JAN KEN PO GAKKO is a cultural and educational organization which operates a parent cooperative summer program to educate children about the enriched cultural heritage of Japanese-Americans. The program operates on the premise that children lives will be enriched by learning the history and traditions of Japan-Americans. This is done through the use of Japanese language, games, folklore, music, field trips and community interactions. The principle function of the program is to provide the children with experiences to build their self esteem as Americans who have drawn upon the rich cultural heritage of Japanese Americans.
JAN KEN PO GAKKO is a summer program which emphasizes that children have fun and enjoy themselves in learning about their cultural heritage. The parent cooperative and participation aspect of the program ensures continuous parental input in program development. General meeting attendance and committee participation is required to ensure that the parents are informed about the program and take part in the decision making process.
The objective of the parent participation is two fold.
First, the parents learn about Japan-American history. Second, they can contribute their knowledge and experiences to the program.
The success of the JKPG program is based upon the role of the parents. Parent participation was built into the program to equalize the sharing of responsibilities among the parents. It also serves as positive reinforcement for the children to see their own parent actively in involved in the program. Their participation demonstrates the value of the program, role models as leaders and helpers, as well as reinforcement of the cultural experiences in the home.
Initially the summer program was held at the Parkview Presbyterian Church. Currently, a three week program for children, 5 to 12 years of age, is held Monday through Friday mornings at the Sacramento Japanese United Methodist Church, in Sacramento. The program curriculum consists of cultural themes that are aligned to each grade level.
Typical Session includes these daily activities:
• Morning Exercise
• Opening Assembly
• Group Time Activities
• Snack Time
• Center Activities
With the addition of:
• Field Trips
• Gaku Gei Kai
Morning Exercise and Opening Assembly
The children began the day together, led by student aides in morning exercise to “Ra-ji-o taiso”. The children then came to assembly and sang “Good Morning” in Japanese, exchanged greetings and heard an overview of the day’s lesson and activities. The Program Director presented the lesson of the day such as, “Who are my ancestors?”, “Developing an awareness of my cultural heritage”, “What were the cultural treasures the Issei brought to America”, or “What were the Issei and Nisei experiences?”
Each group met with its group leader. The leader expanded on the presentation by the Program Director. Typical activities were learning simple expressions and usage of the spoken and written language; exploring the cultural heritage through study of traditions, festivals, folktales and symbols; relating history and experience of immigration, evacuation and reconstruction; and preparing for field trips with background information about significant points of interest.
Each group participated in physical exercise and recreation, such as, folk dancing and games. Activities such as double geta (wooden clog), and ohajiki (flat marble game) provided opportunities to use language for expressions and counting. It also gave the children time to interact socially, develop friendships and encourage teamwork.
Children took turns preparing delicious Japanese food, such as onigiri (rice ball), kimpira (burdock root), sunomono (vinegared vegetable), and tofu (soybean cake). They were encouraged to taste the new foods. Children learned etiquette, preparation of food for eye appeal, and the art of serving food.
Creative arts and crafts activities related to the day’s lesson had students making kites, origami (paper folding), mon kiri (paper cutting), and ceramics. Demonstrations and presentations by community resource leaders provided introduction to such arts as koto, martial arts, and flower arranging. Occasionally famous artists and authors came to share their talents.
Once or twice a year, field trips were planned for the entire family to visit various historical and cultural sites such as Angel Island, rice mills, a koi farm, and Okei’s grave site at Gold Hill.
Gaku Gei Kai and Undokai
The Gaku Gei Kai program culminated the session with students performing songs, dances and plays for family, friends and community guests. Students annually performed at the two senior citizen nutrition programs and as requested for fairs, conferences and other events.
Undokai (Japanese Sports Day) typically occurs the first Friday of Gakko and is held at William Land Park. The kids compete in many different events such as the bean bag toss, three-legged race, tug-of-war and balancing acts just to name a few. The end of the games finished off with some tottemo oishii bento’s (really tasty plate lunches).