Intercultural-understanding course at Wakabadai Elementary school

February 2, 2019 (Mon.)

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Darina                       Nastya                         Yaro

Three exchange students studying at TUFS were invited to participate in an international-understanding class for 4th-graders taught at Wakabadai Elementary School in the city of Inagi.  Utilizing a conversation format, the exchange students dialogued with approximately 100 elementary students about the Russian language, its geography, food, and lifestyle, with the opportunity for intercultural interaction.  Two of the Russian participants, Darina and Nastya, hail from the Far Eastern Federal University, while Yaro hails from Russian State University for the Humanities.

Parents at Wakabadai Elementary created an organization for international goodwill, termed Bridge International Parents Fellowship, which conducts a variety of activities.  Among these activities is “Bridge the World,” in which elementary students from 1st-grade to 6th-grade participate in an annual international understanding class, in which they are introduced to the countries beyond Japan, as well as the diversity of skin and eye color, and the diversity of cultural and historical backgrounds, by local residents from those countries.  This allows the elementary students to learn about overseas people and cultural directly.  Recently, Wakabadai Elementary conducted a class about the Kingdom of Tonga, in which the wife of a well-regarded player on the Japanese rugby team who is from Tonga visited the elementary, wore traditional clothing, and showed the elementary students photographs of Tonga, and introduced them to Tongan songs and dancing.       

In the latter half of last year, [our office] was contacted and asked if it would be possible to have TUFS exchange students visit the elementary school to participate in similar intercultural-understanding activities.  On occasion, the 4th-grader’s “international understanding time” has free time; last year in December it was decided to invite Russian students this year.   Three students volunteered to participate.  After multiple meetings between the exchange students and volunteers with Bridge, a plan was in place. 

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Exchange students being asked where they are from.

 

On the day of the event, fourth-graders joined in an intercultural-understanding class during the 4th-period, during which they normally study English.  Approximately 100 4th-graders from 3 classes gathered in the gym, and engaged in conversation with the three exchange students.  With encouragement from Bridge members, the students, in unison, asked the Russian students, “Where are you from?” in English. 

After that, the Russian volunteers showed the students a PowerPoint they had created together with the members of Bridge, and told the students about Russia in a conversational style, offering a great opportunity for the students to expand their knowledge.  The presentation was as follows. 

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Practicing the pronunciation of Russian letters.
  • The Russian alphabet has 33 letters, seven more than the English alphabet.  This includes some letters with completely different shapes, as well as some letters that look similar to English letters but are pronounced differently.  The “R” is “backwards,” while the “N” is “upside-down,” isn’t that interesting!  Let’s practice pronouncing each letter, one at a type, following the Russian students’ example. 
  • Let’s copy the Russian students’ pronunciation of, “Hello,” “Goodbye,” “Thank you,” “Yes,” and “No.” 
  • What kind of country is Russia?  – Information about the size of Russia, its climate, its ethnic groups, the cuisine, and so forth. 
  • Russia looks bigger than Japan.  How many times bigger than Japan is Russia?  It takes a week to get from Moscow to Vladivostok taking the Trans-Siberian Railway, and Russia is ten time zones from one end to the other.  This is how big Russia is. 
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    The Trans-Siberian Railroad, which connects Moscow and Vladivostok.
  • Everyone says that Russia is cold, but how cold is it really? – There are four seasons, and the summers are as hot as the winters are cold. 
  • Compared to Japan’s population of 120 million people, how large is Russia’ population?  – Overall, Russia has a very low population density, however there is a concentration of the population in Moscow. 
  • Russia is a multi-ethnic state with 180 ethnic groups. 
  • What is Russian cuisine like?  The elementary students were asked whether they had ever eaten piroshky, borsch, beef stroganoff, to which they responded “da!” or “nyet!” 
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    Have you ever had borsch?
  • Russia ranks with Japan for producing champion figure skaters; this prompted the elementary students to ask if all Russians are good at skating.
  • Introduction to the lifestyle of Russians who own a “dacha” (a country home). 
  • In the Russian Far East, which is near Japan, there are wild tigers. 
  • Last, the elementary students listened to an anime version of the most famous Russian folk song in Japan, “Katyusha.”  
  • During the ‘question corner,’ many students raised their hands, their eyes shining.  These are some of the questions they asked.
  • What do you call the Russian currency?
  • How many Yen is one Ruble worth?
  • Are all Russians rich?  (This question may have been prompted by the student just having heard about Russians who spend their weekends in dacha surrounded by nature.) 
  • Do all Russians have the same hair color?
  • Are there hot springs in Russia?
  • Do Russian schools have an official school song? 

 Including the Question and Answer portion, the activity went beyond the time allotted for the fourth period. 

After the class, when it was announced that each of the three Russian students would share lunch with a different class, the children erupted in applause.  The elementary students led the Russian students to their classrooms, where together they shared Japanese-style school lunches.  This was followed by a blizzard of more questions from the elementary students.  In 4th-grade Class #3, two particularly active young boys who’d been practicing for a quite a while got up and did a ‘USA’ dance. 

The event finally ended with the elementary students calling out ‘spaseeba’ (thank you) and ‘dosvedanya’ (goodbye).  It was an opportunity for them to learn about Russia, and to feel closer to Russian people.  The Russian volunteers also were quite satisfied with the opportunity to spend such quality time getting to know the elementary students. 

We are indebted to the teachers at Wakabadai Elementary School and to the volunteers from Bridge for making this event possible. 

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A message that arrived from Nastya in Russian. 

Думаю, что это отличный шанс не только попрактиковать язык, но также и рассказать о своей стране. Полагаю, что такое мероприятие было полезно и для самих детей, потому что это расширяет их познания о мире.  В целом хочу отметить, что это было интересно и познавательно. Сложилась дружеская атмосфера, а сами дети были очень заботливы, особенно во время обеда. Лично для меня это было очень весело и я рада, что получилось пообщаться с ребятами и их родителями. Надеюсь, что детям тоже понравилось.

During this visit, I had the wonderful opportunity to not only use Japanese, but to talk about my own country.  It was a great learning experience.  I feel confident that the children’s horizons were expanded.  Everyone was really quite friendly; the kids took extra care of me during lunchtime!  I really had a lot of fun, and really enjoyed being able to interact with the children and the parents.  I feel sure the children had lots of fun too.   


Event overview

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The three Russian students and volunteers from Bridge

Date and Time: 9:30 to 12:30, February 18, 2019 (including meeting times and lunch)
Venue: Toyo, Inagi City, Wakabadai Elementary School Gymnasium
Hosts: Wakabadai Elementary ‘Bridge’ volunteers
Participating Japanese students: All 4th grade students from Wakabadai Elementary (3 classes, about 100 students)
Participating Russian students: Three individuals