“Our common foundation: European Values” is the title of the EU-funded Erasmus+ project that coordinates our school. From 24 to 28 November, five students from Croatia, Spain and Denmark met with 15 young people from our school to discuss the values codified in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. They were accompanied by two teachers from each school.
The focus of this kick-off meeting was the value of freedom. After two dictatorships in recent German history and on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall this year, the choice of topic for the Lübeck meeting was obvious.
Monday, November 25th
After everyone had gotten to know each other a little on the first day, Kirsten Engler, teacher for “performing game”, led the participants to physically express how freedom feels like in contrast to being trapped and tight. Then everyone noted down a situation which was important for him and in which he had felt free or unfree. In internationally mixed groups we talked about our personal experiences and chose one situation each, which we then presented as a still image. In this way, young people and teachers approached the question of what value freedom has for them personally.
The afternoon served to show our guests the old town of Lübeck.
In small groups, young people and teachers set off on a city tour.
Later, everyone met again at school for the international evening. Each delegation had brought a contribution to the buffet and prepared a joint activity. Spanish chorizo, brune Kager from Denmark, cheese from Croatia and sauerkraut with Kassler and potato salad from Germany, from all specialities the participants tasted and gained an impression of the country typical kitchen.
Then a video took us to the beautiful baroque town of Varaždin in Croatia, where we practiced the pronunciation of Danish Christmas specialities, danced together and sang shanties. Not everything worked out right away, but the fun was written all over our faces.
Tuesday, November 26th
The next day was about the political dimension of the value of freedom. Fifteen young people were given a piece of the puzzle on which the text of 15 of the 54 articles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was written. The other half of the young people each received a puzzle piece with a current case in which one of the fundamental rights is violated. The task was to find the partner who possessed the corresponding fundamental rights article. In a short time the puzzle was complete.
The young people then chose the two articles that were of personal importance to them and shared their experiences with the partners.
Wipo teacher Daniel Klingebiel then commissioned them to agree on an article in groups and to create a photo story or a video for it. The groups presented their findings on Article 11, freedom of expression, Article 14, right to education, Article 21, non-discrimination, Article 23, right to equality between men and women, and others in a gallery tour and received much recognition for their ideas and their implementation.
We spent the afternoon in the Grenzhus Schlagsdorf, where the border fortifications of the German-German border at the historical site with original material give an impression of the effort the GDR has made to prevent its citizens from fleeing to freedom. Very touching for us visitors was the fact that the director of the museum, Mr. Wagner, reported on how his own biography was influenced by the division of Germany. On the basis of this and other individual fates we were able to understand which freedoms were curtailed in the socialist dictatorship.
A walk on the Priwall formed a beautiful program conclusion on this day. There we showed our guests the former course of the border and how close the east shore is to the coast in the west, but remained inaccessible during GDR times. As dusk fell and the lights on the houses of the front row began to sparkle, we strolled back to the bus, which brought us back to Lübeck.
Afterwards the teachers followed the invitation of our former colleague Winni Harz to a meal at his home, which was adapted to the host countries.
Wednesday, November 27th
The third day began with a visit to the Willy Brandt House. The biography of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who grew up in Lübeck, illustrates the value of freedom. Willy Brandt already wrote for a socialist newspaper as a teenager and fled to Scandinavia to escape persecution by the Nazi dictatorship. After the war he experienced the building of the Berlin Wall as the governing mayor of Berlin. Thanks to his policy of “change through rapprochement”, which he pursued as Federal Chancellor, there was a rapprochement between East and West. “To dare more democracy” – under this motto the society of the FRG experienced a democratization push under his government.
The next stop was the European Hansemuseum, where the pupils simulated a meeting of the European Council.
After an introduction to the scene of Brussels, Tim Kunze from the Hanseatic Museum distributed the roles and materials. In mixed teams, the pupils worked out their country’s position on the question of whether the different educational qualifications in the member states should be recognised throughout Europe. The second question was whether border controls should be reintroduced within the EU. The challenge was that the participants were not allowed to represent their own country, but had to conduct the debate in English from the perspective of another Member State.
After a strenuous 2.5 hours in which the young people, supported by their teachers, had worked, the afternoon promised relaxation.
The Christmas market with Ferris wheel and stalls invited everyone to enjoy the decorated old town of Lübeck and to buy some souvenirs.
We celebrated the end of our profitable project start in the evening in a pizzeria. There all participants received their certificates and the guests received an Advent calendar with Lübeck motifs as a reminder.
The follow-up meetings in Carboneras (Spain) will focus on the value of tolerance. In Grenå (Denmark) we will deal with the issue of equality and finally in Varaždin (Croatia) with the issue of democracy.
Special thanks go to our families who hosted the guest students and met them warmly and openly. Without their commitment the international orientation of our school would not be possible!
Our project is supported by the EU Commission with funds from the Erasmus+ programme.
Text: Mechthild Piechotta
Photos: Miriam Petzold, Charlotte Grasteit, Mechthild Piechotta