A grade 7 and 8 class at Market Lane Public School has been engaged in an interactive exchange of cultural experiences with a school in Berlin, Germany for a project called "Living TOgether." Inspired by the 25th anniversary of German unification, the initiative involves the participation of the German Consulate in Toronto and looks at big ideas like reconciliation, bringing different people together, and fostering understanding through empathy.
Structured into several phases, the project consists of student-led interviews with Canadians of different cultural backgrounds, an interactive artistic workshop led by theater professionals from Berlin, and a virtual exchange between students on both sides of the Atlantic about their experiences with “LivingTOgether” through texts, pictures and video.
On November 12, Market Lane PS students presented their ideas of “LivingTOgether” during their “Congress of Special Items.” This unique and colourful presentation transformed a classroom into a museum that featured objects brought in by students that signify to them the ideas and principles of co-operation, collaboration, and bringing people of diverse backgrounds together. Each student presented and spoke to their contribution. One student brought a post card and small piece of the Berlin Wall that was shared by a neighbour who had been in Berlin on a business trip, and explained how the project helped bring them together as neighbours. Others brought a chess set from a grandfather, toys from different countries, a TTC map, and a 1992 Blue Jays’ rally towel-after all, what project about coming together would be complete without a symbol of the city’s beloved baseball team. Most poignantly, one student brought an Eiffel tower model from a family trip to Paris, unaware of the tragedy that was to befall the City of Light the very next day.
“[This project] helped them to more meaningfully connect their own lives to the lives of students on the other side of the Atlantic,” said teacher Tom Veenstra. “This has also better equipped them to understand and empathize with other situations that cry out for us to live together, helping them to better grasp the Syrian humanitarian crisis and the recent events in Paris and Beirut.”
As part of the showcase event, the students also presented a performance piece that underscored the diversity of the school and the city, and the need for understanding and communication. In the piece, students engage in a lively conversation about shoes, but with each student/character speaking a different language represented at the downtown school. They also celebrated their cultural differences by bringing in and sharing dishes that that they might typically enjoy at their own family gatherings.
"Living TOgether is meant as a playful exercise on the topic of integration, reconciliation and experiencing the world of others,” said Tanja Matuszis of the German Consulate General’s office in Toronto. “The exchange via the blog we created for this project between students from Berlin and Toronto about their cities, life and culture is such an amazing example of how easily children connect and how similar they tick - on both sides of the Atlantic."
Veenstra said that his students learned much about themselves and their classmates in the project and that, in turn, has helped them to consider and appreciate a broader perspective. “My students were able to give voice to the things that bring together the people in their lives and in their community,” he said. “Examining the little things that bring them together has helped them to become more engaged global citizens.
3.Projektphase: Austellungseröffnung und Lunch: