Monday, 28 September 2015

Day 2: Teaching Japanese students the science of boomerang flight - post by Penny George

Today I was fortunate to teach a science lesson to Year 7 students at Asahigaoka Junior High School in Tokyo. The school was very welcoming, the students polite and the food was delicious.

My task was to teach a lesson on the physics of boomerang flight.  This was a challenging activity due to the language barrier - I don’t speak Japanese and the students don’t speak English. However the language of science prevailed and the lesson went very well with all enjoying themselves.

Penny George teaching Year 7 students at Asahigaoka
 Junior High School about the science of boomerang flight
After speaking briefly about the history and design of boomerangs, my challenge to the students was to design, build and flight-test a boomerang using the material provided.  They could choose from cardboard, paper, polystyrene packing pieces, straws, paperclips and balloons.

Year 7 students selecting raw material to make a boomerang

Due to limited time, the boomerangs were tested in the hallway. This made quite a bit of noise, which had teachers coming out of their staff rooms to see what was going on and they eventually joined in the fun.

After testing, the students then had to modify their designs to help increase the distance their boomerangs could fly. This was another activity to which they were unaccustomed but took to with great enthusiasm.  The students were all actively engaged in the design and testing process and relished the opportunity to do something a little different.

After all designs had been modified, the final testing began with great anticipation.  Some of the designs were astounding, with the students getting really creative in the short time we had.  I was able to interact with each group of students via our interpreter and could clarify instructions and answer questions with great ease.  This quickly helped build relationships with the students and they became more at ease with me and starting asking many more questions.

This teaching experience has been one of the highlights of my career.  It really demonstrated to me that all students are keen to learn, irrespective of their nationality and that language and culture differences are of little concern when students are challenged and engaged with their learning.

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