Thursday, July 10, 2014

What do you need to do to go on a Transatlantic Outreach Program Study Tour?

I had applied at least three times and placed on a wait list twice.  The first feedback letter I got was a complete rejection, the second time around I got wait listed and asked to reapply the next year and to conduct a workshop, and this year I was wait listed again with the letter stating there were over 500 people who applied and I may request to have my existing application continued into next year.  Then in April, I got the phone call asking if I was still interested in the study tour.  I immediately said yes.  I must have been at the top of the wait list this year.

But what should applicants do to apply?  First off, go to this website and it has all the materials you need.  Look through the pages and the links to the left.  This page has the FAQs for the study tour.  You should get interested in Germany as a topic and as you become more comfortable with the topic, lead a workshop.  Goethe Institut has materials that you can acquire free of charge and distribute to your Social Studies colleagues in a workshop that should be about 2 hours in length.  You can work with your department or work with your district curriculum director if you want to present it at a larger scale.  You will document the date, time, and those in attendance at your workshop as well as a workshop evaluation form and you will mail the documentation to the Goethe Institut in Washington, D.C.  The materials are available for elementary/middle audiences as well as secondary audiences.  The materials can be used in part of a lesson you can teach in your classroom.  There is a form for lesson evaluation that you can send as well.

Another thing that TOP looks in for applicants is what would you do with the experiences on the study tour once you are back in your school.  You will write an essay stating this and how you will integrate Germany in your curriculum.

Other points that will be applied to your application is a letter of reference from an alumnus of a TOP study tour.  You are free to contact me when the time comes and I will write a letter of reference for you.  Also, they see if teachers have prior international travel experience.  In my group, almost everyone had international travel experience.  They want to work with people who are comfortable with traveling and not to slow the group down.

There are a couple of requirements that you must fulfill for the Goethe Institut.  This includes holding a two-hour workshop about the trip and Germany for your colleagues at the local, state, or national level within a year and to write a lesson plan by the first half of September.  Participants had to pay a $350 deposit prior to the tour.  To get it refunded, we have to fulfill these two requirements.  Also, if we fulfill the requirements, you may reapply for a tour in four years.

The application will be available in Fall 2014 for the summer of 2015.  There will be the option of 3 or 4 dates for you to note priority to take the tour.

There were almost 110 teachers selected this year in groups of about 15.  Each of the groups will have their own itinerary and no two groups will have the same experiences.

The underwriters for this study tour include the Federal Foreign Office, Deutsche Bank, Robert Bosch Stiftung, and Siemens.

If you have any questions about the program, feel free to contact me at or call Goethe Institut in Washington, D.C. at 202-289-1200.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Final Post

Conclusion of Germany trip

Thank you for reading this blog of my trip.  All of these blogs have been typed on an iPad and I know there are some mechanical errors in the writing.  In the next couple of weeks I will revisit the blogs on my regular computer and add photos to go along with it.

