When the Atlanta International School opened with 51 pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade students in September 1985, it was located in a little red house that was rented from the historic Sardis Methodist Church on Powers Ferry Road.
Thirty years later, 53 3- and 4-year-old kindergartners came to the current campus, the site of the former North Fulton High School in Buckhead. With the realization that these students would graduate in 2030, school administrators decided some sort of milestone was in order and began thinking about the world they would experience in the future.
The number of students attending all grades at the school, which now extends through the 12th grade, has grown to 1,194 including 97 nationalities who speak 67 languages, putting pressure on the school to increase its range of language learning.
Kevin Glass, the school’s headmaster, told Global Atlanta that there now are as many as 14 applications for every space. “We can’t support all of the demand,” he said, “especially at the 7th grade level.”
Last year, Christian Fischer, chair of the school’s board, and Mr. Glass encouraged both the students and their parents to think about the mission of the school and to collect their thoughts to be captured on paper, in photographs or on video and to be saved in a time capsule not to be opened until the students’ graduation in 2030.
Stashed away in the capsule were letters from the students’ families, artwork created by the students, photographs, a video of the students in class, as well as a video by the teachers at the school’s Early Learning Center who shared their thoughts about 2030.
The capsule for what has come to be known as the 30/30 class was buried somewhere near the school’s Early Learning Center where the students study in two languages including English and either French, German or Spanish from native speakers.
While the administrators were guarded about revealing the contents of the capsule to assure that the students would be surprised when it was opened upon their graduation, forecasts by teachers and former students were shared and published in the fall 2016 edition of the school publication, “Global Exchange.”
Meanwhile, the administrators are taking the materials seriously as they seek to answer the questions that their forward thinking has spawned.
“We will change the world for the better thanks to the action of our young people in their lives,” say Mr. Fischer and Mr. Glass in their opening message in the magazine:
“What will their world be like? What must we do now and in the years to come to get them ready to shape the future? These questions have driven our work as a board, leadership team and community these past few years of visioning and this past year of strategic planning.
“We are now embarking on the most ambitious and transformational vision for the school, with the greatest potential impact on our students, since those early days in the mid-eighties. We are ‘Thinking Forward’ to 2030 and beyond and have crafted the strategic goals and priorities to take us there.”
The project provoked a wide array of opinions about the future. For instance, Maria Voutos, principal of the ELC, says in the magazine, “My hope is that our graduates of 2030 will remain passionate about making sense of the world through play. Play should continue long after they have left preschool, as their curiosities from play turn into research and discoveries.”
Camille Du Aime, head of the primary school, contemplated advances in technology would change the students’ learning environments.
“I imagine they will have something they wear (it might even be installed in their body) that will give them constant access to the Internet (it may be thought activated) so there is a seamless flow of information/experience between them and the world wide web.”
Luz Ferroro, a kindergarten teacher, has an even more radical vision of the classroom’s future. “My vision of a future classroom would be everything in holographic form with speakers that will translate any language to the students.”
Chris Tuff, a parent of one of the students, says that, “We’ll be more connected than ever before which I predict will also put an increased importance on REAL personal (face to face) relationships and communication in the classroom.”
Pervasive technology also will break down national boundaries that are to become blurry, creating “global citizens” more aware of the world as a whole, according to several of the participants.
Ms. Voutos, adds, “At the time of graduation, I foresee our students truly understanding that their actions can positively or negatively contribute to building upon values as a community. A true global citizen understands how their dealings with other humans, treating all humans with the respect they deserve, is what creates a sense of citizenship within a community.”
Chiara Visconti-Pervanas, an alumna and parent, says “Because of technology, boundaries are transcended; we are literally becoming citizens of the world. It is my hope that the children of AIS can take this ‘passport’ and use it to make positive changes I sincerely hope that they will be empathetic and caring and not just see the differences amongst diverse cultures, but the similarities.”
Concerning future workplaces, there were many opinions. For instance, Ms. Du Aime says “Synchronous and asynchronous collaboration in virtual settings will be the norm. This will put a lot of pressure on people to develop internal motivation and time management as they often won’t have the external discipline of the work place. Diverse work teams (age, ethnicity, religion, etc.) have been shown to be the most creative so the Class of 2030’s cultural competencies will be useful.”
Or for instance that of Ms. Visconti-Prvanas who says, “Collaboration requires patience, teamwork, open mindedness and tolerance. It requires one to leave the ego behind in order to become part of a greater picture. Future careers may well require people to be flexible and fast thinking, adaptable and self-motivated.”
And Mr. Tuff says, “I think our kids need to not only learn to work in groups together, they need to THRIVE working with one another. They’ll also need to learn to work with a diverse set of skills and culture, allowing them to truly prosper in a team environment where they can flex their strengths within groups but also augment their weaknesses.”
Finally, recent graduates were asked about the future of workplaces that the 30/30s will enter.
Iain Schmitt, a member of the class of 2016, says, “I’d think that in 2030, our 3K students will step into a pretty complicated world with a lot of problems to solve. We’ll have unparalleled technology, but pressing problems with environmental stability. Our international community will be tested by global terrorism and shift on global power from west to east as America becomes more diverse and urban.”
And Dimitirios Sparis, another member of the class of 2016, who says, “The graduating class of 2030 might very well be entering ‘a brave new world’, a world of both unprecedented opportunities and unprecedented challenges. The majors and career they pursue today might not even exist…”
During his remarks with Global Atlanta, Mr. Glass seemed exhilarated by the brave new world that the 30/30s would be entering and is expanding the school’s curriculums to better meet the students’ needs.
Aside from expanding facilities and the number of students enrolled, he is focused on adding training in languages other than the four on which the school is currently focused.
He also underscored Atlanta’s emergence as a global center with families settling here from abroad as well as U.S. citizens who are contemplating overseas assignments.
For more information about the school, call either Cherise Randle, marketing and communications coordinator, of Laura Stidham, manager, digital communication and design, at 404-841-3840 or click here.