KBC students learn about ‘Japan Connections’

By on September 21, 2013
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Photo: Kaneland Blackberry Creek Elementary third-grade teacher Bob Barth and ELL teacher/director Katie Henigan are co-teaching about communities and cultures in a Social Studies unit. This is a display to go along with their current teachings on Japan. Photos by Kimberly Anderson

ELBURN—Alisa James now knows lots of unique cultural things about Japan.

James, 8, is a third-grade student at Kaneland Blackberry Creek (KBC) Elementary School. And like many of her classmates in Mr. Barth’s classroom, also known as Bob Barth, James is intrigued about Japanese children having to take quite a few shoes to school.

“What I thought was really cool is in school they have to bring four pairs of shoes to school,” she said. “So, the first pair is just to wear in that like to go to school. And then the second pair they have to take off the shoes and wear a different pair of shoes to wear in the classroom so it can stay clean. And then the third pair was for gym shoes. And then the fourth pair was they had to take off their shoes and change their shoes to go to the bathroom.”

This cultural lesson was one of many the class learned thanks to a Japanese display called “Japanese Connections” at the school.

The display was set up last week and donated by Japanese family Eriko Kojima, Nehru Arunasalam, Masumi Nehru and Laura McPhee, a Kaneland employee.

The display shows a wide map of the world and points out where Japan is located. Floral patterned kimonos hang on either side of the map. A spread white fan with a red dot illustrates the Japanese flag. Artistic looking Japanese character writing is shown and lots of Japanese children’s books, facts and trivia can be found.
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All of the shoe information had Alisa thinking.

“I thought that that would take a really long time to change them and put them back on and change them and put them back on,” she said.

Katie Henigan, English as a Second Language teacher at Blackberry Creek, explained the importance of having the display at the school because of global society and global education.

“We’re all becoming one unit, right?” Henigan said. “So, it’s just more and more important to know about all different cultures, all different communities.”

According to Barth, his class will learn about more communities and cultures, including Vietnam and Mexican Americans.

Henigan and Barth are co-teaching about the Japanese culture for a couple of weeks. Henigan took the students on an adventure by reading “Grandfather’s Journey” by Allen Say, about a Japanese grandfather going from California to Japan.

Martne McCoy, Blackberry Creek principal, spoke favorably about the teacher collaboration and the cultural display.

“I think anytime teachers can work collaboratively, our students have a benefit,” McCoy said. “I am excited for the opportunity that exists for our students and am eager to see the learning that comes for that for our students.”

Third grader Kaylee Cooper, 8, is one such eager learner. She called learning about the Japanese display fun. And she learned quite a bit.

“They’re 12 hours ahead of us,” she said. “And they have three alphabets.”

Classmate Bradley Vohs, 8, also learned lots of cultural lessons from the display.

“It’s kind of cool to see stuff from another country,” Bradley said. “Usually people don’t get to go there often from here unless they plan something.”