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“Migration and Integration” A Literary Project of the German Language School London

supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ottawa.

Spring 2020: The Coronoa virus crisis – virtual instruction – a lot is new and unfamiliar, but the main thing is that we are carrying on.

In this novel situation,  the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ottawa generously offered financial support to the German Language Schools in Canada to carry out a project of their own choosing.  The GLSL , together with the Language Diploma Class (DSD Klasse) of the German Language School Metro Toronto, Richmond Hill decided for a literature project with the theme “Migration and Integration.”  The many new challenges and experiences that have resulted from a constant stream of refugees to Europe and North America from crisis zones worldwide over the past decade has led to a production of a large body of new literature on this subject in many languages and for readers of all ages.

Seven classes of the GLSL from grades 1 to 12 are working under the leadership of their class teachers and Dr. Beate Gundert (project manager) and the Language Diploma class at the GLS Richmond Hill is being led by Dr. Sabine Sander.  The pupils are each reading one or more books in German appropriate for their age and linguistic competence – autobiographies, reports, novels including “graphic novels”, pictorial histories, allegories, illustrated books for children – depicting people, mainly children and young adults, who have fled from their homes to Germany: their life in their country of origin before its crisis, their flight (reasons, circumstances, route), arrival and settlement in the new environment, the reactions and attitudes of the host citizens, the challenges of integrating into a country with an unknown language and culture, their successes and their failures.

Our project has been met with enthusiastic interest among our teachers and students, many of whom are immigrants themselves, they and / or their parents having come to Canada for a variety of reasons from Germany, Central and South America, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, states of the former Soviet Union and from the Far East. 

The project gives students the opportunity to learn about their own family’s origins, and to reflect on and compare their own experiences among themselves and with those depicted in the books they are reading.   Themes addressed include the meaning of homeland, tradition, family, worldview, mother tongue, security, freedom and responsibility, both as these apply to the individual, and as they affect the collective life of different groups in our multi-cultural society.  These discussions have immediate relevance, especially at a time when tendencies towards intolerance and turning inward away from what is experienced as foreign are in evidence.  Our students learn in this process  that for the functioning of healthy communities in the twenty first century, an interest in and knowledge of other cultures and languages  is advantageous.

At the conclusion of the project around the middle of December, a number of multi-media student presentations are planned: possibilities are reports on the books and how the students perceived them, skits, pictures, collages, handicrafts, and interviews conducted with people who have had refugee and emigration experiences.  These will be selectively recorded as videos and in written form and uploaded on our school website.

The literature project is making it possible for us to explore an important contemporary phenomenon in Germany and the world in general, in a manner that reaches beyond the individual classroom and reinforces the school community as a whole at a time of difficult social contact where live interaction is largely lacking.

We thank the German Embassy in Ottawa for its encouragement and support.

Further project reports will follow and can be accessed here: http://www.germanschoollondon.ca/literary-project/