In a modest classroom on the outskirts of Berlin, 10 children, most refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, consider a perplexing question: Can goats swim? Benjamin, a precocious 12-year-old from Iran, pipes up with a confident smile on his face. "Of course they can," he says in German. "There's a lot of goats in Iran — I've seen them swim with my own eyes!" The rest of the kids are skeptical, but nonetheless accept Benjamin's answer and continue questioning one another about various animals, a game meant to ease them into learning the German language. Games like this are common in this so-called "welcome class" at Wald Elementary School in Berlin. Currently, 19 children with foreign backgrounds are enrolled in language-intensive courses at the school, where students practice German for about a year until administrators, teachers and parents decide they're ready to integrate into a regular class with German students. More than half of the 19 students at Wald arrived in Germany as refugees. Similar models for integrating Germany's over 400,000 school-aged refugees have been adopted across the country, said Klaus Hurrelmann, a professor of public health and education at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. In an ideal world, these refugee children would be able to learn German and integrate into a normal school routine within a year's time. But bringing these children into the fold is a difficult task for Germany's decentralized education system, which is understaffed and unaccustomed to diversity. The system has been especially strained in the last two years as the country accepted more than 1 million refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere. "From an educational standpoint, it's completely foreign for our school system. German schools aren't used to teaching mixed, heterogeneous groups of children," Hurrelmann said. "The result is that there are some schools that are exemplary, and others where it's absolutely not working. Children in a welcome class attend a German lesson at the Katharina-Heinroth primary school in Berlin, Sept. 11, 2015. Credit: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters Beate Stoffers, a spokeswoman for the city-state's