The International School of Florence is a community deeply connected to its city, the magnificence of which is the product of more than six centuries of artistic development and creative growth. At ISF there is a strong effort to engage Florence as a source of inspiration, to develop a deeper relationship with the city and apply that in its curriculum. As an international school, ISF students, alumni, parents and staff come from all over the world, but in profound ways, they are also Florentine.
This fall at the Junior School, art teacher Vanessa Regnier developed a cross-grade art project dedicated to the city of Florence. The project, titled FLO-ZEN, transformed a range of local historical monuments into large-scale zentangles, which each grade designed and coloured with intricate pattern repetitions. Zentangle art is a meditative process that promotes calm and relaxation, which is particularly beneficial in teaching children mindfulness and concentration.
Another project at the Junior School takes a different approach to developing this relationship. As a part of a year-long ‘Where We Are in Place and Time’ unit, ‘Uniquely Florentine’, Grade 2 students, with the guidance of teachers Amy Leatherman and Silvia Caniglia, began the year celebrating the Florentine festival, Festa della Rificolona. Students learned about the history of this delightful Florentine tradition and then created their own beautiful handmade lanterns. On a visit to the city centre, they went back in time on a tour of Palazzo Davanzati, a historical home. They then searched the city for important symbols that make Florence unique, such as the giglio and the porcellino, and looked at the 3D map in piazza della Repubblica to see which landmarks they recognized. Back at school, they learned about ‘Pippo the Fool’, Filippo Brunelleschi, whose courage and “out of the box” thinking created the greatest dome of its time.
In a more contemporary approach, Upper School teacher Tess Hitchcock brought Grade 11 and 12 students to visit the Anish Kapoor exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi, where students learned about the unusual materials used and the artist’s intentions. Kapoor’s merging of past and present is an important aspect of his work and students were given the opportunity to reflect on their own relationship to contemporary Florence. This connects to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme at ISF, where students have to consider their own artistic development for a personal exhibition at the end of the course. Tess Hitchcock comments, “We are so fortunate to have the city of Florence as an extension of our classroom, providing endless opportunities for inspiration and cultural enrichment. We are living in an open-air museum.”
Teachers at ISF are always eager to find ways to deepen the ties between the school and the surrounding community. This adds immeasurable value to the ISF experience and the development of its students. It helps teach them, as described in the school logo, to be “internationally-minded, uniquely Florentine“.
The International School of Florence (ISF) is one of the oldest international schools in Europe, culminating in the International Baccalaureate Diploma, the surest path to accessing the broadest choice of colleges and universities throughout the world. As a non-profit educational institution, ISF embodies the values of the Renaissance by striving for academic excellence while developing students’ creativity, intellectual curiosity, innovative spirit and appreciation for beauty. At ISF, students are prepared for the challenges of tomorrow through a focus on their potential today.