A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Friendships Bridging the Pacific: Exchange Students at Chinook Middle School

Today our Japanese students attended American school for the first time. They went to Chinook Middle school and spent the day shadowing an American student. For most of the students, they spent the day with their host brother or sister. Those who didn’t have a host brother or sister at Chinook were assigned a “buddy”.

There are many differences between Japanese schools and middle schools in the United States. In a Japanese school, the students usually wear uniforms. They are in charge of cleaning up their own buildings, (what a great idea!), and instead of the students moving from class to class, the teachers move. (Except for classes like PE, Science, or Music).

One of the most interesting questions I heard was, “In America it’s okay if boys and girls hold hands? The teachers don’t do anything to stop them?”

I love watching the Japanese students and the American students interact with each other. Often the language isn’t there to communicate easily, but they find a way. I saw smiles on both sides, and the Japanese teacher reports that the students are happy here. He praised Chinook for the friendly atmosphere. I have felt and appreciated it to.

Today during “House Time,” (an advisory class), the students at Chinook watched a power point presentation to learn more about Japan. Because of their connections they are forming with that country through the exchange, the Chinook students wanted to learn more.

Although our Japanese students are from Southeastern Japan and unaffected by the earthquake, the Chinook students still wanted to do something in response to the tragic earthquake and Tsunami. The leadership student decided to have a penny or "lose" change drive to raise money to give to the Red Cross to help with the victims of the earthquake. This fund-raiser is a competition between the North, South, East, and West Prides, (divisions within the school).

Principal Kirsten Rae said in the meeting for her house, “I would like to see every student contribute something, even if it’s just a nickel."

Cultural Homestay International, the non-profit organization that has organized this group has offered to match Chinook’s contribution.

I am so happy to be a part of this cultural exchange and to see teens on both sides of the Pacific learning more about each other and becoming friends.


  1. Re: Hand holding question --- So cute! :)

    It sounds like it was a positive experience for the middle school to host the Japanese students! It's always a good thing to learn more about different cultures,

  2. Thanks! That question made me laugh. I love how accepting the kids are on both sides and how truly the same they are. We're all human.