Cultural Connectionsby Nasci Lobo, Director of Communications and Marketing
Embedding local culture into Units of Inquiry plays an important role in allowing our students to connect what they are learning in the classroom with the society they live in. Accessibility to an abundance of Japanese traditions, customs, arts, artists, ideas and activities provides a wellspring of choices for curricular enhancement. The recent gr. 2 Unit of Inquiry, Who We Are, afforded the young students an opportunity to watch the sumo wrestlers of Tokyo Nogyo Daigaku (Tokyo University of Agriculture) in their training session, to enjoy competing against them and to eat the traditional chanko nabe soup which is full of vegetables and protein. Just how does this augment the learning for our students?
The central idea of the Unit explored the idea that lifestyle choices people make can affect their health. In particular, they looked into how nutritious food and an active, balanced lifestyle helps one feel healthy and strong. The visit to the sumo stable allowed the students to see first-hand, and in close proximity, the power, size and technique involved in a sport, and just as importantly, to feel the camaraderie and import on traditions in the much-loved Japanese sport. Their one-sided experience of watching the spectacle on television transformed into a tangible lesson on how much work, practise and discipline is required to become sumo wrestlers. The experience of being in the dohyo (ring), sliding on the dirt floor, trying to drive a wrestler out of the ring and then eating with the club members, is something unavailable on the campus of any K-12 school.
These curricular enhancement opportunities are organized by Dr. Joseph Amato of the International Center for Japanese Culture (ICJC). Students have had the fortune of making recycled art with Kanazawa-based artists Shoichi and Colleen Sakurai, and have learned the traditional techniques and philosophy that produce elegant washi, Japanese paper, from renowned papermaker and woodblock printmaker, Richard Flavin. Students will soon be exploring the world of kyudo, Japanese archery, to understand the influence and importance of concentration. Parents have also benefited from these relationships, with a paper making workshop by Mr. Flavin, and a tea ceremony held by tea master Sengen Hiruma. Most recently, gr. 4 students embarked on a field trip to Jogashima to study rock formations and various caves on the beach to enhance their study on geology. Dr. Amato arranged for two specialists in the field of geology, Dr. Yoshimitsu Kanie and Yuki Kanie, to accompany the classes to Jogashima. The two experts then presented a classroom workshop on rock types bringing with them various rocks and precious stones from around the world.
Curricular enhancement via a cultural lens will continue to be an integral part of learning at YIS. If you have any ideas for this style of enrichment activities, please contact the ICJC. Our community would benefit tremendously from the people we meet, the knowledge we gain and the experiences we are exposed to.