Wakaba Elementary School Festival


This past weekend one of my elementary schools in Noheji had a school festival.  Taylor and I were invited to attend.  The teachers and students were particularly interested in having us participate in the “English Games” portion of the festival.

Before I talk about the games let me set the scene.  Usually when I visit a school, the appearance of the outside of the building makes it look like the inside could be vacant.  There are only a handful of cars parked outside and the only sign of activity is revealed at the moment when the students inside realize I am right outside their window and venture out of their seat to shout, “Hello!” On the festival day, however, cars lined the streets surrounding the entrance to the school.  There were pop-tents set up outside and colorful banners hung on the side of the building.  The windows were filled with colorful paper decorations, and many people were milling around outside.

We entered the school to find the hallways packed with children and their parents, and sometimes grandparents, waiting to participate in the game stations set up in the classrooms.  The hallways and classrooms were covered wall to wall with student art.  I was particularly impressed with one fifth grade class’s art project.

One example

One example

As with all of my school visits, we were first ushered in to wait for a formal greeting, and in this case, from the principal in his office.  We immediately found ourselves with cups of delicious, hot green tea in front of us to enjoy while we waited.

After the greeting and introducing Taylor, we proceeded to the “English Games.”

The first game was “Magnet Fishing.”  I was greeted at each classroom and hallway corner with a chorus of young voices declaring, “Ju-ri sensei! Ju-ri sensei!”  I can’t deny that I enjoy that greeting, each time.  The students in the magnet fishing game incorporated English into the game by telling us the name of the fruit, vegetable, sea creature, or color that we lure into a catch.  I caught asparagus and grapefruit.  Taylor caught a tuna.



After that game, we went to “Ball Toss,” where the student congratulate the participant when they toss a ball and make it into a compartment by saying, “Great! Nice ball,” in unison.  My horrible aiming disability was highlighted in this activity.  My shooting average was a healthy .333 from the field.

Next we went to “Bowling.”  The pins consisted of large, plastic bottles with laminated artwork taped to the front.

Our last event was “Pin the Parts on the Face.”  I must confess that this title came out of a conversation that I had with a translator and a teacher.  It went something like this:

Translator: What do you call the game, in English, where a person is blindfolded and they must put a mouth on a face?

Me: Oh… um… the name of the game?

T: Yes, when there is a face with no mouth, and the person has to… put… (motions a person feeling around in front of them, holding a mouth).  What do you call this game in English?

Me: Hmmm… I think traditionally, we call it “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” because there would usually be a donkey, and you have the tail.  So, I guess there isn’t one, specific name for that game.  It depends on the picture.

T: So… Pen? Pen the tail?

Me: Oh sorry, Pin.  Pin.  Like a needle, but no hole (motions the loop on the end of a needle).  Pin (motions pinning).

T: Pin! Oh, okay! (Translates in Japanese to the teacher working with us.)

Me: So, I guess we would say, “Pin the Mouth on the Man,” or, “Pin the Nose on the Lady.”

T: Oh, but we have many face parts.

Me: Okay, so, how about… “Pin the Parts on the Face”?

This became the official English name of the game, printed on the festival schedule and on a poster outside the classroom where the event took place.

Taylor's face

Taylor's face

After a delicious lunch of curry rice at the school, we made one last circuit through the hallways, returning “hello’s” at every corner, and headed home.

Students at lunch

Students at lunch

Want to see more pictures including our first ever video on Flickr?  Click here.


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2 Responses to “Wakaba Elementary School Festival”

  1. sarah austad Says:

    The kids are sure cute. They look like they’re having fun. Let me know if you want me to send my Alaska activities to use, Julie. Take care.

  2. peter Says:

    Maybe they meant “Mr. Potato Head.” That would make a good name for any kind of game, really.

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