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    For more than ten years, the sixth-graders at Fukuroi City Mitsukawa Elementary School have investigated a samurai in the history of their hometown by themselves and, using “Minamoto no Tomonaga” guidebooks they have created, have conducted public education activities with people on the street during an annual school trip to the city of Kamakura.  Minamoto no Tomonaga (1143-1160), the older brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo, died at the age of sixteen.  While he is a little-known historical figure who does not appear in textbooks, educational activities involving him continue even though the school’s principal has changed four times and even though the teacher responsible for the programme was transferred.  Further, the activities are supported by people in the community and have not only been enjoyable for children, but also for adults.  There are hints in this example of how to prevent ESD from ending with a simple event or time-limited research, enabling it to continue and be passed down as an educational activity within the school curriculum.

“Tomonaga Appeal” in the Enoden (Enoshima Electric Railway) Train
   In autumn 2008, the Enoden stopped at Fujisawa Station, and children from Mitsukawa Elementary School boarded.  80% of the occupants of the train were Mitsukawa Elementary School students and the remainder were local people and tourists, which made the train lively.
   When the train pushed off, one boy looked around eagerly and began to whisper quietly to the students nearby.  They were ready to go, and each stood up and the boy walked over to a passenger, saying, “Excuse me, can I have a moment of your time?”  The request was so sudden that the passenger couldn’t help but respond, “Okay.”  At that point, the boy explained politely: “We are from Mitsukawa Elementary School in Fukuroi City and have come here on our school trip.  Today in Kamakura we would like to be permitted to tell you a little bit about Minamoto no Tomonaga who is connected with our hometown of Fukuroi City.  Is this okay?  We need to talk with three people, and you are my first person,” the student explained politely. Then, with an additional” “Please,” the passenger listened to the appeal.  If the passenger looked around, one child each was engaged with the other passengers.  Then the boy said, “So, I will give you a guidebook I made.  Please listen to my explanation while opening it.”  The passenger started with the first page and continued referring to it while listening to the explanation of Fukuroi City and Tomonaga.
   After a five-minute explanation, the children from Mitsukawa Elementary School said: “Thank you for your cooperation.  Now, as an expression of our gratitude, would you receive this as thanks?”  Each then gave a tea bag of Fukuroi green tea to her/his passenger.  After the “appeal” was over, the passengers said things to one another like: “Even through I am living in this Kamakura area associated with the Minamoto clan, I didn’t know Tomonaga at all” and “I feel like I got something from getting on this train.”

Why Tomonaga?

    Tomonaga,* a child of Minamoto no Yoshitomo and the older brother of Minamoto no Yoritomo and Minamoto no Yoshitsune, died at age of sixteen during the Heiji Rebellion in 1159.  He was buried in the Aohaka area of Ogaki City in Gifu Prefecture, but his grave was ransacked at the hands of the rival Taira clan, and they displayed his head publicly in the Rokujo Kawara area in Kyoto. Oya no Chuta , who was from Fukuroi City and Tomonaga’s guardian, secretly took Tomonaga’s head and returned it to Fukuroi City.  At present, Tomonaga’s body is said to be buried in the mountains near the Enkoji Temple in the Aohaka area of Ogaki City and his head at Sekiunnin Temple in Mitsukawa.  In 1974, on business related to Tomonaga, a local historian from Mitsukawa visited Aohaka and exchange between historians in the two places began.  Then, after receiving support from local historians in both places, exchange began between the Mitsukawa and Aohaka elementary schools.  From 1998, schoolchildren at Mitsukawa Elementary School have been conducting the “Tomonaga Appeal” in Kamakura.
    Why do you think the children showed interest in Tomonaga who was not mentioned in textbooks or on the Internet and whom local people hardly knew?
    This is because for the children, Tomonaga and their hometown of Mitsukawa connected the history of over 850 years ago with the present, and this was a historical treasure that gave them confidence and pride toward their future lives.  Also, this interest was the gift of “Mitsukawa Learning” which took place over six years with the Tomonaga Appeal at the apex.  The learning was supported by the wishes of the teachers, the people of Mitsukawa--its historians first and foremost--the Mitsukawa Board of Education’s plan to bring life to the school through the “One Special Characteristic for Each School” Movement, and the exchange with Aohaka Elementary School.  Also, interest was promoted by passing down of the expectation and pride among children that “someday, we too will do the Tomonaga Appeal.”  To the children of Mitsukawa, Tomonaga was nothing other than familiar learning material that enabled them to build a more sustainable future.  Tomonaga continues to live among the children of Mitsukawa.

