Sunday, September 13, 2015

Making Memories Back to School Schultüten a German Tradition

     Every year parents,kids, and teachers are anxious and elated over the first day of school. It's funny but the air even feels different like something big, and special is about to happen. Children get new clothes, sneakers, back packs,  and school supplies. Parents run around checking their kids lists to make sure that they have gotten everything they need for a successful start to the school year. Then it finally happens, day one! The bus pulls up, the children get on and are taken away for their first day of school. Anxious parents and caregivers leave the bus stop waving goodbye with hopes of great things for their children. I suppose memories are made but perhaps more could be done to make even more positive memories!
   This summer I traveled to Germany to visit my daughter, her husband, and my daughter's new family. We were welcomed with open arms. We stayed at my son-in-laws parents home for the first few days. My daughter kept asking her mother-in-law, "When can we watch the first year video?" Her husband not so eagerly added, "Can we not?". Finally we did! I swear it was the most amazing instructional video I had ever seen! It was a video of my son-in-law at age 6 in his first year of school after kindergarten. It was almost a grand celebration for all of the first year students to be welcomed to their education! Parents were included to take part in the festivities. The older children came and read to the new students. Smiles were everywhere as the older children unknowingly modeled positive school behavior and learning to the younger students. Next they did a round of math lessons using musical instruments to demonstrate the counts of each number in simple math equations. Before the video finished I realized that multiple modes for learning were used when the older children taught the younger children. They used sight, hearing, tactile-kinesthetic, and taste. All of the children were happy, proud, and their parents were too. As the children left school they were all handed different, colorful cones! At this point I didn't know what they were, but I knew that I wanted one! It also became me instead of my daughter who started begging, "Can we see the first year video again?"!
      I soon learned that these colorful cones are called "schultüten" . I was right, I would want one! They are filled with school supplies, candy, and small toys. They are typically given to first graders in Germany. On their first day of primary school, children are brought to school by their parents where they are welcomed by their teacher and new classmates. Just like in the video, there is a small two hour  welcoming party, with songs, poems, and theatre which are performed by the older children.    
     Through a bit of research, I have learned that the tradition of schultüten dates back to 1810. As the legend states, there is a tree at the teacher's home with a decorated cone on it for every first year child. After the tree fully matures, it is time for school to start. In the old days, it was the godparents who gave the children the colorful cone-shaped schultüten at school. Today it is the parents who actually fill each schultüte for their child. 
    I can only wish of having a schultüte tree at my home. I knew that my middle schoolers would love hearing about this German Tradition and getting their own schultüte. So I decided to make them for my students for the first day of school! I rolled old, colorful posters carefully and gently taped and stapled them into cone shapes. Next I filled each one with school supplies, snacks, and trinkets. After filling them I carefully cut and folded tissue paper and glued it to the wide end of the cone. I then sealed the cone with colorful ribbon making my schultüten complete! Each schultüte had identical contents so that no one would feel left out!

     The best part of this whole project was hearing squeals of delite and the thank yous! Every child chose to keep their schultüte intact to bring it home to show their parents. So after opening them, we gently refilled them and replaced the closure ribbon for the trip home. It's a memory that my students will remember and better yet it connects them globally with the children in Germany.