Gift to Azuma Elementary
Mischelle Keller, 2nd-grade teacher at Arrowhead Elementary School in
Virginia Beach, Virginia, was interested in communicating with another
2nd-grade class from Japan. She explains, "My class was very interested
in doing an exchange. This project was interesting to me as well
because I used too live in Atsugi, Japan. Two of my children were born in
Yokosuka, Japan. I love their culture and thought the students would greatly
benefit from the exchange."
At the end of 2002, the combined 2nd- and 3rd-grade classes at Azuma
Elementary School in Gunma Prefecture agreed to participate in a cultural
exchange with the students in Mrs. Keller's class. Azuma has only 21 students
in these two grades, so the number was close to the 18 students in Mrs.
The exchange between Azuma and Arrowhead had three steps:
- exchange of questions
- answers to questions and exchange of gifts (including Friendship Doll)
- thank-you letters
The Japanese letters first went to my wife
Noriko so she could translate them to English before forwarding them to
Arrowhead. I translated the letters from Arrowhead before sending them to
Azuma Elementary's students sent the following
letter to Arrowhead:
To Everyone at Arrowhead
Hello to all the 2nd-grade
students at Arrowhead. We are the 2nd- and 3rd-grade students at Azuma
Elementary School. We who live in Japan are really looking forward to having
a friendship exchange with you who live in faraway America.
There is a doll named Mary at
our school, Azuma Elementary. This doll was sent by American elementary
school students 76 years ago so we could be friends. Now the doll has become
really old, but we take good care of her as our school's treasure.
Let's also be friends!
Since no one here has ever
been to America, there are many things we would like to know about what type
of country is America. Please tell us many things.
Also, if there are things you
want to know about Japan, please ask us many questions.
The 2nd- and 3rd-graders at Azuma also included many questions for the
children at Arrowhead, such as the following:
||American Toys from
Arrowhead Elementary Students
- Is Pokemon (Pocket Monsters)
popular in the United States?
- What types of games are
popular at your school?
- What types of subjects do
you study at your school?
- What Pokemon characters do
- Do you know about the
- Are there any Japanese
people you know?
- What are the popular items
on the lunch menu?
The 2nd-graders in Mrs. Keller's class had many
questions for their friends in Japan, such as the following letter:
Hello! My name is Heather. I
am 7 years old. I am in the 2nd grade. My favorite instrument is the piano.
What is your money like? I have a dog. His name is Peppy. Do you have a pet?
Do you have snow there? What is your favorite animal? What is your school
like? What kind of games do you play? What do you eat? How do you write?
What's your favorite TV show? I like sports. Do you? What's your favorite
sport? What is your favorite doll? What do you like better, snow or sun?
Heather received a couple of letters in
response to her many questions:
Hello, my name is Kazuna
Takahashi. I am 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. My favorite instrument is
the xylophone. Japanese money includes coins and bills of 1 yen, 5 yen, 50
yen, 100 yen, 1,000 yen, and 10,000 yen. I have pet dogs named Kevin and
Devin. I also have a cat named Tito. There is snow here. Cats are my
favorite animals. This school is fun. My favorite game is dodge ball. In
Japan we eat natto (fermented soybeans) and rice.
My favorite TV show is
"Pochitama." I like sports, especially ballet. I like dolls and
stuffed animals. Between snow and sun, I prefer sun.
Hello. My name is Chika
Nakayama. I am 8 years old and in the 2nd grade. My favorite musical
instrument is the xylophone. For Japanese money we have 1,000-yen bills, and
there are also coins like for 10 yen and 100 yen. I have a cat and dog as
pets. The cat's name is Tama, and dog's name is Jackie. We have snow. My
favorite animals are dogs and cats. We have a new school building that is 3
stories high. My favorite game is dodge ball. In Japan we eat things like miso
(soybean paste) soup, rice, and natto (fermented soybeans). I like
sports. I like stuffed animals. Between snow and sun, I prefer sun.
Mrs. Keller's class responded to the many
questions from the students at Azuma Elementary School:
||Valentine's Day Cards from
Dear Azuma School,
Hello! We received your
letter and your many questions. We will try to answer as many as we can.
First, our school -- Arrowhead -- is 40 years old. We will begin rebuilding
our school this summer. It is a one story building except for one room. Our
guidance counselor has a room above the gym. It is the only room that is
upstairs. Our students have a choice of whether to bring a lunch from home
or eat a hot lunch. They all eat in the cafeteria at long tables. The hot
meal is prepared by the cafeteria workers each day and served by the
cafeteria workers. It costs $1.40. Students can also buy breakfast in the
morning for $1.00. Teachers eat separately in the teacher's lounge. They can
buy the student lunch, something from the teacher's menu, or bring something
We have approximately 520
students who attend our school ranging in age from 5-12 (kindergarten to
fifth grade). Second grade students seem to prefer science over any other
subject, though quite a few love reading and language arts. Their favorite
specialist class is music, but probably because we have a very pretty, young
new music teacher who is a lot of fun! At school we do not have organized
sports for students. We do have a teacher's volleyball team, which I play
on. However, we are not very good. Students learn to play a variety of
sports in PE classes -- baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, track
and field, etc. Students who want to can join organized sports teams in the
local community through their local recreation center. Right now second
grade students love both soccer and basketball. Both girls and boys play on
the teams. At our school all students must either ride the bus or be dropped
off by parents. No students are allowed to walk to or from school. How do
students arrive at your school? We do not wear uniforms to school, though
students must follow a dress code. Do your students wear uniforms?
