Interview with Sabine Pemberneck

by Big-Jump-Team EN

Sabine Pemberneck: A teacher with a water conservation mission!

Flyer der Big Jump Challenge

Meet Sabine Pemberneck

My name is Sabine Pemberneck. I've been a teacher at the Fallersleben high school in Wolfsburg since 1990, and teach the following subjects: biology, chemistry and seminar subjects. Our seminar subject is considered interdisciplinary in Lower Saxony, so we teach different topics, in which the pupils can study literature-based concepts or customized experimental research papers.

In 2005, the Fallersleben high school took over the sponsorship (Patenschaft) of a restored stream portion of the Mühlenriede, a stream that belongs to the river system of the Aller in Wolfsburg. The creek flows near the Tankumsees in the Allerkanal.

In the context of stream sponsorship, several freshwater studies were carried out and documented at this school, with different learning groups near the place of study. Furthermore, submissions we made for various competitions required lots of project work. Thus, students of the seminar subject course were able to travel for example, as winners of the Big Jump Challenge in 2012 and 2013 to Berlin and present their projects there, in the Bundestag.


BJC: Water protection is a large, complex issue. How do you try to engage your students in the topic, as a biology and chemistry teacher?

SP: Actually, you don't have to convince students to work outside the classrooms of the school, and in nature. It is a welcome change from the traditional classroom for them.

At Fallersleben high school, we met as part of a joint venture for grades 5-8 at the beginning of the stream sponsorship for the first two years. Students met every Saturday from 9:00 to 13:00 o'clock in order to support the restoration measures on the Mühlenriede. We would plant numerous alders on the banks of Mühlenriede, and lay available stones from local farmers in the creek bed in order to create different water flow regimes and thereby establish a variety of habitats.

To introduce students to the seminar subject of freshwater quality testing methods, the teacher brought water samples to the classroom to have their chemical quality analysed. Then water samples of the school pond were studied under the microscope and with the help of magnifying glasses in order to identify living organisms occurring in the pond. With this experience, the students were finally well-equipped to carry out field studies on the Mühlenriede locally.

BJC: What materials do you need for the field work?

For the investigations of the chemical freshwater quality you need an experiment kit with various chemical sets for the determination of nitrate and phosphate content for water hardness, and pH. What were advantageous are the so-called eco-trunks (Öko-Aquanal), whose contents are not harmful to the environment and can be used on site. The association of Fallersleben high school supported the school community in the purchase of ten kits.

For the biological quality of freshwater, I had to request the soccer club VfL Wolfsburg for ten backpacks worth about €600, - which I received, and equipped with bowls, sieves, brushes and landing nets from a one-euro discount store (see Figure 1). The freshwater backpacks, which were proven to be very practical for the journey to the river by bike or on foot - were also equipped with tea towels, a magnifying glass beaker and a determination key for stream organisms.

For those who search for ways to make a suitable identification key, they could feel overwhelmed or drowned by the flood of available materials, since the planning or scouting for a school project or teaching materials can take a long time through unnecessarily going into detail in some places. In Wolfsburg, the local chapter of the BUND in cooperation with the NEST (Nature Exploration Station), has put together an easy-to-use identification key for this stream (see Figure 2 with evaluation example) that can be used in schools. Maybe there are similar projects in other cities. It's worth asking anyway!

A descriptive overview of the various animal forms is provided in the magnifying glass index "Animals in Ponds, Lakes and Streams" from publishing house an der Ruhr (see Figure 3)!

BJC: What have you accomplished so far at the

SP: The project work at the Mühlenriede has been positive for both the habitat of living organisms in the context of the WFD, as well as for the students involved in the project. Through the restoration measures, the water quality in recent years has improved from 2.5 to about 1.7, i.e. the objective of the WFD 2015 has been fulfilled here. In the early summer of 2013, for the first time a group of rare stone fly larvae were found - that being a particularly good species indicator for oxygen-rich waters (see WAZ – Stonefly larvae). According to Dr. Stein from BUND Wolfsburg, the restored Mühlenriede is on its way to being in the "premier league" of rivers in terms of water quality.

Through the acquisition of a stream sponsorship, the care for a section of the Mühlenriede for a longer-term conservation project was made possible by various study groups from Fallersleben high school. This offers the pupils an unique opportunity to be involved with practical and project work, which can be evaluated in the ongoing conservation work on site. The importance of restoration projects at nearby areas of the school, is clearly learning, and thus awakening the consciousness of each individual for responsible action in dealing with nature. At the same time the ability to work cooperatively with others is developed since the project calls for and highly promotes team work.

