Original JFMF Submitted Project Proposal

 

PROPOSAL PART 1—submitted Nov 2006

Clay Middle School is public school, located in Carmel, Indiana, immediately north of Indianapolis. It is one of three middle schools in the Carmel Clay School Corporation. Our enrollment of 1155 students at Clay, encompasses grades six through eight, with 100 certified staff members. The ethnicity of the student body is 84% white, 9% Asian, 3% black, 3% multiracial, 1% Hispanic. The free/reduced lunch recipients covers 4%. Our school is rated as a “Four Star School” by the State of Indiana, and recently received the title of “Blue Ribbon School” by the United States Department of Education. State testing scores are all at or near the top in percents compared with the state average in the three main tested areas of Language Arts, mathematics, and science.

My official contractual responsibilities are as a science teacher and science department chairman, which in our corporation is considered an administrator. As a science teacher, I have a full-load teaching assignment of five seventh grade general education science classes. As science department chairman, I am in charge of monitoring the progress of all of our science students and evaluating the performance of the science staff. In addition, I maintain and order the science department equipment and supplies, care for the outdoor laboratory, sponsor various extra-curricular science activities and clubs, promote professional development that not only supports  the school-wide goals of continuing to improve reading and writing skills for our students, but also within the sciences; to continue to seek out new or different ideas and ways to present information ; and also to be a presenter of various interesting findings or information for the department, for the school, and many other organizations. I also offer science enrichment programs for elementary students after school, and also for university students.

It is my own personal goal to continue to seek out or discover “new” places and ideas which continue to inspire my lessons for my own students. When I travel, I am invigorated to find all kinds of things that I can use in my classroom or share with my colleagues and the community in a variety of ways. Knowing full well that students are responsible to learn local, state, and national (science) standards and that I must incorporate those requirements, and I try to create that atmosphere of excitement, adventure, and thought. In my case, using open-ended situations, scientific methods, various laboratory situations both inside the classroom and out, and by building on any previous knowledge and history, and incorporating personal experiences, the most difficult of problems or material can be analyzed. As a teacher, it should be realized that we have such incredible opportunities to empower our students to make them aware of their surroundings—locally and globally—in turn, making them successful. This is exactly what I want to try to accomplish spending some time in Japan, hoping to gain new ideas, thoughts, have different experiences, see a different part of the world, that will continue to help me do this with and for my students.

I fully anticipate that this unique and special experience in Japan will continue to broaden my horizons and understanding of various cultures and environments. When I have traveled before to other countries, I am continually learning and gaining insights which I seem to share on a daily basis with my students, in whatever setting I might be in.   From photographs, postcards, rocks, stories, books, leaflets, and wrappers, these are things that are evidence of those experiences and my students have a chance to be able to use or study them right along with me. My physical classroom space is full of “things” that students are welcome to work with. The students are limited to just those that are officially assigned to me, but any who wish to come in. If I can create an environment which students will identify with, be curious in, and also feel comfortable in, their learning abilities (and mine, too) and achievement levels will improve.   It is my intention that even though students (young or old) may not realize it, they are learning every moment they walk in or out of my classroom. I try to incorporate something into the curriculum and the classroom that will catch everyone’s attention at some point, and that they will enjoy their learning experience.

To think of the wonders of Japan, so many of which I teach about in class, and having never been there, is exciting. There are so many that I discuss with my colleagues or share with various groups. From thinking about the “Ring of Fire”, or Mount Fuji, the snow monkeys, the use of nuclear power, or the land of Bonsai, and to visit schools and meet the people, and to be in the land of the beliefs of Shinto and Buddhism, to possibly hear the giant taiko drums, to see incredibly scenery and landscapes, to learn more about Japanese tea and foods, or the salmon fisheries and the oyster beds, and to be in a land that it is known that 200,000 years ago humans inhabited the Japanese islands is incredible.

Not only would all of this influence and incredibly enhance my classroom teachings, this would also become part of experiences that I would share at my various speaking engagements, presentations, and meetings both at the local, community, and at the state levels. I have tried to take advantage of many opportunities and experiences, when possible, that will not only benefit my own personal growth, but for that of my students, my colleagues, and to share with the community.

When I had the opportunity to visit the sub-Arctic area of northern Manitoba to learn about the native culture and spend time with migrating polar bears, I wound up creating a video-documentary, lessons for students all over our school system which led to creating a website that is still being used worldwide to this day, and I still continue to update and add to the website. My students worked on lessons that paralleled my time in the wilderness so they could enjoy the experiences right along with me, during that time period. Even though that experience happened a few years ago, I still teach about and share experiences about Arctic life, and has become an important part of the curriculum.

As I have traveled the United States and parts of Europe, I have learned about the explorers that came to “The New World”. As I worked on assimilating that knowledge, developing experiments and experiences for students, I developed a wilderness “Survival Week”. This week, not only meeting required educational standards in many disciplines, also traced the influence of European explorers as the eastern part of the United States and our state of Indiana developed, and how people survived, what they ate, what they lived in, what they wore and life in general. This special week of experiences continues to grow as I learn more to be able to share with fellow staff and students.

In our area, and especially in my own teachings, science is considered the study of the earth; all that is in it; all that is on it; around it; and above—in other words, science is truly the study of everything, and that all things influence and affect each other. Science is a true and wonderful “dumping ground” of all studies. To be able to visit and spend some time in Japan should help add to that fantastic definition.

