We spent three days at Sango Kita Elementary. It took us about forty-five minutes to get there by train. We had help getting there the first two days and then we were on our way the last day. Yikes! We did well though! I got pretty comfortable with navigating the trains while we were there!
I forgot to get a picture of the front of the school but this is the children's entrance. They each have their own cubby where they trade out their outdoor shoes for their indoor shoes. We had to do this too!
This is what the hallways look like at Sango Kita. The school has four stories. The hallways have lots of windows which let in tons of natural light!
When we got there on our first day we met with the administration and our translators. They showed us around the school and gave us a schedule for the week. They were so kind!! We headed to a sixth grade English class first. The students at Sango Kita begin learning English in second grade. Their sensei was from Nigeria and he was amazing! He was so good with the kids! He spoke fluent Japanese and English. In this lesson they were practicing the months of the year. They sang songs and played games. He also had us introduce ourselves to the students and let them ask us questions in English. It was great practice for them!
Next we headed to a first grade class' art lesson. The homeroom teacher teaches art. Here are a few signs I snapped pictures of. They show the students how to hold their pencil correctly and how they are to keep their desks organized.
In art they had been working on a self portrait of themselves swimming. For this lesson they pushed their desks to the perimeter of the classroom and worked on the floor. They had long sheets of paper that they had folded to help them with their proportions when drawing. They turned out so cute!
Here is a picture of a second grade reading textbook. They were reading books by Leo Lionni. :)
Here is the view from the top floor of the school Beautiful!!
This is the school library. I was able to recognize a few books!
The school day at Sango Kita is divided up into six periods. School starts at 8:30 and ends at 3:20. The length of the periods vary but the kids get a break in between each one. So they go to period one and then the whole school takes a five minute break. They can go outside, in the hall, in other classrooms...anywhere! Then they go to period two and then they get a twenty minute break. They have a five minute break between period three and four. After period four the whole school gets a hour and a half for lunch and recess. Wow! They do not have a school cafeteria. The food is cooked at the lunch center and brought to the school by truck (we actually took a field trip there on our second day). The food is wheeled up to their classrooms. The students put on little smocks and chef hats and serve each other lunch. It is the cutest thing! I wish I had snapped a picture! After they finish, the kids clean up and have their recess time. Once again they have freedom to go anywhere they want for their recess. About 15 minutes before period five, a signal sounds and the kids go into cleaning mode. They do not have custodians. The kids and teachers clean the school. Here is a picture of the kids happily cleaning the floor! It was quite something to watch! One of their classes is like a home economics class where they learn to cook, sew, and clean. Japanese schools really value teaching the whole child, not just academics. They strive to teach them how to be responsible, respectful, and successful citizens.
After lunch and recess we headed to a Japanese calligraphy class. They let us try it out! It is a lot harder than it looks!
This is the symbol for growth which was very appropriate for my trip!!
Not only do teachers in Japan have to know how to play the piano, they also have to be able to swim 25 meters. During the summer months they teach swimming as well! How cool! Every school in Japan has a swimming pool!
On our second day at Sango Kita we were invited to accompany first grade on a field trip to the lunch center where they prepare their school lunches. All students eat lunch at school, they do not bring it from home. The kids where yellow hats to go on field trips. This helps the teachers keep them in their sight but they also wear them to protect themselves from the sun.
For our field trip we did not take a school bus like we do in America. We walked to the train station and rode a train one stop, got off, and walked to the lunch center. Wow! I would have never believed that 120+ first graders could be so well behaved on a train! They did great! After we toured the lunch center, we headed to a park for recess and then headed back to school. It was so neat to experience a Japanese field trip!
When we got back to school we went to a few more classes to observe and then we watched them dismiss. The whole school goes out to the yard out front and line up. They do a little end of day assembly and then dismiss by group. It was hard to tell how they dismissed the students. I think it was by neighborhood but I am not positive.
Our last day at Sango Kita was very busy! They had a lot of special activities planned for us! We picked potatoes with second grade. Each grade level has their own garden! The second graders dug up the potatoes and sent them on a camping trip with sixth grade.
Then we got to experience some traditional Japanese music in the gymnasium. It was really neat and they let us try out the instruments!
I have a really interesting story to share regarding our lunch on the last day. Each day we ate school lunch in the classrooms with the kids. The first day we had miso soup and white rice. The second day we had chicken curry and white rice. And the last day we had fish, soup, and... you guessed it white rice! It was all actually very delicious!
Anyway... on the last day we had the lunch pictured below. The teacher I was with at the time was very kind a knew a little bit of English. She pointed to the plate and said "fish". I said "Oh, okay" and thanked her. I picked a piece up and took a bite. I expected they were like little fish filet strips... they were not. They were whole fish that had been breaded and baked. I noticed the texture was different and looked down and saw that the fish was filled with eggs. It didn't taste bad but it caught me off guard and the texture was different. I had to finish it though out of respect! So I can now say that I have eaten a whole fish... head, tail, bones, eggs, everything! Haha!
After lunch they had us go to another Japanese calligraphy class. We got to try it out again and I think we did better! These mean left and right. :)
On our last day during the breaks we were swarmed by kids wanting our autographs and giving us gifts. It was so sweet!! Our translator said they they wanted to practice writing our names. :)
We also had opportunities to attend a morals lesson, home ec class ( I learned how to properly sew a button!), swimming lesson, and we got to read to the students. I read with a second grade class. I would read the book in English and then the teacher would translate it for the kids. It was so neat!! Before we left we also got to have a question and answer session with the staff. We had lots of questions for them and they had some for us too. I think we have a lot to learn from each other and it was so amazing to be a part of such a wonderful partnership!
I had such an amazing time at Sango Kita Elementary! I learned so much that I can not wait to apply to my classroom here at home! It is an experience that I will never forget!