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Express Yourself! 2018 at Horace Mann School, New York City

Express Yourself! Workshop aims at making the Japanese students express themselves in English through English speech, discussion, presentation and theater performance. The Workshop provides the Japanese students with a variety of experiences: American high school classes, American family life, American college dormitory, sports on the green field, museums, university campus, Manhattan landmarks, and much more.

Ashita-Tomorrow held the fifth Express Yourself! workshop at Horace Mann School in New York City, in summer 2018. It was the seventh Ashita-Tomorrow Express Yourself! Workshop: five at Horace Mann School 2014-2018, one at Fukushima Iwaki High School in 2013 and another at Miyagi Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School in 2016

This year, twenty three students from Tohoku Area participated: six from Iwaki High School, Fukushima, seven from Kesennuma High School, Miyagi and ten from Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School, Miyagi. A Kesennuma High School teacher and Ashita staff accompanied them from Japan. The students stayed in Manhattan College dormitory close to the HM campus. Four American students stayed there as dorm leaders.

The Japanese students had busy, productive and memorable week. Ashita-Tomorrow would like to express our gratitude to the supporters both in Japan and the U.S.A. The Horace Mann School students, staff and its Head, Dr. Kelly, and the host families again made the workshop so successful.
Express Yourself! 2018 Program Sunday, July 22 through Monday, July 30, 2018
English Sessions from July 23 to July 27
Ms. Fujisaki, the Workshop creator and Ashita-Tomorrow director, encouraged the Japanese students to express themselves in English: to speak up, to ask questions, and to make mistakes without worrying. Together with over ten HM students as assistants, the Japanese students discussed similarities and differences between Japanese and American schools, family lives, culture, and values. They made dialogues, speeches and questions, and presented in the class. The HM students led group activities and helped their English grammar, pronunciation and intonation. On the last day, they made Haiku both in Japanese and English. They enjoyed. Some Haiku poems were well done.

In the first two days, the Japanese students were shy, even a bit afraid. It was amazing how they changed and felt comfortable as days went. In the end, they managed to make themselves understood in English, it is the goal of “EXPRESS YOURSELF!“

Theater Workshop
Mr. Joe Timko, HM theater teacher and Ms. Mia Simring, HM alumni, volunteered for a whole week to lead a theater workshop. The Japanese and American students practiced and performed two Japanese folk stories in English: “Twelve Animals” (why cats are not included in the ancient calendar and they chase mice) and Issunboshi (One Inch Boy).

The plays were originally created by Ms. Fujisaki for her Japanese language classes (to be played at the HM’s Japan Festival) and made into English plays. The theater teachers encouraged the students to think about their roles and to make their own facial/body expressions. The Japanese students started responding and eventually inventing their own characters. They also enjoyed putting on costumes and having props. The performance on the last day of the workshop in front of the HM faculty, host families, Ashita-Tomorrow supporters, and others, was a great success.
American high school classes
The Horace Mann faculty members, alumni and student volunteered to teach classes.
Mr. Alan Bates, as he did every summer, made the students enjoy playing the steel pans.
Ms. Frances Fu gave an energetic and interesting Chinese class. Ms. Moerira, gave a very hard-working dance class. Amazingly, the Japanese students followed her dance while some American students gave up. Ms. Simring discussed diversity in races, cultures, religions, etc. in USA. The students were surprised that each Horace Mann student has different background.
After Session Activities
On HM Campus: On Monday the students played sports on the green field and in a gym of Lower Division (grade school). HM School gave the students a barbecue party. It was birthday for one boy, and the HM students gave him a delicious carrot cake (very American!). On Thursday after dress rehearsals, they had a pizza party with ice cream at Manhattan College dorm.

Field trips: On Tuesday they visited Columbia University. Prof. Kawashima in civil engineering again this year made time for them. She talked about Columbia University and Engineering Department as well as her career and research in concrete. During the Q&A sessions, some Japanese students asked her questions. The HM alumni, now Columbia students, gave them a campus tour. They enjoyed Chinese dinner on Broadway.

