Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Branden's cooking class and observation day

I've mentioned this before, but the elementary school Branden goes to, is an extremely modern elementary school, the thinking and teaching methods, as well as the building itself. They're really big on encouraging kids and getting them to think outside the box and think for themselves. The school itself has, central heating and air conditioning, which is a big deal considering most schools here don't have it. It's newly built. They're very heavy on the arts and science this school besides the regular normal subjects. We have been quite happy with the modern education Branden has been enjoying here. And are looking forward to Noah starting here this coming April. What do they learn at Branden's school? Besides regular classes like Math, science, Japanese, geography etc. They have weekly English every Friday. Which many schools offer now days. But they also have clay pottery class where they can make, plates, cups, bowls. They can get their creative juices a flowing with this class. Paint said clay bowls and plates. Glaze them and bring them home. They have an art class. They have music class, as well as choir (you saw them singing at that recital a month or so ago). But they also have, mini field trips about 1-2 times a month. Walking along the tanbo/rice fields. The last one they did, the 2 teachers for the 4th grade #1 and #2 class took them walking and she wanted them to collect and bring back things from nature that were for the Fall season. Branden collected pine cones. leaves that had changed colors (gold, red and orange), etc. They made Fall collages, they also take their sketch pads with them when they go on these mini excursions and sketch the scenery and what they see. A few years back, the pine cones collected were painted and they made mini Christmas trees from the pine cones, a few of you might remember those trees made from pine cones. They have a thing called morals class, many schools have this now days here. Where they talk and have a deep discussion with the teachers and amongst themselves the students about a topic. Say...bullying etc. The teachers are not allowed to hit kids at our school. The kids also have computer class/lab. And Home Ec (economics) they have a sewing class and a cooking class. Branden was chosen to be one of two of the leaders of the cooking class 3 weeks ago. And the teacher said that their food they would have to research and cook was to be the sweet potato. So, the kids went to the library and researched many recipes they could try. They also researched the nutritional value of the sweet potato. Then the kids had a vote, what 1 recipe should they make. They knew us parents would be eating them on observation day. Should they make, daigaku-imo? Imo no tempura? Nope the teacher said it was too dangerous for them to make the tempura, many of us mothers agreed. : ) Hmm. Finally they put it to a vote. What to make with sweet potatoes. They finally voted and decided sweet potato muffins. So, each of the kids needed to bring their apron and head scarf. Check and check! : ) Which is what was in this first picture.
So last Thursday, December 1st, I woke up, made Noah's obento. Told the Yayoi-sensei, Noah would have to get out early that day because of Branden's observation day. She said, okie dokie. And at 1pm, I ran and picked up Noah all the way in the small city. Rushed back to our tiny town and directly to the elementary school we went. By the way, it's worth to mention, while I was driving along the road from our yochien, as the road merged, Kouki-kun's/Kaito's mom had picked up Kaito early also, because we followed them from the city all the way back to our town. Kaito waving back at me in my car the whole while. : ) Noah could not see since he was strapped in his seat belt and car seat in my car. But, I told Noah...Kaito's waving at us! : ) Noah said, really? : ) Yep! From the plaza, we ran up the hill to the shogakko. Last Thursday was the first day, it actually felt REALLY freezing, here in our neck of the woods. The Jinbei boy's mom and I walked and chatted as we ran up the hill. And we ran to the second floor. Checked our names as here/in attendance. And into the library we went. They have a huge cooking room, but for whatever reason they moved us parents into the library. Hmm. Anyway, all the kids stood up and welcomed us parents.
Each table had trays of steamed sweet potatoes and also had sweet potato muffins. And posters telling us parents, why we should eat the fabulous sweet potato. ; ) The whole room smelled sweet, I think because of the muffins.
Noah quietly watching the class unfold.
Pictures, diagrams even! Telling you/us how much nutrition you get from sweet potatoes. They spoke about how they're readily available here where we live in the countryside. How cheap they are. And a few of the posters kids held up said...sweet potatoes will get rid of your nikibi (zits/pimples) @_@ Also eating sweet potatoes you're skin will have a healthy glow. Also, it's a good source of this.....and a good source of that. @_@They tried very hard to convince us parents. : ) To eat our sweet potatoes. Not sure if I believed all that. But it was cute the way the kids got all into it. And I do love sweet potatoes so I enjoyed hearing all about them. How hard they tried to 'sell" us on the goodness of sweet potatoes. And wow, I guess...if these kids are right...move over Proactiv! Make way for the glorious sweet potato. Ha! : ) All in all it was a truly fun and enjoyable class to watch. Us parents were laughing quite hard a few times/ Noboru had to work, so it was just Noah and I. Many father's were there and many many mother's were there as well. And 3 yochien aged kiddos including Noah.
Branden and 4 others giving us even more reasons to fall in love with the sweet potato. By the way, I think that kid on the right of Branden, gee he has to be at least 160cm tall or something. I haven't measured him, but he's taller then most the mom's in the back. And the teachers. But he is a very lovely boy and his mom is equally lovely. : )
Each child made and got to keep 2 muffins. Branden ate one and gave the other to Noah and I, to share. We ate it at the back of class. Also, many kids did the same as well, sharing and giving the other muffin to their parents. At least half the kids shared with their parents. However a handful of kids, ate both muffins and then felt guilty and 3 of the kids gave a small crumb/nub to their mom's at the back of class. One mom, said gee what's this? And she laughed. She joked, that she could barely taste it. It caused a laugh from some of us. And it was all in fun. Then Branden's teacher then swung around and gave the 3 yochien kids their own muffin. So Noah got 1 and a half muffins. @_@ And then they served us all the steamed sweet potato as well.