Friday, July 4th was the final full day in Germany for our group.  We headed out the door at. 9:30 to visit Potsdam.  Potsdam was the location of the conference of the Allied leaders following the conclusion of the European side of World War II.  We toured the "house" that had belonged to a Prince up to 1945 that had over 100 rooms.  This is where the actual conference took place.  The delegations of United States, England, and the Soviet Union each had their own villas as headquarters nearby.  Potsdam is located about 45 minutes outside of Berlin and is seen as the "rich" suburb even if it is in a different states than Berlin.  Also Potsdam is surrounded by a series of lakes.  Most of these villas are located around the lakes.  Again, we toured the building where the conference mainly took place.  It was eerie to think that all of these powers existed and negotiated in this room almost 70 years ago.  There were photos and exhibits of of life at the conference over a month long period of time.  Upon the conclusion of the tour, we walked the paths along the grounds and walked around the exterior of the Marble Palace that belonged to another prince.  The view was spectacular along the lake.
We then continued walking back to where we started from and got to the lake shore again.  There was a poster displayed featuring the Berlin Wall that had been erected here in the early 1960s just 100 yards from where the historical conference was held just 15 years earlier.  We then had lunch at a Biergarten on site.  I was a combination counter service or sit down.  I opted for counter service and had a boulette.  This was basically a pork patty on a bun.  Since it was hot, we were invited inside to get some drinks.  There was a small brewery on site and we toured it.
Following our lunch we headed further down the road to Sansucci, which was the. Palace of Frederick the Great.  The grounds were modeled after Versailles in France.    These grounds were now park of a public park for all to enjoy.  There was a windmill on site that was there prior to Frederick and remained there after the windmill owner protested to Frederick.  We toured the grounds and took many pictures.  There was also a church on site that was very Protestant in its arrangement.    Then it was time to go to back to Berlin.  When we got into Berlin, people by the thousands were heading to the. Tiergarten for public viewing of the Germany World Cup game.  One of the members of our group jumped off the bus to go to the viewing.
Once we got back to Berlin, I washed up a bit and headed out to get some souvenirs.  I first went to Alexanderplatz to a Saturn store.  This is a mega electronics store.  I had to get my fix in.  I then went searching for souvenirs.  I didn't find many I liked and I didn't want anything fragile to take back.  I got some small items for family and  an Amplemann t-shirt to wear.
We got together as a group again and went by train to an Italian stay rant f or our wrap up dinner.  There, we said how great of a group it was.  I have to say this was a very cohesive group without any conflicts and everyone got along.  We went back to the hotel to make sure everything was packed up for the early rise the next morning.
I woke up a little after 4 am and took my stuff downstairs and we waited for the bus to the airport.  We drove to Berlin airport and got boarding passes and went through security.  I forgot I had a bottle of water in my bag, oops!  We took the one hour flight to Frankfurt where we had just a bit of a hard landing.  There was a layover of about 2 hours.  We boarded the aircraft and I fell asleep for a bit.  I woke up and thought we were in the air.  Nope, still taxiing after about 50 minutes and there were at least two babies nearby.  Yippie!
The flight lasted over 8 hours and we landed at Dulles.  We rode over to customs in a rolling lounge and it was smooth going through customs and getting the luggage, I met a shuttle for the Hyatt to stay there the night.
At the Hyatt I had a large room to rest for the evening.  I wanted something g to eat, but I wasn't going to pay high prices for food, but there were no restaurants nearby, so I walked about a mile to a plaza with many restaurants.  Most. Iterate he restaurants were small ethnic restaurants.  I opted for a BBQ restaurant,  I ate the food and saved some to take back to the hotel.  I went to sleep at 7 pm and at 3 I woke up and ate the rest of the food.  Still on European time!  I went back to sleep for a bit and at 6:39 woke up and walked a bit to McDonald's for breakfast.    I then walked some more and went back to the hotel.  I caught the shuttle to the airport for the flight back to Clarksburg.   One of my assistant principals and her husband was also on flight back, so I had someone to talk to a bit at the airport,  we loaded the plane and I had a window seat by the propellor.  I fell asleep through drink service!  The flight was smooth and I saw Tygart Dam!  We landed and the wait for luggage was longer than waiting at a large airport.  I believe it was due the many responsibilities of a limited amount of people.  Once I got the luggage, I drove home!
It was a great trip!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Post 10 Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday and Thursday

