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Emma Haggard and Charley Garrett dress for Japan at SWJ’s Special Events.
The week of Nov. 14 Stonewall Jackson Elementary took their students on a cultural journey, turning their school into a virtual Japan and exposing the children – literally – to a whole new world. Special Events is a 30 year old, biannual tradition at SWJ, where the school selects a country from around the world and immerses the children in that country’s culture; teaching the students about the country’s people, customs, geography, economy, food, traditions and history. It is an innovative style of education that allows the children to leave the classroom and travel, if only in their minds, thousands of miles from home. Far richer than traditional teaching through books, this event facilitates learning through experience and the students delight in the adventure. Through the tireless efforts of Stonewall students, staff and parents, the halls of the school were transformed into an artistic rendition of the most beautiful parts of Japan. Cherry Blossom trees went up where once there were lockers and rivers were painted onto walls, with elaborate life-size drawings of Japanese fisherman. The fluorescent lights that line the ceiling were hidden in the glow of student-made Japanese lanterns. A Zen garden greeted visitors as they entered the front door, and outside the auditorium there were full-scale models of Sumo Wrestlers. Forests of bamboo, paper umbrellas, Japanese characters, beautifully drawn tall mountain ranges topped with glittering “snow” and peaceful, tinkling music all contributed to the indescribable majesty of it all. The children also got to perform for, as well as watch performances by, fellow students as they sung the Japanese songs they had spent the last several weeks learning.
Many children took part in Kabuki Theater and others learned karate. The event culminated on the final day whereupon the children all were allowed to dress up in costumes of Japan, then shop at a market for Japanese goods, many of which were student-created. It was a wonderful, hectic, delightful and rewarding experience, which the students (and staff and parents) will be sure to remember and treasure for a lifetime to come!