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Goethe im Garten
Healthy cooking meets sustainability in Goethe im Garten programme

Marina Shine talks to schoolkids from Covenant Christian School
© André Leslie/Goethe-Institut Australien

A dozen students from a Sydney high school took time out from class recently to visit Goethe-Institut's Woollahra premises. The budding German speakers got their hands dirty in the garden, before cooking themselves a healthy lunch and conducting sustainability experiments.

By André Leslie

What do you like to eat at home? How often do you buy take-away food? What are your favourite potato-based snacks? These are just some of the questions posed recently to Year 9 and Year 11 students from Covenant Christian School in Belrose on arrival at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney. 
The day was part of the institute's Goethe im Garten School Garden program, which has been designed to promote gardening, sustainability and positive food habits.
After learning about healthy food options and sustainability, all in German, the 12 students headed out to the Goethe-Institut's community garden to investigate the life-cycle of that ever-reliable German food staple, the potato, and meet the institute’s native bee colony. They also searched out and picked some herbs for lunch. Gardening at the Goethe-Institut in Sydney © André Leslie/Goethe-Institut Australien “This is our first school visit focussed around the garden,” says Marina Shine, who organised the day with her team at Goethe-Institut’s Woollahra premises. “The aim of these visits is to learn about German language and culture in an authentic context.”

multi-faceted learning

While half the group then conducted sustainability-related science experiments, the others set about preparing and cooking up the midday feast. On the menu was a German favourite: potato waffles with traditional-style apple sauce and herb quark.
The school's language teacher Louise George said that the multi-faceted nature of the excursion was ideal. 
"You want to teach German out of the classroom," she explains. "In the classroom it can get stale, it gets a bit boring."
"Our students are best suited studying topics that mean a lot to them. The environment and sustainability is really important to them, so they are putting their German knowledge into practice with something that's real."

a practical setting

But what did the students think? Holly, who is starting to prepare for her HSC German exams, said it was a nice change to step outside the classroom and hear about the "culture and context" of a language, while year 9 student Jordan appreciated the chance to speak German in a practical setting. Students from Covenant Christian School complete a sustainability experiment © André Leslie/Goethe-Institut Australien "You're actually speaking German here," he says. "In the classroom it's more theoretical." 
There was only one minor slip up on the day, when a cheeky local bird swooped in and pinched some food being heated in a student-made solar oven. Otherwise, lunch went off without a hitch, with many of the students heading back for seconds.
Louise George hopes excursions like this can be the start of a step towards Germany for the students involved. 
"We hope that they use their German knowledge in the area of sustainability one day," she says.
"We are actually hoping that they do a bit of study in Germany - especially because Germany is a world leader on the issue of climate change, more so than Australia."