This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
Chinese Middle School Visit
January and February were busy months for global education at Harker. In mid-January, the middle school welcomed 19 students from the World Foreign Language Middle School (WFLMS) in Shanghai, China. Although their flight to San Francisco was diverted to Sacramento due to bad weather, the students and their Harker buddies were no less overjoyed to meet one another once the WFLMS students finally arrived at SFO.
The Chinese students had been working since the fall with Harker grade 8 students who were partaking in a population studies class, discussing population-related issues in online forums.
During their stay, the WFLMS students observed and attended several Harker classes, such as Monica Colletti’s drama class and Elizabeth Saltos’ art class. They also teamed up with their Harker buddies for a traditional Chinese paper cutting project.
In their free time, the students ventured out to see more of the San Jose area, visit Stanford and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sister School in Japan Sends Students and Teacher
Two high school students from Harker’s sister school Tamagawa Gakuen in Tokyo, Miyu Kondo and Marina Saito, visited the upper school in January, taking various classes and sitting in with the upper school’s jazz band and orchestra. They attended classes such as Great Novels with English teacher Alexandra Rosenboom, and a chemistry class with Andrew Irvine, and also helped out the yearbook staff.
Having studied music and practiced extensively as members of Tamagawa’s concert band, Kondo and Saito were a welcome addition to the upper school’s jazz band and orchestra. “Marina and Miyu fit in our music program really well from day one,” said Chris Florio, upper school music teacher. After learning how to adjust to the dynamics of a jazz band orchestra, they quickly became assets to both groups. “After being able to perform with both groups and rehearse many days, they really felt like permanent members of the group,” Florio said. Kondo and Saito, on tenor and baritone saxophone, respectively, performed with the Harker Jazz Band at the 2011 Winter Concert.
The greatest benefit of having the students join the jazz band and orchestra, Florio believed, “was sharing with our students how similar they are to American musicians. Despite some language barriers, we were all able to play music together with no barriers at all.” The Tamagawa students’ skill as musicians, he said, also had a positive influence on the Harker students.
During Kondo and Saito’s visit, Tamagawa music teacher Kazuhiko “Tsuchi” Tsuchiya arrived at Harker as this year’s teacher in the annual exchange between the two schools. “Tsuchi,” as he was referred to while at Harker, worked closely with several of Harker’s music groups at the upper and middle schools.
Dave Hart, middle school music teacher, was excited to work with Tsuchiya and was pleased to find out that Tsuchiya was equally enthusiastic. “Tsuchi was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity to work with Harker middle school students,” he said.
Hart was particularly impressed by the way Tsuchiya was able to gain a rapport with the students. “He had great pacing and made difficult sections of music fun and playable for the students. Tsuchi also found ways to bring the music to life, and make the students go beyond just playing the notes on the page in front of them.”
Tsuchiya also guest taught the middle school vocal group Vivace, teaching them “Hotaru Koi,” a traditional Japanese folk song. “He loved having the opportunity to teach the Harker students a song from his own culture,” Hart said.
At the upper school, Tsuchiya took a very active role in leading the upper school orchestra. “Tsuchi actually took over the teaching of our orchestra for the majority of his stay here,” Florio said. “He is an amazing teacher and very skilled conductor, so it was a natural fit for him.”
Tsuchiya’s experience working with Tamagawa’s elite music program was a huge benefit to the upper school music students. “Our students benefited from not only his approach, but from his background and teaching style as well,” Florio said. “Tsuchi was able to show a very clear example of how universal music really is.”
In January, a series of video conferences were held at the lower and middle schools between Harker and Tamagawa students. The first, between kindergartners at both schools, gave students the opportunity to learn about one another’s cultures. Tamagawa students showed some of the kanji symbols (Chinese characters used in Japanese language) they had been learning to the Harker students and explained what they meant. Harker students played a game where they dressed up as various professions, such as firefighter, nurse, farmer and cook, and had the Tamagawa students attempt guess who they were. Each class sang “If You’re Happy and You Know It” in the other’s native language before both classes sang in unison.
The grade 6 video conference with Tamagawa was tied in with Tim Culbertson’s environmental science class. The two groups of students played a trivia game based around environmental science, which used questions from assignments that were completed the previous semester. The video conference was the first time the Harker and Tamagawa students got to meet face to face. Harker students who are participating in the Tamagawa exchange were specifically paired up with someone other than their Tamagawa buddies, so that when they visit Japan later this year they will know two people instead of just one.
Journalism Department Shares News with World Schools
Meanwhile, the ongoing Global Journalism Project, a collaboration between Harker’s journalism department and those of high schools all over the world, continues to produce thought-provoking pieces from high school students in countries such as India and Taiwan. These articles are meant to provide insight into the lives of teenagers from other cultures. The most recent story, printed in the January edition of The Winged Post, is a story on peer pressure from a student at the Taipei American School in Taiwan.