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The Gazette: A cultural conduit: German WanderbUS tours Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids high schools

October 1, 2019

The Gazette: A cultural conduit: German WanderbUS tours Mount Vernon, Cedar Rapids high schools

A wheeled showroom of German culture rolled through two Corridor area high schools last month, brightening up what for students otherwise might have been unremarkable mornings in the classroom.

Mount Vernon High School and Washington High School in Cedar Rapids became the two Iowa stops from Sept. 18-19 for the national WanderbUS tour, which packs digital trivia, a photo booth and virtual reality tours of key German cities into a decorated truck.

The tour represents a collaboration among the German Federal Foreign Office, the Goethe-Institut and the Federation of German Industries, as part of the country’s Wunderbar Together campaign, and hopes to imbibe students with interest in the country, including its culture, history and language.

The WanderbUS departed from Alexandria, Va., in early March and has zigzagged across the U.S. in the intervening months, with an aim to visit a total of 60 high schools and universities across the 48 continental states through November.

Nolan Brand, a Mount Vernon senior and fourth-year German student, said his father, the school’s principal, was able to bring the tour to his high school through his friendship with a leader at the Goethe-Institut.

Of the visit, Brand said, “It’s interesting to learn how alike we are, although we may live far apart and speak different languages.”

Traveling educators Valerie Czok and Frederic Korona said the WanderbUS celebrates the connections between Germany and the U.S., and combines teachings about the country with interactive exhibits outside the classroom.

We “show them that it’s attractive to learn German, show them a bit of German culture and what it’s about,” Czok said of the tour.

A few community members joined the high schoolers in checking out the WanderbUS. Mount Vernon resident Dennis Rodenberg decided to visit with his daughters, ages 6 and 9 years old, after learning about the tour on social media.

Rodenberg, who has German heritage and speaks the language fluently, said he appreciated the chance to expose his children to the culture.

“There is a need for German,” he said. “German is one of the most important languages to know, simply because there is so much connectivity between the U.S. and Germany … To be able to have at least a little bit of exposure, you can understand the culture and language that much better.”

In terms of what the students take away from the WanderbUS visit, Korona said, “Maybe they keep on learning German, or maybe get curious and visit Germany one time … that they see what we have in common and what values we share.”

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