Couscous, parsley, mint, cucumbers, spring onions, tomatoes, one drop each of lemon juice and olive oil, a pinch of salt, a little pepper: These are the most important ingredients in a tabbouleh, a traditional Arab dish. “How much pepper do we need, Rama? And how small should we chop the cucumbers?” asks 17-year old Silvia from Munich. Rama knows the exact amounts; for her, tabbouleh is more than just a salad. For the 16-year old girl from Syria the dish is a strong reminder of home. Nine months ago she fled from Syria to Germany, and for five months she has been learning German at “Waldgymnasium” grammar school in Berlin’s Charlottenburg district. This Thursday she is the one teaching other schoolchildren: how people cook in her home country, and what they like to eat.
“Cooking around the World” is one of some 20 workshops that are being held at “Waldgymnasium” grammar school in Berlin. They are part of the “Moving People – Forum on Cultural Relations and Education Policy, which the Federal Foreign Office is staging from 13 to 15 April 2016 in Berlin. 300 schoolchildren, teachers, and principals from more than 50 PASCH schools in 30 countries were invited to Berlin, where they are discussing Germany, the German language, education, and culture. Today they are working with pupils at “Waldgymnasium” grammar school.
The topics of the workshops are as diverse as the cultures from which the schoolkids come. From acting, drawing comics, rapping, robotics, wheelchair basketball, and physics, to photography, poetry slams – and cooking: The students strike up conversations with one another about numerous topics. “Cooking is fun and you get to know people well,” says 17-year old Anna from Munich. 18-year old Hannah from the USA thinks so too. She is just chopping up the ingredients for a vegetable doner kebab. She has been learning German since 4th Grade. “I play the cello, and my biggest dream is to work for the Berlin Philharmonic one day. Then I really will need my knowledge of German.”
Going out into the world
No one here today has any fear of a foreign language and other cultures. And that is what distinguishes the young people attending the education forum says Andreas Görgen, Head of the Federal Foreign Office’s Department of Culture and Communication. “Cultural work means going out, just as they are doing,” he says in his opening address.
Exposing oneself to new things is always an experiment, something those attending the “Experimento” workshop discover. They find out at first hand, how renewable energies are generated, and how to source clean drinking water. Nziza from Ruanda and Lindmir from Kosovo are sitting at a table with Zoé and Sholah from France. They are learning new German words such as “Strom” (electricity), Batterie (battery), Solarzellen (solar cells) – and finding about how electricity is generated in the countries their fellow pupils come from.
Things are really energetic a few doors further down: Berlin rapper Graf Fidi and Nestor are introducing those attending the workshop to the world of rap: How do you come up with matching rhymes, what skills do you need, which beat is the most suitable? At the end of the workshop they all rap in German. Whether they are native German speakers or learning German: Music is a language everyone understands anyway.