Teddy Bear Austausch – A German Exchange with a difference!

At the Oxford German Network we work not only with secondary schools, but also with primary schools where German is taught.  One of our local schools has been making great use of some of the fantastic opportunities that the UK-German Connection provides for younger learners and their teachers.  The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  Why not take a look at their voyage kids website, aimed at primary pupils, or the voyage for older pupils.  But first, a tale of teddy bears and teacher travels…

SS Philip and James’ School, Oxford (often called Phil and Jim’s for short) has been developing a link with Brakenhoffschule, a primary school in Westerstede, near Bremen in northern Germany.

The link was made possible through projects organised by the UK-German Connection. The first of these was the ‘host a teacher’ initiative. Earlier in the year a teacher from Brakenhoffschule spent two weeks at Phil and Jim’s, helping with German teaching and finding out about the school. This was a fantastic opportunity for the school and of course the German teacher was able to take back a lot of new experiences to share with their own pupils. Since the visit the two schools have kept in contact and children in Year 5 have written penpal letters.

Alex, the German bear (left), meets the new resident bears at Phil and Jim’s

Recently the children in Year 3 had a very special visitor from Berlin, again as part of a UK-German Connection project. His name is Alex … and he is a Teddybear! His visit was part of the Bears Project, and involved Ben, an English Teddybear, visiting Phil and Jim’s partner school in Germany.  On the ‘Bears’ webpage you can find out lots more about how to participate, and see all of the British and German schools that the bears have already visited! It’s safe to safe to say that Ben received a very warm welcome in Germany, and the Brakenhoffschule pupils even prepared some welcome signs before his arrival – his visit is currently highlighted on the school’s homepage! (Scroll midway down…)

All the children and both teachers agreed that the visits were a big success, with the bears teaching the children more about their language and culture. The bears even have their own blog on the Voyage kids website!

Nicola Deboys, Oxford German Network

UK-German Connection Trip to Thüringen

The UK-German Connection is an organisation “dedicated to increasing contacts and understanding between young people in the UK and Germany”.  As part of its work there is a ‘calendar of opportunities’ throughout the year ranging from ‘Host a German Teacher’ to ‘Magical Christmas Trips’ and of course longer study trips to Germany.  Why not take a lot at the list of ‘German Pupil Courses’ here.  Ben Bonnici, an A-Level student studying German went on a UK-German Connection trip this summer – here he tells us more.

I found the UK-German Connection trip to Thüringen incredibly useful in helping me improve my German skills, as well as intriguing, as I discovered many interesting cultural quirks during my two week stay.

In my group there were 12 people from all over the UK, including Northern Ireland! We flew to Frankfurt Airport and then drove the remainder of the journey to a small town called Friedrichroda. The town was beautiful, surrounded by verdure and mountains. I stayed with a lovely host family for the duration of the trip, and they were fantastic in the way they completely immersed me in their regional culture. I ate countless types of sausages over the two weeks, but my favourite kind was the Thüringen Bratwurst (which tasted even better with a dash of Senf!).

UK-German Connection enthusiasts in Friedrichsroda!

Every day, I took the bus in to school with my Gastschwester and attended a few hours of German grammar lessons with the group of 10 from the UK. After the morning session, we would then sit in on lessons with our hosts, and it could be any subject. It was quite amusing sitting in on an English lesson, and interesting to see how they taught the language. In the afternoons after eating our packed lunches, that usually consisted of Schwarzbrot sandwiches with all kinds of meat, the UK group would then go on some kind of outing, whether it be visiting a castle, or going to a local primary school to teach English to the children there! My favourite outing was the Erlebnis Bergwerk Merkers, a visit to a salt mine 800m underground, where we got driven around in the endless labyrinth of mining tunnels.

Meeting one of the locals in Thüringen

Due to the constant exposure to the language, I found that by the end of the first week, I had started thinking in German, which unsettled me at first, but was also quite amazing. By the end of the second week, my German had improved a lot and I really felt like I had a much deeper understanding and appreciation of both the language and the culture of Germany.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who is currently learning German and would like to further improve their linguistic skills, whilst having a lot of fun and making friends in the process.

Ben Bonnici, Magdalen College School, Oxford