The Carter Hammer Hits High School


On March 6th Mimi Nakagawa, a representative from Habitat for Humanity in Japan, visited the ASIJ High School during activity period. With her, Mimi brought a hammer signed by former president Jimmy Carter, a leather-bound journal and a challenge. Dubbed “The #carterhammer Challenge,” participants are asked to use the hammer for a good deed, sign the journal and spread the Carter-hammer message through social media networks.

You can read full details of the #carterhammer challenge on their campaign’s homepage.

Jimmy Carter’s hammer is currently traveling around the Asia-Pacific region in order to raise awareness and money for new building projects. The hammer started in Thailand and will eventually meet Jimmy Carter in Nepal, where Habitat for Humanity will begin building houses using new techniques better suited for earthquake-prone regions.

ASIJ Highschool students are supporting the cause through a competition to see who can raise the most money: Freshmen and Juniors vs. Sophomores and Seniors. The #carterhammer challenge is not only a fundraising campaign, but also a social media campaign. Participants as well as supporters are encouraged to upload, share, hashtag and like the hammer on their favorite network.

Four Years On: Japan Relief Round-Up

Today marks four years since the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake, and the aftermath which left hundreds of thousands of people displaced, homes damaged or destroyed, and infrastructure crippled. Although four years have since passed, with Japan receiving support on a global scale, recovery is still an ongoing effort.

Remembering the tragedy, the Elementary, Middle and High Schools each held brief memorials. High School student Madelaine Etherington spoke to the divisions separately, remembering the lives lost, damage done and the significance of that day. Madelaine also reminded students that relief is still a priority.


ASIJ students and faculty have remained dedicated to families displaced in the wake of 3/11 with efforts such as Table for Tohoku, English learning support and KEEP.

Table for Tohoku usually coordinates with the ASIJ kitchen in order to provide healthy food to students, faculty and staff. Part of the profits from sales of snacks such as parfaits is donated to provide fresh produce to families in temporary housing. Last December, however, saw a deviation from this model in the form of a Toy Drive. The Table for Tohoku HS Student Club collected and donated about ¥100,000 in addition to toys for children of disaster affected areas in Tohoku. The gifts collected were donated to OGA for Aid. Read more about Table for Tohoku on our previous blog post.

Middle School students have also been involved by providing virtual English classrooms to 5th and 6th grade students in Ofunato. They, too, have recently stepped outside of their normal activities by making a trip to teach in person. You can read more about their trip in our post ASIJ’S Tohoku Virtual English classes travel to Ofunato.

In addition to our remote classrooms, The Saturday English Circle Program continues to forge ahead, having added two new families in January. English Circle provides English lessons at ASIJ’s Early Learning Center for children who have relocated to Tokyo as a result of contamination in Fukushima. Kathleen Nickle (MS English Teacher) and Elicia Cousins (HS Writing Lab) have even added a regular course for parents. Demand for a spot in these classes has been high, often taking the English Circle Program to capacity.

The Kiyosato Educational Experiment Project (KEEP) continues to assist families who have been affected by the 3/11 disaster four years ago. KEEP participants, most recently, invited 7 mothers and 14 children to ASIJ for a weekend of Winterfest and Tokyo fun. That story can be read in more detail at our Winter Retreat for ASIJ Fukushima Families post.

Even as years pass, ASIJ students, motivated to help in any way possible, fund-raise, teach, travel and work with affected families as the northern areas of Japan move forward with reconstruction. Those most strongly affected certainly remember 3/11/11 as if it were yesterday. Our actions as individuals and as a community will continue to show compassion and support for families still suffering four years later.

Independent Inquiry: Senior Kari Wadden Explores Feminism and Design

ASIJ Senior, Kari Wadden, spoke to interested high school students about her explorations into the intersections of feminism and design on February 10th.

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Kari began by introducing her familial and cultural motivations to explore feminism as well as her academic interest in design. The two, naturally, came together into a topic rich with questions. These questions led Kari to not only examine but also design tools to improve the lives of women, liberate them from traditional roles and raise the standard of living.

bikeThe issues that Kari addressed included methods of water transportation in countries where simply retrieving water for cooking or bathing is a difficult task. She considered designs that would make resources more accessible to women who may have to walk miles to retrieve something such as clean water.

