Eleven students from the Freie Waldorfschule am Kraeherwald School in Stuttgart, Germany arrived at St. Johnsbury Academy Aug. 23 to begin the second half of the ninth year of the Academy's Global Connections Program, a unique cultural exchange program created by the schools themselves.

The German students, accompanied by two teacher-chaperones, will live with host families throughout their six-week stay.

During their visit, the group will experience total immersion into America's educational system and culture, including active participation in a full load of Academy classes, Glenn Ehrean, director of the Academy's Colwell Center for Global Understanding, which coordinates the exchange program, said.

Each student is expected to take two academic courses, including English, and two electives of their choice. Academy students traveling to Germany through the program have similar requirements, including studying German.

"In Stuttgart, special programs and classes are organized for our students, because they have very little experience in the German language," Ehrean added. "Here, however, we integrate the students from Stuttgart into our own classes."

The full-time academic experience is coupled with a cultural component. All participating students stay with host families, allowing them to experience everyday life in America or Germany while using the new language they are learning.

In addition to providing prolonged exposure to everyday American and German life, the program offers a unique opportunity for students to experience different school environments.

The Americans in Stuttgart become part of a kindergarten through 13th grade school based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner. That program strongly emphasizes the arts and even kinetic learning, as evidenced by Eurythmie, a very specialized form of dance. The German students in St. Johnsbury become part of a large, rigorous high school with high academic expectations.

For many Waldorf students, the St. Johnsbury visit provides their first prolonged experience of life without subways. On the other hand, Academy students traveling to Stuttgart arrive in a city that has a larger population than the entire state of Vermont.

"This exchange has led to many enduring friendships between students and families and has also led a number of our students to pursue further studies in German language and culture at the university level," Ehrean added.

Current Academy students participating in the program include seniors Casey Carbone, Grace Phillips, both St. Johnsbury residents; Luna Guzman of Peacham; Essex resident Drew Hovey; Tiernan Johnston-McWilliams of Barnet; West Glover resident Caroline Lawlor; Claire Neal from Plainfield; and Harry Pates from Sugar Hill, N.H.; and juniors Andrew Biggie, Ellen Jones and Michael Reiner, all St. Johnsbury residents; and Yu Ran (Eunice) Won from South Korea.

The Kraeherwald Waldorf group will return to Germany Oct. 5.

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