"International educationStudents look to Japan, Germany."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:41 PM
"At two Bainbridge schools this month, students travel to foreign countries right in the classroom. In a five-week program planned by parents, Island School students are studying all aspects of Japanese culture. And at Sakai Intermediate School, Theresa Cosgrove's German language students celebrate Fasching - the German holiday that combines elements of mardi gras with Halloween - while other Parent Teacher Organization-sponsored language clubs offer a range of programs.We have cultural studies every spring to make sure these students are exposed to something beyond Bainbridge, Island School director Kelly Scribner said. The Japan cultural study is close to total immersion, Scribner said, touching on so many aspects of life in Japan, that students even thought the earthquake was just a supercool part of the program of geography, history and society.Island School has selected countries as diverse as Russia and even ancient Egypt, choosing Japan every few years for the Pacific Rim connection, and Mexico for proximity.The students make raku pots and help build a simple kiln to fire them. They read the book One Thousand Cranes and make origami cranes for math class calculations.In physical education, they learn Japanese dance, and taiko, Japanese drumming. A particular highlight of the cultural study is Japanese School Day. From Scribner's greeting the students in a Japanese-style morning assembly, to the honorable cleaning of classrooms that ends the day, students experience what school is like for Japanese students.I haven't been out of the country, second-grader Clara Dunn said. Learning about Japan makes me want to go and meet different people. German studiesAt Sakai Intermediate School on March 21, Theresa Cosgrove's German language students will also experience another culture when they celebrate Fasching, the holiday that takes place each year just before Lent.Cosgrove's class is one of the PTO-sponsored clubs staffed by volunteers. Sakai students were offered a choice of beginning French, German, Afrikaans and Spanish language classes.Cosgrove, who worked in Germany for 14 years as a financial analyst, describes the Fasching celebration as a combination of Halloween and mardi gras, although the true origins have been lost.According to Cosgrove, Fasching is a major celebration in both Switzerland and Germany; people often even take a week off work to prepare. Conservative Swiss and Germans - even such solid citizens as bankers - hand-make costumes each year to wear in parades that can last as long as four hours. Cosgrove's combined 5th and 6th class of beginning German students will also wear costumes. They will play ancient musical instruments that are part of the Fasching celebration and sample special baked goods.They will view a videotape of the parade in Freiburg, Germany, featuring Narren (fools) dressed in elaborate costumes, and listen to audio tapes of Fasching songs. The Narren are famous for making mischief, but, according to Cosgrove, the violence that can accompany some American mardi gras celebrations is never a feature of Fasching in Germany and Switzerland.Both Cosgrove and Scribner emphasize the importance of bringing the world to Bainbridge students who may not get to travel themselves. "