Report from Hokkaido Sapporo Keisei High School
Five university students from the Malaysian University of Sabah, five high school students from All Saints Secondary School (Malaysia), and one supervising faculty member were invited to our school to participate in an eight-day program (November 6 to 13, 2017).
At Hokkaido University, students from Hokkaido Sapporo Keisei High School, students from Rakuno Gakuen University, and Malaysian students took a morning class on securing sustainable water sources taught by Associate Professor Junjiro Negishi from the Faculty of Environmental Earth Science. Students enjoyed mutual exchange during the class.
In the afternoon, under the instruction of Professor Yukihiro Takahashi and Assistant Professor Hiroshi Kawamata from the Faculty of Science, students participated in an efficiently-organized practical exercise for the analysis of spectral data. This exercise enabled students to study methods for using satellite images under realistic conditions. Since this was the third year of accepting students for this program, the morning training went smoothly—however, an unexpected accident occurred later in the day.
Upon arriving at the student cafeteria of Hokkaido Univ., the group found a huge number of university students waiting in long lines, plus signs posted that university students would be given priority serving. It was unlike anything experienced in previous years of the program. It was then that we realized that we had held the program during the summer vacation of Hokkaido Univ. The crowded conditions were further amplified by Asian tourists who had come to Hokkaido to see the colored autumn leaves. Although some students in our group had already gotten in line, we contacted Professor Takahashi, who was scheduled to teach the afternoon class that day. Ultimately, we were able to make exigency measures for our students to buy their lunches at a convenience store in the cafeteria and then to eat at the training facilities.
Since faculty members had become familiar with leading students on this program during past years, we had decided to reduce the number of supervising faculty for this year's program. This was another reason why the first day was so busy. We should have enlisted the help of another faculty member in order to prevent being overwhelmed. It was a lesson well learned.
On a different subject, the SAKURA Exchange Program in Science is held in conjunction with SSH Overseas Training at our high school. Therefore, we are scheduled to meet again with other participants for exchange activities at the Malaysian Univ. of Sabah in January of next year. One benefit of holding this continuous program over a three-year period is a gradual increase in academic level through a steady accumulation of knowledge.
At Rakuno Gakuen Univ., under the guidance of numerous faculty members including Professor Masami Kaneko, students learned about research on GIS and the forest ecosystem of Hokkaido. This year, we were also able to conducte practical exercises using GIS data. Malaysian researchers also cared for students and provided instruction, thus creating a truly international atmosphere in which training seemed to be provided by universities from both countries.
Students in the program participated in SSH classes, English-language classes, and other classes that promote scientific exchange and cultural exchange in English. This year, in addition to exchange through scientific presentations given in English, exchange activities in SSH classes included group activities called "English Science Challenge" with visiting students. In these activities, students use a limited selection of materials to create an object that falls as slowly as possible, and then competed to see who had the longest falling time. The students managed to create their objects while communicating in English, and the competition got everyone very excited. First year students in the science department spent half of their day in English classes, which allowed them to test their daily English studies in a practical setting.
An annual event of the program is a Tea Ceremony held by the Tea Ceremony Club. The ceremony allows foreign students to experience the "spirit and manners of motenashi (hospitality) that is part of traditional Japanese culture. Japanese students confidently explained Japanese culture in English. After school, further exchange activities were held with students in an English-language club supervised by an ALT at our school.
The International Forest Camp is another annual activity that is held at Hokkaido Museum, Nopporo Shinrin Koen Prefectural National Park, and Rakuno Gakuen Univ. Students learned while experiencing the cool temperature mixed forest environment in Hokkaido.
This year, the camp was held in early November, so it was necessary to arrange the training content and methods in order to accommodate the falling autumn leaves and snowfall. By using fallen leaves and borrowing cold-weather equipment, we configured training for learning about the winter environment. This was completely different from last year's training. For example, the BBQ that had been held outdoors in previous years was changed to a nabe (hotpot) party held indoors. At first, we were worried about the changes, but were relieved to see student engage in a deep learning experience that was unique from last year.
This year, four Muslim students participated in the program. Although we were somewhat prepared for their special needs, there were many important points which we had overlooked.
Since the Muslim students arrived at the airport in Japan right at noontime, we had to hurriedly escort them to a prepared space for prayer. Also, during the camp, we had to urgently purchase a new hotpot and ingredients from a store specializing in Halal foods.
Although this year's program was busy from the very start, students were able to participate in an exchange of food culture while gathered around hotpots with fish-based dishes. The eight-day program was an opportunity for Japanese students to consider what ingredients are contained in food products and snack foods which we eat on a daily basis. We also thought about changes are necessary to make Sapporo a more international city in the future.
We would like to express our gratitude to Rakuno Gakuen Univ. for its support in holding the SAKURA Science Program. Special thanks are also needed for all cooperating individuals at participating educational institutions, as well as the JST, which provided this invaluable opportunity. Also, the kindness of host families and students who participated in accepting foreign students made this program a special memory for students participating from overseas. Once again, we are filled with gratitude to everyone who contributed.