WIESBADEN, Germany - Besides gaining a better understanding of the Berlin Airlift and strengthening German-American relations, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden students garnered several thousand euros in prize money for their schools.

Students from Aukamm Elementary and Wiesbaden High Schools earned second and third places in the city of Frankfurt and U.S. Consulate's sponsored "Understanding - Over Bridges" competition. The competition, which will be held every two years as a way to improve German-American relations, this year focused on the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.

"We're not sure what the theme will be next time, but it will always be centered around Oct. 6 - German-American Friendship Day," said Dr. Kirstin Gerstner, who is responsible for cultural and exchange programs for the U.S. Consulate's Public Affairs Office. "We hope with competitions like these we can enable the schools to form more partnerships. We want to try to get kids together."

"It feels good to know our work amounted to something," said Wiesbaden High School senior Brian Byrd, a member of the third-place winning Berlin Airlift Internet project team. "I learned a lot during the project - how life was in Germany under Communism and how people couldn't get in and out of Germany because of the Wall."

Students in teacher Christine Taylor's class built a website showcasing student research and historical insights. They also made parachutes with chocolate, modeled after those first constructed by Berlin Airlift pilot Lt. Gail Halvorsen (the candy bomber), to send to a German school in Berlin.

"I learned a lot about the airlift," said fellow team member, 10th-grader Emma Waugh. "I did some artwork and conducted an interview with a student who went to Wiesbaden at the time of the airlift. It was interesting to see what the school was like back then."

Waugh added that as part of the project students also sent souvenirs and candy to their partner school in Berlin.

"We thought the Berlin Airlift was just airplanes flying over and bringing supplies," said Aukamm Elementary fifth-grader Kyna Henson, about studying the Berlin Airlift during their second-place video project about Mercedes Wild and the candy bomber. "But (we learned) there were a lot of accidents and we learned a lot about Berlin.

"My favorite part was making the video," Henson said. "We didn't think we could win - because the high-schoolers are older and have more technology. We were all shocked."

"It's really cool winning second place," added Maeghan Langley. "We learned a lot thanks to Frau Bopp (host nation teacher Ute Bopp came up with the idea for the project and helped bring German partner school, Grundschule Nauheim, into the effort)."

Fellow Aukamm team member Cedric Williams said he was especially impressed when Wild, a Berliner who shared memories of her time as a child in Berlin during the airlift, visited the school.

"Mercedes came to our school and told us about the Berlin Airlift - about how many people died. There were lots of crashes - planes hitting trees in bad weather."

"Ute (Bopp) deserves a lot of the credit for the project," said Aukamm Principal Mark Benham, praising her ideas and close ties with the German school to form the joint project. He added that Aukamm will continue past efforts to reach out to local German schools to enhance relations.

Prof. Dieter Weirich, senior vice president of Corporate Communications for Fraport, one of the corporate sponsors of the competition, presented checks to the winning schools at Aukamm Elementary School Sept. 23. Aukamm Elementary School and the Grundschule Nauheim shared 2,000 euros which will be used for further partnership activities, according to Bopp. Wiesbaden High School also earned 2,000 euros for their efforts.

First place in the competition went to a team from the Engelsburggymnasium in Kassel for the creation of a board game with the title "Airlift." The game has been sent to the German board game company, Ravensburg, to see if it is suitable for wider distribution, according to Gerstner.

To view the Wiesbaden High School Berlin Airlift website visit Wiesbaden High's home page at www.wies-hs.eu.dodea.edu and click on the "Berlift Airlift Project" link.