Online Originals: Elementary students get history lesson from Japanese professor

Online Originals

At Elmhurst Elementary in Greenville, fifth-grade classes were given the opportunity to work with Fukuyama University, Professor Tomoyuki Kobara. The professor, who traveled from Japan, has been doing this for a number of years and believes it brings unity and friendship between both countries.

Professor Tomoyuki Kobara of Fukuyama University in Japan talks to a fifth-grade class at Elmhurst Elementary in Greenville.

Each year, Kobara changes the lesson. After giving students a historic background on both countries in the Mid-20th century, he told stories surrounding two young girls, Sadako Sasaki, and Hiroko Kajiyama, who wanted peace between the USA and Hiroshima.

A student looks down at the handout given to the class for the lesson, which has old newspaper clippings, pictures, and an in-class activity for the students.

Sadako Sasaki, was a model of “The Children’s Peace Monument” because she created around a thousand paper cranes to represent the Hiroshima tragedy. After she passed away from leukemia at the age of 12, her heroic paper cranes were recognized throughout the world in books, memorials, and even by President Obama in 2016.

The other story Professor Kobara told the students was of Hiroko Kajiyama, a young woman who kept a diary that helped preserve what had formerly been the Industrial Promotion Hall, but was bombed and turned into the Atomic Bomb Dome. her diary voiced the importance of preserving the structure, to show future generations the devastation and human error that wars and bombings can bring to humanity. Although she also passed away from leukemia at the age of 16, her message continues to stay with the people of Hiroshima.

“It makes me want to encourage people to stop doing bad stuff.” 

– Fallou Sene, Elmhurst Elementary 5th Grader
The classroom listens as Professor Kobara translates a passage from a young girls diary who was alive during the Hiroshima bombings.

While both of these young women’s stories are tragic, they teach a sense of peace, understanding, and friendship to those who hear them. Professor Kobara told both stories and had students compare them in class.

At the end of the class, the students participated in a “postcard newspaper” activity, where they got to write a title, headline, pictures, an article, and their opinion on the stories of the two young girls they learned about during the lesson.

“I learned that even if you’re younger that you can really accomplish big things and change how other people think of things.” 

– Lucy Myers, Elmhurst 5th Grader

Although Professor Kobara has been teaching and talking with U.S. students for over 20 years, he says his message remains the same. He wants to make sure that younger generations understand the goal of a global mind and partnership, and that introducing the past is an important part of the future.

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