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Misawa children’s sports day exchange brings communities together
Children from Misawa Air Base’s Sollars Elementary School student council program compete with children from Japan’s Shichinohe Bikoh-En orphanage in a three-legged race, May 8, 2010, at the school’s playground. Sollars’s student council program hosted a sport’s day exchange, which invited 28 Japanese children to the base to experience American culture from a youth’s perspective. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski)
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Misawa children's sports day exchange brings communities together

Posted 5/12/2010   Updated 5/13/2010 Email story   Print story


by Senior Airman Jessica Lockoski
35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

5/12/2010 - MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Children from Sollars Elementary School student council program hosted a spring sports day exchange with 28 children from the Shichinohe Bikoh-En orphanage May 8.

The exchange allowed Japanese children, ages three to 11 years old, to visit a Department of Defense school and see the environment where students learn, but more importantly play and have fun.

"The sport's exchange gives the Japanese children an opportunity to visit our base and school and get to know our American culture a little better," said Rhonda Jackson, the school's speech and language pathologist. She along with Christopher Born, a fellow teacher and specialist for the learning impaired, helped coordinate this year's event.

Each year, Sollars students travel to the orphanage for a Valentine's party and again in the winter season to celebrate the winter holiday. But Saturday's event, marked the first opportunity to host them on base.

"Our student council's motto is 'Friendship, Service, Community," said Ms. Jackson. "As guests in Japan, the council wanted to forge a meaningful relationship with a group of Japanese students of the same age group. They wanted the relationship to entail more than just donating needed items of clothing or school supplies."

For most of the Japanese children, it was their first experience on a 50-passenger school bus. Although the trip to the base was unfamiliar to the orphans, when the time came to play in the school's gymnasium, their excitement transcended any language barriers.

Both groups of children shared a variety of games, which included playing with hula hoops, shooting basketballs, tossing beanbags and climbing up ropes before they shared a lunch together eating hot dogs and hamburgers.

"Through games, other recreational activities, and sharing meals, cultural differences dissipate and commonalities surface. The food choice was to give the Japanese children a taste of American cuisine," said Ms. Jackson. "The Council's focus was establishing friendships whereby cross-cultural understanding can take place."

The children participated in more group activities on the playground after lunch. They integrated on kick-ball matches, tug-of-war competitions and three legged races.

"I thought the experience was lots of fun," said Sollars 6th-grade student Jessica Johnson, daughter of  Command Master Chief Petty Officer Anthony Johnson, U. S. Navy Information Operations Command. "It was enjoyable interacting with the Japanese students. I know they all enjoyed the activities we got to do."

Jessica said the best part of her day was spent on an activity using a multicolored parachute more than 30 feet in diameter.

"Everybody came together in the gym, held the parachute, flipped it over their heads and saw each other inside of it," she added. "Inside the dome, everyone could communicate with one another."

Although exchanging communication was not easy, Jessica said that throughout the day the students urged the Japanese children to learn English words with Sollars students learned several Japanese phrases too.

According to Sollars students, words did not need to be spoken to understand the impact the event had on those who participated.

"From the looks on the students' faces, both Americans and Japanese," Jessica said, everybody had a great time."

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