Osawadai Elementary School

Just a short (15 minute) walk from campus there is an elementary school, and I was one of the people who visited it today.  When we first walked in, we saw a bike rack… full of unicycles!?  Two steps into their territory and Japanese children are already proving their superiority over me.  We walked into the school building where we took off our shoes and were given slippers to wear.  Then we met all the children (the 5th grade class) in the gym.  Each of us was paired up with two children.  My partners were Yuta (the boy) and Olivia (the girl… obviously).  The children gave us a tour of the school.  Olivia is half British and fluent in English just as much as she is in Japanese, so I received a very comprehensive tour.  Her accent was very interesting, as you can imagine.  Yuta was pretty good at English, too, but was a little bit shy and spacey.  This elementary school was just amazing.  They had classrooms for each grade level (obviously) as well as a music room, a computer room, an arts and crafts room, a rest room, an eating room, a play room, a gym, a science room, two shoe rooms, and rooms to split up learning levels into slower, normal, and fast, so as to allow each student optimal learning experience.  They even have English phrases and urges to learn all over the walls, reading “say it in English!”  I wish a second language had been integrated into my elementary school system.  When I was in elementary school we didn’t have anything nearly as organized or comprehensive as this, let alone our own science lab!!  And we had a gym, but never used it like these kids get to.  When Olivia and Yuta were done giving me a tour we went into a classroom and they showed me how to play with all kinds of Japanese toys.  Cat’s Cradle was included (under a different name, obviously) as well as a bean bag juggling game, a catch-and-balance-the-ball game, a string and top toy, and a few more.  Then we went into the gym and a bunch of us played tag.  Then more and more groups trickled in until we had two games of tag, a game of basketball, a game of dodgeball, a game of volleyball (minus the net) and hoolahoopers all sharing one elementary gym floor.  I hadn’t had that kind of fun in a long time.  By the time we calmed down I was literally dripping with sweat, because this school has no air conditioning and gosh darnit we were playing hard!!  We asked the principals some questions and said our goodbyes and everyone was sad to see “their” kids walk away.
Myself and three other students who are staying at ICU for the year spoke with the principals and plan to exchange information so that we may return and volunteer during the school year (it is summer vacation).  It was an awesome trip and lots of fun, but I got so dusty and sweaty that I rushed home to shower all the grime off.  But hopefully things will go through well and I will be able to return.