DC Day 11: August 1, 2013

This is H.I, and I will write about what we experienced on August 1st. In the morning, we had a social entrepreneurship workshop presented by LearnServe International. We came up with a list of social problems which irritates us, and discussed the ways to solve one of them in groups. Our group decided to make a social action project on racial profiling. Our plan was to establish an organization which hosts events such as community work and soccer leagues and have participants from various wards of Washington D.C. The other groups worked on raising awareness of police officers who abuse their rights and youth’s involvement in politics. After that, we headed to Ellington and made a quilt there. We each designed one quilt with a symbol, and stuck it to two large cloths — one for the D.C side and one for Japan.

One thing I learned that stuck to my mind is that there are different ways to make a social change. Before this workshop, I used to think that taking an action which directly approaches the problem was the only basic way for normal citizens like us to make a social change. However, I learned that advocating and raising awareness is just as effective as taking direct action, which surprised me. This helped me connect to new possibilities to how I can make a difference in society.

What struck my “heart” the most was what Scott Rechler, Director of LearnServe International, said; he mentioned that we shouldn’t wait for things to happen, but make it happen on our own. Right before the end of the workshop, he showed us a video of what LearnServe International does, which was to fund and support high school social entrepreneurs. From the video, I learned that even students like us don’t have to wait until we become adults to create our own social project. Since there are many things I leave aside just because I think I am too young, this impressed me and motivated me to think of things I would like to undertake without giving in easily. Though this is something people from other organizations have been pointing out a lot, Scott also told us to keep our eyes open to find opportunities all around us. The thought of creating my own project seemed extremely unreal and distant from my range of what I’m capable of handling, but after this project, it became much closer to reality for me.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

DC Day 11: August 1, 2013

On August 1, 2013, we first met with each other at School Without Walls and talked about our plans for the day. Soon after, we met Scott Rechler who is a representative and social entrepreneur from the LearnServe organization. Through meeting him, we learned more about LearnServe and what social entrepreneurship was. Afterwards we soon left from School Without Walls and went on the bus on our way to Duke Ellington School of the Arts and met with Ms.Tia Powell Harris, the Dean of Arts at the school. After learning about the history of the school itself, we then learned about the history of quilting. This was because we were doing a project based on the principle of quilting, to tell a story. So we made two quilts, one stayed in the US, while the other went to Japan. After completing our quilts, we went to the main classroom of the dance department and watched them rehearse for a show that they were going to perform later during that week. Afterwards, we talked about our pictures that we made for the two quilts we made and soon left.

I was really excited about this day because we were visiting my school in the afternoon, however I was very unsure about what we were going to do in the morning because our former plans were cancelled. But then we met Mr. Rechler, who actually knew my seventh grade social studies teacher which was awesome, since it also gave us something to talk about besides the interesting things that came out of being a social entrepreneur, like creating organizations which helped out different communities and spread awareness about social issues. What was also interesting and fun was trying to make up our own organizations as we were in groups brain storming about what social issue was most important within our society.

Afterwards we went to my school and first talked about the history of its foundation and talked about what different departments were in the school as well. What was really cool for me as we went over it was being able to also show some insight about my department and major, Museum Studies. I was also very interested in what we learned about in a power point presentation, made by the Dean of Arts, Mrs. Tia Powell Harris, about the history of Quilt making. I was so fascinated by what I learned; it filled me with excitement about our activity, making our own quilts. The fact that we made two in which one of them went to Japan was really exciting.  However, I also felt sad because I knew that it was only getting closer to the time that our friends were going to go to New York and then go back to Japan.

Joel Bernola
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Washington, DC

DC Day 10: July 31, 2013

We went to Catholic University, Mundo Verde Charter School, and Words Beats & Life today, July 31th.

We first went to the Catholic University School of Architecture. We learned about the “Eco Modern” house, which concerns energy efficiency, and “Librii” there.

Then we visited Mundo Verde Charter School. We became teachers there. We taught children Japanese songs, playings, and Origami there.

After that we went to Words Beats & Life. We enjoyed DJ, graffiti and watching break dance. We found that graffiti is harder than it looks. In Japan, graffiti doesn’t recognize as “art” but we learned that it needs practice and is a kind of “art.”

