Lisa Schadel has learned to better relate to her international students. Jon Hayfield now feels an obligation to promote cultural understanding to help achieve world peace. India Wirt was impressed by the “moral education” emphasized in Japanese schools.
Schadel, a second grade teacher at Findlay’s Whittier Primary School; Hayfield, Riverdale High School world history teacher, and Wirt, an early childhood education major at The University of Findlay, spent four weeks in Japan this past summer. The goal; to return with lesson plans for “international education” in Hancock County and Findlay City Schools.
In all, nine teachers and three pre-service teachers from UF visited Japan through grant funding provided by the U.S. Department of Education’s Fulbright-Hays Group and the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation. In June 2014, Dr. Hiroaki Kawamura, chair of the department of language and culture, received $80,000 to finance the trip. The Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation also awarded $3,000 to Findlay City Schools and the Hancock County Educational Service Center to support the project.
Classrooms Without Walls
The group had hopes of returning with ideas for transforming area K-12 students into “global citizens.” They each gave a personal highlight of the trip on Saturday, September 6 during a visit to the University by Kiyoshi Ueda, governor of Saitama Prefecture, Japan. The Americans had visited Ueda and residents of his prefecture during their trip.
“I’m now creating a classroom without walls. My students are learning that there’s more to the world than Rawson and Hancock County,” Lindsay Alexander told Ueda and a group of University staff and businesspeople. Alexander is a second grade teacher for Cory-Rawson Local Schools.
“I learned what it was like to experience the culture shock that many of my students must have felt,” said Maggie Maag, Wilson Vance Intermediate School third grade teacher.
The teachers and UF students spent nearly an hour recounting what they had gleaned from their trip. Their comments were translated into Japanese for Ueda and other visitors from Japan. Steven Gehret, a UF senior who plans to teach social studies, was impressed with the environmental concerns he witnessed.
“In the areas we visited, they treated recycling as essential,” added Gehret. “They are also very interested in renewable energy. As educators, we can share this with our students as well. I know several teachers on the trip were going to start recycling programs at their schools.”
Dr. Kawamura, pleased with the trip’s outcome, said that everything learned was not written,
“My focus was to give the teachers opportunities to experience Japan first-hand, which would change their worldview. When teachers’ perception changes, cultural teaching will take place everywhere – in and out of classrooms.”
Jennifer Obenour, social studies and language arts teacher at Van Buren Local Schools, summed it up best when she said, “This trip transformed the way we teach our classes. We have all been so excited to share a different culture with our students.”