Students bond despite language barrier

Eagle Hill student Christine Brito concentrates on her brush strokes as Japanese School student Honoka Ando shows her the proper way to do calligraphy.

Eagle Hill student Christine Brito concentrates on her brush strokes as Japanese School student Honoka Ando shows her the proper way to do calligraphy.

On Dec. 6, 14 fourth graders and four adults from Eagle Hill School headed to the Greenwich Japanese School for a morning of experiences that would create yet another bond between the two educational institutions.

Over the past five years, a special relationship has grown between the Greenwich Japanese School (GJS) and Eagle Hill (EHS).

In the beginning, it was location alone that prompted EHS to reach out to the Japanese School. Looking for a location for emergency evacuations, the nearby school made sense.

Shortly afterward, Eagle Hill became the “safe haven” for GJS. Marjorie Castro, head of school at EHS, admits that there were initial language challenges, but everyone quickly became skilled at reading expressions and hand motions.

Last year, the Japanese School visited Eagle Hill, where their students attended classes together, had an activity break and lunch. This year, it was Eagle Hill’s turn to visit GJS.

The group from EHS was met by 14 equally excited Japanese students, each with a name sign, ready to find their Eagle Hill student. After a formal welcome by Principal Yasuyuki Uchino, the EHS students and staff were led to a large room filled with tables set with colorful materials.

Over the next few hours, the students were immersed in learning how to use chopsticks, fold paper into origami shapes, strum a koto and find out facts about Japan. Even the halls were an educational experience, as the students discovered signs for exits and bathrooms written in Japanese script.

Dr. Castro was proud of the way the students applied themselves to the various tasks.

“The focus and perseverance of the children as they tried to master each challenge was very impressive, as was the encouragement and support that came from their hosts,” Dr. Castro said.

“At times, the Japanese children spoke Japanese to one another, to the delight of our students, and as the morning continued, they tried out some Japanese words.”

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