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    From the point of view of ESD, World Heritage sites are educational material that offers diverse options for use.  By having students reflect on the cultural treasures and natural beauty of their own community, their appreciation for their community can be developed.  Through the preservation and passing down of this World Heritage, children can become involved in environmental education.  From some World Heritage sites, one can develop peace or human rights education, and through interviews with foreign tourists visiting the sites, students can deepen education for international understanding.  As a result, much hope is being placed on the potential of World Heritage sites to serve as excellent educational material.   In 2008, the Nara Board of Education developed and published supplemental education materials for fifth-nineth graders entitled We Love Nara! – World Heritage Learning.  Nara City’s Seibi Elementary School is using this text to experiment with new learning about World Heritage sites.

World Heritage Sites Are in the Area Where Children Live Their Lives
    Nara City Seibi Elementary School is located in the centre of the city a short distance from the Japan Railway and Kintestu Nara train stations.  The World Heritage sites Gango-ji Temple and Kohfuku-ji Temple are located in the area, and the school district is composed of both business and homes.  The people in this area place importance on this history and traditional culture, but one cannot see much of this consciousness among the elementary school children.  Just because buildings and natural features of the area in which they live become registered as World Heritage sites does not mean that children’s daily life or consciousness changes.  Thus, the integrated studies period at Seibi Elementary School was used to implement a survey of 36 fifth graders during the first semester to see if they had visited the eight World Heritage sites in Nara.  The results are in the following chart.
 Kohfuku-ji Temple
 25 children
 Gango-ji Temple
 12 children
Kasuga-Taisha Shrine
16 children
 Nara Imperial Palace Site
 35 children
 Todai-ji Temple
 12 children

 Yakushi-ji Temple
 5 children
 Toshodai-ji Temple
 3 children
 Kasugayama Primeval Forest
 2 children
    Naturally, the number of students who said they had gone to places near the school district was high, and the numbers for the Nara Imperial Palace Site were high because it had been a 2nd grade field trip.  Learning during the first semester would involve the implementation of such visits to World Heritage sites in order for students to have actual experience of the “real thing.”

Efforts of People to Restore the Great Buddha of Nara
    Up until now, study visits to the Nara World Heritage Sites had involved renting a bus and ended with these one-time experiences.  The supplementary educational materials were like a guidebook and lacked capacity to deepen and promote an ongoing sense of concern and interest among the children.  The new supplementary educational materials used on this occasion had taken into account these prior problems, and the content reflected a significant ESD perspective.  Further, many elementary and junior high school teachers from schools using the materials participated in the editing process, and the materials were developed through regular meetings of a research group involving these members.  For example, concerning the Todai-ji Temple, children know it is the largest wooden building in the world and that the Great Buddha there is giant.  However, they do not know that because of wars, the building was burned to the ground two times.  In the new supplemental educational materials, focus is placed on Emperor Shomu, who tried to address problems in the society such as hunger and disasters and who strongly wished to provide security for the country.  Thus, he put the country’s whole power toward finishing the temple.  Also, even when it was burned down twice because of wars, people put their labour and efforts into restoring it, which is why it exists today.
    The bus study trip included Yakushi-ji, Toshodai-ji, Nara Imperial Palace Site, Todai-ji and the Nara National Museum.  For this kind of learning field trip, one cannot overlook the collaboration with volunteer guides.  The volunteers who serve as guides and have specialised knowledge were requested to speak to the importance of World Heritage and the value of it.  Also, the intent of the World Heritage learning was expressed beforehand to the temple priests and specialised museum staff.

We Love Nara! – World Heritage Learning published in 2008

It Feels Good To Experience the Primeval Forest
    In the fall during the second semester, the school field trip was used to implement a day of hiking in the Kasugayama Primeval Forest.  To get to the entrance of the forest, the group did not use transportation and walked one hour from Seibi Elementary School, experiencing fifteen kilometers of nature between Mount Kasuga and Mount Wakakusa.
    Because hunting and tree-cutting were prohibited on Mount Kasuga from 841, the primeval nature of the mountain has been preserved. Mount Kasuga was selected as one of the Nara World Heritage sites because of the Kasuga Shrine’s sacredness and the shape of its cultural scenery.    The ecological diversity of the area’s animals and plants is significant, with 800 types of trees and precious animal species living there.  Further, the wonderful nature is only 30 minutes from an urban area.
    The children had various reactions to climbing Mount Kasuga, which the survey said only 2 of the 36 children had visited before. 
    “It’s a quiet place that feels wonderful.”
    “The water in the rivers and waterfalls is so clean.”
    “There are many different plants and animals.”
    “The air is so fresh.”
    “There is not a single piece of garbage.”
    “I felt a leech bite.” 
In this way, they brought the experiences of nature back to the classroom.

A waterfall at Primeval Forest
[Photo:Tourist Section,Nara Municipal Office]

It feels good to breathe in the air at the primeval forest.

