Featured image of article: Alumna Connects ConVal Students To German School

Alumna Connects ConVal Students To German School

Two years ago, ConVal alumna Stephanie Demetry (Class of of 2011, insert) contacted German teacher Cindi Hodgdon with an idea: “I am a recipient of the Gilman Scholarship through the US Department of State. The scholarship process involves submitting a proposal for a follow-on project once I return to the United States. The follow-on project that I propose involves working closely with the ConVal German Club, as I know that there are a lot of kids at Conval who may feel as though they could never afford to study abroad and may abandon German as a course of study after high school for that very reason.”

The goal that Demetry had set for her project was to make personal connections between students in Berlin, Germany and at ConVal. While connections between ConVal students and students in German-speaking countries already exist — including the biannual exchange with Salzburg, Austria —, Demetry’s project opened up a special dimension:  “I am  very passionate about the humane treatment and increased rights for the mentally handicapped, so I want to incorporate something into my program that could benefit this population in some way.” Demetry proposed to have students in German connect with students in Life Skills and Special Education at ConVal and start exchanging communications.

Frau Hodgdon contacted Frank Davidson to see if he and his students in the special education program would be interested in participating in a letter exchange: “Our vision was to have special education students write letters to their pen pals in Germany and have students of German help them to write and to translate the letters for them.  We were lucky enough to do this for two years and the students wrote about four to five letters a year,” Frau Hodgdon said. “This year, students on both sides of the exchange are graduating, but the letter exchange will continue with a new generation of German and special education students.” In addition to the letters, the students exchanged videos of each other, showing off their respective schools and the activities in which they engage on a daily basis. The photo above was composed from video stills.

The two-year project was meaningful to the ConVal students. Emma Mellon wrote as a reflection: ” I think that writing the letters to Berlin with Mr. Davidson’s students was great! Everyone had a great time! Writing with to the students in Berlin made us closer to them as well as connecting students in our German class with other students in our school. It was a great experience to be able to learn something from everyone involved.” Oliver Ellerkamp agreed: “Writing letters to the students in Berlin was a very interesting and creative idea that was proposed. As well we made videos for Berlin and they sent a video back, I found this awesome and it gave us a much better understanding of the students in Berlin. This activity was a great way to bond the German class with Mr. Davidson’s class.”