Monday, 5 October 2015

Day 6: World Smile Day - by Brian Schiller

Today is World Smile Day, a day devoted to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. Our experience during the ASTA Science Tour of Japan is that EVERY day in Japan is World Smile Day! The Japanese people have been SO welcoming!

We are inspired to continue the exchange of teaching ideas and their development and application after this wonderful experience ends.  My immediate plans are to stay in Japan for a while and improve my Japanese.

I am excited by the opportunity to help develop an on-line vehicle for Japanese and Aussie kids to share science experiences and plan investigations together, (coming next year).

I’m keen to develop Maiko Ikeuchi’s, Rysosuke Sugiyama’s and my Japanese science readers and continue our Japanese in Science program at Seacliff Primary.  Maybe I’ll take a long-term teaching exchange in Japan in the future.

Thanks Robyn, Vic, Sharra, Penny, ASTA, AJF and the Japanese team for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Brian and Vic having a bit of fun in Tokyo

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Day 5: Robot Cabaret - by Sharra Martin

Our plans were disrupted this afternoon by a typhoon which meant we couldn’t go up the Tokyo Sky Tree as planned. We decided to replace that activity with some ‘professional learning’ at a robot cabaret we had heard rumours of. We figured this fitted in well with the science week theme for next year.  

The robot cabaret is a Japanese cabaret show at the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s Kabukicho red-light district. The one hour show features fun – and sometimes campy – performances full of flashing lights, taiko drums and techno music.
Robots on stage at the Robot Cabaret
After checking in and selecting a drink, we waited in the lounge until we were escorted to our seats for the evening's entertainment.

We watched in amazement as neon tanks came onstage to battle alongside Godzilla, robots, samurais and ninjas. Dancing girls in colourful outfits joined dinosaurs and pandas on stage against a backdrop of video screens. Flashing lights, accompanied by taiko drums and loud techno-style music, illuminated the performance of massive female robots – truly a spectacle that will stay with me for years to come!
Actors on stage with taiko drums that made for a colourful light display
Mothra attacking King Kong

This was a fantastic end to another amazing day and I can’t imagine how anyone could not enjoy themselves at this venue.

Day 5: Teaching the science of boomerangs to Omika Kita High School students - by Sharra Martin

After watching my colleagues delivered some amazing science lessons, it was finally my turn to teach a class of students. I approached this task with a few nerves as I had seen such great lessons from everyone else, and I was worried that mine would not run as smoothly or that the students would not be as engaged in the activities. Fortunately it all went well and it was an experience that I will never forget.

We arrived at Omiya Kita High School in Saitama  City and were greeted by an enthusiastic principal, Mrs Hosoda Mayumi.  Omiya Kita High School, located 40 minutes away from central Tokyo,  is one of four municipal high schools in Saitama City and sets itself apart from the others by being a Science School. This means that there is an additional science class that students can opt into, giving them the opportunity to further both their understanding and skills in science. Two students from the science class presented investigations that they had undertaken, and it was fabulous to see evidence of investigative skills emerging in these young people.

This school is the equivalent of a senior high school in Australia and teaches students from Year's 10 – 12.  The major difference that I noticed regarding their curriculum structure was that during Year 10 they only studied biology, as it was felt that they did not have the mathematical skills needed for
chemistry and physics until Year 11. There was considerable ICT in use within the classroom,
however, there is limited professional development provided for teachers to train up on how to
maximise ICT. ICT is mainly used as a replacement for a whiteboard or blackboard, rather than to add new aspects to learning and help develop deeper thinking skills.

The classes at Omika Kita High School usually have a class size of 20. This is unique, as we found that most other schools in Japan have a maximum class size of 40. I wondered how such large class sizes would impact students getting individual feedforward and support. If you consider that a standard lesson is approximately 50 minutes in length, by the time you have given instructions, started an activity, and taken into account pack-up and clean-up time you would be left with less than one minute to talk individually with each student.
Sharra interacting with Japanese students at Omika Kita High School
As the students had been taught in English in the past, it was decided that I would try and do my lesson without a translator. At first they were hesitant to interact but slowly they came around,  and started discussing ideas with each other and getting into the activity.  I incorporated literacy-based
activities such as concept stars to help me gain an understanding of their prior knowledge, as well as
giving context to the activity that they completed. My lesson, using boomerangs to explore the principles of lift, angular momentum and torque, was a success. By the end of the lesson there was a variety of different models and some very successful throws.