Students ‘adopt’ gnomes for Mars German lesson

April 16, 2016 Cranberry Local News

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Mars High School German II students, from left, James Orban, Caylie Kinnaman, Shannon Heyl, Larson Scheller, Eliza Fickes, Sydney Weiland and Megan Russelldisplay their “adopted” gnomes Tuesday as part of a class project. Teacher Shawna Peters got the idea from another teacher who started the “Give a Gnome a Home” project. Students had to read about their gnome in German to get to know him better.

ADAMS TWP — More than 50 identical male gnomes, all 7 inches tall including their pointy hats, have been “adopted” by Mars High School students in German II class.

German teacher Shawna Peters got the idea for the gnome adoption from a Hempfield High School teacher, who started the “Give a Gnome a Home” project.

Peters explained the gnomes, which are a creature of German origin, were adopted and named on Tuesday by the students in her German II classes in a ceremony presided over by district Superintendent Wesley Shipley.

The ceramic gnomes each came with a list of personality traits, likes and dislikes in a short bio written in German. Peters’ students had to translate the bios to learn about their gnome, which they will keep and “care for” for eight weeks.

Each student also must create a website for their gnome and write an essay about them each week detailing the chores, morning routine, hobbies and other facets of their small ceramic friends.

“It’s supposed to be fun,” Peters said as she helped students decipher the more difficult German words in the gnome bios.

The students’ chubby companions must be introduced to five teachers, plus family members and friends, who sign off on a sheet confirming they have met the gnome.

The gnomes were paid for through a $400 grant from the school’s American Field Services/Mars International Student Association.

“You wouldn’t believe how tough it is to get that many gnomes,” Peters said.

She said the tiny ceramic men came from a company in Hershey, Pa.

Students who break their gnomes will be charged $5, Peters said.

“We’ve already had one bite the dust,” Peters said as she pointed to a gnome whose posterior had come unglued from it’s wooden base.

The students seemed excited about their charges as they tried to translate their biographies.

“It’s going to be fun,” junior James Orban said of his gnome, Georg. “I’m a little nervous. I don’t want to break him.”

Orban said the project will help students learn German words that are outside of the normal words used.

“I now know the German words for ‘favorite flower,’” Orban said.

He plans to post pictures on social media that detail Georg’s adventures and misadventures.

Sophomore Larson Scheller named her gnome “Lars,” and reported that he is afraid of heat, sun and wind, and that his favorite colors are green and red and his flower of choice is the forget-me-not.

“I’m going to take pictures of him with my cats,” Scheller said.

She looked forward to taking her gnome to classes to introduce him to her teachers and friends, and she has already picked out a shelf in her room where Lars will “sleep.”

Margaret Manjerovic named her gnome “Manfred” and plans to take him skateboarding while wearing a GoPro camera.

Manjerovic also approves of the project from an educational standpoint.

“It’s actually physically doing something instead of just sitting and reading a book,” she said.

Peters said each student was given an acorn to plant, as gnomes live under trees as adults.

“They live to be about 400, and they marry at 100,” Peters said.

Shipley praised Peters for coordinating the gnome project at Mars.

“Any project that gives the kids an extended opportunity to practice their language and get a chance to demonstrate their language to their friends and family is a great opportunity,” Shipley said.

John Becker, the chairman of the Mars Chapter of AFS, said the chapter was glad to pay for the gnomes.

“I think it’s awesome,” Becker said. “This is a chance for us to support the Mars teachers in the language and world studies area.”

If successful, Peters said the gnomes will be adopted every year at Mars High.

“Please be careful,” Peters called to a student. “Handle him with both hands!”

Information on the gnome project is available at

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