Oak Knoll’s Upper School’s Exchange Program Offers Lower School Students a Lens into Global Perspectives

We have extolled the benefits of Oak Knoll Upper School’s international exchange programs between Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, Holy Child Killiney in Ireland, Sant Ignasi School in Barcelona, and Mayfield School in England. Less well-known is the tremendous perspective our visiting exchange students can provide to our Lower Schools students. 

Such is the case this week as four visiting students from Barcelona — in addition to attending classes and events in the Upper School — spent generous hours interacting with our Lower School students, sharing their impressions of America, their take on Thanksgiving, and the Macy’s parade, their favorite Spanish foods, and some quirky Spanish holiday traditions — including the humorous Catalan tradition of Caga Tió.

On Tuesday, November 28, the visiting students spent time in a grade 3 social studies classroom where students were learning about the branches of government in America. They shared the unique differences inherent in their democracy and the monarchy’s role in Spain. 

Later, they ate lunch with the Lower School Culture Club. They answered questions from the students about the differences between our cultures, their favorite subjects in school, their hobbies, and what extra-curricular activities are on offer at Sant Ignasi.

The Lower School Culture Club is open to grades five and six students. They enjoy learning about various cultures and heritages through visiting speakers, conversations, and exploration. As leaders in the Lower School, they take what they have learned and apply it to class presentations, bulletin boards, and school assemblies so that all students in the Lower School can benefit from their cultural curiosity.

After attending the inter-cultural luncheon, grade 5 culture club member Tej B. ’31 said, “I think a lot of schools aren’t lucky enough to have clubs like this that get to bring in people from other countries and get to learn about their traditions and talk and eat with them and have this experience.”

Visiting Spanish student Mercé Pedreira Nadal said, “I think the most interesting part of our visit was getting to know American culture by attending school here and meeting the kids. In the Lower School, seeing the younger students and explaining our political system to them was great. It was amazing.”

Her classmate from Spain, Carla Lamas Zapater, said, “I think it’s very important to get to know as many people and cultures as you can. We live in a world where there’s not only one culture but many, and you have to take part and get to know other cultures because, in the end, we are all in the same world and should be friends.”

Jana Saolanellas Colomer said, “Getting to know other cultures is to see that there are many other manners in the world. It’s exciting being part of this exchange, and I think both Oak Knoll School and we benefit.” 

Students in both the Upper and Lower Schools at Oak Knoll have certainly benefited from these powerful exchange opportunities and connections between our entire school population and communities around the globe.