Hakodate is famous for its squid. Combine this with the popular Japanese video game Super Mario and you get an unique version of the 'Squid Dance’. This was the performance that was part of the school festival at an elementary school in Hakodate. It is mandatory for students in Japan to participate and perform in such festivals or events at the school. The students performing ‘the Squid Dance’ were dressed up as Mario with Red Hats and Luigi with Green Hats. I even got to participate in the school rehearsals. If you are or were ever a Super Mario fan, the performance at the school was definitely worth the watch.
Biotechnology Lab visit and more squid related science-y stuff
At the university in Hakodate, I had an opportunity to meet with a professor of Biotechnology from whom I got to learn a bit about science and technology, and also about Atomic Force Microscopy and Cryo-Electron Microscopy. What was so interesting about this lab tour was to learn about the applications of squid ink in pharmaceuticals. Since, the ink is safe to ingest and has a wide spectrum to absorb light, it also has high molecular shape uniformity. It is used in labelling pharmaceutical drugs.
View from the top of Mount Hakodate. To the left of the city is Sea of Japan and to the right side is the Pacific Ocean.
Now we move on to the school placement experiences in Siriuchi town…
The school placements were unique. I got to attend High school, Junior High School, and Elementary Schools during my time in Siriuchi for about a week. There is only one high school in the small town. Our visit in the school comprised of lesson activities and one grade 11 science class took an inquiry-based approach and I got to participate in it. The lab was about making a design experiment related to the physics concepts. Students in small groups would design their model that they built in the lab under a within the period of time set by the teacher and then test it out in the real time. After getting the results, the teacher would review and go over the concepts and relevant formulas with students. Then a second trial was carried out, where students got to improve and test out their design model again. I found this approach of learning science highly engaging, challenging, and creative.
The hospitality of staff and people in Siriuchi was immensely kind and accommodating. Our accommodation and meals were covered by the university. This made the process of staying in a small town a lot smoother. During our stay, I got an opportunity to visit a small historical museum, a Japanese Onsen (hot spring), and a Natural Park viewpoint.
Hakodate has a lot of temples and churches to explore!
Elementary School Placements in Siriuchi
I also had an opportunity to visit couple of elementary schools in and around Siriuchi area. The first elementary school had less than 5o students, and the school size was a really big for such less number of students. There were a lot of games I participated in that involved music, sounds, visuals, and most importantly ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ (Jan- Ken-Pon) which seems highly famous with students here in Japan. Students in Japanese schools wear assigned school uniforms and they greet and thank their teacher every class. Other Japanese games that elementary school students play involving verbal, kinesthetic and visual language learning is: Kendama, Koma, Karuta, and Babanuki card game. Many of the schools in Siriuchi are located next to mountains and Tsugaru Strait, so the view from the classrooms was not only well lighted, but breathtaking as well. This particular elementary school had a video and sound podcast recording room as well. So, the emphasis on technology and multimedia was given a priority in this education facility.
The next elementary school had more than 100 students and was a big school. The students welcomed us in a ceremony at the school gym. There were a lot of games, speeches, and music. I felt like a “rockstar” as some students asked me for an autograph. This has never happened to me before, so it was quite an enthralling experience. The kindness and enthusiasm of the students was a big highlight of the school placements. They were eager to learn from us, and most importantly the students in Japanese schools were much disciplined. I did a lot of language learning activities with them such as playing the game of Evolution and role playing games, and even work and communicate with them either individually and/or in small groups. The Elementary school students seemed to be doing inquiry based experiments for a science class in the lab. I even got to help and assist students with their design experiments which was enjoyable. This Junior High School was relatively new. It had fashion and food classrooms that had all the equipment like laundry machine, sewing machine, stove tope, etc. for students to make something creative and challenging. The main gym stage area had a retractable music classroom wall which would converge into one giant staging area. It was a cool concept with retracting classroom walls to have more open space for students to perform or work in.
Japanese Calligraphy attempted in an Arts Classroom. "Vikrum" and "Yamato" ("Japan" of old age) written on the rice paper.
Junior High School Visit in Siriuchi
I was welcomed by Junior High School students in a small opening ceremony and then at the end there was also a small closing ceremony. During the school lunch, where I ate with grade 8 students in their respective classrooms, I found it interesting and amusing that the school played Canadian Pop Songs, such as Justin Bieber over the PA system. I found that some of the students spoke and understood English well while conversing with them during the lunch and in the classes in general. It was indeed a good opportunity for students to practise their English-speaking skills with non-Japanese speaking guests. In the Language learning lab, I repeated some English words for the whole class as per the teacher’s instructions, and then the level of difficulty was slowly and gradually increased throughout the class. Words become sentences and sentences become mini paragraphs for students to practice and learn in English. The lectures were always supplemented with visuals, text, sounds, and/or music. It was highly engaged classroom, and the teacher seemed to have great working relationship with students. Humour was often used by the teacher. I talked to students about topics like - Anime, Manga, sports, hobby, food, Canada, Japanese culture, etc. This helped with built great working relationship with students. I even got to play Judo with students (Japanese Martial Arts), and later in an Arts Classroom I got to try Shuji (Japanese Calligraphy).
So far, I am having memorable and productive school placement experiences where I am learning a lot in terms of teaching and communicating with students. It is hard to believe that only less than a week is left here in Japan with so much still to do…
Convenience Stores or Konbini are everywhere in Hakodate. Your student life will never feel hungry!