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    The design of the Eco Picaset was based on the view that one should treat objects respectfully and use them as long as one possibly can.  To create the Eco Picaset, soap is made from used oil, a scrubbing brush from left-over knitting wool, and a “Matsui stick” (cleaning tool) from wooden chopsticks and rags, and the three items are joined as a set within a mesh rubbish bag used for sink drains.  The set shows that if you make some alterations to things left over from your daily life, they can have a new life as “eco-cleaning tools.”  The fifth-graders at Tsushima Elementary School developed and implemented a plan for spreading the use of these tools to families and within the community.  A catalyst to this effort was the students’ interaction with a member of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) who had served in Kenya.

I Had Thought That Environmental Issues Were Other People’s Business
    The Kyoyama Kominkan* the site for the Fourth Kyoyama District of Okayama City ESD Festival.  The conference site is filled with diverse participants including elementary, junior high, high school, and university students; PTA members; representatives of neighbourhood associations and nonprofit organisations; and visitors from other countries.  On the two-day schedule are various programmes on the subject of ESD, including the “Kyoyama Summit” involving presentations of environmental activities and group discussions among students from the local schools--Tsushima Elementary, Ishima Elementary, and Kyoyama Junior High--and the “Kyoyama ESD Test” which is targeted to elementary school students through adults.  At a table near the ground floor entrance to the festival site were fifth-graders from Tsushima Elementary School selling bags that said “Eco Pica Set,” so I stopped to talk with them. 
    “At first, I wasn’t interested in environmental issues either.    I thought that they were other people’s business. However, after learning in the classroom, we realise that more people including us should tackle these issues. If one of us doesn’t start making eco-products, we will not be able to communicate a different idea to others.  Without this “Eco Picaset,” people will not get the message.”  The quickness and straightness of the answer to my simple question was shocking.  The students explained to me that they wanted their activities to expand from the community to a global level, and that at the foundation of their activities is the philosophy that one should treat things with respect.

*A Kominkan is a Japanese community learning center that plays a central role in delivering social education to all people.

Why Don’t We Just Burn All our Rubbish?
    Project-based learning is emphasised in the integrated studies period for fifth-graders at Tsushima Elementary School.  Project-based learning is a type of learning which involves children in implementing activities based on a project they plan and design.  Through the fourth grade, children at Tsushima Elementary School have been expected to build skills in how to grasp issues, explore them, and resolve them, as well as to increase their capacity for using their own power to bring the results of their exploration to the community.
    In 2008, Kikuko Miyake, the homeroom teacher of Class #4 in the fifth grade, built upon the global warming curriculum from the previous year using the integrated studies period.  People from different countries and positions have different understanding of global warming, and it is hard to say there is one correct answer to it.  Thus, she says, this topic provides a good opportunity for students to gain a capacity for viewing and thinking about environmental issues from multiple perspectives.
    “During the summer vacation, children read the book Hypocritical Ecology, and this encourages forceful debate in the classroom.  Even with solutions such as sorting rubbish and adopting policies related to plastic grocery bags, a student expressed the opinion: ‘With these sorts of policies, why don’t we just burn all our rubbish?’”  We cannot reply too much on the information from the mass media.  However, from an ecological point of view, one can at least say that there is no doubt that one can treat things carefully and use things like a single pencil or eraser until they can be used no more.  The idea for the “Eco Picaset” arose from children’s thorough consideration of this way of thinking.

