Hands On Inspiration: One Teacher's Dream of Bringing Multiculturalism to Japan

Satoko Kawai is absolutely bursting with excitement.

"We don't have anything like this in Japan" she says, her eyes gravitating to over 100 cultural boxes lining the walls of the WorldOregon office.

Kawai is one of seven students who has come to learn about culture box curriculum from Global Classrooms Manager, Karen Ettinger. She is currently finishing her Masters degree in Education at Portland State University, and has come as part of Professor Yer Thao's multicultural education class. Kawai hopes the culture box training session will empower her with tools to implement a similar program in her home country of Japan.



Japan's educational system shares many similar challenges to the United States. Common factors such as budget and time constraints make it difficult to implement a sustainable cultural curriculum in public schools. And while the demand for foreign language teachers in Japan are also on the rise, the country's demographics remain largely homogeneous. Without this multicultural context, Kawai says its hard for students to understand how their own identity fits within the global landscape. 



Back in Tokyo, Kawai and her nonprofit work to fill in the educational gaps by facilitating cultural workshops for youth. She sees culture box curriculum as a way to promote identity development education. Kawai has already begun experimenting with the program by borrowing items from foreign embassies in Tokyo. These donated items help her to really engage students and bring these cultures to life. 

"It's so important to touch--to feel the culture, you know?" Kawai says while exploring the Korea culture box at WorldOregon. 

WorldOregon's culture boxes are also donations based--many from immigrant families who wanted to share their rich cultural heritage with the K-12 school system. Culture Boxes include items such as toys, clothing, pottery, stamps, and musical instruments and can be used to supplement many different subject lessons. These types of cultural artifacts help students to find similarities between cultures and understand their historical context in a way that promotes dialogue and understanding. 



At the end of the orientation, Kawai's face is absolutely glowing. She's bursting with creative plans for how to implement a similar culture box curriculum in Tokyo. 

We can't wait to see the ripple effects of our Global Classrooms program around the world. To learn more about the Culture Box program and how you can get involved, visit here for more information.


Satoko Kawai and Karen Ettinger pose beside the Japanese Culture Boxes

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