On Wednesday, after we spent our first night in Berlin, I woke up in the Motel One and went to breakfast.  No hot foods, there was meats and cheeses, cereals, and some fruit salad.  We boarded a bus to take a tour of the city by sightseeing. It was a chartered bus and not one of the sightseeing buses.  Our guide, Katarina, was describing the landmarks.  We seemed to skim some of the sights though. This was our dress up day (as in suits) because we were visiting one of TOP's top patrons.  We went to Deutche Bank Q110, which is prototype bank opened in 2005.  As you enter this location you encounter some automatic teller machines on one side, then a sales area selling China and wines.  One the right side of the bank where was a treadmill with a screen on changing scenes behind it, then encountered a scale of a human heart that is the same scale as a Blue Whale's heart, and then there was a Ping pong table.  Further back there was lounge furniture, some restaurant tables, and finally a coffee bar.  And there were some conference rooms off the side.  There are tellers with kiosks but not the conventional teller stands that we know of.  We had a tour of the facility and the host described the function. Of each area.  The sales area changed every quarter of the year and where there was fitness and health displays, that gets changed out quarterly as well.  The bank serves as an experiment facility for the rest of the bank's operations in the country.
We then moved onto  Checkpoint Charlie by foot.  There was an interesting read of posters on construction walls, but this was a tourist trap as this was a facsimile of the real thing and those portraying U.S. Shoulders were disgracing to the uniform they were wearing. We then took a U-bah train to a neighborhood and walked for a while to a neighborhood in the east.  We went into a neighborhood and went up three f
Odors to listen to a three hour lecture by a Political Science professor on German society today from education to the gap in stalls of American restrooms.  I was falling asleep during the first hour and had to stand up.  There was a break after the first hour and took a short five minute nap and felt well ever since.
After that, we walked to an Asian restaurant and I had lamb Mandarin.  It was pretty good!  We returned to the hotel and then went back out to out to the Brandenburg Gate at night.  We took a train and got lost on the way to the Gate.  After a fee detours we finally got to the Gate and admired it a night.  Walked about 3 kilometers back to the hotel.

Thursday was a busy day as well.  We started off by taking a train an Economic Studies office and the discussion was about the European Union.  I wasn't very interested in it.  Some of us went to memorials and some to museums.  I chose memorials.  We went to the Reichstag and other government structures.  Walked to the Tiergarten and saw a memorial to the persecution of Jews, Brandenburg Gate,  Jewish Houlocaust Memorial which was a field of over 2,000 steles.  We had lunch at an Italian place where I had pizza.
We then took a tour of Berlin Wall.  Very interesting considering the immediately of the one Sunday morning in 1961.  There are portions of the wall and some stories that go along with it.
We had the option to take a river cruise down the Spree.  That was refreshing and then some of us took a tram to a progressive neighborhood to a Biergarten called Pratergarten.  This was a self service and full service Biergarten. We went to the fill service side and I had meatloaf with mushrooms and mashed potatoes.  Our guide then took us to a former brewery that was used as a Nazi prison in WWII that had been renovated to a culture center with different workshops and restaurants as well as a grocery store.  We then went back to the hole by tram!

