Japan-in-a-Suitcase Visits Wailuku Elementary on the Island of Maui

JIAS Volunteer Geri Cheng shares the illusion poster with 1st graders at Wailuku Elementary. This visual prop helps teach the concept of different perspectives

On September 5, 2014, students at Wailuku Elementary were treated to a special presentation of the Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) program thanks in large part to a grant given by the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation. Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) staff members Elizabeth Barrera and Kathryn Murata along with JIAS volunteers Becky Ebisu and Geri Cheng spent the day on Maui sharing JIAS I and II with the first and second graders in the school. Together, the four of them gave a total of twelve JIAS presentations to nearly 250 students. 

Wailuku Elementary, with its stately buildings constructed from stones found in Iao Valley, was established in 1904 and currently services over 1,000 students in grades K – 6. The interest level of the students was high and children were excited to see the presenters on campus and in their classrooms sharing items about Japan and Japanese school life. The first graders especially liked seeing various Japanese school items and comparing and contrasting the differences between school life in Hawaii and in Japan. For the second graders, the program tied into school curriculum nicely, as students will visit the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum this school year to learn about Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii to work on the plantations.

JASH Staff Kathryn Murata and Liz Barrera show the Japanese world map to 2nd graders to help them learn where Japan, Hawaii and the US are located

All students seemed to grasp thebasic concept of different perspectives, having been shown various items and poster boards while discovering more about Japanese school life: student schedules, writing system, randoseru (backpack), zokin (cleaning cloth), uwabaki (indoor shoes), textbooks, and a bento box; and Community life: language, money, festivals, clothing, the game Jan Ken Po (JIAS II), and the Japanese version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (JIAS I). They were encouraged to spot differences in the way Japanese children do things and the way they do things and were reminded that different does not equal wrong

JIAS is a free program offered to elementary schools in Hawaii. It is one of five JASH educational programs aimed at teaching the concept of different perspectives and is aligned with the Hawaii Department of Education Content Standards for Social Studies and World Languages. The major goal of JIAS is to nurture students’ sense of inquisitiveness and help them to look at objects and issues from different viewpoints. This is accomplished through a hands-on demonstration of items used by Japanese school children in the classroom. JASH believes teaching these concepts at an early age will make them more open-minded to new ideas and people of other cultures. The secondary purpose of JIAS is to teach children about Japan’s unique culture and to appreciate Hawaii’s special relationships with Japan. The young students at Wailuku Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand. JASH wishes to extend a special thanks to Vice Principal Noe Castro who helped us arrange this visit.

If you know of a school on a neighbor island that would benefit and welcome the JIAS program in Spring 2015, please contact JIAS Program Coordinator Elizabeth Barrera at ebarrera@jashawaii.org.