America in the Schools (AIS) is designed to promote sensitivity and respect for cultural diversity by educating elementary school students in Japan about the daily life, language and culture of America. Many Japanese hear about the U.S. through the media and movies that may not always be representative of everyday life. News headlines involving violence and racially biased crime can create an unappealing image of the U.S. for those with no other context of understanding. As a consequence, children can form very limited and inaccurate views of America that can result in reduced interest in studying in the U.S. when they reach college age. By bringing American life to Japanese students at an early stage in their academic career, a resilient foundation can be cast that will promote awareness as well as encouragement for further English language and American culture studies—the youth are the future of the U.S.-Japan bond on all levels.
The Japan-America Society of the State of Washington wishes to thank the United-States Japan Foundation for their generous grant, without which this program would not have been possible.
For more information on this grant, please see the attached press release.
AIS presents a day in the life of an American child using visual aids and items from the U.S. to make the experience real. Common items used by American children in everyday life are brought to the school and used to show how a young American boy or girl spends a typical day. These elementary school presentations allow the Japanese student to identify, compare and contrast his or her experience with an American counterpart. The diversity of the American classroom and friends will be a prominent theme to be presented with its strengths and its challenges. Showing diversity as a strength can also create a positive impression in Japan where workforce diversity is an essential part of Prime Minister Abe’s economic recovery plan.
The approach is to profile children of diverse backgrounds. To help students relate, the presentations feature an American child with a Japanese name who has a diverse set of friends and family. The history of the Japanese in America and Japanese Americans can play an interesting and engaging role in the curriculum. Today’s American individuals of Japanese ancestry include recent immigrants as well as those who are now fourth and fifth generation descendants. By putting themselves in the shoes of this American child, Japanese students will gain a more open perspective and become inspired to learn more about other cultures while taking pride in their own.
Meet American 4th grader, Mika, and her class. Meet her family, friends and classmates and experience a day in the classroom. Several of Mika’s great-grandparents were from Japan. Many of her classmates have family ancestors from other far away places, but most of her classmates are Americans because they were born in the U.S.A. They still enjoy and share their ancestral cultures with friends and classmates.
“America in the Schools will help Japanese students understand that the U.S. is more than what is portrayed in media, more than what is digested in the myriad U.S. fast food chains and more than what can be purchased at the Gap, Toys R Us, Starbucks or Coach.”
– Mari Maruyama, Vice President, The Laurasian Institution
Japan-America Society of the State of Washington is working with select Japanese school districts and government partners to develop and implement AIS in Japan. AIS was patterned after JASSW’s long running Japan-In-the-Schools program and it has already peaked the interest of a number of school districts and organizations in Japan where generating interest in learning English at a younger age is an important goal. If you wish to be a part of this program as a volunteer or if you know of a school district in Japan who would be interesting in AIS, please contact us. Resources can also be found on our website here.