This is just the beginning

Sara and MasaI am back home from my trip to Japan, and now it’s your turn to make a connection with a Japanese classroom! This year, many other teachers and students at Innovation Academy will have a chance to build a relationship with a classroom in Japan. I’ve had a chance to form bonds with Japanese people that I hope will last a lifetime, and I think this is possible for you too. I’ll help make some introductions and get you started.

Intro SlideIt might seem like I’ve just been having fun on this trip, but the American and Japanese teachers have been busy setting up projects for the upcoming school year. I’ve been collaborating with a team that is focused on active citizenship — we want to help students design their own service projects! Rather than working in a bubble, students will work with their advisory to share ideas with students at other schools, and get feedback on their action plans. We’ve got schools participating from all over the U.S. and Japan, but our partner school will be the Junior High School of Ochanomizu University:


Here’s our team of teachers. Innovation Academy will be working most closely with teacher extraordinaire Yoshikazu Nakashima, who is standing to my left in this photo:Collaboration Team

We are very excited about our project. Basically, during September and October, students will work in advisory to create an introduction to send on GoogleDocs to our new friends in Japan — it could be in the form of a video, photos and text, or any other creative way to introduce themselves.

PresentingThe Japanese students will do the same. Then, before heading off for Winter Vacation, students will send some ideas for service projects to their new friends in Japan. In the early months of 2015, students will design and execute a service project with their advisory, and share their projects with their Japanese partner class to celebrate and give feedback by the end of their school year in March. This amazing team of teachers shared some projects that our students have done in the past, and I can tell it’s going to be an inspiring experience for all. Here’s a taste of what some American and Japanese students have done in the past:

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This isn’t the only project that Innovation Academy students can get involved in. I was also really impressed with another group’s project, called the “Investigation of Beauty.” Basically, students will be collaborating with Japanese classrooms to make books with photography and haikus about places in their communities that they want to preserve. The teachers on this team said that some of our advisories could participate also. Here’s a little video I filmed with Ishida Sensei showing off a template book that he made:

Finally, the wonderful Omi Sensei has lent Innovation Academy the fabulous…. Tofu-San!


Omi Sensei in her beautiful kimono

Me and Omi Sensei in her beautiful kimono

Tofu San is a little stuffed animal tofu who has traveled all over the world since 2006. In Japanese, adding “san” to the end of a name is a term of respect, sort of like saying “Mr. or Ms. Tofu.” They use the same word for men or women. (Adding “Sensei” to the end of a name means “teacher” and it’s a term of respect used for many knowledgeable people in Japan). Tofu San has already been to Australia and Japan, and this past spring he went to Seattle. Now, he is in Massachusetts! We even have a chance to write in Tofu-San’s diary, and I have some letters from Omi Sensei’s students. Some IACS students might remember Omi Sensei because we Skyped with her and her students briefly at the end of the year when they were on a class trip.

These are just some of the collaboration plans in the works. Other groups are planning to exchange time capsules, peace artwork, photos of school lunches, and many more ways to connect. JoiningHandsSome classrooms will be learning about the 4 Rs of Sustainability: Reduce, Re-use, Recycle, and Refuse. Others will be studying food mileage, water quality, and sustainable ways to run their school. In all cases, students will be communicating directly with other students who live thousands of miles away. There’s no doubt that many lives will be touched by this passionate group of educators and the bonds that we are forming.

ESD Teachers 2014

As we said in Japan, let’s not say Sayonara, which means “goodbye.” Instead, we’ll say Mata Ne, which means, “See you again.” Thank you to Fulbright Japan, ACCU, IIE, and the whole team  of the Japan-U.S. Teacher Exchange Program for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) for creating this opportunity. Extra special thanks to the heroic leaders of the Kushiro group who made this experience so amazing.

Note: Even though this trip is over, the blogging will continue! There are more posts in the works that I haven’t had time to finish yet, guest posts are coming soon, and I’ll be going to Iceland at the end of July. So, stay tuned.

Categories: Japan

6 replies »

  1. The idea for creating our own service project, rather than working in a bubble, seems less confusing. It is really cool that we can come up with are own ideas and get feedback on them.

  2. It’s so cool how the Japanese and American students will be communicating a lot next year. I can’t wait to hear about their ideas!
    And Tofu-San is so cute!
    ~ Anna

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