|Me (front row, forth from the left) and the rest of the ASTA-Japan delegation with Mr Chiba and other key personnel from Utase Junior School. Check out our funky indoor shoes!|
Tuesday morning - Utase Junior High School
Tuesday started with a one-hour bus trip to Utase Junior School, located in Chiba City. It is a new school, only 20 years old, and very impressive. It contains beautiful buildings, specially designed and purpose built for the school, that emanate Japanese culture.
To enter the building you must first remove your shoes and put on indoor shoes. Students at this school are not required to wear a uniform and there are no bells or set rules for the students to follow. The school has set objectives that underpin the students' beliefs. These include 3S's (Study, Sense and Sports) plus ABC (Achievement Best Selection and Challenge). Parent involvement is exceptionally strong and visible within the school, with parents assisting with the care of the grounds, catering and support of programs throughout the school. Utase also has strong with ties with other Chiba SONY Junior Schools, with many Principals, teachers and key personnel present to collaborate with teachers and staff.
Utase Junior School has 954 students from grades seven to nine. We were greeted by the Principal Mr Chiba, Vice Principal and key personnel. It was certainly a very warm welcome with us meeting with the principal in his office to discuss the vision, priorities, curriculum and buildings in the school.
We then observed a class of 35 students in Year Two (equivalent to Year Nine in Australia) during a Science lesson, run by a Science teacher called Mr Saso. He delivered a highly engaging, hands-on lesson about digestive enzymes. Students conducted tests using starch and gelatine and examined the impacts of foods on the composition of these mate-rials. This lesson was very interesting and provided students with an interactive and visual way to examine the impact foods have on digestion.
|Seeing the impacts of food on digestion.|
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach a class of my own, with the help of an interpreter, Keiko Tonegawa. My lesson focus was on the adaptations of Australian animals. It involved teaching the three types of adaptations and then relating these to nine Australian Animals. I had cards with background information that students were able to read, along with a figurine of each Australian animal, so that students could see a three-dimensional version of the animal. It was a really wonderful experience to engage students in learning about Australian animals.
Their eyes lit up as they examined the models of each animal and guessed what they were: for some it was the first time they had ever heard of some of the animals. It was very rewarding to see students applying what they had learnt to identify the various adaptations. Students even volunteered to share their favourite animal’s adaptations with the class, which was a thrill as I was told the students are reluctant to speak in front of their class.
|The students enjoyed learning about the adaptations of Australian animals.|
Utase Junior High School was different in many ways to the high school I teach at. However, it was similar in many ways, too. This was certainly an incredible experience and one I will never forget. Such a personally rewarding thing to bridge the divide of language by using the skills and common understandings of science.
Tuesday afternoon - National Museum of Science and Nature
The afternoon highlight was certainly visiting the National Museum of Science and Nature. The place was amazing! The sections we saw highlighted the animal species of and the geological story of Japan.
|The National Museum of Nature and Science was wonderful to experience.|
For me, the best part of the Museum was the Theatre 360, a movie theatre showing science in 3D. Inside, you are surrounded on all sides by a seamless sphere of video and sound. It was unreal!! So very hard to explain, being suspended on a bridge and being able to view images of dinosaurs and early humans all around you. At one stage I swore I was even flying down the skeleton of a Triceratops. I am sure that the smile on my face at that stage could not have got any wider. This was something that certainly went beyond words, a true celebration of the wonder of science and the brilliance of technology to put on such a wonderful display. WOW!
To conclude our day we visited the Tokyo Sky Tree, a tower that spans 634m high. We enjoyed the sights of Tokyo, seeing the amazing expanse of the city, interacting with the displays and watching the twinkling lights. It was certainly an unreal experience.
|The Sky Tree lives up to its name!|
My experience after just two days in Japan has already been mind blowing. I have really enjoyed embracing the culture and being a part of education in the Japanese schooling system. It has been wonderful to speak to the teachers and learn about the education system in Japan and how we value the same priorities when it comes to Science education. It has been really rewarding to engage with the students and go beyond the language barriers to find a common interest, a passion for Science. Also to travel with such a brilliant group of Australian teachers and Japanese SONY Foundation staff, in itself has been such a re-warding experience. My love of learning has certainly been satisfied, strong collegial bonds have been made and laughs and smile have been aplenty. I keep having to pinch myself to realise that I am here. I feel so lucky to have this experience, and cannot wait for tomorrow!