On a chilly February morning, students in Claudia Windfuhr’s German class were busy painting colorful mushrooms, ladybugs, horseshoes and four leaf clovers on ceramic pigs that they had made a few weeks earlier.
You may wonder what pigs have to do with learning German?
If you’ve ever been to Germany around Christmastime or the New Year, you have probably seen bakeries filled with marzipan pigs – a symbol of good luck in Germany that goes back centuries when having a pig meant that a family would make it through the winter.
These pigs are such a huge part of Germany’s holiday tradition (“They’re like Hallmark cards in America,” says Windfuhr) that Lyverse thought making them would be a perfect way to bring the culture to life for German language students.
This project is just one of Lyverse’s lessons to Stanley’s foreign language classes to help students better understand the culture behind the languages they are learning.
If you tour around Stanley’s French, German, Mandarin and Spanish language classrooms, you’ll see everything from colorful Mexican Calaveras - the painted skulls celebrating the Day of the Dead, brightly festooned Mardi Gras masks, Chinese horoscope animals along with the whimsical German pigs.
Lyverse began the lessons about a decade ago when the middle school’s foreign language teachers wanted to develop interactive ways for students to learn more about culture. The veteran LPIE art instructor explains the cultural topic and then works with the students on an art project that reflects that subject.
“I design the art project so that it is suitable for all abilities,” says Lvyerse. “Therefore, all students can create a lovely project no matter what level of creativity they have and typically I find they are quite pleased with their project.”
Stanley French students decorate Mardi Gras masks for an upcoming cultural celebration.
Students in Windhfuhr’s first period German class were busily decorating their pigs with traditional good luck symbols, like ladybugs, considered good luck because they eat pests in the garden.
“It’s very interesting to learn about all things the Germans believe are good luck,” said 7th grader Rina Reimer.
The pig project has become something of a legend amongst the area’s German students. Eighth grader Erika Riedel said she remembers when her older brother did the project a few years ago, while 7th grader Kira Wood said her mother keeps the pig her older sister made on her bedside table.
Windfuhr says her former students come back to visit all of the time – often with their pigs in their pockets. One former student, who is now in high school, said she puts her pig on her desk whenever she is about to take a German test.
“I hope when I see you in five years you’ll still have your pigs,” Windfuhr said to the class.
LPIE Art Instructor Julie Lyverse shows an example of a traditional Mardi Gras masks to students.
Meanwhile, students in Launa Parnas’ French 1B class were learning all about Mardi Gras traditions and the countries that celebrate them. Lyverse and fellow LPIE art instructor Joan Toney led the students in making papier mache masks that they will wear during a Mardi Gras parade at Stanley. Lyverse explained the symbolism of the traditional Mardi Gras colors – green symbolizing faith, gold wisdom and purple justice.
Eighth graders Sophia Broad, Lizze Xie and Audrey Burns said they were excited about decorating their masks and the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration.
“It’s really fun!” said Xie.
The French class will celebrate Mardi Gras with a parade, music, and sweet treats in honor of the annual festival which falls just before Lent and traditionally marks the last opportunity for fun and feasting before the start of a 40 day fast.