Tohoku Service Trips and Virtual Classrooms


With the start of the new Japanese school year, the Middle School Student Service Leadership Team (MSSSLT) members held their first Tohoku Virtual English Class with the new sixth graders at Ikawa Elementary School in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture. The Tohoku Virtual English Classes are an ongoing project in which our students create a fun environment where Japanese elementary school students can learn to enjoy English through Skype video sessions. During this first lesson, they learned each others’ names, ages and interests.


Although this was the school year’s first virtual lesson, eleven of our MSSSLT members had met their students during their trip to Ofunato City from February 11 and 12. Along with ASIJ teachers Anita Gesling, Kathleen Nickle and Jamie Richard, as well as program coordinator Steve Mita, the group traveled 500 km to visit Ikawa Elementary School. It was an amazing experience for all involved as students learned, ate and played together over the course of a school day. This was the second year that they have made the trip to Ofunato and MSSSLT hopes to continue with this important service work in the future.

Our students were outstanding representatives for ASIJ and have shared their experiences in Iwate Prefecture with us.

Aditya K. (Grade 7)

During our one-and-a-half day trip to Ofunato, where a tsunami hit five years ago, we mainly visited the elementary school where we have been teaching fifth and sixth graders English. When we got to the school, I found that there was temporary housing nearby. It was for some of the students’ families because their homes were damaged during the tsunami, so they lived at the school. The students were very energetic and playful. I am glad that they were happy and not sad because of the tsunami. But I’m sure some of them didn’t want to show they were sad. I do encourage others to do it, or at least try some of the virtual lessons.

Amberley Y. (Grade 7)

Visiting Ikawa Elementary School was an amazing experience for me and was the first time I went to a 3/11 disaster-affected area. The students were extremely welcoming and cooperative. They wore smiles on their faces and seemed to enjoy our lessons very much. Apart from teaching, we also had a chance to join them for recess and lunch. It was an outstandingly unique experience and I can’t help but look forward to next year’s trip.

Hugo H. (Grade 6)

Many people have been affected by the tsunami incident and many people have scars in their hearts that can’t be healed easily, but when we arrived at Ikawa Elementary School, the students welcomed us happily. We helped them learn new words and played games to help the students enjoy English. Not only were the students happy, we were happy too! After that, many little kids came to us and asked for our signatures. We don’t know why, but we were pretty happy. We felt that this trip had a great purpose and would like to go Ikawa Elementary School again next year!

If you would like to read more about 3/11 or service and Tohoku, check out our previous 3/11 posts.