We had the opportunity to pay a visit to one of Hakodate’s public elementary schools! They taught us Hakodate’s signature dance, the “Ika Odori” (squid dance – Hakodate is very famous for its squid!) and then broke into small groups and played games with us. I was with a 6th grade class, and we had a lot of fun! It was somewhat challenging to try to teach them games in Japanese, but we were able to get laughs playing Pictionary telephone and Duck Duck Goose. Being able to communicate with them was really exciting because I was able to talk around words I didn’t know in a way that I definitely could not have done weeks earlier! It was also interesting to learn a bit about the school system. First through sixth grades are all part of elementary school in Japan, and it did look like 6th graders still had elementary-school style classrooms and lessons. Middle school here is 7th through 9th, and high school is only 10th through 12th. Also, the 6th graders were busy studying fro their middle school entrance exams (!!). Before entering middle school and high school, Japanese students must take an aptitude test, their score on which entirely determines which middle school or high school they will be able to attend and is a significant factor in their future success. That seems rather high-pressure to me for such young kids! Many of them attend cram schools after school each day to help prepare for the test.
This was a pretty neat experience!