European culture, language and identity in a new world

Activities in the first year (planning)

In the first year the project focuses on bilingual lessons on the cultures of the countries participating in the project. Students and teachers develop and create a learning circle (carousel) in English. We also deal with the views and opinions of members of the older generation and of immigrants. Finding out about the change of language and its effect on the national cultures comes next. Since English is the language of communication, it is predominantly used in the project work.

At the beginning of the project year all the participating students register on the website of the project (name, school, email-address, age). The students are paired in bi-national pairs who work on project tasks throughout the project year. They introduce themselves to their partners per email (in English) and then introduce their European partners to their project group (in English). Each national group introduces itself with a photo on the website. A video presentation is optional.

There is a logo-contest to motivate students to deal with the topic and illustrate it graphically. The selection of the best logos and the presentation of the awards takes place at the first meeting in Stuttgart.

All the participating students do research on the meaning of the project name and discuss this in their project groups. Results are put on the website. Each student exchanges results with their European partner.

Preliminary work for the second project year in which different school traditions are compared: each project group makes a documentation of all the events at school in the course of a school year (photos, videos, typical objects, descriptive texts). This documentation is published continually on the website of the project.

For the first project meeting in November (see below) each national group makes a short “language guide” of their national language including the most important expressions for friendly contacts. The “language guides” are published on the website before the meeting.

The students do research on (generally accepted) typical national qualities, or on qualities that the students consider typical. The national groups are to present these qualities in role plays, cartoons, illustrations. Thus images of the “typical German”, the “typical Dane”,… are created. At the first project meeting (of teachers and students) in Stuttgart in November the students present their creations to each other. One aim of the meeting is to enable personal contacts among students (at least among project ambassadors), to motivate them for the project and for further communication with their European partners; these contacts have a positive effect on the motivation of the national project groups. The students participate in the detailed planning of the project and work together in international work groups on tasks concerning their work in their home countries. The teachers discuss current problems of the project work and try to find solutions. They also decide on who is responsible for each part of the project.

Dealing with prejudices marks the beginning of an intensive discussion of one’s national culture. The students of each national project group choose paintings, pictures, music, poems, texts, objects, dishes, locations, festivals,… which they consider very typical of their national culture. This selection is to illustrate one’s national culture to the European partners. The students must explain and justify all the selected items and deliver background information if necessary. Each national project group puts together tasks and questions on the selected items which will enable the partners to gain insight into the national culture of the partner country. One major aim of the project is to put together a carousel (“learning circle”) on “National cultures in Europe”: each national project group creates one task for the carousel which all the participating schools can use for their interdisciplinary bilingual work. The material for the single tasks is mailed to the partner schools. This material is also digitalized so that an interactive carousel can be developed on the website. It should approximately take 45 minutes to finish one task of the carousel. While working on the creation of these tasks students should exchange ideas with their email-partners (Are the objects suitable for the task? Which objects have you chosen? Why? What kind of questions do you include?...)

While the students are working on the carousel they also consider other questions: how has culture changed in the last decade, how do immigrants see the national culture of the country? The students conduct interviews with (e.g.) parents and grandparents to learn something about the change of culture in the last two generations and to find out what the interviewees think about these changes and developments. The students also conduct interviews and surveys with immigrants in order to learn about the way immigrants experience the national culture, about problems and opportunities stemming from this experience. Language (among family members, among peers) is a major concern here. At the first project meeting the students make questions for these interviews and surveys which can be used or elaborated on in the national project groups. The students contact local and regional cultural clubs and organisations of ethnic minorities. The results of the work are discussed in the national project groups and between the bi-national pairs. Parts of these tasks (interviews, surveys, contacts) can be given to other student groups at the school who are not constantly involved in the project. This ensures the participation of a higher number of students in the project. The results of the work are shown in an exhibition at school (possibly in a municipal institution as well) and also on the website.

A teaching unit on “Globalization of Language” – the development of language follows. Students have a close look at linguistically striking features in newspapers, advertisement and the news, in particular at the influence of the English / American English language (form, extent,…). The students do research in their regional environment, in the media and present their results in class. The results of the national project groups are published on the website and discussed in class and between the bi-national pairs.

The second project meeting takes place in Budapest in March (teachers and students). There the material for the tasks of the carousel is put together and the complete carousel is tried out by the students. There is also a presentation of the results of the work on the topics of cultural development and the immigrants’ views, and the change and development of language. The students work in international groups on creative tasks concerning these topics. The students and teachers evaluate the project work up to this point and plan the next steps in the project together. The teachers make a detailed plan of the work in the second project year and decide who is responsible for each part of the project.

The final work in the first project year helps to prepare the work in the second year: each national project group makes a national festival calendar. This calendar includes all the important religious, national,…festivals. One aim in the second project year is to make a common European festival calendar. Lessons on national festivals are based on this calendar which also helps to compare different European customs.

Some schools have a project day on “Cultures of other Countries”. The students and teachers preparing such a project day exchange their ideas and experience. The reports on the project days are exchanged and exhibited. These will vary from school to school. The Yggdrasil project is presented at the project days.

The work on the project and the results of the work are to be published in the local and regional media.