Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Teaching Teachers About Japan, In Japan

Educators' Study Tour to Japan 2009 Participants. Photo by Kazuko Minamoto

Every year Japan Society sends US teachers and school administrators to Japan for research, to meet their Japanese counterparts, and bring their experiences and new knowledge back to the classroom in the fall. The program – the Educators’ Study Tour to Japan – has long been a valuable resource for middle- and high-school teachers who are interested in Japan and want to incorporate Japanese cultural, historical, or social material into their curriculum. This year the ten educators, from New York and New Jersey, teach a variety of subjects, including Social Studies, Literature, and Art, and will be tasked with completing an academic unit to be taught when they return.

Their itinerary is pretty full – they’ll visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and the ancient capital of Nara, among other places. In addition to meeting with Japanese teachers and students in Elementary and Secondary schools, participants have a couple of other great opportunities. They’ll meet Abbot Tsutsui of Todaiji Shrine in Nara, and also take a private tour led by him through the shrine itself. The abbot doesn’t ordinarily conduct tours, so this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Participants also have a chance to meet Tsugio Ito, an A-Bomb survivor from Hiroshima. Ito is a powerful advocate for peace, having lost his brother in the bombing, and his son, many decades later in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Here’s Ito’s moving discussion from last year’s trip: [video].

Perhaps the best opportunity for cultural immersion and exchange occurs when the teachers and administrators stay with two different Japanese families during their visit, from different places and different walks of life. First, they’ll be staying in Obu, a suburban town, and later in the trip, in Wakayama, with farming families. There are many tangerine (mikan) farms in Wakayama, and participants will be able to get some hands-on experience (and no doubt eat some super-fresh mikan!)

In off-moments from touring and meeting their Japanese counterparts, teachers will be gathering material and inspiration for their units. Their interests range widely – religion, history, environmental studies, and traditional arts being just the beginning.

Kazuko Minamoto, Japan Society’s Deputy Director of Education Programs, says that “Teacher education is very important. The impact they have on classrooms is great, and they can reach thousands of students over the course of their careers. Students will be more engaged by knowledge, stories, and material gleaned from first-hand experience than textbook learning.”

The participants in the 2010 Educators’ Study Tour to Japan are:

Tamara Acoba - US History, Government & Politics The Young Women's Leadership School (NY)

Gloria Adams - Visual Arts, Reading City College Academy of the Arts (NY)

Lisa Guttman - Visual Arts, Reading City College Academy of the Arts (NY)

David F. Jacob - Assistant Principal Clarkstown High School North (NY)

Christopher Kollarus - Global History, Geography Somers High School (NY)

Thomas M. Murphy - World, US, European History Marist High School (NJ)

Torianna Murray - Assistant Principal East New York High School of Transit Technology (NY)

Judi O'Brien - History The Berkeley Carroll School (NY)

John Rearick - English Literature & Writing Poly Prep Country Day School (NY)

Camille Jean - Tedeschi World History, Women's Studies Huntington High School (NY)

Keep up to date on their exploits, both on this blog and also their Facebook page, and the Japan Society Education Twitter page.

楽んで いってらしゃい!

N.O.

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