Niu Valley Middle School

An International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme World School


School News

Posts from July 2016

July 21, 2016 | 8:45 am

1st Day of School

REMINDER:  First day of school is Tuesday, August 2nd.

Warning bell goes off at 7:55AM.

July 18, 2016 | 2:51 pm

Recap of Niu Valley Kikugawa Cultural Exchange Program Trip

Submitted by Mrs. Brown

From 1996-1999, I had the fortune to participate in the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) Program in Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.  I taught English at 2 middle schools, experiencing Japanese life, all the while enjoying the beauty of Mount Fuji and gorgeous fields of green tea in Shizuoka Prefecture.  In 2013 and 2015, Niu Valley Middle had the opportunity to host 2 groups of students from Kikugawa who decided they wanted to experience life in Hawaii.  From these 2 visits, the idea for the Niu Valley Kikugawa Cultural Exchange Program started.

This homestay opportunity was quite an amazing one, to say the least.  It took a year of preparation in finding an appropriate itinerary, host family, and to get students ready for the experience.  We embarked on this journey with the students to encourage understanding through cultural exchange, foster friendships, and build relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Aside from the shopping and sightseeing in Tokyo, it was a sincere joy to watch the faces on the Kikugawa students as they listened to the Niu Valley stutdents' stories about school life and about Hawaii in general.  Students experienced what it was like to see students and faculty greet everyone at the school gate, clean their own school, and enjoy a Japanese school lunch (fried fish with soup and rice).  They all became fast friends, and even picked up a few fans along the way.  (Not just the kind that you use when you are hot!)

There was a participant on this trip that hosted a Kikugawa student in 2013, whose name was Kylie N.  Back then, the understanding was that someday we'd return their visit to Honolulu with a group of students from Hawaii traveling to Kikugawa.  Kylie decided to participate in this opportunity to hopefully be reunited with her host student.  It was with joy that the families reunited, because Kylie was able to stay with the family of her student, Nanaho, and it amazed me how a short 4 day visit in 2013 to Hawaii turned into a friendship that has lasted until this day.

This is the reason we do it - to establish relationships, create common understandings between cultures and countries, to foster a sense of family across the thousands of miles that separate us - all the while realizing that there are way more similarities than differences in our humanity.

The experience would not have been possible without the support of the Niu Valley Middle School staff:  Mr. Sean Tajima, Mrs. Joanne Imada, Mrs. Lori Nakano, Mr. Scott Brown, and also Ms. Chelsea Tom (Creations by Chelsea), Mrs. Ruriko Nakajima (Kikugawa International Friendship Association President), and Ken Ikeda and Peggy Hung-Tsoi (Panda Travel).

---Mrs. Brown

July 18, 2016 | 2:35 pm

Homestay Experience

Submitted by Participant:  Tara M.

7/7 Arrival in Kikugawa.  After the 3.5 hour bus ride from Tokyo to Kikugawa, we were tired but also excited to begin the next part of our trip.  We dropped off our bags and took a short class in shodoo (calligraphy) and ikebana (flower arranging).  In ikebana, each person's arrangement was similar to the other's but slightly different.  We were told to create an arrangement that reminded us of the summer breeze blowing through the flowers.  Later that evening, we had a welcome dinner complete with performances by a local cultural preservation group and elementary school students and even were surprised with a cameo from the city's mascot, Kikunon!  From there, we began our homestay experience as we went home with our families.

Our first day with our host students was on a Friday (7/8), so we went to one of 3 Kikugawa Middle Schools (Gakuyou Junior High School, Kikugawa West Junior High School, and Kikugawa East Junior High School).  We went to school with our host students and conducted Question and Answer sessions about life in Hawaii and showed videos made by Jeanei I. and Sakura L.  The students and teachers were all very welcoming and I was able to reunite with some students who had come to Niu Valley Middle School from Kikugawa 2 years ago!  It was very interested to view their learning styles and school life.  One major difference was that the students don't move classrooms, but the teachers do.  Another major difference is that everyone switches to shoes specifically for within the school itself.  When they return home, they change into "outside" shoes and walk or ride bikes home.  Very few students are driven by a car to get to school in Kikugawa.

Over the weekend, our families filled the days with many acitivites.  Our family played fireworks with us, took us shopping, and fed us well.  My family brought my roommate and I to an enormous Daiso (100 yen store), clothing store, and we made many foods like gyoza (potstickers), mochi, and coffee ice cream.  Our host's hobby is volleyball, so we were able to attend 2 of her games.  Other families also filled their days and brought their students to temples, caves, shrines, malls, and even a "bird zoo".  We developed close bonds with our hosts, their parents, and their siblings.

I remember on our last afternoon (Sunday, 7/10), my host's younger sister, Machi, showed me around the neighborhood - small farms, animals, streams, and showed me how to make a type of leaf whistle.  Overall, my time in Kikugawa was amazing and unforgettalbe.  It was fascinating to participate in their activities in the beautiful countryside and the hospitality was great.  I'm so  happy to have met my host family and all the friends I made in Kikugawa and I hope to see them again one day.

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