It Has Been Preserved for over 1000 Years, So Let’s Continue To Preserve It

    Back in the classroom, a security guard in charge of daily patrols of the Kasuga Primeval Forest was invited as a guest teacher, and students listed to him speak.  Several of the students were surprised that daily patrols 365 days of the year to check whether a tree was bent or there had been any change in nature—even if raining or snowing—were enabling the primeval forest to be preserved.  If garbage is noticed during a patrol of the natural environment, it is always brought out.  The officer said that this was because if one piece of garbage was left, then more garbage will accumulate in that area.  He said: “Nature can’t be protected if you ignore it.  Like cultural treasures, if there is no will and action to preserve them, they will not be preserved.”
    “Because this was preserved by people for 1000 years, we have to preserve it future years. Further, World Heritage sites are the treasures of all humanity, so if the people who live there won’t preserve them, who will?”  These words of the security officer really reached the students who had experienced Mount Kasuga.

Children take notes during the security officer’s talk

Is It Okay To Put It Inside a Glass Case?
    How can we preserve cultural treasures and nature?  After seeing the nearby World Heritage sites, children exchanged opinions actively on the subject.  Concerning the Kasuga Primeval Forest, there was a clash between the opinion “We should forbid anyone from going in” and “But, then people looking forward to seeing it would not be able to go.”  Regarding the cultural treasure of the Great Buddha, various opinions concerning tourism and preservation were offered, including “It would be good to put it in a glass case” and “For those people who come from far away and want to see the Great Buddha up close, they won’t want to see the Buddha inside a glass case”—and there was some tension.  During the first semester bus trip, students saw graffiti on the wall on the side of Toshodai-ji Temple, and one felt the seriousness of students’ opinions about this.  Also, as a result of exchanging opinions and being influenced by one another, children’s view of World Heritage began to change.

Superior construction expertise is passed down
through the generations
[Photo: Takehiko Yano]

World Heritage Learning Can Tie in with a Variety of Subject Areas
    The new World Heritage lessons which incorporate an ESD perspective in multiple ways have just started being implemented in elementary and junior high schools in Nara City.  The integrated studies period has also been used by the different schools to develop their own unique lessons and the amount of hours for integrated studies is decreasing.  Thus, there are limitations in trying to implement World Heritage learning only during the integrated studies time.  With this perspective in mind, the new supplementary educational materials include separate sections with unique topics applicable to the various subject areas.  For example, students can create a short story about Nara called “Beautiful Nara” which includes photos and narration concerning scenery they would like to see remain for the future, interview tourists from other countries in English, take a tour of Nara during the Edo period (1603-1867), think about a route in Nara for a “walk rally” game, investigate offerings made to the Buddha, etc.  In this way, the materials offer points of entry for various subject areas.  Another unique lesson that was implemented with sixth-graders in Nara City as part of penmanship study was not included in the textbook, but was presented at the World Heritage Learning Research Group.  Students were given books by Shotoku Taishi, Emperor Shomu, and Ganjin with the names covered.  When the names are revealed, the students are shocked by the unusualness and say “eh???” and experience enjoyment and recognising their pre-judgment.  After that, they investigate these people and finally, they select one Chinese character they would like to write from Emperor Shomu’s 2000-character essay “Zassyu”.
    Starting in the fifth grade of elementary school, different ways of learning about Nara are implemented each year in line with children’s development.  From this, students’ connection to the community in which they live deepens, they continue to have interest, and further their understanding of Japanese culture as a whole develops.
In 2010, the Nara Imperial Palace Site will reach the milestone of its 1300th year.  Many commemorative events are being considered, and one of the plans calls for a World Heritage Learning Summit.  Efforts that use each World Heritage Site as learning material—the historic village of Shirakawa-go in Hida, the Shirakami Mountains, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the island of Yakushima, Shiretoko Peninsula—will be taken up and opinions exchanged.  From efforts to preserve local culture and the environment, what can we learn and how?  There are big expectations for new World Heritage learning.

The beautiful environment of the World Heritage
(photo credit: Tourist Section, Nara Municipal Office)

Structure and Aim of Activities
To enable children to reform their own lifestyles and develop the attitudes and abilities to act to create a better environment by looking at the various environmental problems occurring on a global scale as local problems, investigating the causes of the problems and current situation in the community, and examining the various activities to preserve the environment being undertaken by government agencies, corporations and others.

Connection with World Heritage
To enable children to recognise how special the Nara World Heritage Sites are through a study visit during the first semester and by referencing the story “To Challenge the One Thousand Year-Old Nail” in their Japanese classes.  Then, by activities called “Let’s Preserve the Environment of Seibi and Nara” and a fall school field trip to the nearby Kasuga Primeval Forest and by knowing the work and thoughts of a security guard who protects the forest, to think about the importance and a strategy for preserving the city of Nara and the Nara World Heritage Sites.