For Germany's first graders the first day of school is a real milestone in their lives. Not only because now they belong to the 'Big Ones' but that alongside the new school bag, pencil case and notebooks, they also receive the most exciting thing possible for a 6 year old, their very own colorful, goodie filled, Schultuete, a German School Cone.
Many of the Schultueten will have been made as a kids craft project in class during the last term of Kindergarten, but others are a "labor of love" produced by their parents, or sometimes Godparents.
As school holidays in Germany are spread out, there are states where first graders will receive their much anticipated school cone for elementary school at the beginning of August, filled with all types of treats that they will unpack during their very first class, while others, those living in Baden Wuerttemburg and Bavaria for example, will have to wait until mid-September.
You don't have to be an expert handcrafter to produce spectacular a Schultuete, which literally translates as "School Bag", because it began as a craft project for children under six years old, so here is how to make one, step by step.
How to make a School Cone, or as it is known in Germany "Schultuete Basteln".
You will need:
Double sided tape
Paper or fabric to cover basic cone
Trimming for a collar
Length of ribbon to tie around collar
Decorations, pictures etc, for the finished Schultuete
Cut a quarter circle out of a heavy cardstock, say 32 inches square which would give a 10 inch opening, but the size is up to you.
As a rough guide the Shultuete should reach from the first grader's chin to just over the knee, then it will not be too heavy or difficult to carry, but most kids would rather 'the larger the better'.
It is easy to tie a pencil to a piece of string the same length as the height you want your cone, and use that as a compass.
Add heavy duty double stick tape to one side. Roll the quarter circle into a cone shape, peel off the tape's protective paper and press down firmly. To make the Schultuete even more stable add another layer of clear sticky tape to the cone covering both on the inside and outside of the join.
This will serve as a base, so strengthen the pointed end with a few layers of sticky tape for about 2 inches, as this area is quite weak and will bend easily.
On the inside of the cone add two thin lines of glue. One about 2 inches down and one near the edge, then attach a collar of tissue paper, crepe paper, felt, netting or fine fabric, to fit the circumference of the cone but of any length you choose. There should be about 3 inches lying inside the cone, so there is a one inch overhang, and carefully stick down all around the inner and outer edge.
This 'collar' will be tied with ribbon to keep the contents in when filled, so a really long one looks great.
Repeat this process just on the top edge of the outside of the cone with whatever trimming you have chosen, but it should be 2 inches shorter than the inside layer. Stick down.
Using the same technique as before cut a very slightly larger quarter circle, and using double sided tape attach to your basic cone form. This covers the reinforced pointed end as well as where the second layer of the collar has been added.
Push a little paper down into the point, about 1.1/2 inch, this will ensure that it really won't bend.
Now it is time to add your decorative layer.
Which can be pre-printed gift wrapping or metallic colored foil paper for example.
You can use a thin fabric, featuring the first grader's favorite motive, for both the cover and collar.
Or a basic colored paper that can be decorated to suit the lucky recipients individual tastes, sports, hobbies, wishes or fantasies, with motifs, shapes, pictures, small toys or other gifts. You can let your imagination run wild, in fact anything goes really which would make his or her 'dream' kinder cone for that first day of school.
Just make sure whatever decorations you choose are securely attached so they won't fall off in all the excitement that will surround it.
Now the Schultuete is ready and only needs filling with colored crayons or other fun accessories for the very first school year, small games, books, toys, a sandwich box, drink container, or sports shoe bag featuring favorite characters, and a few "Suessigkeiten", candies such as Gummi Bears or cookies.
The German School Cone, an elementary school tradition without which a first day of school would be unthinkable. It will take pride of place for years to come, even when that "first grader" hits High School, and with the help of a special hook and "tea lights" is often used as a hanging lantern.
A Schultuete is a joy to make, fun to receive, and the memories last forever.
Illustrations: Photo of Schultueten in the "Froschklasse – leben,lernen,lachen" first grade class - Pencil Compass courtesy bastelanleitungen.org - Decorated Schultueten, memories from Kindergarten Days.
If you'd rather surprise the First Grader in your life with a ready made 19-3/4" Traditional German School Cone, there is one here. It comes unfilled, so is a Schultuete just waiting to be stuffed with small gifts, school supplies and/or "Suessigkeiten", candy.
These Haribo Gummi Candy Gold-Bears, will find their way into virtually every German fifth grader's Schultuete. But it is better to get the 5-Pound Bag and wrap them in portions, which is how it is done in Germany, rather than buying the individual small bags which work out as more expensive.
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