„I’m looking forward to seeing the children run around the school again.” – Interview with Evelina Winter

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Evelina Winter, pedagogical organizer of Sommercamp (image: Toni Mader)Toni Mader

Evelina Winter presents the ‘Sommercamp’, a project from the Chair for Teaching German as a Second Language, the city of Nuremberg and the Bürgerstiftung.

Fun in the sun – that is what summer holidays should look like for children. The city of Nuremberg together with the Chair for Teaching German as a Second Language and the Bürgerstiftung are offering a summer camp in the first two weeks of the summer break, so those who stay home can be active, too.

Evelina Winter, research assistant at the Chair for Teaching German as a Second Language, is pedagogic organizer of the Sommercamp, which starts on 2 August and is all about “Nature and Art”. In this interview, she presents the project and explains why she is passionate about the concept of Sommercamp.

Could you give us a summary of Sommercamp?

Evelina Winter: Yes, with pleasure. The summer camp has been taking place since 2005 and by now constitutes a fixed constant in the summer programme of the city of Nuremberg. Every year we put together an appealing programme. The content concept comes from our Chair, the Bürgerstiftung (a foundation) provides financial support, and the city of Nuremberg advertises the camp in their holiday programme, takes care of registrations and provides us with the Martin-Behaim-Gymnasium as a space for the activities. It is a successful cooperative project that we work on together.

Who can take part?

Evelina Winter: Well, first and foremost of course all children between 8 and 12 years, with and without migration background, since the programme aims at motivating and linguistic support. We especially want to reach children who are learning German as their second language.

For us, there are three important pillars on which the concept is based. Firstly, there are the pupils, whom we aim to give linguistic support with interesting content as part of the holiday programme. Secondly the students who have the opportunity to expand their skills. For example, they get to prepare and give lessons on their own responsibility for the first time. We also offer an accompanying event to support them in this. And as a third pillar, research on language acquisition and teaching, such as dealing with textless picture books, introduction to scientific ways of thinking and working, negotiation processes in conversations about music. We are working in cooperation with the Chair of Psychology and can make use of their studio classroom. This way the project is not only evaluated but we also gain empirical insights into teaching and learning processes of multilingual students. In this context, I had the opportunity of collecting data for my dissertation about how students can access dealing with textless narrative picture books. We also give students the option of using the data we collect for their theses.

But the summer camp is also an interdisciplinary project that other teaching researchers from biology, history, arts and music take part in. Every year, we introduce the children to scientific methods and examine various topics from a historical perspective. We have also had a summer camp with the motto ‘Music is in the Air’, where music was used to stimulate language development. This year, for example, the focus is on art. This is how different projects come about, and that’s what makes the program so varied for the children and so valuable for our research.

Which role do you have in the project?

Evelina Winter: I am responsible for the pedagogical management, I supervise the students, organise the preparatory courses and the camp itself, conduct evaluations and write the final report. So, I am there from start to finish (laughs). The scientific management is in the hands of Prof. Dr. Magdalena Michalak.

How important is this offer in times of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Evelina Winter: More important than ever! The children have been at home a lot, did not have any P.E. classes, and cultural events could also not be taken advantage of. Last year the summer camp had to be cancelled, the motto was planned to be “world of technology” then. We have discarded the idea of repeating the topic, because the kids have been very occupied with technology in these last months. That is why we decided on “Nature and Art”, two topics that have definitely been neglected and that we now want to address creatively.

And now the summer camp will be offline?

Evelina Winter: Yes, definitely. Presence is important to promote the four basic skills of a language – listening, reading, writing and speaking – in equal measure. When teaching online, the children had no interaction with each other because all the communication that takes place at school and in the classroom was gone.

That is why we are now focusing on making sure the kids spend time with one another, are active together, and exchange ideas all about the topic “nature and art”. Hereby we want to collect different natural materials with the kids, examine them from a biological point of view, and make art out of them. We are exploring questions like: How does a piece of art from the woods come to be? Why do insects look different in nature than in a picture book? What have we humans learned from nature for our research? We are embarking on a playful journey to answer these questions, with a lot of fun.

How is the project being received in the region?

Evelina Winter: We are receiving a lot of positive feedback from parents and children. Mind you, the summer camp has nothing to do with a ‘summer school’. The offer is low-threshold and connected to a lot of playing and fun. Many kids attend for three years in a row, that alone already shows that the children have a great time and enjoy the offer.

For the parents, it is a great relief to know that their kids are in good hands and are also receiving support. We also receive inquiries from teachers or volunteers in refugee aid if they have specific children in mind who could particularly benefit from the program.

We also take advantage of the diverse cultural activities that Nuremberg and the region have to offer, and include learning spaces outside of the school. Dependent on the topic we visit the Germanische Nationalmuseum, the zoo or farms. This is also about allowing children to arrive in the region and introducing them to various options for leisure activities that they can take advantage of outside of the summer camp itself.

What are you personally looking forward to the most in this year’s Sommercamp?

Evelina Winter: Easy, I am looking forward to it happening again! (laughs). I am excited for the students because they, like us organizers, invest a lot of time and effort and last year, unfortunately, the camp was cancelled. For the students, it is a great opportunity to gain practical experience, collect feedback for their classes and be involved in research.

The support of the pupils, the commitment of the students, and the research – the concept thrives on the fact that these three components intertwine. Teaching different subjects with fun and games, promoting language skills, and doing it all in such a way that not only children with German as a second language, but everyone benefits, is a challenge, but also the biggest plus of Sommercamp. The project also creates exchange and leads to networking with other departments. You get to know other ways of thinking and approaching things, and you can look beyond the confines of your own discipline.

I am also excited for the children because they have been the ones to suffer from the pandemic and it is all the more important now to take care of them and give them our attention. For example, we take our lunch together, I think that is very nice and important. It is a special feature of this project, and it contributes greatly to the development of community during the two weeks. After the long period of social distancing and deprivation, it’s really nice to be able to live that again.

I’m simply looking forward to seeing the kids running around the school again!

Thank you for the Interview!

If you are studying to become a teacher and would like to take part in the Sommercamp next year, feel free to contact Evelina Winter.

https://www.didaz.phil.fau.de/forschung/aktuelle-projekte/sommercamp/ (German)

Parents can find further information about Sommercamp here:

http://www.buergerstiftung-nuernberg.de/projekte/eigene-projekte/sommercamp.html (German)