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Joint thematic workshop - Vereinswesen - Group leader report

This year's group in Friedrichroda agreed on the topic of 'Vereinswesen' for their thematic workshop. Here you can read the report from the group leader and find out how participants from both countries engage in their local communities and schools, as members of clubs and societies and as volunteers; and what they discovered in terms of intercultural similarities and differences.

Setting the scene for joint, bilateral discussions

The topic 'Vereinswesen' had been set before leaving the UK and pupils were therefore able to research aspects of the topic and look up the necessary vocabulary before setting off. Pupils worked in groups based on their geographical location. Each group was mixed nationality and mixed gender. We juggled the programme a little to enable us to spend two full afternoons working on the project, then brief presentations were made on our final 'Auswertung' und Feedback session. The time between the sessions was also used for more specific research and preparation.

Different ways of getting involved and shared attitudes about the theme

Vereinswesen lends itself to a mulitiplicity of interpretations and the final choices made by the groups were as follows: 1. special festivals / Kirmes/Karneval 2. Hilfe für Mitmenschen / DLRG, Bergwacht / helping others 3. AGs in der Schule / school societies 4. Musik / music

German, English and a lot of 'Denglisch' were spoken, there was a great deal of earnest discussion and some laughter at times. I was also interested to see a very serious analysis of the pros and cons of taking part in these extra-curricular activities, when these very able teenagers balanced the benefits of working together on something so positive against the problem of finding the time, maintaining a good standard of schoolwork, and avoiding stress. It was good to see both nationalities realizing that they share many of the same interests and pressures in these final important years at school.

Diving into each other's culture

It was also interesting to see youngsters keen to find out why the Notting Hill Carnival and local Kirmes are such important annual events. Aspects such as multiculturalism and the importance of letting everyone, young and old, feel they have a role to play in their own community. The Duke of Edinburgh's award was revealed in detail and how this might improve a participant's life skills. For the Friedrichroda group the Model United Nations was discussed and the need to interest young people in politics - very topical, with German elections almost upon us and election posters adorning almost every lamp-post. The music group included a youtube video of a young Brit playing in a jazz festival in Bled.

Why do we do it? How does it benefit us?

The extra time we were given enabled pupils to get beyond discussing the mere facts and move on to the more interesting questions - why do we do it? How does it benefit us? What are the pros and the cons? It was obviously interesting to learn what went on in each country but it was the underlying reasons for participation (or non-participation) that proved to be of most interest. In the final presentation pupils did use powerpoints but they used these as background while talking about the deeper issues. A most valuable series of sessions!


The group leader's feedback

"The reason I feel this was such a highlight is because it showed a clear example of intercultural knowledge being used to promote positive UK-German connections. All participants gained a lot from this experience, and came away with solid ideas and opinions, which I know they will apply in their lives in the future."