Germany, the Search for Unity

Glen Blankenship

The historic opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the unification of Germany in 1990 underscore the importance of American understanding of the geopolitical role of Germany in the world community today. As Europe continues its move toward economic and political union, the understanding of citizens in the United States regarding Germany’s key role in the process becomes increasingly relevant. Indeed, these events have been a catalyst for social studies teachers in the United States to focus attention on the inclusion of Germany in the school curriculum at all levels. Four years after the opening of the Wall, social studies teachers continue to seek accurate, up-to-date information about Germany and strategies for teaching this information to students at the elementary, middle and secondary levels. This interest has grown from an initial focus on unification to the broader perspective of German culture, economy, politics, and daily life. Social studies teachers have a growing affinity and desire to include the study of contemporary Germany in the school curriculum to foster global understanding from an international perspective. Hopefully, the days of teachers in the United States teaching Europe as if it were simply a museum are nearing an end.

A group of social studies educators in Georgia attended a study/ travel seminar in Germany during the summers of 1989 and 1991 and developed lesson plans which were subsequently printed and distributed by the Goethe House New York with the assistance of Inter Nationes Bonn. The Goethe House New York, as the German cultural information center in the United States, has for many years supported the teaching of German language and culture. A natural extension of the mission of the Goethe House and the eleven Goethe Institutes in the United States is to support the teaching of German culture through social studies classes. The materials on contemporary Germany distributed by the Goethe House are written by practicing educators in the United States, support required curriculum topics with ready-to-use lesson plans, provide student practice related to social studies skills in the context of a comparative United States-to-Germany approach, and include inservice training which enhances teaching strategies as well as content.

Editor’s Note

This special pull-out feature includes lessons from the upcoming publication A Kid Like Me Across the Sea: A Look Into the World of a German Child. Pull-out photos are drawn from the handout, A “Typica#148; School Day in Germany. Used with the permission of Inter Nationes, Bonn, Germany, editor and supporter of the project.

An Overview of the Federal Republic of Germany is available for middle school students, while the upcoming Communities and Regions in Germany is targeted at the upper elementary level. Teachers have appreciated the creative activities and color transparencies in these materials. Additional support materials such as maps and posters, Facts About Germany, and videos are also available.


American Association of Teachers of German (AATG)
112 Haddontowne Court
Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08034
TEL (609) 795-5553 FAX (609) 795-9398

Goethe House New York
1014 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10028
TEL (212) 439-8700 FAX (212) 439-8705

About the Author
Glen Blankenship is Social Studies Coordinator for Gwinnett County, Georgia, Public Schools. His position will soon be Social Studies Coordinator, Georgia State Department of Education.