Kinder Karneval portal to German culture

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Children reach out to touch Penny Desser of Jasper, 5, center, while playing "Ein, Zwei, Drei... Halt!" during the Kinder Karneval hosted by Jasper High School students at the Dubois County Museum in Jasper on Sunday. The Kinder Karneval taught children about German heritage through crafts, foods, language and children's games. 


JASPER — About 15 costume-clad kids ran around the log cabin area of the Dubois County Museum Sunday afternoon, caught in a game of Katz’ und Maus, the German version of Duck, Duck, Goose.

The Jasper High School German Club led the game as part of the Kinder Karneval event. Modeled after the German tradition of Karneval, which comes just before Lent and is similar to the American Mardi Gras, the JHS German Club hosted the event to teach kids about the area’s German heritage, and get them interested in taking German in eighth grade and high school. In addition to the games, the Karneval included stations where kids could learn about the German language, clothes, customs and food. For a craft, kids could make a German Alpine hat out of red, yellow or black construction paper.

“We wanted kids to experience German culture since it’s such a big part of our town’s culture,” said Lauren Verkamp, a sophomore and vice president of the JHS German Club.

Verkamp came up with the idea to host Kinder Karneval at the museum last year as a way to share her passion for German culture. She has several relatives living in Germany, and has taken a few trips to the country with her family. Growing up with such a strong German heritage, Verkamp said, ignited her passion for the language and people. She’s hoping Kinder Karneval will become an annual event that can spread the culture she’s come to love.

If the smiles on the kids’ faces were any indication, the event was a success. Ally Wagner, 7, of Jasper, grinned as she learned some German words and phrases from JHS senior German Club President Taylor Mitchell. Wagner learned to introduce herself, tell people how old she is and say that her favorite color is blue.

Ally Wagner of Jasper, 7, left, and her sister, Ella, 9, embrace each other while Norah Desser of Jasper, 8, embraces her sister, Penny, as they playing "Feuer, Wasser, Sturm, Blitz" during the Kinder Karneval hosted by Jasper High School students at the Dubois County Museum in Jasper on Sunday.

“This is a hard word, but you’re smart, so you’ll get it,” Mitchell told Wagner when they came to the German word for color — lieblings.

Wagner said Mitchell’s language station was her favorite part of the Karneval, though she’s not sure if she’ll take German in high school. She has time to figure it out, however. Right now, she’s in second grade.

Although Wagner is still several years away from a German class, she does like learning about German culture, her mom, Lynn, said. Over the summer, Ally and her sister, Ella, 9, participated in the Maipole dance during the Strassenfest opening ceremony.

“They had fun doing that, so I’m trying to get some more exposure [to German culture] for them,” Lynn said.

Mitchell seemed to be in her element while teaching the kids about a language she said she’s come to love. When seventh-grader Caroline Kieffner of Jasper and her brother, fifth-grader Nick, stopped by the language table, Mitchell taught them about the double S character in the German alphabet — ß. In old German, Mitchell said, people wrote the letter S really tall and slim. Over time, and due to messy handwriting, she said, two S’s combined into the character known today.

“It looks like a B,” Caroline said.

“Yeah, it does,” Mitchell agreed. “But that’s just how it evolved.”

Mitchell hopes Kinder Karneval will help expand JHS’s German program. Right now, she said, she’s the only senior taking German 4, although a few underclassmen in German 3 work on German 4 work with her.

“I love it,” Mitchell said. “Everybody thinks it’s such a harsh language, but it’s so beautiful if you go along with it.”

Jasper High School sophomore Lauren Verkamp participates in "Feuer, Wasser, Sturm, Blitz" during the Kinder Karneval . "It's really cool to talk to the kids about Germany and see them enjoying learning about their German heritage because it's such a strong factor in our community," Lauren said.

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