Today I attended the last high school assembly of the area high schools hosting Kyoto students this past week. All of the other schools had their performances this past Friday. Host families were invited to attend and watch the performances of the high school students from Modesto and Kyoto. Each year the performances vary depending on the students that are visiting (and their talents).
The assembly kicked off with a routine by the Modesto high school cheer squad:
This was then followed up with a demonstration of calculation skills. It was explained that in Japan students learn how to calculate using an abacus at a very early age. As they grow older they no longer need the abacus, and can do the math in their head. A challenge was made for two of the Modesto high school students to come up on stage and match their skills with two Kyoto students.
The Modesto students were given calculators to assist in their calculations. Prepared posters with math problems were put up on a white board. Random digits had been left out of the equations, and the Modesto students were asked to come up on stage and fill in the numbers with their “favorite” numbers.
The students on stage were then asked to turn around and fill in the answers. Each cycle of problems involved higher and higher numbers in the equations. The final demonstration was of a column of nine six digit numbers to be added together for a sum (some positive numbers, some negative). In every case the Kyoto students had the answers to all of the problems in the blink of an eye. There were many rounds of applause and many shocked looks in the audience from the Modesto students (and myself).
A solo male Kyoto student was up next performing a street dance from Japan that is popular with the high school students. It looked a lot like break dancing.
This routine was followed by a dance troop from the Modesto high school performing a modern dance routine.
After this performance concluded, all of the Kyoto students were asked to come forward and prepare for a demonstration of a traditional Japanese dance for the assembly. All of the girls put on overcoats that were pink with the Kyoto Gakuen logo on the back and they each held a fan with the KG logo.
The Kyoto boys wore blue overcoats, but did not hold fans. Many were flashing peace signs as they took up their positions around the theater.
Once they completely encircled the theater the music started. They moved around the theater performing their dance. After a few times around the theater the Modesto students were asked to join in.
Almost all of the students jumped up from their seats and joined in the dance. This then went on for a while longer as the students laughed and enjoyed the dance together. Once everyone was back in their seats, a group of singers from the Modesto high school performed two songs to music for the audience:
The final activity of the assembly was the exchange of gifts between the schools. The Modesto principal gave the Japanese a copy of their yearbook, so that they would have a memory of the school and be able to look up pictures of those they had stayed with on their visit (the students are all juniors).
The Japanese presented a framed logo from their campus to the principal. This brought the assembly to a close.
The exchange students and host families stayed in the theater, the other students leaving for their last class of the day. Two of the Kyoto students thanked the families for hosting the Kyoto students on this visit. They also explained why it is so difficult to learn English in Japan, that they are an island nation, and that there is nobody to practice speaking with. They stated that most of the Japanese students are shy, and that this visit was good for them to come to America and get to stay with their host families.
After a few final instructions were given to the Kyoto students and their host families for their departure tomorrow, the students were allowed to stay in the theater or go outside on the lawn with their host families. As the students dispersed into groups, many pictures were taken by both groups of students. The Japanese students were giving their Modesto friends their KG jackets and fans from the traditional dance performance. Even though this was only a week long exchange, it was clear that these students had definitely made new friends.
When the two Kyoto students spoke to the assembled families, they said that on this trip most of the Kyoto students did not know much English. It will be interesting to see next summer how this might change. The students that are on the PacRimX Island now will be coming to Modesto for a four week visit, attending summer school for three of those weeks. Starting next Tuesday they will start to practice their English speaking skills using the voice feature of Second Life on the island. This should make for much less shy students arriving in Modesto next summer, and a lot more communications between the Modesto and Kyoto students during this longer exchange visit.