In Virginia Beach, there are
many things for children to do. When the weather is nice most people like to
go to the beach. At the beach you can rent kayaks and canoes. Many people
use surf boards and boogie boards. There are many museums within driving
distance. I am enclosing some pamphlets so that all of you can see some of
the things Virginia Beach has to offer.
We are having a wonderful
time exchanging letters with you. We hope to hear from you soon.
Mrs. Keller's second grade class
Shoko Tanaka, coordinator of international
exchanges at Azuma Elementary, added to the student letters in order to give
Mrs. Keller's class a better idea of life at Azuma:
Dear Mischelle Keller,
Hello, my name is Shoko
Tanaka. I am the person responsible for international exchanges at our
school. I am very thankful that we are able to have an exchange with
Arrowhead Elementary School. Thank you very much for your two letters.
Excuse me for being late in my response.
I am not sure whether we were
able to give sufficient answers to the questions we received, but we are
writing also to introduce Azuma Elementary School.
There are 69 children
studying at Azuma Elementary School from grades 1 to 6 (ages 7 to 12). There
are 15 people who work at the school. The subjects are slightly different
based on the grade. The 1st- and 2nd-grade students study Japanese,
arithmetic, living (subject like social studies and science together),
music, art, physical education, citizenship, and class activities. The
teachers for these two grades teach nearly all the subjects. The 3rd- to
6th-grade students study Japanese, arithmetic, social studies, science,
music, art, home economics, physical education, citizenship, class
activities, and general studies (we are studying this new subject area that
started just this year and decide ourselves on the topics to study). At
Azuma Elementary, there is a separate music teacher, and the teachers for
the highest four grades teach nearly all of the other subjects.
Our school building is 3
stories. There are separate classrooms for each grade, and there are special
rooms for the music room, science room, art room, home economics room,
computer room, and library. We also have a gymnasium and swimming pool.
For lunch everyone eats
together. Food made at a nearby catering center is delivered by car. The
teachers eat in the same room with the students. There are cafeterias in
many of the new schools built recently, but Azuma Elementary has no
cafeteria since it was built 37 years ago. The lunch fee for adults is 4,200
yen (about $35) per month. Each person sets his or her own place and then
The children walk by
themselves to and from school. There is a school bus only for an area where
there used to be a separate school. Now, 3 of 69 students go to and from
school by bus. The child who lives furthest away walks about 45 minutes.
Children are usually free to
choose their clothing. However, only for physical education they wear
exercise clothing designated by the school.
Many of the school employees
arrive about 8 and work until about 6. When classes end, many children play
on their own on the playground and in the classrooms until the school closes
at 4:30. We hardly have any break time since the children are there. We are
exhausted at the end of each day. When work can't be completed, we take it
home and continue there. Since there is hardly any free time to prepare
class plans, there are many times I do my thinking at home.
Azuma Elementary School
The children in Mrs. Keller's
class sent a culture box to the 2nd and 3rd graders at Azuma Elementary, who
were very happy to receive the following items:
||Plaque for Teachers
- doll named Christina (see photo at top of
- Valentine's Day artwork by students
- American Pokemon cards
- cracker jacks
- photos of children and school activities
- other typical American items
Azuma's 2nd and 3rd graders mailed the
following items to Arrowhead Elementary School:
- five small "festival cocoon" dolls
- calligraphy by students
- 3-D cards
- coins and stamps
- other typical Japanese items
The students next exchanged thank-you notes,
such as the ones below:
To Everyone at Arrowhead
Thanks for the presents!
Thanks for the chocolate and the candy like gum! Now I am crazy about the
game called Maiden Warrior. What are you crazy about now? Please tell me.
Also, what are you studying? We are now studying about the clock in
arithmetic class. In language class we are learning how to write
invitations. There are many other things we are studying, but there are
other things I want to ask you about, so I'll end my comments here about
Are you doing some type of
sports? I am doing ballet. Please tell me what sports you are doing.
I'm changing the subject a
little, but I thought your Japanese kanji (Chinese characters) were
very good! What television programs do you watch now? I am watching a
program called "Hotman." Do you have cartoons in America? In Japan
we have many cartoons! I really like cartoons also. What cartoons do you
Please write more letters. In
the future I'll really try to do letters and to study. Are you interested in
studying? Now I am. Those cards were really cute. They were really well
done! They had heart shapes. I like stars and hearts. Also your lettering
3rd grade, Azuma Elementary School
To Everyone at Arrowhead
Hello. Thank you for the
candy and the doll. The candy tasted good. Thanks also for all the mail you
sent with the doll. Please come here in the future if you can. What is it
now that you really like? Thanks for the presents.
3rd grade, Azuma Elementary School
With the thank-you notes, the Azuma students
also included photos taken by the students. These included rice planting,
Azuma's animals (e.g., rooster, rabbit), the school's Blue-eyed Dolls, and the
mountains surrounding the school.
Both the American and Japanese children want to
continue the exchange during the next school year. Mrs. Tanaka writes,
"The children, who were anxiously waiting for the culture box, were very
happy when it arrived. They quickly hugged Christina and played with the toys.
We distributed the candy to everyone at the school. The children are looking
forward to continuing the exchange in the future."
Mrs. Keller says, "I would love to
continue an exchange. My students had so much fun with it. Next year I will be
teaching 3rd grade and looping with the same exact students. I would love to
set up a pen pal exchange."