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ASPnet School Exchange Seminar in Kesennuma
Transcript of ASPnet School Exchange Seminar in Kesennuma
rural community that is 70 miles north of Dallas, Texas.
The Callisburg Independent School District has
approximately 1,200 students in grades
Pre-Kindergarten (age 4) through 12th grade (age 18).
The primary industry in the area is oil and natural gas
production. Farming and ranching are also important
aspects of the North Texas economy.
We do everything with Wildcat (our mascot) pride.
Callisburg's Japan partnership began in 2005 when Callisburg Elementary School, Callisburg Middle School, and Callisburg High School were matched with Omose Elementary School, Omose Junior High School, and Kesennuma High School through the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Master Teacher Program. The focus of these projects was environmental science in regards to sustaining future generations and how certain factors influence our part of the world in comparison to
Kesennuma schools. We all learned how to make decisions for our future.
Callisburg and Kesennuma schools were paired together again in 2006 and 2007. Shishiori Elementary School became a new partner. But, 2007 ended the Master Teacher Program and we began to search for other ways of continuing the relationships we had established. We respected each other and our responsibility to learn more.
As a result in 2007 Callisburg arranged for representatives from North Central Texas College and Texas Christian University to visit Kesennuma and began planning for future cooperation. The ESD concept of protecting and restoring the Earth's ecosystems became a focus.
During all three years of MTP official participation, students in Kesennuma and Callisburg did a variety of joint projects both in Japan and Texas that focused on the environment and an embedded goal of Education for Sustainable Development. In 2008 Callisburg teachers and students visited Kesennuma and took a student from Austin College and representatives from North Central Texas College with the goal of extending the partnerships created under the JFMFMTP. Joint projects and research continued with an ESD focus but participation began to fall on both sides as teachers moved from schools and administrators changed. North Central Texas College, Austin College, and Texas Woman’s University stopped participating for a variety of reasons, some for political circumstances, and as the economy began to seriously suffer from the great recession, funding disappeared. In 2009 a single Callisburg teacher visited Kesennuma with the goal of keeping the partnership alive. However, a Callisburg student was accepted into the Young Ambassador program sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Dallas-Fort Worth and she was able to make her second trip to Japan and visit schools in Sendai. She is now a student at Baylor University and is studying to become a doctor. She credits ESD in giving her the confidence to view the entire world and its challenges. A Callisburg Teacher joined teachers from Japan and the United Sates to meet in Honolulu, Hawaii to participate in a joint study of the attack at Pearl Harbor. This opened the door to a project with teachers at Mishima High School in Osaka which focused on Peace Education. This relationship would eventually lead to future opportunities for Callisburg. 2010 a tsunami set off by an earthquake off the shore of Chile, struck Kesennuma Bay and seriously damaged aquaculture. This caused the students at all three Callisburg schools to raise money in support of the recovery effort. The lessons that took place in Callisburg following this event focused on the economic impact and recovery of the affected areas. The opportunity to learn how disasters can reach beyond a country’s borders and influence the world market was also studied. Callisburg teachers and one Callisburg student visited Kesennuma and brought the donation and offered their support. 2011 when the Great Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck on March 11, the Callisburg school community once again raised money to aid in relief efforts and folded paper cranes in support of the recovery in Kesennuma. The disaster in Japan has helped us regain a focus on the importance of ESD. Callisburg, and the rest of the world, saw how planning and preparedness minimized the loss of human life during the tragedy and we are now eager to explore how this was accomplished through our partnership with Kesennuma. We learned again how a disaster’s impact affects everyone in the world economy. For example, a Texas Toyota plant had to lay-off workers or how we can no longer buy a Yaris vehicle in Texas. These events personalize the learning opportunities for our students. The current situation in Texas calls for a focus on Education for Sustainable Development. We see this as just one opportunity of many more to come to teach our students about the importance of ESD. We must begin to seriously think about such things as water quality and preservation. We must begin to plan for future growth in a way that will ensure water for future generations. This has not only become a reality with our state, but also our county and community. In other words, water is now a top priority at every level of government. Part of the exchange in 2007 involved our state government and a visit to Austin, the capital of Texas, where we met with Craig Estes, State Senator. He developed a proclamation acknowledging the relationship that had been established and the promotion of ESD. This gave us a perspective of human rights for all people and how our governments influence these decisions. One of our latest school projects involved the connection that was made in 2009 with the participation we had at the Pearl Harbor workshop. This established a relationship with the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and allowed us to take part in the “Take Ten” (Part of the “Open Channels” exchange) project sponsored by the AsiaPacificEd Crossing. This was all in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit that was held November, 2011. This program once again focused us on ESD because we began to lead our students to study the current drought that has affected our state resulting in 21,000 wildfires, more than 3 million acres burned, 7,000 structures lost, and in Texas our aquifers are at an all time low. Through the study of this project our students gained a new perspective on disaster mitigation not only locally but also all around the world.
takes you to the project details.
