Monday, 29 September 2014

Day 2: A ten out of ten experience - post by Danielle Spencer

Considering we missed a day for the volcano, we certainly made up for it today. To quote Sarah, it was a "10 out of 10 kind of day".  We were immersed in culture straight away at breakfast, walking past a carp enclosure and beautiful views of waterfalls. The bus ride to Sanda Elementary school revealed a maze of lined streets and endless sights – I didn't want to miss one of them!

When we first pulled into Sanda Elementary it didn't quite look like a school building. But then we heard the children singing, and it definitely sounded like a school then.

We first went to the assembly hall to have the school assembly - and were the Australian teachers on show. The hall was packed with eager and curious faces, though some children were distracted just like at home. After introductions we were asked questions by a select group of students. Seems that the burning questions were:
  1. What type of games do children like to play?
  2. What type of gourmet food do we have in Australia?
  3. What are the subjects that children learn? and
  4. What dreams do children have?

After the questions, the school stood for the school anthem. I was touched by the pride all of these children displayed by singing their song, almost to the point of tears. Even the kids who were earlier distracted were singing with such joy. It was exceptional to witness. After the assembly, we watched a science lesson with one of the Grade Three classes where they used rubber-band-propelled cars to navigate through a series of problems. I was amazed at the size of the class (37 students) and was impressed that the teacher managed such a big class so effectively. The children were thoroughly engaged in the task and I was itching to have a turn. It was a treat to interact with the kids although I didn't get my car to even get past the first task!

After morning tea it was my turn to teach. 77 Grade Three children! Never again will I complain about my 'over-sized' class of 31. I had planned a lesson on the life cycle of marsupials - a PowerPoint presentation, a sorting activity and a drawing activity to finish.

With the aid of my translator, the magical Keiko, I slowly delivered my lesson to a room full of interested faces. During the stage where the children were sorting, I got to spend some time going around to individual groups and talk about our animals and their life cycles. It was great to realise just how much you can convey without sharing the same language.

After the sort, I wanted to get the children's attention and in all honesty had no idea how I could do it! So I tried the clapping game. The universal clapping game is a behaviour management dream internationally so it seems - the children followed so we even played for a bit longer! Children are children and they love playing games. Being given this opportunity has been a highlight of my life and I cannot wait to see the rest of the week.

Danielle Spencer teaching a class at Sanda Elementary School
The clapping game knows no language barrier!

After lunch we spent some more time speaking with the principal. What impressed me about the Japanese elementary education system is the priority that science is given. Students learn three hours of Science a week and teachers must have in-service training in science curriculum regularly. Unfortunately this is not the case in Australia. What also impressed me is how dedicated the education system is in maintaining and teaching cultural heritage - children learn at school traditional drums, traditional dance and puppetry.

After we left Sanda, we headed to the Australian embassy to meet with staff from the Australia-Japan Foundation to discuss how to develop and strengthen initiatives like the ASTA-Japan Science Teachers Exchange, which bring cultures together and encourage sharing of teaching practices. We were even fortunate to have the Ambassador drop by for a quick hello. Never let a photo opportunity pass!

The ASTA deleagation with Ambassador Bruce Miller
Australian Ambassador Bruce Miller was nice enough to pose with us and our cute little banner. I am second from the left.

To top off an extraordinary day we had dinner with the Sony Education Foundation. A quick stroll through busy Downtown Shinagawa took us to a traditional Japanese restaurant, where I got to live up to my promise to myself to I had promised myself try anything. The meal included raw fish, wasabi paste, eel, and the delightful experience of shabushabu - a boiled soup that you cook together at the table. I was enchanted by the sake tradition (and of course I tried it) Dinner was completed with a soy milk cheesecake – a treat to sum up an exceptional day.

Dinner with the SONY Foundation.
At dinner, we presented gifts to our lovely new friends at the SONY Education Foundation.

1 comment:

  1. On my trips I promised myself to try everything as well, particularly the Sake! Every child in Japan has pride in their school as it their responsibility to clean it every week. You don't see graffiti and you don't see any litter. What is learned in school is taken away and becomes part of the community, something Australian's need to learn and would not need orgaisntaion like "Clean Up Australia".

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