Lights, camera, algebra! - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Lights, camera, algebra!

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Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 12:00 am

Jan. 11 was no ordinary school day for Centennial Middle School sixth-grader Daniel Meyer. As soon as he stepped off the bus in the morning a camera crew got in his face. During math class he pretended all eyes were not on him. But Daniel, 12, was used to this invasion of space by then. A German camera crew arrived at his Ahwatukee Foothills home Jan. 8 to film the documentary TV series Mein Neues Leben, or My New Life, which follows families from packing up in Germany until they have gained ground in a new hometown. The Meyer family, who moved from Munich in Bavaria to Ahwatukee Foothills three years ago, was chosen for the Feb. 3 airing of the show on the German channel Kabel 1. "They wrote a letter and applied to be on the show," freelance director Simone Bock said. "(The show) is all about Germans who emigrate throughout the world. They receive hundreds of letters, but pick families that will have a presence on TV, are friendly and seem to be really liked." American Mike Meyer and German Carolla Meyer met in the U.S. almost 20 years ago when Mike was a tour guide and Carolla was on vacation. After keeping in touch overseas, Mike moved to Germany to be with Carolla. The couple lived there for 16 years until they moved back to Ahwatukee Foothills. Their son Benjamin, 15, is a freshman at Mountain Pointe High School, but Friday it was all about Daniel. "We want to show how he made friends with the other children in the school and the difference between the school system in America and Germany," Bock said. Bock, cameraman Michael Bottcher and sound engineer Andreas Sebecke, followed Daniel to his advanced pre-algebra class at 10 a.m. Daniel participated in class as usual, raising his hand and answering teacher Matt Penland's questions with a camera just inches away from his face. "He did really well with how much attention was on him," Centennial principal Katherine Miller said. "But there were lots of kids asking questions and that's how that class usually is. They are sixth-graders in an eighth-grade curriculum class. This was a nice pick for who they chose to film." The crew focused on the differences between American and German schools by not only filming Daniel, but his classmates' interactions and Penland's teaching techniques. "In Germany they usually sit two children together or they sit at tables," Bock said. "Here it is different because each child has their own table. In Germany there is more interaction and smaller classes." In an interview for the documentary, Penland spoke about how well Daniel adapted to school. "So far in math he hasn't had any problems in all," Penland said. "He's really one of the top in his class and he's never shy to raise his hand. When he first started he seemed to fit in and he never seemed to have a language barrier at all." Bock said in Germany more students walk or bike to school. She was surprised by the suburban lifestyle, cookie-cutter houses and the dependence on automobiles in Ahwatukee Foothills. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or cfrayer@ahwatukee.com.

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