As part of the stream sponsorship, different learning groups also took part in various competitions and were able to post numerous successes:

1st place in the competition of Nature Detectives (2006) "Water Life on the Track"

1st place in the competition of Nature Detectives (2007) "Journey to the Magical Land Planktonia"

Award in the nationwide competition "Adventure - Explore Floodplains 2008"

2nd place in the competition "Discover the Diversity" (2011) - Category "Creative Communication" (see WAZ – Discover the Diversity)

1st place in the Big Jump in 2012 (Inauguration of a Nature Discovery Trail, see WAZ – Big Jump 2012)

1st place in the Big Jump 2013 (documentary; see WAZ – Big Jump 2013 and WAZ - Award Ceremony in Berlin 2013)

(Check out the link for the film here under:

Winners of the Environment Kiss 2013 (Sparkasse Gifhorn-Wolfsburg)

1st place in the Geocaching Competition of the Aller-Ohre Association (2014)

The Mühlenriede is too shallow for swimming, which Big Jump actions have you and your students created instead to attract attention?

SP: The idea of holding ​​actions in the context of the Big Jump Challenge was actually yielded only in retrospect, but then the students were so fascinated that they wanted to participate again in the following year. But first things first:

As part of the seminar subject course, in Lower Saxony during the third semester of projects, the results of the project should be presented in a public plenary. My students, who had already become general practitioners in the first semester and then later specialists working in the context of Mühlenriede (through literary works and experimental research papers) in the second semester, came up with the idea to develop interactive models for a nature discovery trail and to present them to the public in the town hall (see Presentation at City Hall 2012). The aim of this project should be the sensitization of the population to the present restoration project. Implementation in reality was the next step envisioned, but for which funds were needed. The reward won from the contest "Discover the Diversity" was used to finance the first station of the nature theme trail. At the inauguration of the station, the students offered many hands-on activities for young and old (see Big Jump 2012), through which we put public attention on both our restored stream and at the same time on the Big Jump Challenge - all without having to jump into the water (see

Travel to Berlin during the finale of the Big Jump Challenge enabled us, among other things, to present our project to the Bundestag politicians.

In order to finance further stations of our planned adventure path we organized in the aftermath, "Duck Race" (see WAZ – Annnouncement Duck Race 2014 and WAZ – Duck Race 2014) and entered to compete in Environment Kiss, which was awarded by the Sparkasse Gifhorn-Wolfsburg (see WAZ – Environment-Kiss). On November 14th, 2014 the time has come: The second station is inaugurated. In addition to a newly designed information board there will be a unique listening station, which will enable visitors to listen to the nearby forest.

An important partner for freshwater protection are the respective authorities responsible for implementing the Water Framework Directive. How did you work together with them?

SP: The city of Wolfsburg is a prime example of perfect cooperation. As part of the stream sponsorship, which was transmitted to us by the city of Wolfsburg, the school is in regular contact with others at the Environment Agency, the Water Authority, the City Forestry Bureau, the Aller-Ohre Water Board, the Wolfsburg Dewatering Operations (WEB), the BUND Wolfsburg and the Work Group Mörse "Our Village Has a Future". In addition to a lively exchange of information (e.g. about the development of water quality) planned at the Mühlenriede, agreements, joint actions, such as World Water Day (see WAZ – Weltwassertag 2014; see film here at, were implemented. The work of stream sponsorship was always helpfully accompanied by the institutions mentioned above!

The local press (Wolfsburg General, Wolfsburg News, Wolfsburg Courier and Wolfsburg Panorama) also supported us through regular reporting!

BJC: Did
the Big Jump Action have further consequences for your school?

SP: Yes, through the two-time participation in the finals of the Big Jump Challenge, Ms. Wolter from the Senate Department for Urban Development and Environment Berlin became aware of our stream sponsorship. In September of this year, they invited us to participate in the river network meeting on Müggelsee and to report on our stream sponsorship. We got to know about the projects of other schools in Berlin, including the water project of Melanchthon high school, which can perform no practical water surveys regularly, due to lack of nearby freshwater to the school. However, they interdisciplinarily discussed the topic of "Water - a Global Good?" in the eighth grade. A play entitled "Thirst", a tour of a sewage treatment plant, the calculation of virtual water consumption, the water motif in the prose of world literature, well construction projects in geography lessons, but also sociologically oriented problem discussions on "Water - A Conflict in the 21st Century?" give the students of this school a variety of perspectives on this issue.

In this river network meeting, the idea of ​​planning a partnership between the Melanchthon and Fallersleben high schools developed. The colleagues from both schools are in the process of drawing up details in this regard. The aim in the future should be the exchange of content on the topic of water, with groups of students from each school visiting each other.

What do you recommend to students and teachers who are now preparing for the Big Jump Challenge 2015 and considering how they will participate?

There is no magic formula for participating in the Big Jump Challenge 2015! Actually, you have to be creative and this is best achieved when different groups are involved, with whom you can exchange ideas through discussion. Usually there are ideas that are born only through conversation with others. As this example shows, it also does not require a river, into which you jump and you can swim. The most important thing is that people work together with others for the freshwaters of the Earth and water as a global good, for all life on Earth depends on water and its condition. We must work together!


Sabine Pemberneck was interviewed by Rafael Ziegler from the Big Jump Challenge Team.

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