By U.S. ArmyJune 4, 2012
ESCHENBACH, Germany (June 4, 2012) -- German middle school students got a taste of American culture and the U.S. school system during a friendship-building excursion to Netzaberg Elementary School, May 24.
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from Markus-Gottwalt Middle School in Eschenbach interacted with Netzaberg Elementary School fifth-graders as part of a pen pal program between the two schools aimed at fostering a greater cross cultural understanding between students.
The German visitors descended at 8:30 a.m. to join with their fifth-grade pen pals. Crammed nearly 50 to a room, the students wrote letters to each other in their non-native tongue, shared science experiments and tried to communicate.
The four fifth-grade classes, along with their German pen pals, rotated between four distinct stations designed to display Netzaberg Elementary School, share American culture and solidify the German-American partnership.
"Our focus here was to show differences and things that are in common," said Manuela Bergosh, host nation teacher and a main orchestrator of the partnership. For most of the German school children, "it's the only opportunity to see an American school from the inside."
Since German schools don't have libraries, the American children walked their Eschenbach pen pals through the stacks of books, helping them find favorite works.
The library also hosted the talent portion of the day. Netzaberg Elementary School children stood before their peers singing Adele songs, dancing along to a Beyonce music video and showcasing cheerleading moves.
Another station, led by Bergosh, showed Smart Board to the German students, who lack that technology in their classrooms. Bergosh demonstrated how it is used for teaching and student interaction.
"The German kids love our school. They are, of course, very impressed by our equipment," said Bergosh regarding the Smart Board demonstration.
Line dancing in the gym introduced the Electric Slide, Salty Dog Rag and the cowboy-style Boot Scootin' Boogie to the Germans.
Though no one expected the visiting students to nail the Yankee dances in one 20-minute session, the dancing lessons provided a nonverbal taste of American culture.
"Dancing is universal," said Kristie Mashburn, educational technologist at Netzaberg Elementary School and the day's dancing instructor, something everyone can understand.
The most successful station, led by David Gray, Netzaberg Elementary School gym teacher, brought the students outside to play games. The aim of these diversions was to allow the children to work together without the heavy burden of the language barrier.
"I was trying to do team building with them so they interact with each other," said Gray.
Lined up face-to-face, the Eschenbach and Netzaberg students held hands, struggling to stand up from a seated position. They raced, passing golf balls down the row, seeing who could fill their bucket first. And they tangled themselves up in strings, forcing them to communicate to get free.
Alana Alexander, 11, proclaimed the outdoor games her favorite part of the day, because she "got to work with the Germans." Alexander admitted that while the language divide made verbal communication difficult, the team building exercises allowed the two groups to engage without any trouble.
The pen pal program began in 2008 as a collaborative and educational means for fifth-grade students to comprehend the country wherein they reside.
"The goal is to broaden the students' vision of at least one other important nation besides their own" and provide youngsters with the rudimentary language tools to better adjust to life in Germany, said Bergosh.
In the past year, the students have exchanged seven letters, cookies around Christmas, and have enjoyed field trips to each other's schools.
While the program has proven to be an educational boon for the Netzaberg Elementary School fifth graders, the Markus-Gottwalt students benefit by learning about a different culture in their own backyard, explained Markus-Gottwalt Middle School vice principal, Guenther Wiehle.
"(The exchange) is a possibility to get to know the life of the American students here in Germany," he said.