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Ochanomizu University and US Japanese language school collaborate online for intensive science classes ― Providing a fun and lively experience!


Earlier this year, Ochanomizu University's Institute of Science and Education (ISE: Director Kazuyoshi Chiba) held a series of online collaborative classes with Bloomington Japanese School (Principal: Kaeko Liff) in Indiana, USA. The classes, part of an intensive science course, were conducted online, with students participating from their homes. They were held over the summer vacation and used science teaching materials developed by the institute. Ten students (aged from 5th grade of elementary to 1st grade of junior high) from the school participated along with their parents.

The classes were held for five days, from July 15 to 28, with three 45-minute classes starting at 9:00 p.m. Japan time (8:00 a.m. Indiana time), connecting the university with the homes of students from the school and its partner schools online. This was the second intensive series of classes held between the university and the school, with the first taking place in February of this year.

The class on the 25th used circuit cards, a teaching aid developed by ISE. ISE Specially Appointed Associate Professor Chiharu Sadamitsu taught the class, assisted by ISE faculty members. Masahiko Kitayama, a science teacher at the Japanese School, also assisted. Kitayama delivered the materials to students' homes in advance, and the students were given instructions on what materials to prepare at home.

Circuit cards are used for teaching science. They combine a postcard-sized metal sheet, battery box, miniature light bulb, LED, motor, and conductive components in a miniaturized form, allowing students to easily create various electric circuits by replacing the components.

In the class, the students first used the cards to create a circuit to make the miniature light bulb glow with a battery. They then made series and parallel circuits while Sadamitsu explained the difference between light bulbs and LEDs in an easy-to-understand manner. Next, after using batteries to power a motor, the students removed the battery box, and the motor was used to create electricity to light up the miniature light bulb. The students actively asked the instructors questions and enthusiastically engaged in the experiments.

After the class, instructors received the following comments from questionnaires the students filled out: "It was exciting from the moment we started preparing the circuits. I found the experiment a bit difficult when I tried it. I wondered if there were different circuits we could use instead. The class seemed to end so fast.", "It was interesting to see the results, like making the motor spin using the circuit card.", "It was difficult but fun. Making light using disposable chopsticks and tape was the most fun part."

Sadamitsu commented, "Power generation is a 6th-grade unit, so the content was a bit advanced, but I think we were able to make it fun and enjoyable."

Kitayama added, "The activities were hands on and sometimes results were obtained that differed slightly from the initial hypothesis or information presented in the textbooks. However, they gradually discovered the answers through repeated trial and error and thinking together. This was all done in an open and lively atmosphere."

After the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the institute began supporting science education in disaster-struck areas. The post-earthquake tsunami destroyed teaching materials, making it challenging to conduct science experiments. To enable science education to continue despite these circumstances, the institute has been developing science experiment content and teaching materials in cooperation with local communities and schools across Japan. In recent years, opportunities for science experiments have been lost due to the switch to online classes caused by COVID-19.

Weekend classes for Japanese national elementary and junior high school students: Parents want more science education

Bloomington Japanese School provides education based on Japanese curriculum guidelines on weekends to elementary to junior high school students of Japanese nationality who otherwise attend local schools during the week. In the US, science experiments are not a mandatory part of the curriculum. More than 80 supplementary schools in the US serve as overseas educational facilities. However, very few offer year-round science classes and parents at the Japanese school have expressed a desire for more science education. The school offers science classes throughout the school year but is also offering intensive, experiment-based online science classes to provide science education opportunities for students attending supplementary schools in the Midwestern United States, where science is not offered.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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