East hosts Wanderbus in continued focus on German language offerings

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Special to the Herald

On Friday, Oct. 25, Cranston High School East hosted the Wanderbus, a nationwide event series that visited more than 60 schools and universities across the country.
The Wanderbus is sponsored by the Goethe-Institut and the German Foreign Ministry and is part of the year of German-American friendship and the “Wunderbar together” campaign. At each stop, including at Cranston East, a small team of education professionals hosted fun, informative games and activities that combined information and entertainment.
The programs highlighted the benefits of learning German and seizing the opportunities of studying abroad. For Cranston East, it is yet another connection to the newest German curriculum and extracurricular activities taking place at the school.
This year, Cranston East has been piloting a new, interactive German curriculum a part of its partnership with the University of Rhode Island’s International Engineering (IEP) and German Dual Degree program. URI professor Niko Tracksdorf, his colleagues and students in the IEP program have been visiting Cranston East for the past several years, speaking to students interested in taking German and considering the five-year IEP Dual Degree program, which includes a one-year abroad internship in the fourth year. The program is also available for students interested in other languages and majors.
Cranston East’s German teacher, Baerbel Tully,began offering students an after school German club a couple of years back, which then blossomed into the relationship with URI and the piloting of German foreign language classes at East which result in three college credits as well as high school credit.
“This first semester is the prerequisite class for second semester,” Tully said. “By the end of the school year, the students will have earned three URI college credits.”
The pilot curriculum is interactive, diverse, inclusive, interdisciplinary and fits well with the district’s blended learning initiatives. It incorporates an online platform, as well as both independent and collaborative work. Tracksdorf is the editor of the interdisciplinary textbook, “Impul Deutsch,” and was on the authoring team. The students at Cranston East are the first high school students to use the book, and one of the first groups of students overall.
Tully cites the partnership with Tracksdorf as being a crucial part of the pilot program’s success.
“He is great about checking in with me to see how things are going, and I send him videos of the students’ presentations or something we have done,” she said. “If we need something uploaded into our day’s schedule, he does it from URI in minutes.”
In addition to the online platform through Blink, other technological resources the class uses include Quizlet, Kahoot and Quizlet Live.
“We watch videos, do presentations, and we do things to focus on the German culture,” Tully said. “We just made pretzels recently, and we will be making German Christmas cookies later on in the semester, too.”
The students in Tully’s class cite her teaching style and patience as part of what is making the new foreign language experience successful and enjoyable. Her frequent check-ins ensure that they are where they should be in the curriculum and understand what they are doing before moving on.
The Wanderbus will conclude its tour of the United States this month.

Jen Cowart is a communications specialist for Cranston Public Schools.

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