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When Wenona met Yashiro

Last week, Dr Thompson’s Year 10 STEM students had an opportunity to talk to students at Yashiro High School in Nagano, Japan about their respective schools, cultures, and their STEM-related research.

When Wenona’s Director of STEM, Dr Alisha Thompson and Mr Koki Nagayama, a Biology Teacher at Yashiro High School, connected online via a mutual Science acquaintance, it presented them with a perfect opportunity to get together with their students and collaborate about their STEM-related activities and research. In doing so, students shared a little of their day-to-day lives at school, their respective cultures and traditions, as well as presenting some of their insight and understanding from their STEM-related research.

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The chance to learn and experience another culture and educational model wasn’t just beneficial for the students. It was also a great opportunity for Dr Thompson and Mr Nagayama to benchmark their own teaching and learning practices and gain classroom inspiration from each other.

Mr Nagayama kicked off the session with a presentation to students on Japan: its food, culture, population and geography. He spoke about kimonos, sushi, shrines, manga, anime, Sumo wrestling and some of the powerful brands that have placed Japan on the world stage such as Toyota, Sony, Nintendo and Asics. As he said, we have fermented foods and you have Vegemite!

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It was then Antonia’s (Year 10) turn to give the Yashiro High School students a taste of Wenona. She presented this video, which enabled the Japanese students to see what life is like in an Australian school. She also showed them why Dr Thompson calls them her ‘Number 1 STEM Class’ by showcasing some of the STEM activities that they’ve collaborated on this year, including making their own Rube Goldberg machines at home. There was a chance to present the Car Restoration Club, the Wenona Car Show, the Engineering Challenge, Robotics Club and much more.

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Then it was over to the students at Yashiro High School to show Wenona what life is like for them. They explained that Science was one of the main focuses of their school and that it attracts top-class researchers who present their work to students. They have exams at least once a month. The biggest event of their school year is the Hato Festival where each class performs in a Karaoke competition, including the teachers. There is a performance by the Calligraphy Club using large brushes and the festival concludes with the archery club firing lit arrows into a wood pile to create a fire storm. The whole school then dances to music and takes a commemorative photo.

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The Yashiro students then presented a slide show of their recent research into the Nano Hot Springs Onsen to discover why the water changes from green to white. They discussed their observations and understandings with Wenona students.
The modern world is rapidly changing, bringing with it more pressing issues and greater obstacles surrounding technology and sustainability. It was great for our students to meet with like-minded peers from Japan and look outside the curriculum to obtain new insight and alternative perspectives about STEM research.

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Great work Number One STEM Class and great work Yashiro High! We hope this opens up doors for further collaboration that will offer many benefits for our students and teachers and the whole school community.