Thursday, March 12, 2015

Brashear Kids Learn About Japan


Recently, Brashear Kids had an opportunity to learn about Japanese culture. Between learning about a day in the life of a 10 year old student in Japan and folding their own origami, our students at ALEC had a lot of fun with this lesson. I recently attended a workshop through AmeriCorps about the importance of teaching about Eastern Asian cultures to our students. I was ready to take notes for a Culture Day lesson like this. I'm glad I did.

First, I incorporated a Japan geography trivia game using a digital presentation. I've noticed that our students really dislike not being called on. So, for this "game" I had everyone participate by using their fingers held high to show which answer they thought was correct for each question. This made it a friendly competition and worked really well in my opinion.

Some of the questions generated a lot of interesting discussion. Did you know Japan is made up of 6,852 islands?! Or that 75% of Japan's land is Forest and Mountains?! Here are some screenshots of some of the Japan Trivia questions I included:


Following the trivia game, our students learned about a day in the life of Ryuichi Kishi, a 10 year-old boy living with his family in Maebashioa city, 70 miles from Tokyo. How valuable it is for our young elementary students to learn about what life is like for kids their age in other geographical areas and cultures! 

For many of the culture day lessons at ALEC, I have included this enlightening portion to the lesson thanks to TIME for Kids. They provide these "Day in the Life" excerpts for kids around the world. Here is a snapshot of what these look like:

Retrieved from: http://www.timeforkids.com/destination/japan/day-in-life
I either take snapshots of each webpage or copy and paste this information into a slideshow where I can add more pictures. Additional pictures I will add usually involve food. Our Brashear Kids love to learn about the food of other cultures and will gladly say "ohhh," "ahh," or "ewww!" But we like to remind them that "eww" isn't always the best response to something unfamiliar. For an example of how I add more photos, here is a snapshot of one of the slides I used on this day:


Following the story of Ryuichi, I wanted to finish the lesson with a discussion and activity on the art of folding in Japan. This is also known as origami. The history of origami dates back before it's name was just about folding paper into cranes, other animals, and boats. Origami was about the art of folding decorative paper, but it was about folding clothes, folding doors, and keeping things simple and creative. This was interesting for me to learn about at the workshop I went to. So, I definitely wanted to incorporate a hands-on activity for our ever-moving students. 

Our students range from 1st grade to 5th grade. And I needed to decide what kind of origami to facilitate. I needed the project to be simple but not too easy where the 5th graders were disinterested. So, I perused the resources I had from the workshop. I went on Origami-Fun.com and found the "Origami Talking Dog." 

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-talking-dog.html
Our Brashear Kids had a really great time with folding paper to make an origami talking dog. As an instructor, it was amazing and refreshing to watch our fast-finishers (mostly our older kids) help the younger students with finishing their origami. I was wondering, prior to the class, if our younger kids would have too difficult a time with the delicate folds. But, with the help of the adults in the classroom and our helpful 5th graders, everyone was able to make a successful Talking Dog.


If you have older students, or if I was to do an origami project with just our 3rd through 5th graders, I would teach them about the legend of the Thousand Origami Cranes. There is a children's book that would accompany a lesson on this legend perfectly. It is called Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr. The legend says that someone who created a thousand origami cranes would be cured by the gods. The book is about a girl who is terminally ill and begins making cranes. This would also make for a great community service project that could be donated to the Children's Hospital or the Ronald McDonald House.


One last thing before you go, Japanese animation is another topic that children may find extremely interesting. From the spiritual and cultural themes within Japanese animation, to how Japanese cartoons and animation influenced American animation, and to the timeline of Japanese art history itself; this topic opens the door to a lot of fun learning especially for artistic kids. 

I hope this has inspired you to teach your students or children about Eastern Asia, and specifically Japan. There are a lot of helpful resources at the library and online. Make sure you click through the links I have provided in this post.

- Corey

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