Teaching Across Cultures: “Japanese Me”

Art by Nikita Hunter

As a young child,  I lived in Rego Park, New York.  For those of you not from the United States, Rego Park is in Queens, one of the 5 boroughs of New York. Each year, the Police Athletic League (PAL) would offer a contest for school kids in this urban environment and give out trophies.  At the age of 8, I won a trophy for a poem and picture that I drew about “my neighborhood.”  I remember receiving the trophy from some man that made my mother’s eyes bulge out of her head with shock and joy.  He walked us to the subway and she was beaming!  (As I grew older, I realized the significance of that man joining us for a stroll to the subway. That man was James Earl Jones, the actor who played Darth Vader in Star Wars!)

While on the internet tonight, I came across this beautiful video about a local school in Brooklyn – another of the 5 boroughs of New York. Nikita Hunter, a middle school teacher, participated in a Fulbright program to Japan and upon her return home, reflected on how she could share the culture most effectively with her young students.  The video below shows her very creative and successful attempt at doing so.

Ms. Hunter’s approach reminds me of the teacher’s power to expand the imagination, creativity and interest in other cultures in our youth.  It made me think how much more interesting the PAL contest that I participated in at the age of 8 would have been if I was asked to write a poem or draw a picture about my home AND another child’s home abroad – what culture would I selected? How would I have researched it at that age? What would my young mind have imagined another child’s home abroad to feel like?

Please enjoy “Japanese Me” as much as I did: