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First-graders at Lillian Schmitt Elementary School clapped their hands in rhythm, snapped their fingers and sang a song — in Japanese.
The performance delighted the three school officials from Columbus’ Japanese sister city of Miyoshi, who were touring the school Wednesday afternoon.
Music teacher Vincent Laine had practiced the song, “Jon Ken Pon,” specifically for the guests, who also ducked into the school library and other classrooms to learn about instruction at a Columbus elementary school.
Local school officials said the visits allow children to gain valuable exposure to another culture.
Education leaders from both cities said the teachers learn about different approaches to education and how to maximize the impact of their resources.
Kato Ryosuke, principal of Miyoshi Kita Junior High School; Takahiro Niimi, a consultant with the division of schools of the Miyoshi City Board of Education; and translator Keiko Nakane visited the school on their last full day of a weeklong visit that involved about 20 students, teachers and administrators from Miyoshi.
As Laine’s students finished their song, the visitors from Miyoshi clapped and smiled, and Nakane told the students the meaning of the words in the song and how they corresponded to some of the hand gestures they were making.
“Amazing. Good job,” Nakane told the students. “Thank you so much.”
Laine said students frequently sing in languages other than English because it connects students with other cultures. He said that at Christmas time, for example, students frequently sing in German and French.
“You learn to be accepting of other cultures,” Laine said.
As the Miyoshi visitors stepped into Lori Bailey’s second-grade class, the students waved their hands and said “konnichiwa,” a standard Japanese greeting.
In Lynn Acton’s class, the students learned about the 13-hour time difference between Columbus and Miyoshi, prompting Schmitt Elementary School Principal Brett
Boezeman to ask the class what time it was in Miyoshi. After some quick calculations, one of the students correctly answered 3:15 a.m.
At the end of the tour, Niimi, speaking through Nakane, said the exchange allows young people from both countries to make friendships abroad and to learn about each other’s cultures.
“We think it’s a really good experience,” Niimi said.
Boezeman said that while students learn about places outside the U.S. in textbooks and videos, few of them have the opportunity to interact with people from abroad. The exchanges give students some real-life exposure to people from outside the U.S.
“It’s great for our kids,” Boezeman said.
At the beginning of their visit, Boezeman and the Miyoshi visitors had exchanged gifts, including artwork created by students in both cities. Schmitt’s student art included a painted handprint, a snowman and paintings of faces, while art from the Japanese students included calligraphy.
Boezeman said the school frames some of the art it receives and hangs it in classrooms to inspire the students and to remind them and the teachers of the special bond between Columbus and Miyoshi.
A Columbus delegation representing its high schools will travel to Miyoshi in June 2014, the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Columbus and Miyoshi, said Janet Baldwin, a former Columbus educational ambassador who still works with the program. Columbus’ first educational delegation traveled to Miyoshi in 1996, she added.
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