This school year we instituted “Character Counts” lessons each week that teach our students character education. The topics involve areas of trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. This is a new program that relates directly to the same type of concepts that Education for Sustainable Development is promoting. We recently taught a lesson about the responsibility of being prepared in all kinds of natural disasters. This focused on our current drought conditions and water conservation, but led to discussions of other natural disasters that have happened around the world, such as the Great Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami. Chie Morizuka, through Joetsu University in Niigata, Japan and Tim Jones, retired Callisburg Teacher volunteer to come and teach two Japanese Studies classes to our middle school students each day. This is an effort to not only teach our students the Japanese language, but also the culture. Through a team teaching approach, also involving a foreign exchange student from Japan, they are carrying out an ESD effort each day, free of charge to our school district. This has been an unbelievable experience for our students and staff and an opportunity that our students will continue to enjoy for another year and a half. We are also pursuing other ESD projects in our community through items as simple as recycling campaigns in our science classrooms to utilizing worm composting in another classroom. We have worked with the “Keep Callisburg Beautiful” operation (sponsored by the state of Texas) to expand our environmental education in the schools and to become more involved with events such as community wide clean-ups. These will be a recommended part of Callisburg students’ school year to not only participate but also to promote volunteerism. We believe that ASPnet is an ideal forum for educators to meet to explore best practices for ESD not only now but for future generations all around the world. This applies directly to Callisburg, Texas because just like Kesennuma, Japan or any other community in the world; “Education for Sustainable Development” is needed more than ever before. Our culture and society have to learn that we need to be more accountable to future generations. All of our communities can play a role with ensuring that ESD happens in our own way. Sharing these ideas with each other in our daily lives is vital in building a world network. The Callisburg Independent School District Board of Education (made up of elected community members) has always supported our efforts for ESD. The latest endorsement came from them on December 13 at our regularly scheduled board meeting when they unanimously approved our investigating and seeking what it takes to become an ASPnet school. They are very intrigued about the process and the connection that can be made around the world with other schools. They view this opportunity as a way for our students to learn about the interdependence that each society in the world has on things such as our environment.
Our students in Texas take standardized tests starting in 3rd grade until they graduate. Although a certain level of accountability and test preparation is good, our state has gotten away from measuring and testing other elements of education that are crucial for a successful society. We should be moving more toward a holistic approach to accountability, but instead the system continues to get more stringent and in-turn it restricts instruction to focus on the tests. We have to find an alternative way of progressing within the current system while still considering the ideas that surround ESD such as enhancing the quality of education.
A group of regional school superintendents have begun to meet and research how this can happen. Although ESD is not the exact language that is being used in these meetings for change, the principles of ESD are very apparent in what is being called “The Vision Network.” I have already introduced the concepts of ESD to this group at our last meeting, and I plan to continue to relate their “Vision” with what ESD has already established.
Thank you all very much for listening today. It is an honor to learn from all of you and it has been a privilege to be here.
A special thank you to the following people who have helped me get here today:
Mr. Yuki Oikawa for his years of great relations with Callisburg and also for him recommending that I be a guest at this conference.
Ms. Mayumi Kudo for her communication and correspondence over the last few months. She did a terrific job keeping me informed and is very organized.
Mr. Tim Jones who has been a tremendous ambassador for Callisburg throughout many years and continues to show his commitment and dedication to educational excellence.
Just as our students shared their story around the world and we share common activities such as basketball, there is no reason we cannot share more. Environmental Studies happened in greenhouses in Japan and at North Texas ranches. Our artistic gifts from Kesennuma gave us
hope that their educational spirit is still strong. Improving our world starts with
improving our community and that means taking our classrooms to the environment we are learning about and using the example our Japanese friends set for us.