Selling the “Eco Picaset” at the ESD

If There Are 100 People, There Are 100 Interests
    The Eco Picaset was one of six eco-projects in total and is an example of a project developing “eco-products.”  During the first semester which starts in April, students deepened their understanding of environmental issues through research, and during the summer vacation they tested out their own plans for eco-products with their families. During the second semester beginning in September, they exchanged opinions about their experiences during the summer and tried to focus on a particular theme.  In addition to the projects of Class #3 and Class #4 of the fifth grade which dealt with global warming through developing eco-products, other projects included “green” projects and “eco-cooking” projects—for a total of six.  In November, the activities of each project began.  The projects were ones that respected the interests, concerns, and consciousness about issues of the children themselves.
    The diversity of the projects is deeply tied to the objectives of integrated studies at Tsushima Elementary School: “To fix one’s eyes on the connection between oneself and one’s community and society; to have interest, concern and consciousness about current issues; to think about what one can do to address these issues; and to put those ideas into action.”  The instructions to teachers continue: “When designing a teaching unit, one should place priority on children’s interests, concerns and consciousness of issues, and organise the learning activities and teaching unit around this.  In addition, one should preserve children’s leadership in the activities, and the unit should be composed so as to enable research and culminating activities to proceed on multiple tracks and in diverse ways.”  The teaching staff take seriously the idea that if there are 100 children, there are 100 interests, concerns and issues of which children are conscious.

An Eco-Energy Projecl

■Developing Eco-Products Project

Objective: To make a little bit of effort to turn things that would have been rubbish into usable “eco-products,” and to have school friends, parents/guardians, and people in the community use the products and be involved even a little bit in responding to the global warming problem
Activities: (1) Make soap from used cooking oil; (2) Make an acrylic scrubbing brush; (3) Make a “Matsui stick” (cleaning tool)
The above three items will be recycled, thus reducing rubbish, and global warming may be prevented just a little.  In addition, we think that by having the name of the product be “Eco Picaset,” students can get families to use the products for cleaning the house at the end of the year and get their own families involved in recycling.

■Green Project
Activities: (1) Gathering seeds; (2) Raising saplings; (3) Investigating the plants’ absorption of CO2 and emission of oxygen

■Eco-Cooking Project
Activities: To conduct a survey and interview family members and people in the community in order to gather recipes for eco-minded cooking.  To create an eco-cooking video programme.

■Eco-Energy Project
Activities: To investigate natural sources of energy and summarise their strengths and weaknesses, and   create a toy that works based on solar or other natural power.

■Eco-Book Project
Activities: Organise information obtained and compile it on a computer.
(Book outline)  Table of Contents
1. CO2, the cause of global warming; 2. Power that is sensitive to the earth: 3. Scary global warming; 4. An eco-lifestyle that anyone can maintain; 5. The Eco-life of fifth grade students in Class #4

■World Environment Survey Project
Activities: Gather environmental information about other countries through email and interviews.  (from JOCV and university students in Othaya, Kenya; Costa Rica; Syria; and Niger)

*The learning in each project begins with enthusiastic participation ultimately aimed at presentation of results at the school “eco-Festival” held in December.

Exchange with Kenya Clarifies Issues in Japan
    The World Environment Survey project group gathered environmental information about other countries via e-mails and interviews.  The group exchanged opinions with members of the JOCV  and university students in countries such as Kenya, Costa Rica, Syria, and Niger, and learned about the conditions in developing countries.  In particular, students in Japan were surprised that children from Othaya City in Kenya made balls by gathering string from their nearby environment, and that they used parallel bars for exercise made from tree branches instead of steel ones. At precisely the same time, in their Japanese classes they were reading a book about the Edo era (1603-1867 ) ecological practices.  In learning about how the way people lived in the Edo Era laid little burden on the environment, children questioned: “Our lives in which we can throw away as much as we want…is this really okay?”  This changed to a shared confirmation that “It is not okay.”

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers Who Have Served in Different Countries

 Things Children Thought as a Result of Exchange with Kenya(Children’s Voices)

What is “rubbish?”
    Is it something that gets in people’s way?  No.  Before the item became rubbish, it was a respectable “thing” that worked for human beings.
Modern society in Japan and Kenya
    Do you all know the country of Kenya?  In Kenya, there are days when people do not have water or food to put into their mouths, and there are some children who cannot live with their parents.  From the perspective of Japan, it may seem like a poor country.  However, perhaps because of this situation, these people are doing something much more wonderful than we are.  That is treating things with importance.  There are probably many people who think: “I treat things with importance.”  However, deep down, don’t you think, “Well, there’s nothing that can be done about a small amount of rubbish.”  People in Kenya don’t think this way.  Certainly, this is partly because they don’t have many things.  However, these are people whom we should respect because they breathe new life even into rubbish or things that drop on the ground.