I chatted quite a bit at the back of the class before the class started with the Jinbei boy's mom. She's extremely easy to talk to. She's very warm and nice and talkative. And I really like talking with her. She said..."my son is often at your house, I'm sorry." I said, "not a problem in fact.... THANK YOU. Your son is a great boy, he's funny and kind. And it's a pleasure when he's at our place. Honestly. For whatever reason, they're like best friends. So, we should be happy." Kaito-kun's mom was also back there, Genki's mom was also back there. The boy next door's mom also was back there. But it was a nice class to observe. And a nice chat with all of the mom's.

Then the class had ended. And the Jinbei boys mom and Noah and I walked and talked all the way out of the school and down the hill. She had told me that her son has a Christmas concert/recital. He plays the piano. I had heard him play when we had our towns music festival a while back. I was telling her he was really great, he really is. : ) And then we parted ways and good byed and waved to each other and got into our own cars. And waited for the boys to come down the hill and get into our cars. : )

Branden was really proud of the muffins his class had made. They had done so much work researching and with baking. I told him, what an excellent job he did and his entire class did (since Branden was one of the leaders on this... most of the research fell to him and Kouiki, they both really did really well and even the teacher was impressed how much work the 2 of them put into their parts as co-leaders, I even went with them 1 Saturday to the local library with Noah in tow to research sweet potatoes, lol). And I did tell Branden how delicious those muffins were, they really were quite good. : )

What's up with Branden now? Well, his school has been training for their marathon. This is pretty common/typical in Japan. I forget when they started this, a month ago, maybe month and a half ago even? Anyway, he gets to school 20 minutes earlier and all the kids at school run laps around the huge field/track. They are all wearing their school uniforms. And get a few laps of run time in the morning. They also run a few days during gym class a few times a week. And it all boils down to 1 huge marathon. All 1st graders run. All 2nd graders run against each other. All 3rd graders and so on. Sometimes they'll mix grades at our school since the number of students is too few. Like 3rd and 4th graders might run together. Anyway that's what Branden has been training for. A few times a week he'll come with a little paper # tag. Says for example, #5. And it will be taped to one of the pages of his renrakucho from his sensei. Showing parents, giving them updates what place their kid is running in so far. Anyway, for our town the elementary marathon is this coming Saturday. All parents will be watching, taking camcorder footage and clicking cameras and basically freezing in the cold watching for their child to come running around the bend. : ) I also will be required to make an obento for Branden this coming Saturday and thermos. I usually make Branden, karaage or yakitori, something typically found in an obento here. But this time around Branden has requested to have a pepperoni sandwich and some sides.

What else....also now that the marathon is nearly over, his gym class has just switched to gymnastics. So, all this week besides training for the huge marathon that's taking place this Saturday. Now they're doing, cart wheels, according to Branden some are attempting to do back flips, that sort of scared me a bit. @_@ But they've been enjoying doing gymnastics and should be doing that quite heavily until they go on Christmas break and maybe even a bit afterwards too.

They're also researching what 1 food to cook in January. And that's exciting for the kids as well. But all in all, Branden gets excellent grades, he's very popular and he really has a lot of fun at school. And hopefully this at least gives you an idea of what Branden's school is like. It really is a good school. Anyway...that's what we did in our neck of the woods last Thursday. : )