LT’s German Club explores student roots
Karl Krull remembers at a young age listening to his grandfather and mother speak German, trying to decipher what they meant through such foreign sounds.
“I wanted to know what they were saying,” he said.
It wasn’t much of a surprise then that Karl decided to take German as a course at Lyons Township High School.
With part of his family hailing from Bielefeld, Germany, the sophomore student wanted to explore his roots as well as connect with his family through language. That’s one of the reasons Karl joined the German Club, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
The German Club at Lyons Township High School is run by first-year German teacher Karen McCann. Since she’s recently taken over, the group has grown to include students outside of the German class as well.
“I heard last year the core group was about eight,” McCann said. “The first meeting this year, 25 kids showed up. I thought, ‘This is a great start.’ I don’t know what made it move like that.”
The group, McCann said, is dedicated to exploring the culture and history of Germany by hosting events and engaging students.
That’s why the German Club, with help from LT’s stagecraft class, built a “Berlin Wall” on Nov. 14 and painted it with messages from loved ones and anti-communism slogans in order to replicate the real thing.
The creation — and eventual destruction, which took place Nov. 20 — was a way for students to make an empathetic connection to the historical event that they wouldn’t otherwise get from a textbook reading, a lecture or video, McCann said.
“It’s a sobering topic to bring into German class,” McCann said. “The kids that like to mess around in class were stone-cold silent when we watched the videos.”
For students, the recreation of the wall, along with the classroom lessons, were “cool.”
“My mom always told me about it,” junior Zachary Frana said. “She said they interrupted her shows with the news. That’s all she knew.”
The destruction also was a powerful moment, said freshman Maggie Bruck, an officer of the German Club.
“Every day I’d walk by it and I’d see people stop and stare at it,” Maggie said of the group’s recreation. “It was cool to be part of something like that. And the destruction was great. I brought a piece of the wall home with me.”
The Berlin Wall experience is just one of many events the German Club has planned, McCann said. The group has hosted an Oktoberfest event, where seniors cooked German cuisine, and they’ll be heading down to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, where they’ll purchase food and gifts by speaking solely German.
“I’m really excited,” Maggie said. “I’ve heard it’s really fun. It’ll be cool to talk with actual German people.”
McCann said the club has attracted those in her German classes, as well as those who take French and other languages at LT. At the least, she’s noticed those who take German do so because it’s something they’re interested in, whether it be because they’re looking to explore their heritage or because they’re fascinated by history.
“They’re there because that want to be there,” McCann said. “And I think that’s great.”
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