holidays, where they have been learning about the different ways we celebrate holidays here in the United States, as well as others in Spanish-speaking countries. Most recently, students have focused on el “Día de los Muertos” (The Day of the Dead) as celebrated in Mexico.

After reading part of a novel and watching a video about the holiday, we visited the Idaho Historical Museum to see some altars and other visuals related to this holiday. Students thought about the significance of the items on the altars and chose their favorites. There was also time to look at another unrelated exhibit called “Essential Idaho” which contained many informative stations and one where the students could dress up like a baked potato. Fun practice for Halloween!

In all, a fun and informative visit!”