01/30/05 — Students learn about Japan

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Students learn about Japan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 30, 2005 2:08 AM

Doris Ginn's fourth graders at Eastern Wayne Elementary School are being treated to an excursion to another world and another culture. Without leaving their classroom.

Colorful kimonos in vivid reds, blacks and blues line the back wall. Posters with landscape portraits crowd for space on the blackboard, with more gracing the wall behind Mrs. Ginn's desk.

The "cultural buffet" is a gift to her students, she says, made possible when she was chosen for a cultural exchange program.

Mrs. Ginn, winner of the prestigious Fulbright Award, spent three weeks in December in and around Tokyo with 200 other educators from the United States. She called it a trip of a lifetime.

"They were all things I will remember all my life," she said.

She has taken the opportunity to incorporate her experience into lesson plans and activities. She also plans to start an electronic pen-pal program.

Among the items she has shared in class are decorative umbrellas and teapots, banners, kites and other traditional Japanese objects, accompanied by stories about each one. They all allow her to launch into lessons on the different culture.

By teaching students about the Japanese people, she said they can appreciate the differences in others.

"We open our minds and our hearts to listen," she told her class.

The teacher was herself a student when she was in the Far East. The group traveled to castles, monuments and markets. One highlight was getting to see what schools in Japan were like.

Mrs. Ginn said in Japanese schools, the teachers travel from class to class. There are no custodians, she said, so daily clean-up, including serving lunch in the classrooms, is done by students.

There were also funny moments in the cross-cultural trip, she said. When staying overnight with a host family, Mrs. Ginn put salt and pepper on her rice.

"The Japanese family thought it was a hoot," she said.

Spending time with a native family was one of the most special parts of the trip, she said.

"They not only took you into their home but into their hearts," she said. "They cherished you while you were there.

"They don't say it, they live it."

Through her own experiences, as well as photographs, stories and other souvenirs, Mrs. Ginn says she is fulfilling her mission to educate her students and her community.