On Okinawa, the opportunity to experience different languages and cultures is prevalent. These features have become interwoven to create this wonderful location. Students from two different high schools on island were selected to partake in activities that allowed for languages and cultures to be shared.
This past fall, Kyuyo High School invited 28 students from Kadena High School to visit their school. While there, Kadena students were partnered with Kyuyo counterparts who used the time to describe the administrations of the school and the culture of Okinawa.
On Feb. 26, Kadena HS and Kyuyo HS students participated in a second cultural and language exchange. Students from Kadena’s Japanese II classes had the opportunity to apply by completing a written self-introduction. The students from Kyuyo HS went through a similar process with the inclusion of a deciding round of rock-paper-scissors.
Kadena Japanese teacher Seth Renquist wanted the “students interacting in an uncontrolled environment.” To achieve this, the two schools participated in a multitude of activities that allowed the students to practice speaking their non-dominant language.
“The idea was to create an opportunity for the students to practice their language skills, and familiarize themselves with the culture, and possibly even become friends,” stated Renquist.
The students were escorted to Emery Lanes Bowling Alley where they proceeded to bowl and eat pizza. The students were tasked to speak Japanese during the first round of bowling followed by a second game narrated in English. Throughout the two rounds, the students from both schools were cheering for each other during their turns, high-fiving at the end of it.
“I wanted the students to experience real [communication] that cannot [be achieved] from a textbook,” said Kazutoshi Fusato who is an English teacher and Renquist’s main person of contact. Fusato was accompanied by Satoshi Nobayashi, a fellow Kyuyo English teacher.
After bowling, the students and teachers traversed back to Kadena HS where the students were able to join their designated partners during sixth and seventh period classes. When the final bell rang, the students gathered in the gymnasium and participated in three team bonding activities.
“It’s different,” Gaiki Ryo, 11th grade student at Kyuyo HS commented. “The students go to the teacher’s classrooms [at Kadena], but in [Kyuyo] the teachers come to the students.”
Traditionally, in Japanese schools, the students are assigned a classroom and the teachers circulate in and out of the classes. This process differs from the American school standard of the students moving to each classroom. Along with the school being on a year-long schedule, Kyuyo HS also has a nine and half hour school day.
“The [start and ending time] of Kadena is nice. [Kyuyo] starts at 7:30 am and doesn’t end until 5:00 pm,” Maya Takara, a 12th grader at Kyuyo, said.
The students were able to shake their nerves out in a friendly game of dodgeball. After, the students split into groups and were challenged to pass a hula hoop around the circle while keeping their hands linked together. This was followed by the students forming a “Human Knot,” crossing arms and holding the hands of the two persons opposite, and then untangle themselves without fully separating. The third activity consisted of the students arranging themselves chronologically by birth date without speaking.
“One thing about being able to do these types [of activities] is that [despite] the language barrier, we can still find similar interests and still become friends,” stated Kadena sophomore Caroline Leach.
At 3:00 pm, the students gathered around Kadena’s Black Wall to take a photo. Contact information, embraces, and farewells were exchanged between the students of the two school. The Kyuyo students then all gathered their things and began their trek back to their school.
“It’s almost impossible,” Renquist explained, “to separate language and culture.”