“Mr. Goodwin, is everything good in Japan?” a student asked English teacher Colin Goodwin as he surveyed posters and Japanese treats. It was a beautiful, sunny day and Bucknall students were welcoming spring with a display from Goodwin’s recent educational exchange.
In celebration of the change of seasons, and inspired by Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden,” Goodwin thought it would be fun for his Gr. 4 class to share American spring traditions with fourth graders in Harker’s sister school Tamagawa Gakuen. With the help of Jennifer Abraham, Harker’s director of global education, Goodwin organized an educational poster exchange. He sent a descriptive essay and posters illustrating the first strawberries of spring, Easter, spring break and the start of baseball season to Tamagawa. In return, he received posters illustrating Japanese spring traditions. “They were fascinated that school starts in April in Japan and that Japanese kids only have several weeks off between fourth and fifth grade,” Goodwin said of his students. He also noted their interest in Girl’s Day (Hina Matsuri) and Children’s Day (Kodomo-no-hi).
The project challenged students to consider what spring symbolizes and introduced global education into Goodwin’s class. The students were impressed by Tamagawa students’ displays and the beautiful packaging of the sweets (wagashi) served at the party.
In an effort to expand the project, Abraham and Goodwin also sent posters to schools in France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and Ethiopia. They have received posters from Institution Sévigné in Compiègne, France.
“Overall, I think this project taught the kids that they have a lot in common with Japanese kids,” Goodwin said. “However, the kids realize that there are some distinct differences between Japanese culture and American culture that help make the world a more interesting place.”