Today I went to Koyei Elementary school. We got up early so we could see the kids arrive at the school. I was surprised by what I saw. Unlike middle schoolers and high schoolers who have to wear a uniform, elementary students do not. They are only required to have a certain type of back pack and a colored cap. The back pack is purchased when the students enter 1st grade, which is the first year of school for them, and is used until 6th grade, the last year of elementary school. Most were a beautiful red leather, but some were pink or blue. The back packs cost 50,000 yen. I am going to let you figure out how many US dollars that is, but it is 110 yen to the dollar.
The classrooms are very small, and there are many children in each class. I counted 36 students in each class. There are 2 classes per grade level. Each classroom had a school garden and they also kept different animals. I saw a chicken coop, and one of the classes had praying mantis and different types of lizards there. Each room has a vase of fresh flowers in it that the children bring from home for the teacher - What a great idea!!!!
The school had made a special program for us, so we went to the gym. The 6th grade students created centers around the gym to teach us about their games and some of their writing. I think we will learn these games too and create a museum for the school like Mr. Bittner's shark museum. I am acquiring games and art materials for us to practice with in my after school club.
Just like middle school we had lunch with the students. They prepared it in class and then served it in the room. We had raisin bread, cabbage soup, a small omelet and gobo root (burdock). It was nutritious. When I asked the students if they liked the food, most said no. They would rather eat ramen noodles - just like you and your Cup'O Noodles. After eating, we sorted all our trash from our lunch into 4 different categories, put our dishes away to be washed, and moved all the desks to one side of the room for cleaning. The students had 45 minutes for lunch and another 40 minutes for recess. Most stayed in the room and did watercolor painting or they played with tops. Some went into the gym to play volleyball and basketball. No one was on the playground.
After recess the students cleaned the school. Even the 1st graders cleaned their room. Older students came down to help them, and teachers showed them the right way to sweep or wash the floor. It was just like the movie Spirited Away. It took about 20 minutes to clean the school.
Then we went to watch PE. The 3rd grade students had just finished a performance for the national sports day in which all children perform for their city in a daylong ceremony. They showed us a traditional fishing dance. Then they brought us out to do it with them. I had so much fun learning that dance. I am sure they had fun watching me make a fool out of myself as well. In return we taught them the Hokey Pokey. We were all laughing throughout the whole PE class.
At the end of the day we watched them leave. Because of a prevalence of kidnapping the students walk home in organized groups. Some groups walk more than an hour every day. I bet you feel lucky!
I will probably not be able to post tomorrow, as I am going to stay with a Japanese family in a homestay and then I am going to a Japanese Inn. I will be back in Tokyo on Tuesday (my time) and I will post then.