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Grade 8 Japanese school partnership fuels friendships and respect

The Grade 8 exchange program with the Greenwich Japanese School (GJS) has been part of the King MS curriculum for ten years and it represents a valuable cultural experience for all participants. Thirteen Grade 8 students participated in the exchange program this month, first hosting the Japanese students on Tuesday, Jan. 15, and then visiting their school on Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Ken Lewis, Grade 8 Team Leader and History Faculty, organizes the program every year and comments, "The most fascinating aspect of the program is the way the students interact, considering the language differences. Alternative communication in the way of gestures, smiles, and laughter always make the experience all the more enlightening and enjoyable."

When the Japanese students visited King on January 15, they enjoyed a powerpoint presentation during the Opening Ceremony, which featured American culture. Following the Ceremony, Grade 8 volunteers escorted their visitors on a tour of our School; invited guests to accompany them to a typical American academic class; and then played basketball as a group before sitting down to a favorite local lunch: Reddi Rooster.

Mr. Lewis adds, "The Japanese students' visit to King earlier this month was a great success. Students connected very well and by the end of the visit, it was clear that friendships were made. I am so proud of our students, and their efforts to embrace this opportunity with enthusiasm. It was truly a special experience."

The day at GJS, on January 23, was well planned by the hosting Japanese students. The visit began with ice breaker activities and then an opening ceremony in the auditorium, featuring a presentation which explored Japanese culture. Much of the focus of the presentation was on the stark differences between the cultures, such as food, clothing, and sports. The students then worked in groups and enjoyed a rotation of activities, including building origami stars; preparing and cooking rice; and playing traditional table games. The rice making turned out to be the most popular activity, as the students all enjoyed a pre-lunch snack featuring the rice with traditional Japanese toppings like curry, tuna fish and sesame. A closing ceremony concluded the day.

"The King students enjoyed their visit, seeing it not only as an opportunity to appreciate a different culture but also to discover that young people are no different regardless of what country they are from - they enjoy fun, laughter, and the opportunity to learn new things," adds Mr. Lewis.

The King participants were Kenny Backes, Jeb Bennett, Chase Brown, Lucas Cepeda, Jonathan Decker, Gray Goodman, Will Kearns, Gouri Krishnan, Eli Lowe, Gavin McCue, Rex Morris, James Raidt, and Lauren Stackpole,

Grade 8 student Will Kearns adds, "Meeting my friends at the Greenwich Japanese School has been incredibly rewarding. We have learned about their unique cultural traditions while also gaining an appreciation for our similarities as middle school students. This experience not only reinforced the richness of cultural diversity but also the commonality that all people share."