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June 1998 - Issue No. #31 (p.16)
For several years now, we have included a student excursion to a local peace museum as summer homework as part of our content-based "Global Studies" English course at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies.
Our Global Studies EFL course focusses on English speaking skills, and the issue of war and peace is a basic part of the course. We came up with the idea of the peace museum excursion in order to enrich our unit on peace and war, and to increase student awareness so as to stimulate further discussion of these issues.
Students were asked to visit the "Peace Osaka" Museum in Osaka City as their summer homework and were required to turn in a minimum two-page paper on what they experienced and felt about the exhibition and the museum itself. The museum proved ideal for our English language learners, since the displays are bilingual in both English and Japanese. This particular museum was also chosen for its relatively balanced and objective approach to this potentially controversial subject. The main focus is on World War II in Asia and Japan, including information about the Japanese occupation of Korea and China. The first class period following the summer break was used to debrief the students and to have them share their experiences (in English or Japanese) with their classmates. Here are representative comments from (unedited) student reports:
The comments given show that the students overwhelmingly found the field trip a useful and valuable experience. They were able, in most cases, to gain important knowledge, awareness and personal insight into the topics at the museum. We also feel they gained critical thinking skills, as well. They could learn of the historical experience of Japan and its relations with its Asian neighbours in a balanced way so that they can now comprehend and deal with the reality of the situation as well as form a good foundation upon which to pursue further studies on their own. They also learned about World War II in general, and about other current war and peace issues which they had largely been unaware of until their visit to the museum.
These comments show how a museum field trip or similar excursion can aid in increasing student knowledge, awareness and understanding of critical global issues such as war and peace of which they may have no experience or previous knowledge, but which are part of their human heritage. By vicariously experiencing the war in Osaka, our students can actively imagine their own aspirations and possible future contributions to peace in a world still struggling to find it.
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