Post 9 Monday and Tuesday

Monday and Tuesday

Geisa and Point Alpha

Our first morning in Geisa consisted of breakfast in opt he gathering room of the Slosse.  Traditional breakfast we have been accustomed to.  We then boarded a microbus to Point Alpha less than five minutes from Geisa.  There was a building with what was the former East-West border next to it and an East German border access road crossing by it.  This was where the Most western point of East Germany was up to 25 years ago.  At this location there was an East German observation tower and U.S. Army camp Point Alpha.  Sebastian was our guide on Monday and Tuesday morning and he works for Point Alpha Akademie.  In the main building of the location there was an exhibit on all perspectives of the Cold War.  My back was hurting here because of the long time standing listening to the explanations to the exhibit.  We ventured up along the borders for several hundred meters where former border fences were reconstructed for the site.  There was also the GDR observation tower that we had no access to due to be sold off to a cell phone company.  However, the former U.S camp was open and we went up the tower and there was. An exhibit on the a Cold War and the camp in the old barracks.  We had lunch in the old mess hall that had been converted in pot a snack bar.  The pork was terrific there.
In the afternoon we returned to the schloss for speakers.  The first speaker was a witness from West Germany talking about his experiences.  It was difficult for me to follow due to soft voices from the speaker and the interpreter.  So I didn't get. Much from that.  Following him, we had a speaker who is a social studies teacher at a Gymnasium.  She was raised and trained at a university in the East.  She talked about how she transitioned teaching from the East to a unified Germany.
We had meat, cheese, soup, and bread in the evening.  The tomato soup was superb!  A few of us played ultimate frisbee at that.  I concluded that my age and playing right after eating is not a good combination to playing ultimate frisbee!  We then walked to a Biergarten  for refreshments and went back to the schloss to watch World Cup soccer between Germany and Algeria.  I stayed up after regulation  to watch Germany score a goal and then went to sleep.
On Tuesday morning, we had breakfast in the gathering room again, albeit with less fruits and vegetables.  We took our luggage to the conference room.  The first guest in the morning was a witness who was from East Germany talking about her experiences.  To sum things up, she didn't want anything to do with the GDR ever again!
For lunch we went to the fifth oldest bakery in Germany that first opened in the early 1500s. We had to put on gowns and hairnets to enter the baking area.  The Baker Meister showed us the process of baking bread.  Following her present action and questions and answers, we went to the courtyard to have lunch of a simple meat and cheese sandwich and a couple of desserts.  We then went to the schlosse to leave.  First we had a parting gift of a beer stein.  Hopefully it won't break by the time I get back to the states!  Then we left on a bus to head to Fulda.
We arrive into Fulda by the largest bus we've had so far on the tour.  We parked in front of the Dom.  Just what we needed, another church!  Actually this cathedral was built in the Baroque style over a period of eight years in the 1700s. We started our city tour here. This was built over the site of two previous churches.  This was probably the prettiest of all the churches we have seen so far.  It was so white and bright on the inside.  There are chapels as you enter the right and left.  There a many details through the building.  There is a chapel in the back for marriages and baptisms and St. Boniface is buried in a crypt in the back of the church.  Then we toured through the cathedral gardens and headed into the city center.  The next location we headed to was one of ten towers that surrounded the city, only four still exist.  The story behind this was that there was a witch hunt in a three year period in the he Middle Ages where 300 women were executed in a city of 4,000 people.  We headed into the city center and saw what seems to be the standard German town that we have learned to love.  We returned to the bus and travelled to the train station to take a train to Berlin.  The train is a high speed train taking about three hours.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Post 8 the weekend!

This is a combined Saturday and Sunday post.  I can't believe we've been in Germany a week.   On Saturday, we woke up and were guided through the city's shopping areas and finally hitting the cathedral.  We were greeted by a tourism guide.  She was a very good speaker and had lived in the United States and Canada when she was younger.  However, she started by explaining the different features of the exterior of the cathedral and some of interior.  We went around to the side of the building and then approached different buildings along the river.  Cologne had been 90 percent destroyed in The War with minor damage to the cathedral.  We then went to the river and looked at some historical looking buildings that were built since the 1950s.  We encountered a wedding taking place at the historical City Hall and there are Roman ruins being prepared for exhibition.  Cologne is one of the oldest Roman cities and remains have been found since the rebuilding of the War.
We made our way back to the Cathedral.  I attended noon prayer with a few others in the group, then did a tour of the building.  We then ventured to climb 533 steps of the south tower,  the only warning there was was a sign stating there was no lift.  There should have been plenty others such as if you suffer fro vertigo or heart diseases, don't do this!  I went up and almost immediately felt how difficult it was to be.  There were tight spiral stairs with people going up and down at the same time.  If someone stops, everyone stops.  I did stop a couple of times in areas where there were doorways.  It was very stressful. Then I encountered the bell chamber and went around them.  Then I went further up the tower.  I almost didn't finish it, but I had the urging of others in the group.  I went to the top and worked my way back down.  It is said that 20,000 people take those steps everyday!
We had to meet the others and there was a downpour.  We waited a few minutes and then bolted to the underground train where we took a train a couple of stops to a local Biergarten that our guide usually goes to.  We sampled all kinds of dishes but my main dish was weinerschnitzel.  I then walked back to the hotel to rest.  I went out later to walk and went to an electronics store and went back to the cathedral.
On Sunday, three if us went to 9:00 mass at the cathedral.  It was held in a side chapel.  Interesting in German and the first time I left a mass bruised from the furnishings.  We then packed up and greeted our guides for the past week and said goodbye.  We took a three hour bus rude to Geisa with a food stop along the way.  I paid 70 cents to use the restroom but got a 50 cent voucher for food in the cafeteria.  I had a brat with fried potatoes.  We got to Geisa after the driver got lost a couple of times.  We were greeted by our new guides from Berlin.  We are staying in a former castle that has been renovated into Point Alpha Academy and guest houses.  Opened in 2011, these rooms are gorgeous and the whole town is picturesque.  I don't know how these small towns can do that!

