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Asia Institute Aims to Grow Japanese History, Culture in K-12 Classrooms

January 19, 2011 — The University of Virginia's Asia Institute is planning a one-day workshop Feb. 4 for Virginia public school teachers interested in incorporating Japanese art and culture into the curriculum.

The workshop, funded by a $5,000 grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, is the first step in a larger project that aims to create ready-made lesson plans about Japan that also meet Virginia's Standards of Learning. 

Rachel Stauffer, the institute's outreach coordinator, said the idea for the project came about in part because she noticed that public conversation about Asia tended to center on other countries, such as China.

"I thought we could do this to help cultivate more interest in Japan, especially after events such as the tsunami and nuclear crisis last year," she said.

During the workshop, teachers will spend the morning learning about Japanese language  and culture, including pronunciation, basic vocabulary, the writing system and social protocols such as when to bow.

"In the afternoon we'll talk a little more about curriculum development, and how to integrate Japan into the existing K-12 curriculum in a way that isn't already being done," Stauffer said. The workshop will also include presentations by U.Va. faculty on Japanese  religion and history.

The free event is open to Virginia teachers of any subject area or grade level. Registration is currently full, but teachers interested in being added to the waiting list can contact Stauffer at staufferr@virginia.edu or 434-982-0560. The event will also feature a competition in which the participating teachers can submit a lesson plan or idea for a lesson plan related to the content. A group of Asia Institute faculty will review those submissions and select four to develop into full-fledged lesson plans that will be made available to teachers statewide.

The teachers who compose the winning lesson plans will each receive an iPod Touch loaded with applications related to Japanese language and culture, Stauffer said.

— By Rob Seal

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