Thursday, 5 October 2017

Day 5: The Fantastic Four - Alex Fowler

Today marked the halfway point of our Japan Trip. There was much anticipation and excitement as the final four of us stepped up to take lessons. We split into two groups and attended University of Tsukuba Elementary School and University of Tsukuba Junior High School. I went to the Elementary School. We were greeted and welcomed very kindly into the school.

The first lesson we attended was an interesting lesson on pendulums run by Ken Tsuji. Students walked into the classroom and knew exactly what was expected of them for setting up their practical lesson. Working in groups of four they set up their pendulums with a 10gm weight and a 30cm length. Students were lead through the lesson and tested the differences in period if amplitude is changed. Students worked very methodically and while the Sensei (teacher) lead the lesson and guided students the students directed the discussion. The lesson was part of a longer series of lessons and this one took part in the middle of the series. 

It was very interesting to watch the way in which students approached the task. The whole class was engaged in the task and they took time to think through their approach. One group even used their ruler to help with accuracy of period. The lesson took place at their benches in groups of four.
I have noticed the elementary schools we have visited have specialised science labs. They are fantastic and the students start working one scientific method from an early age. The labs are just like shrunken high school labs, proper benches and sinks as well as having proper equipment such as beakers, retort stands and microscopes.

The second lesson was run by Reyne Pullen on Chromatography. Reyne approached his lesson with a short engagement activity using filter paper, water and M&Ms then lead the larger investigation from the perspective of a crime scene. Students separated the ink of five different black pens and had to determine which suspect was guilty. The students again were very engaged in his lesson and worked in groups of four.

The third and final lesson for today and the trip was my lesson. I ran a lesson on classification of animals. I introduced myself and my town. Being in a town of 130-140 people with only 7 students at the school amazed the students, as did the distances to the nearest Woolworths (75km) and McDonalds (180km). Although they seemed impressed that we get wild Kangaroos and Emus in our school grounds.

My lesson was broken into two key activities, the first being a treasure hunt where I hide photos around the classroom of different animals which students have to find and decide if the animals fit into a grouping I've given them (e.g. Cute, eats meat, big, etc.). The the second activity where they create their own groupings and cut out and sort animals into groupings of their own choosing. In between the two activities I give a brief talk on what makes a good grouping. Students worked individually for the treasure hunt and in pairs for the grouping task. Normally when running this sort of lesson we would have lots of discussion time about groupings as well, however we ran out of time for extended discussion.

I gifted the students their own kangaroo or koala clip and the head of the science department with a drawing of Stuart Desert Peas by Woomeras' local Artist Colleen Hodgson (Serendipity Art) . Both gifts were received with much enthusiasm.

We ate a delightful lunch of rice, miso, fish and vegetables with a bottle of milk. This is the school lunch that all students and teachers receive. We found out that the principal gets the first serve for the day to make sure the meal is suitable. The crispy skin fish was delicious.

After lunch we had a teacher forums where we discussed easy of the lessons we observed (and ran). It was very enlightening to find out how the Japanese teachers could use and modify our lessons as well noting about the similarities and differences between science teaching in Australia and Japan.

The afternoon was a relaxing tour of the Sony Private Showroom. So much new technology, I know what I will be keeping an eye for in the future. We got to see original costumes used in the Spider-Man Movies as well as handle some of the props. We were not allowed to take photos but we had fun.
Tonight we attended the Sony Education Foundation Official Dinner. Which was a lot of fun.
It's been an invaluable learning experience for me. Thank you to ASTA and Latitude Group Travel for making this trip possible!

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