“Germany on Wheels”: Wanderbus Visits MHS
When Carlen Hite, sophomore, walked into school Friday, Nov. 13, she didn’t know what to expect. Kimberly Hotze, German teacher, had been hyping up the “Wanderbus” field trip for over a month. So, when the day arrived, Hite was pleasantly surprised to find a colorful, lively German-themed tour bus filled with resources, activities and knowledgeable German staff members.
Hite said she enjoyed learning about Germany and Europe in a way she had never experienced before. She especially liked meeting and talking to the Wanderbus staff, three fluent German speakers who had all lived in Germany before.
“I looked forward to the Wanderbus because I wanted to meet people who were actually from [Germany],” Hite said. “I liked it because they spoke well and answered our questions in German. It was cool to hear them.”
Hite has always had an interest in German. Hite has German heritage, her father was an athlete in Germany, and she started learning German in middle school.
This year, she is planning to go on the annual summer trip to Germany with the MHS German program. She also plans to continue studying German throughout high school.
Hotze, German teacher, said she hoped the Wanderbus inspired students to continue their study of German while also building off of what they already know. Hotze appreciated how the Wanderbus was able to show aspects of the language and culture (informational games, brochures about studying abroad, etc.) that wouldn’t be possible to teach in class.
“I hope it opens their eyes to even more things than what I try to teach in class and gives them a new interest,” Hotze said.
She said that activities like the Wanderbus provide opportunities to make German “come alive” and make German more relevant, which the Goethe-Institut, which created the Wanderbus, aims to do. Previously, Hotze has worked with the Goethe-Institut to bring German dance programs, solo artists, bands, barbershop quartets, and other entertainers to MHS.
Hotze hopes that these activities, along with the Wanderbus, have allowed students to solidify what they learn in class, have new experiences, and change up the pace in an otherwise monotonous rut of learning a language.
“Language is culture, it’s song, dance, food, people, experience,” Hotze said. “Language is not just words on a piece of paper that you have to memorize, it’s so much more.”
Valerie Czok, one of the project managers on the Wanderbus, described the Wanderbus as “Germany on wheels in all kinds of forms and a bridge between America and Germany.”
Czok said the Wanderbus started touring in March, went on a summer break and resumed travel in the fall. MHS was their third to last stop in touring all 48 contiguous states and was the only high school in Missouri the Wanderbus stopped at.
The inspiration for the Wanderbus is 2019 being the Year of German-American Friendship. The Goethe-Institut has 500 projects all across America to celebrate the Year of German-American Friendship.
The Wanderbus chose MHS out of other high schools in Missouri because MHS has an established connection with the Goethe-Institute, having participated in many of their projects over the years.
Czok said she enjoyed that MHS German students were engaged and came with a level of pre-existing knowledge but were still willing to learn, and she was glad to see MHS’ German program was teaching so much.
She said the purpose of the Wanderbus is to help deconstruct German stereotypes often perpetuated by Americans and to educate American students about what it is really like in Germany.
“It shows that Germany isn’t only pretzels and beer and that we have a lot of opportunities for German students in America,” Czok said. “It shows that German can be fun.”
With activities ranging from photo booths and virtual reality goggles to interactive tablets and German games, Czok said the Wanderbus hopes to make German-learning students rethink their view of Germany.
“I hope that in general their image of Germany is not so antiquated, that maybe they see us as alike, and that German is something you’d want to learn,” Czok said.
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