Japan:  Land of the Rising Sun

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Click on the pictures below to view a web version of the project.

    Geography and Science    Idiographs    Japanese Haiku    Japanese Gardens    Japanese Food    Japanese Clothes    Tea Ceremony


Project Description

This interdisciplinary curriculum project is a class exploration of Japanese culture that culiminates in a presentation of students using HyperStudio.  It began with a read aloud of The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck. Students were mesmerized by the tsunami that wipes out a family of fisherman.  As a result, we researched tsunamis on the Internet. It was natural that we study Japanese culture as part of our social studies curriculum.


Pedagogy: We used a group investigation inquiry process where the teacher relinquishes control and the children drive the curriculum. This group investigation takes six steps as described by Yael and Shlomo Sharan who are authors of many books and articles on Group Investigation.  In this process the teacher relinquishes control and the kids take over.  The kids take an active part in how and what they will study. Teachers who engage in project-based learning can replicate this project by stages below.

Technology: The kids learned how to make different stacks for specific area of the presentation. The class was broken in to groups with 4-5 kids in each sub-area. There are a total of 7 stacks in this project.  They are food, clothes, ideographs, geography and science, tea ceremony, Japanese gardens and haiku. In collecting the information for this project we used graphic organizers from Kidspiration and spreadsheets from Claris Works.  The Internet was invaluable in collecting the data we used.  I used the virtual library for many resources on the web so that I could guide the kids.

Project Activities

    Stage 1:  Topic Identification

a) Subtopics included: tsunamis, terraced rice paddies and earthquakes on the Internet.
b) Students grouped into nine areas of inquiry.
c) The teacher guides inquiry and introduces software.
d) Inquiries were recorded as a class.
    Stage 2: Collaborative Group Work
Students formulated nine sub-topics for the inquiry.  Students met many times over a 4-month period and leaders were formed in each group.  The students voted on an executive director who over saw the entire group and the director taught various programs that kids didn't know.  Students wrote descriptions of group expectations: roles of members, what they want to investigate and how they will present information.  Each group saved their research under the subtopic.
    Stage 3.  Research
Groups gathered information from the Internet. This is an opportunity to collaborate with the school librarian. Students made choices about which data to include.

The teacher guides the general direction of the project with inquiry and introduction of software.

    Stage 4:  Presentation
Students prepared a final presentation using HyperStudio.
a) Students created HyperStudio stacks with pictures downloaded from the Internet and digital cameras.
b) Students added text, wrote scripts for each stack, and recorded audio.
    Stage 5:  Presentation
Presented the final project to the school community.
    Stage 6. Assessment
Assessed students throughout inquiry process: questions, writing, cooperative learning, depth of research, and presentation and discussion of project.
There are five content standards that form the New York State and City basis for the investigation.  They are social, political, geographic, economic and historic characteristics of different world communities.  Learning about the diversity of different cultures and peoples is the goal of the curriculum.  When we were discussing Japan we always used techniques to compare and contrast.  How are people the same and how are they different?  We often used Venn diagrams to compare and contrast various facts we learned about Japan.  Technology was used throughout the curriuculum to help meet standards.
Innovation and the Internet

      This project is innovative in the use of the Internet because it:

Click on the pictures below to view a web version of the project.
Geography and Science    Idiographs    Japanese Haiku    Japanese Gardens    Japanese Food    Clothes    Tea Ceremony