FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — South Forsyth High School students commemorated the historic fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago with a re-enactment Nov. 8.
“My colleague [Steffi Legall-Riddle] and I have been teaching a unit on the Berlin Wall to our German classes for the past three weeks,” Jonas Strecker said. “To make the learning a little more experiential, the kids have been building a replica of the wall made out of cardboard boxes. Over the past few weeks, they and a group of Fine Arts students, led by instructor Alison Muraski, have decorated the boxes in the graffiti style of the actual Berlin Wall.”
To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the event, a replica of the wall was constructed in the main hall of the school — located between West and East Hall — creating a bit of an inconvenience for all students as they headed to their classes, Strecker said.
“Not quite the same obstacle that the Berlin Wall created in real life, but hopefully students will pause and think about why there’s a wall,” Strecker said.
Students gathered at the wall at 10:10 a.m. when the German Club President Maggie Lonsway gave a brief speech that included asking Principal Laura Wilson to “tear down this wall.”
The project showcases the hard and important work students have done to learn about history and hopefully help in not letting history repeat itself, Strecker said.
“Teaching a language also includes teaching and learning about the culture of the country where the language is spoken, and therefore Herr Strecker and I try to incorporate as many “authentic” cultural experiences for our students as possible,” Legall-Riddle said. “Building and tearing down the wall is just one example of those learning experiences.”
The intent was for students in the entire school to commemorate the historic occasion and to learn how events of the past shape and influence the present, Legall-Riddle said.
“We discussed what events led to the building of the wall and reflected on the fact that, ultimately, the will of the people in a peaceful “revolution” led to the fall of the wall and we talked about how the fall of the wall impacted today’s Germany,” Legall-Riddle said.
The wall replica itself was 63 feet long/wide and 10 feet high.
“I’m impressed with all South students,” Strecker said. “They have not kicked it, nor complained about having to walk around it. Instead they’ve stopped to take pictures, and some even read the fact sheets on the “East” side of the wall.”
Wilson was impressed by the activity and her staff.
“Herr Strecker and Frau Legall make learning relevant and experiential for our students,” the principal said. “The ‘disruption’ caused by the wall being erected dividing one of our main hallways generated a significant amount of dialogue and therefore increased understanding. This is the type of real-world, meaningful learning we want for our students.”
The actual Berlin Wall was created in 1961 to separate the German people living under a socialist regime in East Germany from those living in the West. Its fall in 1989 led to the reunification of Germany and the decline of Soviet communist influence throughout Europe.