On Wednesday, they went to West Chester Mall in White Plains. They walked around with the HM students in a large, posh mall and found something for them and their families. They had wonderful dinner at Cheesecake Factory. Its menu was so thick that the students had studied it a day before and decided on their choice. Two alumni, now working as summer interns, joined the dinner. They had helped the past workshops both at HM and Sendai Ikuei Gakuen in Japan.

Through these after-class activities and other free time at school and the dorm, the Japanese students had opportunities to talk with their American counterparts and formed friendship.
Staying with American families
From Friday afternoon through Sunday morning, the Japanese students stayed with their host families. The families of HM students and Ashita-Tomorrow supporters welcomed them and had them experience American family life. Some stayed in the suburbs, some in Manhattan. Ashita-Tomorrow is grateful for these host families. They took Japanese students to baseball games, Broadway shows, museums, shopping malls, beaches. They also talked with the students about many aspects of America, e.g., families, universities and career opportunities. After teary farewell at John F. Kennedy Airport, the Japanese students flew back home with a lot of memories and determination to pursue their dreams.

Message from Ai Kato, Kesennuma High School Teacher who chaperoned the students.

First, I found the students were all very anxious and nervous. This was their first trip abroad so they were worried that their English skills would not be good enough. However, as the days passed their expressions changed dramatically. I could tell they enjoyed every minute and became quite sure of themselves.

Ms. Fujisaki valued active interaction among the students and between instructors and students. She asked them to volunteer to speak up, even ask small questions, and to try to be clear about what they wanted to say. The Japanese students, however, had not been trained to speak without being asked nor to ask teachers questions in classes. They were shy and afraid of making mistakes.

The students transformed thanks to Ms. Fujisaki and other Horace Mann teachers as well as their American peers: the Horace Mann students. The teachers repeated again and again that there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, that they should ask questions if they don’t understand, and that they express what they are thinking. The teachers also gave praise whenever the students tried and encouraged them. Eventually, the students started taking more chances and acquired confidence. Through theater practice/performance and dance & music lessons, they learned to break their own shells and to be brave to step forward.

I truly believe the best result of the workshop is that the Japanese students found it was fun to “connect to people using English.” They had to speak English to express their feelings and to understand the American students and host families. Their English, even though poor or faltering, made American people understand them. At the same time, they were frustrated with their poor command of spoken English and are now much more motivated to study English and foreign culture.

The workshop will remain a great experience in their life. They also found new goals and agenda. It was a great opportunity that will positively affect their future. I would like to express thanks to all the people involved to give the students such experiences that we can’t give in Japan.

Messages from Host Families

◇ They worked hard to improve and practice their English skills during their time with us. I believe that staying together with our children is helpful to them. It helped overcome any shyness. They both had their strengths and were able to help one another in the process. It was their first experience abroad and they were able to verbalize their appreciation beautifully in English at our home for dinner the last night.

◇ We really hope the week was an experience that they'll proudly share with friends and family. They may have come to learn English and experience a small dose of an American life, but we feel that we have gained a far better end of the deal - an appreciation of other culture and experiences that draws on commonality and celebrates differences.

◇ It's a pleasure to have the girls visit. I am in awe how disciplined, well mannered and sweet they are. Over the years of observing our visitors, I see it's not an exception. Knowing our own teenagers here, I give a lot of kudos to all the parents for the hard work of growing our future generations.

◇ Thank you for the opportunity to host some of the best behaved teenage girls in the world! Happy to be part of Ashita-Tomorrow program. We much appreciate this wonderful initiative and we are honored to be considered as hosts.

◇ Thank you so much for letting us participate again this year. The experience with these girls was nothing that can be bought - it’s priceless. It was a fulfilling and rich experience for our whole family that created memories to last a lifetime. Again this summer we had a wonderful time and will stay in touch with her. We would be happy to have them at our home at any time in the future!

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