NCC Brings Immersive Japanese Arts, Culture to the Downtown Campus
Our school received an invaluable gift last Thursday, thanks to one of our local partners in education, Northampton Community College (NCC).
We developed a collaborative relationship with NCC back in 2019, and we are thrilled to have left behind the restrictions of the pandemic, being able to once again immerse ourselves into the Japanese cultural events that bring knowledge and joy to our students. Our second-grade curriculum includes a social studies unit of Japan, which we start covering in March. During the spring we learn about different aspects of Japanese culture, including housing, education, clothing, food, and much more. NCC and their Global Education Program attract different Japanese artists to our area, and when possible, they extend their generosity by sharing their artists with our school since they know our love for celebrating diversity and Japanese culture.
On November 17, 2022, our second-graders had the unique opportunity to learn by interactively participating in different workshops. First, Ms. Megumi Taguchi introduced the children to the history of the traditional Japanese wood racket called Hagoita which was used by children to play in the early 16th century. Our second-graders instantly rolled up their sleeves and started decorating and painting their Hagoitas without hesitation. Giggles and smiley faces were good hints that they were enjoying putting their creativity and artistic skills to good use. As they finished and let their rackets dry out, they prepared for their next activity, without fully understanding how these beautiful paddles they just painted could possibly be used to play.
Wearing a kimono and their accessories was very new and exciting for the children. Students waved their hands imagining being Samurais encountering and fighting enemies and monsters or practiced using their fans and kneeling in a proper manner in more restrictive kimonos. We could tell that by the simple task of wearing a kimono, they had just been transported to a different setting in their own imagination.
Ready with their beautiful kimonos, a traditional dance came next. While dancer, Ms. Eriko Kimura, performed the dance, Ms. Fumico Green explained the movements step by step and also indicated how each subtle movement is important in Japanese Folk dance. Our children and their natural exposure to music was very apparent as they picked up the steps and moves in no time. After the brief introduction, the students were following the moves of the instructor as natural pros.
Our last activity involved playing with the Hagoitas they had created earlier. The children were divided into two groups and the teachers demonstrated how the game was played by two people hitting a little feather back and forth. A lesson was taught about Japanese culture right at that moment. The purpose of the game is not to beat the opponent. The purpose of the game is to work in unison and harmony so that the feather can be hit by both players many times and both players can enjoy the game longer. Game on! Everyone understood the importance of sportsmanship by bowing before and after the match. They also learned that it was not as simple as it looked and that practice was required for mastery. The children had a lot of fun cheering for everyone, laughing, and enjoying a great game with their friends.
We at Moravian Academy are grateful to Northampton Community College and the staff that worked with us in the last few weeks to make this event a reality for our second graders. To have the opportunity to learn first hand from Japanese artists and to immerse our children in this magical experience has no price. We want to thank our administration and our Moravian team who stopped by and helped setting up, assisting children, and just gave a helping hand with a big smile.
Special thanks to NCC Staff:
- Mr. Nathan Carpenter, NCC Director of Global Education and International Services
- Mr. Tom Shillea, NCC Director of Art Programs
- Ms. Megumi Taguchi, NCCC Coordinator of Japanese Cultural Program
Hana Takehiro, Master Sensei (Zoomed from Japan)
- Eriko Kimura, Cinematographer/Japanese Film Crew
- Fumiko Green, Advocate at Global Education