Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Day 4: Fake food, temples, bonsai and professional learning - post by Robyn Aitken

Wednesday was a very long and busy day. We started the day off by visiting Kappa bashi, a fascinating suburb of Tokyo with numerous small shops. We went there to visit a shop that makes fake food (that’s right fake not fast). Many restaurants in Japan display fake food in their windows to advertise their dishes. This is also very helpful for those who can’t read Japanese.
Sharra, Robyn and Penny 'enjoying' their food creations

Sharra making fake lettuce
We were shown how to make tempura food (in wax) with instructions so precise that we all quickly became experts in this art and made our own tempura prawns and vegetables. This was all captured on film by an American CBS film crew who were delighted to have some actors.
Penny being interviewed by CBS film crew
After this unique experience, we then managed to fit in a quick trip to Senso-ji temple in Asakusa and grabbed some lunch. Senso-ji temple is Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple and a place that draws some 30 million visitors each year. It is a very popular place for both residents and tourists and has a long line of traditional souvenir shops on either side of the road leading up to the temple. The shops sell things like fans, yukata (traditional dressing gowns) as well as food and traditional Japanese toys.

Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa

Senso-ji Temple, Asakusa
Shopping street at Asakusa
The afternoon was spent relaxing and contemplatively viewing bonsai at the Omiya Bonsai Art Museum. We learned about bonki (bonsai pots), suiseki-stones and how to place bonsai in a room as well as the technicalities of bonsai. We also learned how to view bonsai, especially looking up into the tree from below.

I'm sure I will never get my garden to look like this
Vic contemplating the wonders of a bonsai tree
A 1,000 year old bonsai tree
In the evening it was my turn to present professional learning to a group of Japanese teachers at the Saitama Municipal Institution of Education. This was a daunting task as it was the first time ASTA had done this kind of professional learning in Japan.  The room was very formal with translator audio kits for each participant. When I spoke, Keiko our translator spoke. My presentation was on science inquiry and the Australian Curriculum.
Robyn presenting some professional learning to Japanese teachers
at the Saitama Municipal Institution of Education
I looked at the relationship of the other curriculum strands to the science inquiry skills strand and the steps in planning an investigation. After defining the types of inquiry (open, guided and verification), I led the group in conducting their own inquiry to solve a problem set by me (one step before an open inquiry). The problem was to help ‘Jim’ decide what clothes he should wear to a concert if it might rain and he did not have a raincoat. The teachers were initially slow to participate, just the same as teachers in Australia!
Teachers participating in a science inquiry
After some encouragement and hints they really got into it. The Japanese teachers’ explanations for the methods they had devised (which were shared in the follow up discussion) was really interesting; for example looking at which materials the rain would run off the most or which materials would absorb the most rain.

I think that sharing the pedagogy of teaching science inquiry to Japanese teachers was a very worthwhile exercise and I would like to learn more from their perspective. The whole process was made very easy by our interpreter Keiko Tanagawa and Toshiko Yamashita who helped to set things up.

After my presentation, the official dinner with the Sony Science Teachers Association (SSTA) was held at a bar downstairs from where we were staying. It was a chance to share our experiences in Japanese schools and find out what teachers were up to. We are very grateful for SSTA and Sony Education’s support in organising the school visits.
Mr Hikima, President of the Saitama Branch
of the Sony Science Teachers Association at dinner with Robyn

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