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Space Education by JAXA - Fostering Young Hearts and Minds - Helping create dreams of space Reiko Yasukawa, Head Teacher, Kudan Secondary School in Chiyoda-ku

Thinking about the Earth's environment from the viewpoint of space science

Q. What is your specialty?

A JAXA staff member lectures in a comprehensive studies class.
A JAXA staff member lectures in a comprehensive studies class.

Children make cameras in class at Kudan Cosmic
Children make cameras in class at Kudan Cosmic

I'm a science teacher and my specialty is chemistry. Kudan Secondary School in Chiyoda-ku is a unified middle and secondary school, and I teach chemistry to middle and high school students. I am also in charge of the Kudan Independence Plan, which is a comprehensive studies class that teaches students how to learn and how to think independently, and each school designs its own program. Our Kudan Independence Plan has six parts: Environment, Welfare, Culture, International Understanding, Volunteering, and Graduation Research. In this course, by providing students with various experiences and involvement in society, we nurture the ability for the students to discover their potential and to think about how to live their life.

Q. What kind of cooperation does your school have with the JAXA Space Education Center?

In the Environment section of our comprehensive studies class, we study the Earth's environment from a space-science point of view, and also think about the environment of Chiyoda-ku district, where our school is located. When I create a curriculum for this section, I get support from the people at the Space Education Center. Every year, there are 12 or 13 classes. We initially establish an annual plan, then we have many meetings, which make our students come to feel like we are creating classes together with those from the Space Education Center.
Such cooperation with JAXA started about three years ago. We invite lecturers from JAXA, and also take the students to JAXA's facilities, which is always very fulfilling. By having contact with people actually working in the field of space, students learn not only about the environment, but also about how amazing Japanese space research and human technology development are.
In addition, we hold a hands-on science class, Kudan Cosmic, mainly for 5th and 6th grade students in elementary school, in cooperation with JAXA. Though this is held only five times a year on Saturdays, we receive many applications each time - it's a very popular class.

Space builds enthusiasm in children

Q. What motivated you to start a space education program?

A class to think about the environment of Chiyoda-ku, where the school is located. (Supported by Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd.)
A class to think about the environment of Chiyoda-ku, where the school is located. (Supported by Mitsubishi Estate Co., Ltd.)

A wall newspaper with a collection of suggestions
A wall newspaper with a collection of suggestions

My initial inspiration was a story about Hikari Plaza in Kokubunji district, Tokyo, where its science class adopted a space education curriculum. I wanted our students to be able to have a similar experience as me, so I contacted JAXA. I also heard about a space education program in Kagoshima, which focused on leading a totally recycling-based lifestyle. For example, I heard that the children suggested that they should use burdock roots as skewers for Yakitori (grilled chicken) to avoid waste when cooking, which I thought was wonderful.
The most important thing in education is to instill in the children dreams, motivation and a can-do spirit. I thought space education could do that. I think space inspires children's motivation.

Q. What kind of feedback have you had from students and parents since the space education program began?

Usually, when you talk about putting our environmental concerns into practice, many children make suggestions about how to reduce garbage, limit electricity use, etc. Such a "think local" approach is important, but it seems rather small in scale. Three years ago, that was the extent of the ideas coming from most of our students. However, since we adopted space education and the students started hearing stories of life in space, they've developed ambitious dreams for space technology. For example, a student in the first year of middle school came up with the idea of a "food producing machine," which would process food scraps and human excrement into food. After we brought in space education, the kinds of ideas the children came up with changed drastically. We give students opportunities to present their ideas, in such as school cultural festivals or other environment-themed events, and the parents are just astonished by the results.
The "food producing machine" idea was presented by a group of four students in their first year of middle school, when a JAXA lecturer was visiting out class. After several classes, the student who had struggled with group work at the beginning managed to summarize the group's work quite well, and started posing questions directly to the lecturer. Our cooperation with JAXA allows us to hold these Q&As during class. The students have the opportunity to ask many questions, and the class is very active. I think getting information this way, directly from the source, helps reinforce the huge changes that are happening in these children's thinking.

Courtesy: Kudan Secondary School, Chiyoda-ku

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