Read about our fantastic COMENIUS conference in Berlin – it was great to have you with us, Europeans!
The COMENIUS teams from Bulgaria, Turkey, Hungary, Slovenia, England, Poland, Italy, Spain and Germany met in the music building of Wilma-Rudolph-Oberschule for the last big conference with students, teachers and principals. More than 75 active participants of the project were ready to introduce themselves, to report about their latest results of the project work and join the workshops of the conference.
Before the students could choose classes to watch German lessons, we introduced our patron, Wilma Rudolph, an Afro-American short track runner who won three gold medals in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. She is our role-model, because she overcame her polio disease most successfully. Win – Run – Overcome, if you struggle with yourself, is a perfect strategy for our students to reach their graduation goals.
In the guided school tour the students learned about ways of our school life that might be different, such as having no school bell ringing anymore, and students being in class on time, such as being allowed to use the cell phone anywhere except in lesson time. They could walk around our forest like grounds with the huge sports field, which is a result of our school once being the Berlin American High School for the students of the US Forces stationed in Berlin.
And then we started our first tour into the city. Since Berlin has great public transportation, we all rushed into the underground and tried to get the local fast railway, called S-Bahn. What a shock, all was blocked, just because of a man climbing the roof of an S-Bahn station. But we made it to the guided walking tour seeing the palace of tears, once the check point for West-Berliners entering or leaving East-Berlin, which meant leaving relatives or friends for several months, causing tears of parting. Reichstag (the German Parliament), Brandenburg Gate, Holocaust Memorial, the former line of the wall through Berlin, a parking lot where 70 years ago the Nazi headquarters were, and finally the shopping malls of Potsdamer Platz, so not only history, but also longed for distraction.
In the evening we wanted to go to a show that all of us could understand, no matter if the English or German would be fluent or rudimentary, so the perfect place was Strahl Theater presenting “Klasse Tour”, showing a class being on a class trip on the train, in the hostel, fighting for friends, attention, a party night, and going through the program, such as visiting a museum. It was great fun and nobody struggled with the language barrier, since it was a pantomime with beat box elements.
A new day, new achievements, new experiences, different conversations. At school we had brief presentations of the art project “Transforming waste into art”, presented all participants’ posters “Natural Beauties of our area” and read excerpts of the essays about COMENIUS project adventure. More detailed information about these objects you can find on the schools’ individual websites and on our project’s website forawonderfulland.wordpress.com.
After the strenuous time in the full auditorium all of us wanted to become active. The younger ones could join activity programs, as they could choose from different workshops: Baking for a wonderful land, Dancing for a wonderful land, Pottery for a wonderful land, Solar systems for a wonderful land.
The seniors sat down together seriously and discussed the enormous changes of today’s school system, as inclusion, individualization, additional goals for the regular lessons, and the recently developed methods of teaching knowledge for environmental protection. As well there were presented the Bulgarian and the German/Berlin school system, and the Spanish report of the first COMENIUS year.
After school lunch we presented the film “Ode to joy and freedom” which revived the deeply touching moments of the fall of the iron curtain, focusing on the days when in Berlin the wall came down and families, friends, young East-Germans were allowed to enter West-Berlin immediately for the first time after 28 years of imprisoned lives behind a concrete wall. Some of us were in tears, still.
Connected to the film was our visit of the Berlin Wall Museum which hosts objects, images, films etc. about the inner German wall and ways people tried to escape to freedom, not always with a happy, but a deathly ending. Being in Friedrichstraße, at Checkpoint Charlie, right where once the wall separated Berlin, we moved to the eastern city center of Berlin and walked through the elegant shopping locations as Lafayette and Quartier 206. Quickly grab a snack at Rewe supermarket, sorry, but we are on the roll to the next place, Gendarmenmarkt, no time for restaurants.
Does anybody still remember that huge, open square with the Concert House in the middle, two similar kinds of churches on the opposite endings, called the German Dome and the French Dome? Maybe you remember the discussion about going to the chocolate shop where you can get melted chocolate shaped as you like it.
As your tour guide I had to tell you that after the counterreformation in France the Huguenots were invited to live in Prussia by the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm in 1685.
20 000 escaped the killing in France and enriched our industry and cuisine enormously with their new techniques and most delicious vegetables.
After the two busy days emphasizing on our project work, we spent the full day in the city starting with a guided tour through Charlottenburg Palace, once home of Frederic the Great. Since he tried to avoid debts, most material of the palace were from the region, such as pine trees, plaster stucco instead of marble, but still lots of plated gold. Right across the road we had a wonderful world lunch of typical German food, like Eisbein or Leberkäs.
Hop on the bus, go to Zoo station, and there is Berlin Aquarium, one of those presenting the largest diversity of fishes, reptiles and insects. Following a questionnaire, the students got to know about human influences on inland waters threatening aquatic habitats, the weird shark reproduction called oophagy/ embryophagy, or the jelly fish pest being a result of overfishing the oceans.
Take the bus 100 to see most Berlin sights. So we stopped for Berlin Dome, a representative building of Emperor Wilhelm II, when everybody wanted to show the country’s power and wealth through architecture. From the cupola’s roof top you could see the construction site of Berlin palace; maybe next time in Berlin you will go sightseeing inside.
In the evening we met for the farewell party at Haus der Jugend. Eventually it was time for the presentations of the dance groups from our partner schools. So many, many thanks to the teams from Bialystok, Marcali and Sevilla. We could laugh, dance, chat and complete our conference days with a lively party.
Thanks to all the teachers from the 9 countries for their organization and support, to the students for their presentation and active participation, and, most important, to the European Union supporting the whole exchange program through the COMENIUS program of lifelong learning.