Thursday, November 6, 2014

German-American Day

Recently 30 of my German students attended German-American Day at McDaniel College in Maryland.  It was our first ever German field trip, and I just wanted to share my experiences just in case you're in the Maryland area and have considered this event OR if you're outside the area and would like to do an event like this. After attending the event, I surveyed my students who attended to see what they thought about the various workshops they attended.  

Opening Address

The day began with registration and an opening welcome by Dr. Mohammed Esa.  When we signed in, we received our German-American Day T-Shirts with the theme "Deutsch ist grossartig."

Loved the shirts, but this is where the lack of organization started to show.  Because we arrived apparently too early, my students had to sit and wait over for the opening address.  I do wish they'd had something going on while schools came to check in - if no activities, at the very least music playing.

The guest speaker was completely inaudible - there were microphone or sound system problems that made it impossible for anyone to hear what was going on (even though we were near the front, we still could not hear).  This was students' least favorite part of the day, and considering 

There were various workshops students could attend, all relating to German culture.  You sign up for them ahead of time and generally got the workshops you picked.  Here's a little about some of the workshops my students attended.

German Folk Dance
I accompanied some of my students to this workshop.  There was an older couple who was teaching some traditional German Folk Dances to students.  Loved the idea and workshop, the execution could use some improvement.  The only dances shown were partner dances, so it counted on there being an even number of students.  It also made it awkward for a lot of students who didn't want to dance with strangers from other schools (or classmates from their own).  There were also audio issues with the cassettes and the speakers were just plain not loud enough to be heard in the auditorium where they danced.  Again, those are some issues that I think could very easily be addressed to make this an outstanding workshop.

Make Your Own Marzipan
The students who did this workshop loved it.  They learned about how to make Marzipan, then got to decorate and eat some.  I will point out that they did not actually get to cook any Marzipan - it was all pre-made for them.

German Cinema: From the Weimar Republic into Modern Day
Students got to watch some movie clips such as Hitler delivering a speech to (I believe) watching the entire movie Lola Rennt.  Had I known this were the extent of the workshop, I don't think I would've had any students attend, since Lola Rennt is a movie I usually use with my German 3 students...  I got mixed reviews from students who attended this workshop, ranging from "It was okay" to "It was boring."

Germans For and Against Hitler 1933-1945
I have several boys who are World War II buffs/enthusiasts and they could not stop raving about this workshop.  They thought it was interesting and informative, and especially liked that it was conducted by a man who was living in Germany during that time.  This is a workshop that probably could have been 90 minutes instead of 60 with no complaints on the part of the participants.

German Rock, Pop and Hip Hop Music
This was another popular workshop that my students enjoyed.  They basically watched German music videos that were totally ridiculous and fun.  Here are two of the ones my students told me about:

Christmas in Germany
Students learned about German Christmas traditions and watched videos relating to it.  The students who attended thought it was very interesting (and terrifying!) to learn about Knecht Rupbrecht and Sankt Nikolaus.

The workshops are really the best part of the day... though I will say that I find it problematic that students can only attend one.  There is a single round of workshops, each lasting either 60 or 90 minutes.  I think most of these workshops could have been shortened (based on student feedback).  I also feel it would serve students better if there were two rounds of shorter workshops.  Most students had expressed an interested in multiple topics, but were limited to one.

Students also brought up and lamented the fact that there wasn't much German during German-American Day.  All of the workshops were conducted in English and students were surprised to learn that some of the other kids participating in the event didn't even know any German.  I totally understand not wanting to do all German immersion workshops, but I think they're missing out on a way to encourage language growth and interest.

Lunch was provided in the McDaniel College dining hall.  They served delicious German food including Sauerkraut, Schwarzwalder Kuchen, Wurst and Braten.  No complaints about lunch from any of the students (except my one vegan student, who did acknowledge that German food is pretty meat heavy and wasn't too surprised).  Some even said it was one of the best parts of the day.

The day ended with a concert by the band artig.  While fun and authentic, I was surprised by the mixed reactions my students had to it.  Some liked it while others were totally not interested.  We ended up not staying for the whole concert, which originally I thought would be a disappointment to students (we needed to leave early to get them back to school in time for dismissal).  Turns out none of my students complained and in fact some looked relieved.

Overall I think this was a great event that brought German students from around the state together.  There were over 1400 participants this year, which just shows how big this event is.  I think there are some definite issues/improvements that could be made, but if you're in the area it's worth checking out next year.

- Frau Leonard

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