Visit to Oyabe Otani Junior High School

IMG_1350This blog entry forms part of the “Toyama-Oregon Friendship Project”, in conjunction with the series of outreach lectures conducted by Abram Leon, Coordinator for International Relations with the International Affairs Division of Toyama Prefecture. The primary goal of the lectures is to raise awareness about the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship by introducing information about Oregon and the history of exchange to students of Toyama Prefecture.

The blog entries aim to encourage students and members of the community in Toyama and Oregon to become more personally involved in the relationship. After each school visit, I will write an entry and encourage students and other readers to leave their questions and thoughts in the comment section, as well as respond to the questions and comments of others. In this way, I hope to get a new generation interested in communication across cultures and the wonderful friendship between Toyama and Oregon.

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Visit to Oyabe Otani Junior High School

On Tuesday, November 10th, I spoke about Oregon and the Toyama-Oregon sister state relationship in front of a group of 83 Oyabe Otani JHS 1st year students. While my supervisor Ms. Sanno and I drove out to Oyabe, I revised my presentation again on my laptop. Thinking about how to communicate with my youngest audience yet, I decided to try to make the slides less wordy and focus more on the interactive sections of the lecture. As we approached the school, I was surprised by its unique architecture: my first impression was that the school looked like something out of a European fairy tale. The huge gate and clock tower stood out against the surrounding fields, sharply contrasting with the Japanese-style farm houses nearby. Ms. Sanno explained that the entire area is actually famous for this architecture, and in fact, Oyabe is nicknamed the “Märchen town”, referring to the German word for fairy tale!

We entered the school to find a quite normal interior design, and were quickly greeted by the school principal and Ms. Matsuda, the teacher in charge of the organizing the lecture. As we walked through the school, and I was impressed by how outgoing the students were, greeting me as I walked past their classrooms. When we reached the lecture hall, I was surprised to find that it was a completely empty room with no place to sit, but Matsuda sensei informed me that students would be bringing their own chairs. As I waited for the kids to arrive, I put on some music and spoke a bit with Matsuda sensei about the kids and my ideas for the blog entries. I was also able to speak to ALT Tim Chakaodza, who had nothing but good things to say about the kids and the community. Motivated by his enthusiasm, I felt ready to get started!

When the kids came in carrying their chairs and smiling, I could tell that they were an energetic and fun group. They lined up their chairs in tight rows towards the front, their faces shining with excitement and expectation. As I went into my talk, I was happy to find that they were happy to participate, raising their hands, answering questions and even laughing at my jokes! I used English in certain parts, but also explained in Japanese in difficult sections – the students were very active and friendly, even helping to finish my sentences when I forgot words in Japanese. Near the end of class, when I asked them to work together and think of questions for people living in Oregon, they asked some of the most interesting questions of any group yet. Although I tried to answer a couple of their questions, I told them to actually ask people in Oregon. They responded with puzzled looks… “How can we talk to people in Oregon?” At that point I told them about the Toyama Hot News blog, and encouraged them to use resources like Facebook and online videos to search for information they are interested in.

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このブログは、富山県国際課の国際交流員アブラム・リオンによる出前講座とともに、「富山オレゴンFriendship Project」の一部となります。講座の目的は主に、富山県とオレゴン州の友好関係についての認知度を上げるため、オレゴン州の情報や友好関係の歴史、交流に貢献している人たちを紹介することです。

また、ブログの目的は、富山県とオレゴン州の学生や一般の方を個人レベルで交流に関わるように促すことです。各出前講座の後、ブログで写真や学生・先生のコメントを含む学校の紹介を行います。そして、学生たちに質問や感想を記事のコメント欄に書いてもらい、オレゴンの学生たちや一般の人に、そのコメントに返事をしてもらいます。こうして、新しい世代が富山県とオレゴン州の素晴らしい関係をもっと深く知ることを期待しています。

小矢部市立大谷中学校へ

11月10日(火)に、小矢部市立大谷中学校一年生83人の前でオレゴン州と富山県の姉妹関係について話しました。小矢部へ向かう車中、パソコンでプレゼンテーションの内容を再度確認しました。今回は今までで最も若いグループで、コミュニケーションをよくとれるようにスライドの文字を少なくし、アクティビティ中心の内容に調整しました。学校が見えてくると、まず校舎の姿に驚きました。大きな門や時計台が周囲の田んぼや農家と対照的で目立っていました。第一印象は、ヨーロッパの民話から出てきたもののようでした。一緒に行った担当者の参納さんの説明によると、小矢部の地域は「メルヘンのまち」として知られ、独特な建築があちこちにあるそうです。

学校へ入ると、校長先生と講座を担当されている松田先生が出迎えてくださいました。廊下を歩いている、教室に座っている生徒たちが元気な挨拶で迎えてくれました。講座を行うホールへ着くと、机や椅子が何一つなく、どうなるかと少し心配しましたが、自分たちの椅子を持ってくると教えてくださいました。生徒たちが来るのを待つ間、音楽を流し、松田先生とプレゼンテーションの内容について話しました。ALTのティム先生と話す機会もあり、子供たちと地域への熱意が十分伝わってきました。そのパッションが私にもうつり、ますますやる気が出ました。

学生たちが椅子を持ち入ってくると、皆好奇心と楽しみにあふれた笑顔でした。講座が始まると、生徒たちは積極的に手をあげ、質問に答えてくれ、私の冗談にも笑ってくれたので、とても楽しかったです。講座では英語を使い、難しいところは日本語で説明しましたが、わからない日本語を生徒たちが教えてくれることもあり、そのフレンドリーな態度に感動しました。講座の最後に、オレゴン州に住んでいる人たちへの質問について、今までで一番面白い質問がいくつか出ました。私も少し答えましたが、実際にオレゴンの人たちに聞いてみたらどうかと言ったところ、どうやってオレゴンの人たちと話せるのかと皆は戸惑っていました。そこで、この富山ホットニュースブログについて説明し、Facebookやビデオでの調べ方も紹介しました。

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