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Cultural Lessons

Mayfield teacher shares German experience

October 1, 2012
By JOHN BORGOLINI , The Leader Herald

MAYFIELD - Samantha Mulford-Phillips has gone abroad the past two summers so she can get a better understanding of foreign cultures and share them with her students at Mayfield Elementary School.

The third-grade teacher's latest trip was to Germany after getting a grant from the Goethe-Institut.

"I learned so much. It was probably one of the best educational tours I've ever been on," Mulford-Phillips said. "The Goethe-Institut is just phenomenal. I felt like a very special social studies teacher to be selected for this."

Article Photos

Samantha Mulford-Phillips, a third-grade teacher at Mayfield Elementary School, shares books and pictures she obtained in Germany this summer with her students.
The Leader-Herald/John Borgolini

Mulford-Phillips returned home in late July after the two-week trip to Germany.

She came back with a plethora of knowledge about the German culture and educational system, she said.

The previous summer, Mulford-Phillips visited the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the German capital of Berlin.

This summer, she went to Germany and stopped at the Olympics in London.

This summer's trip was made possible by the Goethe-Institut, the Federal Republic of Germany's cultural institution.

The Goethe-Institut promotes the study of German abroad and encourages international cultural exchange.

The organization gives visitors information about German culture, society and politics.

Mulford-Phillips said the two trips over the past two summers were very different. Last year's trip focused on different cultural experiences, while this summer's trip focused on the structure of Germany, its economics and history.

"Just certain aspects of the history, they really went in-depth, and we learned so much about Germany," she said. "And that's their goal. They hope you come back with a positive experience of Germany and what Germany is like today."

When she returned, she made a presentation to BOCES officials to share her experiences and the knowledge she gained.

In her class, Mulford-Phillips will talk about some of the recent history in Germany. She also shows the children photos, maps and other items she's obtained in her travels.

She learned major differences between German and American education. In Germany, for example, students are put into tracks in fourth grade that help determine what profession they will train for during their schooling, she said.

Instead of being educated on a broad range of subjects, the German system notices what a child excels in and focuses his or her education based on that.

"I like the structure because it does tend to allow students who are more technically minded to work toward a technical profession," Mulford-Phillips said. "Say they want to become a carpenter. They learn the trade and then they're apprenticed into that trade. They have different levels and different structures throughout their high schools.

"If a student is going to a university, they steer that student toward a university track. And, therefore, they would also get an internship with a certain company, move on and have a job. It's more of a promise of a job at the end of it," she said.

Mulford-Phillips' students were excited last week when she took out her maps, pictures and books from her foreign tour.



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