The most impressing thing for me today was children’s power of learning new things. Our group taught children Japanese songs and Japanese letters. Children got interested and we enjoyed teaching. I was surprised that children are really good at writing (imitating) Japanese! I wrote their names in Japanese and they imitated well. I thought children are suitable for learning new things. Of course adults or high school students can learn new things, little children’s assimilation is amazing. Also this experience reminds me how fun learning is. Because I always go to school and take classes, it’s not fresh for me to learn things. It’s a pity that I can’t feel fun from learning. I was happy to realize this today. I learned from children very much today and I hadn’t expected that. I’d like to continue to volunteer when I come back to Japan, too.

Keio Shonan Fujisawa High School

DC Day 10: July 31, 2013

From SW to NE, we’ve been crisscrossing the city.  On Wednesday we met at Brookland Station, in NE, to visit the Catholic University School of Architecture.  We toured the solar-powered house that they were building for the State Department’s solar decathlon, a competition between various college teams to see who can build the most cost-effective, energy-efficient and attractive home.  After touring the house, and seeing the architecture department of the school, Professor David Dewane presented a lecture on his work.  Mr. Dewane was very enthusiastic and spoke extensively about a variety of topics including the need for our generation to make change.

After his passionate talk, we ate lunch at the Catholic University cafeteria and headed on to Columbia Heights.  In the heart of Columbia Heights there’s a small, public charter school named Mundo Verde (Green World).  The school stays true to its name and uses a curriculum focused on sustainability and English and Spanish bi-literacy.

At Mundo Verde we had the opportunity to teach a class.  We divided ourselves up into three groups, each with two Americans and two Japanese.  One group taught the kids Japanese games, another origami, and the last a Japanese song.  I was in the group that taught them a Japanese song.  The song was easy to learn, and quite catchy, and before I knew it, it was stuck in my head.  I thought it might be hard to teach the kids the song, given that they didn’t know any Japanese, but they caught on quickly and we soon were singing the song as a round.  The origami group worked away with their group of kids, as they folded the pieces of paper into hats and animals.  The Japanese game group laughed and shrieked as they cheered for their friends.  All in all the experience was a breath of fresh air as, instead of being talked to and someone else leading an activity, we were the ones in charge, and we were all having a lot of fun!

Had it been a “normal” day, Mundo Verde would have been the last stop and it would have been time to go.  Instead, we walked further down the block to Words, Beats and Life (WBL), a non-profit urban arts academy that uses hip-hop to transform lives and communities.  I knew that the Japanese students were very excited to visit this non-profit and I was excited as well, as WBL is a program that I participate in and I wanted to show off the amazing experiences that I’ve had with the program.  We heard from the director, Mazi Mutafa, about what WBL does, and then had the opportunity to engage in the classes themselves.  On that day, WBL was offering a graffiti/muraling class, a breakdancing class, and a DJing class, and we were encouraged to sample the different classes and participate in them.  At first, I thought that the Japanese students might be shy, but instead, they jumped right in.  They clutched the spray can with determination as they spray painted Japanese characters for “friend” and “love”, they bobbed their heads as the DJ showed them how to mix music, and stood in awe as the break-dancers leapt and spun.

I was proud that the Japanese were having such a great time at a program that I participate in, and I was proud that WBL could see me with my Japanese friends.  The sight of the group huddled around the turntables, as the DJ mixed rap with every single genre possible, was a great display of cultural exchange and cultural bonding.  It was clear that the music he was playing transcended any cultural differences that we might have.

They left with WBL t-shirts, which they’d wear continuously for the upcoming week, a testimony to the great time we’d have.

I noticed that each group was having a lot of fun teaching the children. Although the idea of teaching small children had originally seemed daunting and tiresome for some, everybody left happy and refreshed, as the kids were cooperative and fun to play with.  Who knows, maybe some of the participants are future teachers?

Wednesday was one of the longest days of the program, but arguably one of the most fun.  It was a day largely composed of arts.

Japanese students spray painting Japanese kanji next to Americans spray painting American letters.

Japanese students bobbing their hands to the music mixed by the DJ.

Arts as a bonding force, universal impact.

Delmar Tarrago
School Without Walls
Washington, DC