Design and feminism, as Kari presented, does not stop at tools. Urban planning is another area of concern. Urban design can not only enhance and protect the lives of women, but also facilitate harm.

Kari’s research and presentation is part of ASIJ’s Independent Inquiry program which is currently available to high school juniors and seniors.

Independent Inquiry encourages passionate students to propose questions in order to explore an interest that ASIJ may not currently cover within a standard course. Research and exploration of topics such as molecular gastronomy, architecture, 3D modeling and graffiti, intrinsic motivation and learning,  app development and the intersections of feminism and design take students beyond a Google search and include creating their own learning network beyond the resources available on campus.

In the second half of the semester the question that juniors and seniors who take Independent Inquiry are asked to answer is “now what?” How can what they learned be applied outside of their own research and design ideas? What are the practical methods to apply these ideas?

Through Independent Inquiry students are able to develop their own learning pathways and to personalize their learning. While the content they discover and digest is certainly meaningful, what is more valuable is what they learn about themselves as independent learners and what it means to persist and pursue a passion.

ASIJ’s Tohoku Virtual English Classes Travel to Ofunato

In our Tohoku Virtual English Classes, ASIJ high school and middle school students teach English through monthly Skype lessons to 5th and 6th grade students at three elementary schools in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture.

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In the middle school, we have partnered with two 6th grade classes at Ikawa Elementary School. Over the last few months, our students, “teachers,” at ASIJ have connected with Ikawa students through basic English conversation, songs and games. We were thrilled for the opportunity for ten of our students to travel to Ofunato to finally meet those classes face-to-face. Along with ASIJ teachers Anita Gesling, Kathleen Nickle and Jamie Richard, as well as program coordinator Steve Mita and parent volunteer Maya Moore, the group traveled 500 km to Iwate Prefecture.

During our drive along the coast to Ofunato, we saw many of the lasting effects of the earthquake and tsunami. One especially poignant reminder was the school playground, one of the few flat areas of land in the town. After the devastation, the area was used to build temporary housing, where families still live today.

At Ikawa, ASIJ students taught two classes to the 6th grade students they had previously known only through Skype. The interactions in the classroom and the excitement of Ikawa and ASIJ students connecting over shared hobbies and tastes was a rewarding sight. Students also played energetic English games with the 5th graders. It was exciting to see students with limited proficiency in each other’s language engage in real communication. During recess and lunch time, ASIJ students also played with the Ikawa kids on the very small stretch of remaining playground.

Over the next few months, we will continue the Skype classes with these students, building on the friendships formed during our visit.

group croppedThroughout the trip, all the students took steps out of their comfort zone to communicate and make new friends. We all left with a deeper understanding of what Tohoku families and children have experienced and the challenges they still face. (Kathleen Nickle, MS English Teacher)

Our Virtual English Classes’ trip to Tohoku has also been featured in The Tohkai Shimpo:


Middle School Brain Bowl at the Kanto Plain Tournament

ASIJ middle school Brain Bowl team members showed their strength during the annual Kanto Plain Tournament held at Aoba Japan International School on Wednesday, February 11th. While peers sat in classes and studied English, math and science, this group answered questions on those topics plus: general knowledge, art, music, history, sports and current events, just to name a few.

The first round was held at tables where team members could consult each other about the answers. The second round involved buzzers and no consultation. The third round included identifying national anthems, distorted countries and peculiar animals, as well as solving rebus puzzles and nerdy questions.

At lunch time, the kids enjoyed hanging out on the field on a warm winter’s day. All in all, a fun time was had by everyone. New friends were made and older friendships solidified.


Congratulations to the entire middle school Brain Bowl team. The members were: Reuben Fuchs, Leah Gesling (4th place team), Noah Joroff, Brandon LaBarge, Yoojin Lee, Anirudh Kumar (2nd place team) and Everett Xu (1st place team). (Anita Gesling, MS Japanese)