How can local transport infrastructure be made more sustainable and environmentally friendly? Partner schools The Dukeries Academy and Gesamtschule Rheydt-Mülfort took part in a cross-curricular project involving their local communities to investigate.
Who: The Dukeries Academy, Newark and Gesamtschule Rheydt-Mülfort, Mönchengladbach
Participants: 32 British and German pupils travelling
Sustainable project, sustainable partnership
The Dukeries Academy and Gesamtschule Rheydt-Mülfort met to investigate the sustainability and inclusivity of the transport infrastructure within their local areas. The aim of the trip was for pupils to work on a collaborative project and in doing so,improve their social skills and offer hands-on language practice. Developing an awareness towards people with special needs and environmental problems in relation to their local transport infrastructure would in turn raise knowledge, acceptance and tolerance of other cultures and values.
The purpose of the project was sustainability, not only in environmental terms, but also for the contact between the Dukeries and Gesamtschule Rheydt-Mülfort” (UK teacher).
Time to investigate
Prior to the trip, students undertook initial research into the historical background of their local transport networks, with visits to the British Rail Museum and the Museum of Early Industrialisation in Wuppertal. After presenting their findings to each other via Skype, students worked on a joint survey about the current transport habits of the general public. They were even able to involve their local primary schoolsto help collect the data!
During the exchange itself, students once again involved the local community. Putting their language skills to the test, they interviewed members of the public to collect their views on how to make local transport more environmentally friendly, sustainable and inclusive. The students then presented their results in both countries using posters, PowerPoint presentations and speeches. By having to survey research, evaluate and present their work, pupils were able to broaden their skills in many fields.
An opportunity like this really develops your confidence and allows you to improve your language in a fun and enjoyable way. (UK participant)
A change of scene
For the pupils at The Dukeries Academy, the project was not only an opportunity to learn about topics surrounding the environment but a chance to explore a new area and expand their horizons. With their school in a rural location and poor public transport links, the project allowed the pupils to sample life in larger cities, work with others from more diverse backgrounds and form long-lasting connections with pupils from another country. The community has also seen massive benefits from the repeat exchange visits; in fact, Newark and Sherwood Council have been printing additional copies of their German tourist guides about the area due to the increased demand.
A renewed enthusiasm
Since the sustainability project, pupils in both schools have continued to stay in touch. Year 7 pupils have been communicating by email and letter and other pupils who did not participate in the exchange have even started pen-pal friendships with their partner school!
At the Dukeries academy, interest in the German language has increased with German A-level now firmly back on the curriculum, and the exchange itself has become a regular feature.This renewed enthusiasm has even sparked ideas of a new exchange in the sixth form which will enable pupils from both schools to be taught at each institution for six weeks to improve their language skills and cement the exchange even further.
“The project has had an enormous impact on pupils from The Dukeries Academy. German is now back on the map!“ (UK teacher)
Top tips from the teachers
- Try and find a project idea that is meaningful for the pupils.
- Try and involve the pupils from the beginning by finding ways of getting in touch with the partners beforehand.
- Involve the pupils in planning the project visits so that it is their project.
- Plan a meticulous programme with opportunities for the leaders and for the pupils to spend time together in a relaxed atmosphere to get to know each other, exchange information and ideas.
- Inform the pupils that they will have to evaluate and present their results not only in front of the school and authorities but also after the visits for the organisation from which we receive the grant money. (They often think that it is all over when they are home and it is sometimes difficult to bring them to finish this part of the project).