How to Welcome a Refugee Prekindergartner in Potomac

This article is written in partnership with Geneva Day School.

Warmth, Routine, and the Geneva Method  

Back-to-school is often defined by new shoes, fresh crayons, bright lunchboxes, and fond friends. For most students, it is a time of ritual and renewal. Nothing quite says the “great return” like getting back into the swing of things…

Yet not all young scholars have routine. Through the philanthropic efforts of Beth Shalom Temple in Potomac, congregant (and neighbor to Geneva Day School), Mrs. Judy Frank helped shepherd an Afghan refugee family into the embrace of Geneva so as to grant routine and a warm welcome to its Prekindergartner.

Geneva Method
Welcoming an Afghan Refugee to Geneva Day School

“Our synagogue adopted the family… We got them through an immigration agency, IROC. I contacted Geneva to initiate the relationship. Geneva has been incredibly supportive. So amazing. We are so grateful to Geneva,” said Mrs. Frank, of the school, which has welcomed families from around the world since 1965.

Each morning, an entourage from Beth Sholom arranged for carpool pick-up of its adopted scholar, followed by afternoon drop-off to his home. Although there may have been moments of hesitation for this child (who at the age of four, had never undergone a preschool experience and did not speak English), he soon felt at ease.

In little time, he began to practice English vocabulary. Within months, he could give simple accounts of his day to his designated carpool drivers. This delighted the Beth Sholom entourage, reported Mrs. Frank. 

Children playing outsideExploring Everything Geneva has to Offer

Often recognized as “number one” in the region for early childhood education, Geneva enjoys cozy classrooms and sprawling Maryland Green School grounds. Monarch butterflies alight within its milkweed gardens, which are planted with the express purpose of assisting their migratory flight. Students participate in a mission of protecting this endangered insect and see themselves as “custodians of Nature.”

“I think the major thing is just a sense of belonging. (Students must) feel like they’re a part of something bigger than the classroom. This creates a way for them to nurture friendships and to blossom in their academic learning,” stated Director Lizama, of the importance that routine (especially within Geneva’s extraordinary campus) holds for young students. 

Passionate staff warmly welcomed the adopted scholar. Weekly specials such as Physical Education, Art, Music, Mindfulness, and Environmental Science opened doors onto new vistas of exciting subject matter, which could be counted upon for their regularity. Kind classmates rounded out the adopted scholar’s welcome with invitations to play or “sit by me!”

“I would say that this is the best choice for your child to grow emotionally, spiritually, and academically,” stated Mrs. Frank, of why she decided to honor Geneva with her mission of helping the family and therefore facilitated Beth Sholom’s sponsorship of the scholar.

Children Playing on Playground The Geneva Method

The Geneva Method, which promotes pre-academic learning by allowing students to take the lead, gently shapes lessons and social interaction. Whether asked to water the milkweed, distribute crayons, or measure ingredients for a science experiment, students grow into a sense of self and by extension, certainty.

This fall, the adopted scholar launches his American public school career through local Kindergarten enrollment. His newly achieved English and growing self-certainty grant him the foundation to succeed.

“Geneva gave him a sense of safety. He had a feeling of being nurtured,” said Director Lizama of his remarkable progress. “Importantly, (he also felt) welcomed and loved,” she said.

Geneva Method: Children walking through forestExtending Through the Summer

Such feelings cannot be generated, rather, they blossom over time. This summer, both the adopted scholar and his younger brother (who just turned two), participated in a week of Geneva Summer Camp for Young Children.

The Camp capitalizes on the same gorgeous settings enjoyed by the school. These include an innovative playground, tree-stump obstacle course, fairy tale bridge, butterfly garden, and bamboo forest. A nearby creek invites additional exploration. Nine weekly themes create a trajectory of summer adventure.

Geneva students (and campers!) recurringly remark that they hold fond memories of their time in and out of the classroom. A lifelong love of learning really does begin with a warm welcome, routine, and the Geneva Method.