Janesville65.2°

Student exchange to start in Elkhorn

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Mike Heine
January 29, 2008
Attention students at Elkhorn Area Middle School and Elkhorn Area High School.
Please open up your e-mail address book and prepare to enter a few new contacts.
You’re about to meet some new friends from Germany.

The district and the Alte Landesschule School in Korbach, Germany, are on the verge of starting a student exchange and pen pal program.


“I think it’s definitely something people will be excited about, and we’ll have a lot of interest in it,” said Lindsay Swanson, a senior and student representative on the Elkhorn School Board. “We don’t have as many opportunities for our students to go to other schools in other countries, but we have a lot of fun when other students come to visit.”


Officials from the German school met Monday with Elkhorn Area School District and Walworth County officials about the relationship and how to make it work.


Kyle Gorden, the German language teacher at Elkhorn Area High School, doesn’t see many snags to starting a program.


His school has had a relationship with a Russian school for 15 years.


Alte Landesschule has had a connection with a French school since 1952. That is one of the oldest partnerships in Europe, Principal Robert Gassner said through an interpreter.


“I would say we’re looking in the 2008-09 school year,” Gorden said of a possible start date. “We’re looking for more than just a student exchange. We’d like to have an e-mail exchange between our middle-schoolers and their middle-schoolers.”


Alte Landesschule teaches students from ages 10 to 19. They start learning English there from day one.


Understanding a culture, though, takes more than just the language, Gassner said.


Learning a culture “is more than important in what we call the globalized world,” Gassner said. “In our schools, it’s quite common to have texts about America, England, Ireland, all the English-speaking world. The other thing is to talk to a real person, get into a family and see how people are living. This is a great experience for our pupils.


“We think it’s more important to face things and people who are different to learn to tolerate and accept those differences and even make friendships.”


Elkhorn School District Administrator Greg Wescott welcomed the opportunity to explore starting an exchange program.


“Many years ago, the sun rose in East Troy and set in Delavan. That was the expanse of our world,” he said. “Now we’re in a world where the sun never goes down. Our students need the opportunity to experience that world because that’s the world they’re going to be competing in.”


The idea spawned out of Walworth County’s 5-year-old “sister county” relationship with the German district of Waldeck-Frankenburg.


Leaders in both places have exchanged pleasantries and ideas on issues, Walworth County Administrator David Bretl said. Such an exchange would be the first program derived from the sister county relationship.


“A student exchange can’t take place with just Walworth County or Waldeck-Frankenburg,” Bretl said. “It has to take place with the actual schools. That’s why it’s so exciting; we can have this exchange over the next day. Hopefully this will lead to a good place.”



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