Today we visited HUE-Sapporo’s two Affiliated Schools – a junior high school (grades 7-9) and an elementary school (grades 1-6). We started with the junior high, visiting with Dr. Oga and the Vice Director of HUE’s international office, as well as 4 exchange students (1 from Taiwan, 1 from Alaska, and 2 from Russia). The Affiliated Schools are very similar to Werklund’s Partner Research Schools – they work with the university on research projects, and often collaborate on opportunities like student practicums and visits from international groups.
During our visit, the principal explained that their goal at the school is to integrate students’ learning across subjects, and especially to connect what they are learning in the classroom to their lives outside of the building. To do that, teachers work together to approach topics from different perspectives, and spend 2-3 hours a week collaborating on research to better understand how their students are learning. Teachers are also able to visit each other’s classrooms to observe one another and chat about teaching practices – so a couple of the rooms we visited also had another teacher sitting in.
The American student with us commented that he was surprised at how much group work the students were doing, especially in the science class we visited. As much as students study individually and are expected to do well, the school also wants to create a community and encourage students to learn from one another.
After lunch in the university cafeteria we made our way to the elementary school. The community feel was even more apparent here – most of the teachers we visited were in and amongst the students, and several classes had students rotating through “daily duties” like leading end-of-class discussions. After school most of the teachers hosted meetings for parents about upcoming activities and field trips. Rather than send home forms and trip outlines (waivers in particular are not a thing here), the parents come to the school for a step-by-step presentation about each trip so that they know what to expect and what the students will do while they’re away.
The highlight of the day (and I really hope the video Dr. Oga took gets lost to the sands of time) was our game of Indiaca, essentially a hybrid between volleyball and badminton (played with a giant birdie but no rackets). It’s a simple game and was a nice way to connect with the group – though I wouldn’t suggest playing it in a suit in the middle of June.