Post 5 - Leaving Trier and onto Aachen

We packed up the bus and walked over to the Auguste-Viktoria-Gymnasium.  This is a grades 5-12 school in the heart of the city with about 2,000 students in several buildings.  We met with the director, Mr. Bernhard Hugle who described the program of the school and the training of teachers.  Participants in the program were grouped into 2-3 and went to classrooms.  I went with two other teachers to a 5th grade classroom for their English period.  In the lower grades, the students stay in the room and all teachers rotate to different classrooms.  It was just like any other classroom I have been in or observed.  Kids will be kids at that age.  We were asked about sports, where we were from and pets.  They had lessons in they're, there, and their and were reviewing for a test the next day.  For the next period I went to another building, in fact, modular portables as buildings were being renovated.  This was a 12th grade English class of 14 students reading a passage from Thomas More's Utopia.  Students had to find key words and they talked about utopian versus dystopian concepts.

We finished our visit at the school with a lunch if either chicken, fish nuggets, or fired mushrooms.  One problem I have here is that they serve carbonated water everywhere.  You have to specify "still water" if you want refreshing water!  We then went to the play area and discovered that there were students out there unsupervised.  This period last for an hour and a half and no supervision!  Crazy!

We then went to Ordensburg Vogelsong which was a National Socialist school opened by Hitler in the 1930s and had been in the hands of Britain after the war to 1950 and then as training rounds for Belgan Army from 1950 to 2006.  Much the facility is being renovated to improve its facilities to open next year.  We saw a statue with a quote that had been shot off of its man parts and inscription of Adolph Hitler's name had been removed by Allied troops.  This facility had been used as A school for Hitler's youth during the wAter.  Our guide stated that this is the place of the perpetrators and not a place to mourn like concentration camps.

We then arrived to Aachen and got to our hotel.  It's a quaint little hotel with 5 floors of rooms with an elevator for 4 floors.  My room is up on the 5th floor.  Walking the stairs for one floor is the plan!  

We went to dinner at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Magellan's (pronounced Mega-Lon).  I had Turkish meatballs!  Yummo!  It was a late night as we left the restaurant at 10:30!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Post 7 the German speaking community of Belguim and moving onto Cologne.

We left Aachen this morning and over the border.  We went to a location where we can step in three countries at the same time.  They are Germany, Belguim, and the Netherlands.  We then ventured onto a city in Belguim called Eupin.  This is a German speaking community in Belguim.  There are over 75,000 German speakers in Belguim.  The other spoken languages in Belguim are French and Dutch.  In the city we stopped off at the office of an inter regional agency that coordinates hundreds of programs and millions of Euros on a yearly basis by working with various countries.  The presentation was kind of week due to the language barrier, but we got the intent of the presentation.

We then had lunch at the Ratkeller in town.  I had weinerschnitzel and pomme fries.  We had a tour through the town with the town's history and status as the center of German speaking Belguim,  there was a great church and a textile industry there for a while.  We then went to a supermarket that is the parent company of Food Lion and they use the same logo.  Then off to Cologne.

I slept my way to Cologne as I was very tired.  We checked into a small hotel called Hotel Bristol.  We then walked around  a few blocks.  The area is known for nightclubs so we saw lines of young people lining to go into clubs.  I ended up eating a slice of pizza from a Middle Eastern joint.  1€ pizza is pretty good!  We met up at the hotel and we went to the restaurant/nightclub our guide is sometimes a DJ at.  It is on the 30th floor of the tallest building in the city and we went to the terrace.  It was cloudy but we could see almost everything to about 50 kilometers around including the sights of the city, industrial areas, and Bonn which is about 30 km away.  A few of us left and went downstairs and it absolutely poured down rain.  Fortunately our hotel was about 500 meters away and we were drenched.  I put newspapers in my shoes overnight so I'll see how they turned out!

Off to the cathedral tomorrow!