Students collaborate during school exchange

Lena Stange
USAG Wiesbaden Public Affairs
Taking the bus in the morning from Germany to the U.S. was a memorable experience for students from Erich Kästner-Schule in Wiesbaden during a school exchange with Wiesbaden Middle School and High School.
Forty students from the three schools collaborated on environmental projects, said Dirk Mlaka, principal at EKS. Groups of four — two Germans and two Americans — picked topics focusing on pollution and sustainability, he said.

Students from Wiesbaden Middle School and Erich Kästner-Schule present the results of their project about upcycling at the end of a school exchange. The two schools have maintained a partnership for several years now. This year, students worked on environmental projects over a couple of days.

During a presentation April 3 at WMS the five middle school groups talked about water pollution, landfills, upcycling, nuclear pollution and plastic. They highlighted how human beings and animals are affected by the high amount of pollution in the oceans, explained how to avoid producing too much waste, spelled out the dangers of nuclear waste, and showed the pros and cons of eco-friendly alternatives to plastic, such as glass, reusable bags, liquid wood or bio plastics made from food waste or milk protein.
The students said they enjoyed the exchange and the project work.
“It was really exciting, and I had a lot of fun,” said Emilia Weber, student at EKS. “Everybody was open and approachable. I would like to do it again.”
“I totally agree with what Emilia said. The collaboration was very good, and I would also like to do it again,” said Lee-Ann Wende, also a student at EKS.
Lia Chang from WMS agreed. “This exchange was really, really fun. It was nice to work on it (the project), and we have a whole bunch of inside jokes now.”
The partnership with EKS started five years ago, and has grown over the years, said U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden School Liaison Officer Peter Witmer.
“The benefit for the students is that they get to know their neighbors from America,” Mlaka said. “They are in contact with the foreign language they learn at school, but most importantly, they get to know the American culture, and realize that they are students as they are – though speaking a different language. … The American kids learn German as a foreign language as well, and they can improve their language knowledge with our students.”
This year was the first time the students worked together on projects. Ten high schoolers and 10 middle schoolers went for three days to the German school, and then 20 German students visited WMS and WHS for two days. In addition, the students had to communicate via social media to complete their projects. In former years, the German students just shadowed their American counterparts, Mlaka said.

Students from Wiesbaden Middle School and Erich Kästner-Schule work together on environmental projects during a school exchange. The partnership of the two schools is now in its fifth year.