On August 27, 2015, second graders at King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina, Maui were treated to a presentation of the Japan in a Suitcase (JIAS) program thanks to a grant given by the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation. Japan-America Society of Hawaii (JASH) staff member Elizabeth Barrera and JIAS volunteer Becky Ebisu spent the day in Lahaina sharing JIAS with the second graders in the school, for a total of 136 students.
In addition to sharing the presentation with the students, Elizabeth and Becky trained a new volunteer, Kiyomi Abut, who will now be our Japan in a Suitcase volunteer for the island of Maui. Ms. Abut is originally from Japan and now lives and works in Lahaina with her husband. She has two young children (one of which is a second grader at King Kamehameha III School) and is excited to be able to share the JIAS program with children on Maui.
King Kamehameha III Elementary School recently celebrated its centennial and currently serves about 700 students in grades K – 5. When the JIAS program presenters came to the classrooms, the interest level of the students was high and children were excited to see the presenters sharing items about Japan and Japanese school life. As one teacher wrote in her evaluation, “I believe this program helped the students understand that cultures around the world are different.” Throughout the presentations, the students 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 children at schools in Japan. 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 King Kamehameha III Elementary now understand this rich cultural relationship first hand.