At Aoba-Japan, activities outside the class play their part in building global communities.
3…2…1…Blast off! The model rocket, powered by an M class engine, shoots into the sky, blown slightly off of vertical by a northerly wind. The parachute deploys, and the depleted rocket starts to drift off in the distance.
A couple of generations ago, this might have just been group of kids playing around in a back lot, but as Greg Culos, Director of Development at Aoba-Japan International School explains, students at Aoba’s Summer Program are using the opportunity to not only develop a scientific understanding of the inner workings of the rocket they sent up skyward, but also to improve their English skills and work as a team. “And,” as Culos reminds us, “they’re having fun at the same time!”
Aoba has been transforming itself over the past several years. Physical improvements have been taking place at the campus in Nerima—buildings are being renovated and new playing fields are being constructed—at the same time that the school has been extending its reach to the Japanese students and families who live in the area. As Culos explained, “we believe that education extends far beyond the walls, books, and resources of the classroom.”
One of the ways that Aoba has been stretching the reach of its educational offerings is through its After-School Extension program, which is open to Aoba students and non-students alike. Meanwhile, the Summer Program offers a 5-week experience where local children can work on their English in the mornings and participate in a variety of immersive activities. As Ken Sell, headmaster of Aoba explained, “the Summer Camp carries the guiding principles of our school: learning through inquiry, exploration, practice, and application. We’re looking to create a venue where kids of all backgrounds can work together towards inspirational learning achievements.”
The theme of the camp, “Language Unites the World,” gives the ESL classes their structure, and as each week is dedicated to a different part of the English speaking world, students learn about the culture and history of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Lessons in local language and culture are also offered, as a particular benefit to foreign-born students. After the morning lessons are completed, the learning continues, but in a very different form.
Students can dive (sometimes literally, thanks to Aoba’s newly renovated swimming pool) into the activities on offer during the summer program, as they practice English, develop friendships, and discover that the best kind of learning can happen when you least expect it. Everything from hip hop dancing to remote control car racing and visual art activities are on the schedule, and sports aficionados will be able to take advantage of Aoba’s new soccer program. Many field trips amplify the learning experience, dropping in on locations across the Greater Tokyo area, including many museums, an assortment of Embassies, Mt. Takao, and the Ome and Ara Rivers.
Family Days throughout the program allow parents to see first hand what their children are involved with. As Sell admitted, the enthusiasm of the atmosphere can be infectious, for parents and teachers alike. “I found myself dancing on the very last day of the 2014 camp, under the choreography of the event’s celebrated dance instructor, Ms. Satoko Iida. What was amazing was that I danced with the entire population of the camp, teachers, students from 5 to 18 years old, and all of the parents who attended that final celebratory event. None had to explain the impact the camp had on all of them.”
You can find out more about Aoba-Japan International School’s Summer Program, and their other educational offerings, at www.japaninternationalschool.com.
Summer Program Timetable
July 20–August 21
Monday–Friday, 9:00 am–4:30 pm
Summer School Weekly Highlights
Week 1: The United Kingdom
(Visit the Miraikan)
Week 2: The United States
(Climb Mt. Takao)
Week 3: Canada (Launch Rockets at the Ara River)
Week 4: Australia & New Zealand (Swim in the River at Ome Park)
Week 5: International Week (Embassy Visits & Final Program Events)
(Students can attend one to five weeks of the Summer Camp)