Olympic Friendships: Elementary Education for Global Competency in Japan and the United States is a two-year project (August 2017 – August 2019) of teacher professional development and Japan-U.S. school partnerships funded by the Japan Foundation, Center for Global Partnership. Through partner-school exchange activities and professional development programming, participating U.S. educators will lead their school communities in enhancing their current units of study about Japan and developing students’ global skills, knowledge, and dispositions. The project supports the 2020 Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Games “Global Friendship Project” education initiative.

In Year 1 six elementary schools in Midwestern and Western states of Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, and Nebraska were matched with a partner elementary school in Tokyo wards of Bunkyo, Meguro, Minato, and Taito. In spring 2018 US-Japan partner schools virtually met through introductory videos and materials. Eleven teachers from the US schools participated in an orientation and content online seminar about Japan. In June 2018 these teachers traveled to Tokyo to for a nine-day seminar which included: visits and teaching lessons at their partner schools; professional development at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Education; participation in a lesson-study; and site visits to settings of children’s literature about Tokyo.

During Year 2, US-Tokyo school partnerships were celebrated through school assemblies, family nights, display cases and bulletin boards, classroom study units on Japan, and even a week-long, school-wide Japan study. Banners, pictures of school activities, formatted pen-pal letters, class Google presentations, and digital postcards were exchanged. Instruction about Japan also was anchored in select children’s literature about Tokyo.

For more information contact, Catherine Ishida at ishida@colorado.edu.