What is a rich life?
    Then, what is a life that is truly rich?  Is it having a lot of money?  Or, is it having a lot of things?  What is the concept of richness that is held in common throughout the world?  I received many materials from Mr. Mihara who had actually gone to Kenya as a member of the JOCV and tried thinking about what true richness meant.  The true richness that I thought of was: “Living and supporting one another with smiles.”

The meaning of a smile
    The smiles of people in Kenya are slightly different than ours because they include the meaning of “mutual acceptance.”  Because each person knows the other’s difficulties and sadness, they can help one another and accept one another.

The meaning of mutual support
    When people in Kenya meet one another, even for the first time, they seem to think about the other person and treat her or him kindly.  Of course, I think this is not the case with everyone, but being nice to people you meet is, at least, an expression that they are your peers.  This consciousness of people as peers promotes a sense of mutual assistance.

The Community and the Schools Collaborate in Promoting ESD
    The Kyoyama District in which Tsushima Elementary School is located is an educational district which has a council that promotes ESD within the region.  With the Kyoyama Kominkan as a base, the council is involved in a variety of ESD practices that use the environment as a point of entry.  Since 2006, the district has held its own “ESD Festival”.  Tsushima Elementary School participates in the event as one of a number of groups that are part of the local network called “RCE Okayama”.  One can say that this school is in a good area for ESD activities.  Even if students lose contact with the school when they graduate, if they return to the community network, there are friends and acquaintances and a wonderful opportunity to communicate with people without regard for hierarchy of position or age.

*RCE is an abbreviation for “Regional Centres of Expertise,” which are regional bases promoted by the Institute of Advanced Studies at United Nations University that fosters community-led education aimed at the realisation of a sustainable society.  RCE Okayama was established in 2005.

ESD Festival in the Kyoyama District, Okayama City

Precious Learning Materials for Connecting with the Next Generation
   Tsushima Elementary School has implemented project-based learning, but is also concerned with leaving some “footprints” from its activities.  What new fifth-graders experience straight away is the record of activities left to them by students in the prior year.
    The NHK environmental programme in which Tsushima Elementary School students appeared, the eco-product and festival introductions that were made on the computer, a DVD called Eco-Life to Save the World which even included a student-written theme song—the students can use various forms of documentation.  Also, not only children, but teachers are documenting the activities.  The high point of these is the annual publication Kenkyu no Ayumi (“Research Steps.”)  This is a publication in which almost all of the teachers at Tsushima Elementary School select research themes and write about the results and issues from the past year.  In 2007, the number of individual research themes included reached 28.  One can imagine that it takes great energy to organise 28 research papers and leave this kind of record every year.  At Tsushima Elementary School, this editing and publication of Research Steps has continued for more than ten years.  This solid documentation is an important contribution of the “creation of rich lessons” and the ongoing participation in the Kyoyama District ESD Festival.  Probably because the teachers themselves understand this, it has been possible to sustain this activity.  Investigate, think, implement, and document.  Isn’t it from this cycle that the creation of lessons at Tsushima Elementary School increases its richness year after year?

(Annual Plan for Use of Integrated Study Period Hours) (100 Hours)

○To enable students to understand that they live connected to the environment around them, and to enable them to have interest and concern based on the perspective of their connection to this nearby environment (Capacity to become involved)

○To enable students to think about the global environment and to understand the importance of its preservation, as well as to think what they need to do and to be able to express that idea (Capacity to investigate, Capacity to organise, and Capacity to express oneself)

○Through watching the television programme “What Should We Do?  The Earth’s Tomorrow” and exchanging opinions with various people from other countries and Japan, to enable students to develop their own thinking about environmental issues and strive to take action to solve the problems (Capacity to connect, and  Capacity to utilise what one has studied)

Leaning Plan PDF