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Part2 Educational Reform Q&A
Q13: I understand that Periods for Integrated Study are to be introduced as one of the special features of the latest revisions to the Courses of Study.However,it is not clear what the Periods will be like due to their abstract nature.What precise form will these classes take?

A:Periods for Integrated Study are lessons which each school is free to develop and provide.

These Periods incorporated into the new Coursesof Study:

Are lessons in which the school is able toconduct its own special,individually-craftededucational activities which respond to thecircumstances of the community,school andchildren;and
Represent opportunities for learning aboutinterdisciplinary subjects,including interna-tional understanding,information,environ-ment,welfare and health.

Our aim is to have the children link together comprehensively the individual knowledge that they have gained from studying in each of the subjects.

These classes are not for instilling knowledge,but for developing the aim that students will:

Cultivate the ability to discover and studyissues independently,and to learn and thinkfor themselves;
Acquire the skills to learn and investigate,including how to collect,research and collateinformation.

In terms of ways of learning,various kinds of hands-on learning and problem-solving learning will be proactively incorporated,including out-door activities,volunteer activities and other social experiences;observation and experimen-tation;field trips and research;speeches and debating;and handicraft and production activi-ties.Furthermore,learning activities will be con-ducted in various forms,for example group learning according to interests and concerns of students,cooperative learning activities by stu-dent groups of different ages,or individual re-search on a certain theme.Non-teaching personnel,including par-ents/guardians,local experts and foreign stu-dents studying in Japan are encouraged to par-ticipate in the classes.The use of amenities and interaction with nature,such as regional librar-tes,museums,businesses and factories,and rivers and mountains are also recommended for learning.

Children talking about life environmental studies

"I feel that it was Life Environment Studies which not only made me more clever,but also helped me to grow both physically and mentally."

Life Environment Studies was newly estab-lished in the early grades of elementaryschools as part of the Courses of Study re-vised in1989,replacing the former SocialStudy and Science courses.

The aim of Life Environment Studies is toawake students to their interests in theircommunity and nature around them and toprovoke them into thinking about themselvesand their lives through specific activities andexpertences.Life Environment Studies alsoaims to cultivate a foundation for indepen-dence in children by teaching them to acquirethe habits and skills necessary in life.

Next follow various episodes taken fromwhen a teacher in an elementary school inEhime Prefecture talked with children,nowfirst year upper secondary school students,during the period when Life EnvironmentStudies had been introduced as a transitionalmeasure before its actual implementation.

"My precious little Iadybird"

Boy A told a story about a ladybird larva thathe had found on the trunk of a zelkova tree.The boy found various forms of transforma-tion,including eggs,larvae and pupa,but hisinterest was drawn toward the gracefulrnovements of a larva.He therefore decidedto raise it.One time,his insect escaped andhe wept as he searched for it.Another tirne,he was upset because he crushed the larva'sbody that was too soft.He read in an illus-trated reference book as he cried that a paintbrush was useful for treating a larva.Thisproved to be good when he tried it.He wasworried about the pupa because it was notmoving and so when it emerged as an adultinsect he was overjoyed-just like a trueparent.At first it was transparent,but as timepassed it developed a speckled pattern.Hewas touched by its beauty.

The following year,he went to the zelko-va tree and thought it strange that he wasunable to find any larvae,but realized thatthis was because the tree had been sprayedwith herbicide.When he searched the schoolgrounds he found a larva in the thickets in theschoolyard.He found that the mother lady-bird was wise to lay its eggs in a place whichwould not cause her children any harm.

The reason that Boy A,who had not beenable to handle insects before,could look afterthe larva for so long was because he wasemotionally touched by the meaning of life ashe continued to raise the insects and learnfrom his many mistakes.The boy picked upknowledge and skills naturally and developedhis appreciation of ecology and the environ-ment as he took care of the insect.

"Eat my cucumbers,Grandpa"

Girl B talked about growing cucumbers-herfirst experience of the beauty of vegetableflowers,the sting from the thorns of freshlypicked cucumbers and the taste of eating acucumber whole.She wanted to share theseemotions with her grandpa in Tokushima andthought of sending him some in a parcel.After finding out at the post office how tosend parcels,how long it would take to getthere and whether it would arrive in a freshstate she sent some freshly picked cucumbers.Despite having no appetite because of his illhealth,her grandfather ate the cucumbers andrernarked on how delicious they were.

A letter I received from Girl B's motherreminded me of the fact that her grandfatherpassed away soon after,and of the final won-derful memories that Girl B had been able toshare with him.This experience arose fromthe link between cultivating vegetables andlearning about what goes on at the post of-fice.

Girl B laughs when she recalls that once,a boy said that her grandpa had died fromeating her cucumbers,but I suppose that evennow she treasures the fun memories of thetime she spent with her grandfather.

Girl B who cares so much about vegetables,was also unexpectedly surprised whenshe found a superb radish being sold in astore for as little as100yen.She found agreat difference between growing and buyingvegetables.No matter how much care shetook to grow them she had only managed togrow thin radishes in the past and so she ca-me to think from the point of view of boththe producer and consumer whenever shesaw these vegetables.She is also presentlygrowing mini-tomatoes.

The learning does not end there.Havingfinished the unit of a course,the studentshave utilized their learning experience.Manyexperiences link together to give rise to newactivities.Through networking successfullywhat she had learn,placing her own feelingsat the center,Girl B probably went on to formher own style of learning.

"Story of exploring a town"

Girl C explored her town with her classmates.She talked about how they entered buildingsin their town that they casually passed byeveryday,such as the meteorological obser-vatory and the police station.She said thatshe got excited about things she did not knowabout but she did not understand the ex-planations being given to her.The secondtime they explored their town they came ac-ross a puppy.

On their way back from Ishiteji temple,apuppy followed them the whole way.At firstit was fun because the puppy was cute,butshe became increasingly worried about wherethe dog was from.It would not be able toreturn home if it followed them like this.Shesuddenly came up with an idea to make itstop following them by giving it some food.She asked a baker for some crust which shethen gave to the dog.Relieved,she lookedback,but the dog was behind her all the same.Thereafter she decided that she should let herschool know and called me to say that hergroup would be late back,as might be ex-pected as leader of the group.A student ofthe neighboring elementary school who knewof the dog,passed by as they were all consid-ering what to do,so they decided to explainthe situation to her and have her return thedog to its owner.

This puppy led Girl C to meet many peo-ple and as a result she had a pleasant experi-ence with an added difference.That is herexcellent report,"My Stories of Exploringthe Town."

The teacher spoke about these episodes in thefollowing way:

"The children talked animatedly about eventsthat had taken place ten years before.Alt-hough they had been only seven or eight atthe time,every one of them made their ownsplendid story from the experiences that stilllive on in their hearts.I was moved by them,even though this was not the first time I hadheard them.I think that this is because theseare not stories the teachers have made up,butthe children's own personal stories,the onlyones in the world for each of them."(Extracts from the November1999edition ofComprehensive Education Techniques,pub-lished by Shogakkan)

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