Two grades study in the same classroom.
The teacher is strict, but classes are fun.
There are two things that set Obama Elementary School apart from other schools. The first is the spectacular view from the windows. Sakurajima and the blue waters of Kagoshima Bay make for a sweeping view, creating a beautiful scene fit for a picture postcard.
The second is the use of two blackboards in each classroom - one at the front and one at the back. Because there are combined classes of third and fourth and fifth and sixth graders, classrooms must have two blackboards to accommodate the two different grades. Classes are combined when the number of students in a grade is small, and when this happens the children in two grades study together in one classroom under the guidance of one teacher.
Let's visit the class with third- and fourth-grade students. The six children in third grade sit facing the blackboard at the front of the room, and the eight fourth grade children sit facing the blackboard at the back of the room. The teacher for the two grades, Mr. Okubo, has the fourth graders read from their textbook while he goes to the other side of the room and shows the third graders how to write some kanji. Throughout first period, which lasts 45 minutes, he is busy moving back and forth between the two groups. While he works with one group, the children in the other group study on their own.
Kids take lunches back to their classrooms.
Everyone eats together in the classrooms.
Lunchtime starts at 12:25, after the morning classes have ended, and is a time of day that everybody looks forward to. Meals for students are prepared and delivered by a regional lunch-service center, and the children in each grade who are on lunch duty carry the food back to their classroom.
Today's lunch consists of a bowl of rice topped with beef and vegetables, satsuma-jiru (miso-flavored pork and vegetable stew), Japanese pears, and milk. Local cuisine, like satsuma-jiru and bread containing chunks of the purple-skinned potatoes that are a specialty of Kagoshima, is often included in school lunches. "Curry and rice is my favorite, but there's nothing I don't like," says Taku, a first grader. The most popular dishes are curry, spaghetti, and hamburgers.
In the school's radio studio, Broadcast Committee members start the lunchtime program, playing songs that students have requested. The music makes for a fun atmosphere, and all too soon the 40 minutes of lunchtime draw to a close.
Students playing line tag
The 37 students at Obama Elementary School get to do something that is only possible at a school like theirs - play games in which every students in the school takes part. Twice a month, for an hour after lunch, all students from first to sixth grade gather and play together in the playground.
Today, the children are playing line tag. In line tag, the children run on white lines drawn in the playground. The person who is "it" wears a red cap and tries to tag the children wearing white caps. When somebody is tagged, he or she is "it." "I like the schoolwide games because we can all play together," says Honatsu, a fourth grader. Some other favorite games are dodgeball and "kick-the-can," a variation on hide-and-seek.
Everyone helps out with the cleaning.
Every day at 1:50 p.m., the students spend 15 minutes cleaning the school. The children in each class are divided into five groups, each of which takes charge of a particular place. At the appointed time, the students get out broomsticks and sweep the hallways, stairs, classrooms, or another part of school. Those in charge of cleaning the bathrooms hose down and scrub the floors with a deck brush. Children from all grades work together, with the sixth graders playing a central role.