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Artifacts Bring Japanese Culture to Life

Rolling Valley Elementary students got a treat last week. Terrence Brown, whose grandson Rikesh attends Rolling Valley, brought in an extensive collection of Japanese artifacts to share with all the students. Brown presented to the students every day during library time.

Brown’s wife is Japanese and he started collecting to keep the culture alive for his daughters. His father in law was a Japanese professor at Washington State University and the two men have discussed Japan often and its rich history and culture said Brown.

"It has been very eye opening to me how much our students know about Japan and how many Japanese American students we have in our school," said Diane Ryan, the school librarian. "All the students have been fascinated as evidenced by their behavior and excellent questions. Mr. Brown has incorporated language arts, social studies and/or science curricular connections across all grade levels in his presentations."

Brown’s collection included a display of Girl’s Day with dolls and tea sets, which he said were used to teach young girls etiquette and Boy’s Day with battle gear and dolls, which were used to teach them to be warriors. He also shared kimonos, story books, mythic figurines and a display of the hierarchy of Japanese society.

"The kids came back very excited about the artifacts," said third grade teacher Suzy Penn.

"Does anyone know what anime is?" asked Brown to a group of fifth graders and almost all the hands went up. He went on to discuss with them how the word came from the English word animation and that many such exchanges have taken place between Japan and other cultures.

"The world is getting closer and closer together," Brown said to his audience. He showed them storybooks such as Snow White. "See how she has blonde hair?" he asked. The Japanese saw the Americans as being blonde so they changed the color of Snow White’s hair in their books he explained.

"This is so great for the kids especially for the fifth graders, who are working on their global awareness projects," said Beth Cooke, a fifth-grade teacher.

Fifth grade students across Fairfax County schools choose two cultures to compare, one has to be ancient and the other can be ancient or modern Cooke explained. The students learn and explain interdependence between cultures and inter-relationships.

"The kids were totally intrigued with what they saw and heard," said Chrissy Calloway, a fifth grade teacher. She said that they were making connections to other cultures they were studying such as story telling in Greece.

"We want the community to be a part of our school and we value that partnership," said principal Maureen Boland. "Having parents, grandparents and community members come in and share allows everyone to feel a part of Rolling Valley."