 “Tomonaga Appeal” in front of the Great Buddha at Kamakura

What is “Mitsukawa Learning”?
    “Mitsukawa Learning,” with the “Tomonaga Appeal” as its high point, used the life skills and integrated studies periods to use children’s ideas and teachers wishes in establishing units concerning food, environment, welfare and community in which the children could learn experientially about people, material objects and other ideas.  Further, it was study that did not stop with those experiences, but involved adding value and making careful selections through continued discussion of the learning unit content.
    The type of student Mitsukawa Learning aimed to develop was one who would learn the goodness of her/him self and the community and approach friends and others within the community.  Principal Setsuko Kobayashi said: “Now it is necessary to have the capacity to know how one wants to change society and to use strong mind and body to forge a path towards the future.  To do this, it is important to continue to have dreams and hopes; to approach nature, society, people, and culture actively; and to work to make oneself and others richer.  We need to develop children who can help deepen the connection between themselves, others, and the environment and play a role in the realisation of an interdependent society.”
    The “Mitsukawa Learning” that is organised from the time a student is in the first grade is connected to the Tomonaga Appeal in its focus on understanding of local food, history and culture, communication with others and skills in utilising information.

One’s heart beats with excitement before talking to
an adult.  The “Tomonaga Appeal” aboard the “Enoden” train

When one reaches out to talk to one person,
everyone shows interest

Outline of Mitsukawa Learning (2008)
 Grade 1  ・We Love Soba! (Planting experience, Involvement of community people, Food)
 Grade 2 ・Expedition To Make Things Emerge from the Mitsukawa River (Exploration of community)
・Let’s Grow Vegetables (Planting experience, Involvement of community people, Food)
・Transformation of Wheat (Planting experience, Involvement of community people, Food)
 Grade 3 ・The Shikiji River is a Treasure Box (Environment, Investigation)
・Transformation of Wheat (Planting experience, Involvement of community people, Food)
 Grade 4  ・“Big Kindness Strategy” (Visit to a Care Center, Exchange with a Kindergarten) (Welfare/Exchange)
・Green Tea is Great (Health, Involvement of community people)
 Grade 5  ・Rice Expedition (Rice-Making Experience, Involvement of community people, Investigation, Food, Information dissemination)
 Grade 6 ・“Tomonaga Appeal” (Exchange with Aohaka Elementary School, investigation of local history and culture Involvement of community people, dissemination of information)

  • A child from Mitsukawa Elementary School who moved on to junior high school spoke about Minamoto no Tomonaga during social studies class.  The social studies teacher who heard about Tomonaga for the first time visited Mitsukawa and conducted a study of Tomonaga.
  • One day, an unfamiliar youth visited Mitsukawa Elementary School.  It seems that a school employee at first thought the youth was a suspicious person.  However, when the principal talked to the youth, it was revealed that the youth had graduated several years before, and had gotten a job in Tokyo after graduating from the nearby Hamamatsu Technical College.  This youth came to school before leaving his hometown to express his appreciation for being taught in the past about Mitsukawa.
  • A child who had experienced making hand-rolled tea during the “Mitsukawa Learning” inherited his family’s tea business, and now the child has become one of the community collaborators supporting the school’s experiential learning.
  • he father of a child participant in the Tomonaga Appeal and local people from the Tomonaga neighborhood have been holding a Minamoto Hometown Sunflower Festival in a field of 1 million sunflowers since 2001.
  • Thank you letters and phone calls arrive from within Japan and abroad from people who have heard the “Tomonaga Appeal,” saying things like, “I am taking good care of my guidebook” and “You gave me energy.”

 Of course this is the case with the children who are most visible, but the teachers and local people who were touched by their growth and the success of the activities also said that they were given energy by the “Mitsukawa Learning” involving the “Tomonaga Appeal” as the climax.  The secret of educational activities being sustained and passed on, even though the principal may change and the teacher in charge may rotate to a new position, is hidden here.

When someone shows interest, it is a great success

 Voices of children who have completed the activities
  • If you examine history, it has great depth.  My interest leapt from one thing to the next.
  • I became able to explain things to a person I had never met before.
  • By making the guidebook, I gained the ability to organise what I had researched.
  • I became able to talk to and greet people I didn’t know.
  • I talked to all kinds of people and I think I will be able to talk to people in junior high school, too.
  • I realised I can do things if I am brave.

