Today we visited Saito No Ora Gakuen [Primary School] and got a chance to be on their side of the daily Skype connection to Tui Glen School in Stokes Valley. Senior Teacher Graeme Penty is seen here describing to parents back in Stokes Valley the rugby training he's just taken with the Saito students as Mayor Ray Wallace looked on. Sure enough the Mayor got on in the action as the game moved inside becasue of the rain and demonstrated some deft passing technique!
Saito No Ora Gakuen's school role is set to triple in the coming years as one of a few combined primary* and intermediate* schools in an area that could be easily mistaken for Churton Park or recent developed areas of Maungaraki. Cranes and construction sites are everywhere. The population is growing and the children here will have a very good education.
Tui Glen School has very strong relationship with Saito returned this year with a group of 13, after travelling previously in 2013 and two of their teachers in Lower Hutt last year.
Glynis Skippers from Epuni School and the group met her counterparts at Todoromi Na Gakuen and saw the other side of their Skype screen too. The Mayor was quizzed on his choice of movies, cuisine and hobbies by some very competent English speakers.
It's great to know that we are able to make a valuable and very real daily contribution to Minoh City's push to grow capable global citizens and English speakers. Minoh has chosen to make a big push for English speaking capability throughout it's schools. Both of these Skype relationships have also been recognised by Sister Cities New Zealand awarding them the 2014 education award.
There's potential for much more interaction as we learned Hutt Intermediate and Toyowaka Elementary School plus Minoh High School and Hutt Valley High School (HVHS) are exploring similar projects through the Minoh Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA) and Minoh City [Council]. HVHS students had beaten us to it by visiting their sister school last week - in what's now an annual visit - each school to the other respecive city on alternate years.
The delegation was welcomed at the Minoh Multicultural Centre by Mayor Tetsuro Kurata and members of the Minoh City Office, MAFGA, Hutt Friendship Club, Minoh Art Association.
Many cultural guides to Japan list a top piece of advice of never being late to an appointment, though that's easily forgiven when we find ourselves fully engaged in 'after-match' discussion and reluctant to pull ourselves away to many more friends across the city.
Hutt Valley Rotary, our Mayor and Deputy Mayor and Hutt City Council CEO were guests of Minoh City Rotary tonight and discussion centred around approaches projects in both cities to grow each city.
Friendship Club members from both Minoh and Lower Hutt met together with us as members of the Hutt Minoh House Trust to cement further plans to increase activities. This includes regular programmes using Skype at the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library, accommodation and activities at Minoh House, sharing news of each city, and building on the very successful Japanese Spring Festival last week at Minoh House.
We'll bring you more photos and stories as we download camera SD cards and make more great connections.
Today's blog by James Lamb, HMHFT Trust Secretary
*NZ equivalent names used