PROPOSAL PART 2—submitted Nov 2006

As I look towards the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program and experiences, and having learned how incredible and varied they might be, there are some things I would like to plan, using the newly gained knowledge.

Part of the visitations will take place in schools and with school personnel. I am continually interested in learning how the achievement levels stay consistently high and how education in Japan has evolved over time. As our own school goals deal with continuing to improve reading and writing within all subject areas, I want to learn and understand what seems to be successful in Japanese schools in maintaining a country that virtually has no illiterate people. Any information I learn from this, I certainly plan to share with the entire staff of my building. It would be my hope that there will be something that I (or we) could try in our respective classrooms. I also anticipate sharing these important findings with our school corporation administration and school board. In my classroom, I would hope that there would be immediate implementation of newly learned skills or ideas (or when appropriate). And, then I would hope that my work would become a model for others to try within my science department and to improve upon and/or modify to their own classes. Also knowing the incredible achievements made in science and science education in Japan, I hope to learn and maybe see some of the “secrets” of how they reach their students. Like sharing information on the reading area, I would hope to be able to model what I have learned, and also share with the appropriate groups and also to share with our state science consultants and state level education groups. It would be my hope to be able to do this as soon as possible after my return to the United States.

If there were opportunities to visit with students, I would like for my students to write to them. I would set this up so that my students have their letters written and then would deliver these when we would do a school-site visit to the students (based upon approval and appropriateness). I would then in turn hope that the Japanese students would return a letter, either through me or mail it to my students. I would like to visit with their students to have an understanding of how they view their academics and what they think makes them successful. These would be findings that I would like to share with our students and student body.

“Science” is an all encompassing subject, so no matter what experiences I have in Japan will relate to my teachings in the classroom, talks and seminars presented, or sharing with colleagues or community. It will be very important for me to document each and all the day’s events. I would hope to create a web-journal that eventually would have appropriate links that would branch into various themes or topics. Ranging from education to religion to culture to even note plant and animal life or rocks and minerals, will be something that I would like to create. This would then be a fantastic technological platform where I could share my findings and experiences with not only my own classroom students, but my department, my building staff and students, but the whole area.   While in Japan, I would work on detailing my experiences in a written and video journal. Upon my return home, this information would be converted into still and streaming video on a school corporation supported website with multiple pages and appropriate links that I will have discovered while on location in Japan and here at home in the United States.   Most definitely, the local community will not only want to view as a website, but will encourage various live, in-person presentations about my experiences.

Before departure, I would like my students to think carefully about where I will be traveling during the time period that they will be in class. There are few things I would like them to have me consider. I will ask them to write at least one question that I will try to answer while I am away in Japan. It might be cultural, scientific, it might be about food, or animals or about the people. When, it seems appropriate while I am in Japan, I will ask the questions or discover the answers on my own, once again trying to document the experience.

While, away in Japan, I would like my students back in the classroom working on material that would involve Japan. As they continue their studies, I might be able to communicate with them either by phone or via Internet. In this way, they could update their questions or they could have a “live” lesson from Japan.

In class (and in the science department) we discuss and create experiments to study tectonic plates. We use actual broken ceramic dishes that are broken to try interpreting this incredible earth process. At this point in time, I do not know what cultural or natural sites I might see or be taken to.   But, if I had the chance to visit the Hida Mountain chain (which includes Mount Fuji), I would definitely try to gather information and document this as they run the length of Honshu, a boundary between three tectonic plates! This would then be shared with my students and staff so that they could use it as well. There is absolutely nothing like having the personal experience.

If there was the opportunity to visit or even view a nuclear power plant, I would document this. Try to talk with the engineers to better understand its workings and what are the opinions of the people about their use in their country. As we study alternative power sources and seem to have a fear of such implementation of nuclear power, their ideas can be shared.

Japan’s position on environmental concern is well-known. We discuss it heavily and compare our own positions to that of Japan’s and many other countries of the world. Being able to observe the aesthetic and real value that the people of Japan feel will be interesting and will be important points to document and discuss during the course of the school year and for a long time to come.  Knowing that Minimata had a negative history with mercury poisoning many years ago, the town has changed to an Environmental Model City. What an incredible vision that the people of Japan had, to strengthen the global view of this town. To have discussions about how this came about and present day feelings are all relevant to our own educational experiences.

To have a conversation with a Japanese family in their own setting would lead to its own experiences. I have had the opportunity to stay with families in the sub-Arctic and in Europe, and these situations tell so much about values and culture as well. This would be such an opportunity to have a variety of discussions and observations about daily life, thoughts and feelings that would all add to my journals and documentations.

There are so many things that I have heard of and to be able just to see them would be a wonderful opportunity to learn. From efficient production lines in industry to incredibly manicured parks, and volcanoes to seaweed farms, so much can be learned. Japan, a country so old, but a leader in technology and concern for the environment will be an inspiration to be able to broaden and deepen my knowledge by experiencing it, in person.

The so many aspects of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund experience will be utilized in so many ways and with so many people, and at so many times. Ultimately the goal for me is to incorporate my Japan experiences into my own personal classroom setting and work with those teachers that also teach material that might be related to those experiences, hopefully focusing on Japanese education, the sciences, environment, history, culture, and especially benefiting from being on and in the true “Ring of Fire”. The learnable and teachable moments from this experience should be anticipated to be overwhelming!!