The Possibilities of ESD
   At Mitsukawa Elementary School, the “Mitsukawa Learning” that had the “Tomonaga Appeal” as its high point, was not originally positioned as an ESD practice.  Furthermore, the content of the learning does not deal directly with global environment or development or international understanding.  However, one can evaluate “Mitsukawa Learning” very highly as an example of applying ESD learning materials.  This is because the six years that each child experiences the “Mitsukawa Learning” and especially the “Tomonaga Appeal,” have for more than ten years continued to bring confidence and pride to children concerning their present and future as well as energy to teachers and local people.
    The learning is developing foundational skills truly indispensable for carrying the burden of a sustainable global and local society--for example, experiences investigating and understanding the food and historical culture of one’s nearby community, the capacity to communicate with others, and the ability to use information.  The energetic children with these attributes embody the Mitsukawa Elementary School goals of taking ownership as children who “discover, think and continue what they have started.” 

  1. The child is conscious of the goals of the “Tomonaga Appeal” and what s/he wanted to communicate, and makes effort to be involved in the appeal activities.
  2. The child is able to think for her/himself about what s/he learned in the “Tomonaga Appeal” and tries to communicate what s/he has learned with her/his peers.
  3. The child creates her own topic concerning Tomonaga and to answer questions, is able to gather and apply the necessary resource materials.
  4. The child reflects on what s/he has studied and felt through the “Tomonaga Appeal” and can think about the significance of the appeal.
  5. The child has her/his own ideas about the goals and content of the appeal and can make an appeal to others that is appropriate to the location and number of people.
  6. The child can reflect upon whether the appeal s/he made was effectively communicated and can report to peers about the successes and points that could be improved.
  7. Together with a sense of satisfaction from having actively engaged in the appeal, the child can feel a sense of tradition in the appeal activities and is willing to communicate about the experience to younger students.
  8. Through the appeal experience, the child resolidifies a positive feeling about the home area of Mitsukawa and is able to have a feeling that s/he wants to try something new in the future.

  The tradition of being successful at the “Tomonaga Appeal” as the pinnacle of the “Mitsukawa Learning” in the city of Kamakura, where the connection with the Minamoto clan is deep, is being passed down among the students of Mitsukawa Elementary School.  However, the idea that one should do the “Tomonaga Appeal” just because it’s a tradition is a weak way of implementing study that aims to motivate students by enabling them to communicate their own thoughts.  Teachers raise fundamental questions regularly: “Why do we do the Tomonaga Appeal?” and “What is the point you most want to make in your appeal?” in order to involve students as leaders in their own learning.  In addition, the students are given two chances to have exchange with students at Aohaka Elementary School in Gifu Prefecture.  The actual experience of this exchange and seeing the two graves gives students the confidence to engage in the “Tomonaga Appeal.”  We wanted to expand the historical knowledge of the Minamoto and Taira that the students gain in social studies class through local historians and the former school principal and touch the feelings of people in the community who are passing down the history of Tomonaga. The “Tomonaga Appeal,” deepens love for Mitsukawa as a hometown and makes students recognise changes in themselves through reflecting upon the activities and sharing with their friends what they have learned.  Also, together with communicating what they have learned to young students in the school, the participating students broaden their thinking about what they can accomplish as a member of their community and develop a feeling that they can try to take action.

 Month  Main Learning Activities
 Hours  Evaluation Criteria
 7  Let’s connect exchange with Aohaka Elementary School to the “Tomonaga Appeal”
・Let’s reflect on hosting children from Aohaka and the exchange with them
 2  1
 8  Let’s think about the significance of the “Tomonaga Appeal”
・What do you want to communicate through the “Tomonaga Appeal?”
・Why do we do the appeal in Kamakura?
・Let’s plan how we will conduct an investigation during summer vacation
 Let’s compile a guidebook centering on our own research about Tomonaga
・What do you most want to communicate?
・Let’s compile the resource materials gathered and what has been learned from community members
・Let’s decide what to write in the guidebook and make the guidebook
Let’s Visit Aohaka Elementary School
・Let’s reconfirm the connection between Mitsukawa and Aohaka
・Let’s visit the Tomonaga gravesite in Aohaka
 6  3,5
Let’s Make the “Tomonaga Appeal” Successful
Let’s make a draft appeal
Let’s practice the appeal (with friends, families, and 5th graders)
Let’s do the appeal in Kamakura
Let’s do the appeal at the community learning centre festival (for people in the community)
10 3,5
Let’s Reflect on the “Tomonaga Appeal”
・Let’s compile our feelings about the appeal
・Let’s report on the results of the appeal
・Let’s communicate what we learned to the younger students
・Let’s recognise again the good points about our home area of Mitsukawa
・Let’s think about what each of us can do as one member of our local community