The third year of the Microgrant Initiative had the largest number of applications and micro grantees. USJETAA partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to award micro grants (grants of small amounts of funding) to current American JET Program(me) teachers to support projects in their schools and communities. This year's projects fell into four categories cultural events, community resources, penpal exchanges and English language study. In total, 27 projects were approved for the 2018-2019 grant year.
A variety of cultural events took place in different locations around Japan. These events were open to students, community members, and whoever else wanted to join. These events successfully aimed at highlighting various aspects of different cultures, including the diversity of celebrated holidays, the different identities found around the world and within the United States, and the influence of international cuisines and games. Some of the events also helped to raise money for future study abroad goers. These projects included:
Kameko Blair, Fukushima, “Holiday Party,” $350
The Holiday Party was open to all 120 students of the English Course. During the Holiday Party, several stations were set up around the room. There was an Eggnog Station which had homemade eggnog for students and teachers to try. After tasting, they placed a sticker on a poster to mark their opinion of the flavor. There was a Holiday Greeting Card Station Students where students had a variety of paper, markers, and stickers to use to design their cards. At the end, students could vote for “Most Original” and “Most Beautiful” card. A Cookie Decorating Station was set up with icing, sprinkles, Gingerbread, and sugar cookies. A Photo Booth Station was complete with holiday themed props for students to take photos with each other. Lastly, there was a station with a poster on the wall where students contributed to making a Christmas Tree.
Jessica Brooks, Ibaraki, “A Seat At the Table,” $850
The community project called “A Seat At the Table”, was a cooking series aimed to promote cross-cultural exchange between Japan and the United States of America. Emphasizing diversity, the project was structured into three separate cooking classes, each focusing on introducing a different dish or/and region of the United States. The decided themes were: Vegetarian Time (vegetarian/veganism), Tex-Mex Lunch (Texan Mexican food), and A Trip to Tunisia (Tunisian-American culture and food). This project was occurred as a three-day event, occurring on March 24th, March 30th, and March 31st, 2019 at Hitachiota Community Center in Hitachiota, Ibaraki. For the purpose of representation, Jessica invited three different JETs and international community members that were personally connected with each theme as guest speakers. Their roles were to both create a brief presentation highlighting the theme and act as the main chef/teacher for the event. Each class was divided into three sections: 1) introduction, 2) cooking, and 3) eating/games.
Amber Bunnell, Tokushima, “Mima International Food Festival,” $700
Mima Junior High School hosted an International Food Festival to expose students, teachers, and community members to foreign cultures and food. Volunteers from Myanmar, Thailand, Portugal, the Philippines, and Miyakojima, Okinawa, came to school in the morning to prepare traditional dishes from their home countries. Bunnell also prepared a dish from the United States (chili). Enough food was prepared to serve roughly 200 people samples of each country. Several people from the Board of Education (including the Director) were in attendance, and the local Mima Cable TV also came to cover the event. The festival was emceed by three students (in both English and Japanese), and the ALT opened by giving a speech (in Japanese) about her hope that the students try many new foods and use English to communicate with the day’s volunteers. The foreign volunteers gave PowerPoint presentations introducing their home countries and cultures and played a quiz game with the students, asking questions about their countries/cultures.
Michael Frazier, Ishikawa, “Black History Month Festival by Ishikawa JETs,” $625
The first annual Black History Month Festival Kanazawa 2019 was a success! There was a Black History Month Movie and Painting Night, a Black History Month Festival Conference and a Black History Month Dance Party. The Black History Month Movie and Paint Night included American & African American food made by the ALT volunteers and a painting tutorial of a scene from the Marvel movie, Black Panther. At the Black History Month Festival Conference, guests had the opportunity to see the art work of local ALTs of African descent and of students from School Without Walls in Rochester, New York. A Keynote speaker, Japan Times Journalist Baye McNeil, gave a talk on “Be Black History Month.” Afterwards, guests had two choices, visit cultural booths or learn Afro-Brazilian Capoeira. The booths were educational, had games and crafts, and allowed for interaction between volunteers and attendees. The booth topics included Black Hair, Black Face, African American Literature, Pan-Africa, Jamaican Culture, and Ghanaian Folklore.
Katherine Jordan Michels, Mie, “Wai-Wai Haru Matsuri: Let's enjoy American Culture with Suzuka English teachers,” $575
Wai Wai Haru Matsuri is an annual spring festival held in Suzuka, Japan. This year six American JETs ran an “American Corner” which featured arts and crafts as well as games for kids. Parents and children especially enjoyed playing cornhole with local Assistant Language Teachers!
Michael Clogston, Shimane, “ U.S. Study Abroad Scholarship/ Festival by AJET,” $900
Shimane One World serves as a fundraiser for the Shimane AJET scholarship where they try to send one or two JHS or SHS students to English-speaking countries for homestays or other study-purpose trips. There were a number of performances such as singing, color guard, original and covers of well-known songs, and there as even a taiko group and a kendama group! One noticeably different event from prior years was the addition of an Eikaiwa, mini-English class, session for about 30 minutes. There were two levels: one group for the ES students and one group for the JHS and SHS students. There were a number of different games and activities such as board games, darts, a balloon pit, and other games that many people tried. At the same time, were was also a number of different dishes that were brought out such as sausage risotto, pasta salad, onigiri, jalapeno corn muffins, and other various, and delicious, foods.
Santisouk Saycocie, Shiga, “Oh, The Places You CAN Go!: Scholarship and Study Abroad Info Session by Shiga AJET,” $500
The “Shiga JET Scholarship Fund” was created, along with its own email, website, logo, and bank account. The website details 2 study abroad programs – one to Michigan in the USA and the other to Devon in the UK. Between the website’s launch and March 17th (the application deadline), Shiga JETs were encouraged to have their students apply to the scholarship worth a minimum of 50,000 yen. Souki Kanbara from Kenritsu Kokusai Joho High School was awarded a certificate and a letter of confirmation.
The community resource projects conducted this year focused on English language ability. These programs focused on the creation of an English language book section at their school's or community’s library. One such school even hosted a kickoff event allowing students to enjoy fun activities themed around different books to promote usage of the new reading material and many other projects included public reading events so the community could become familiar with the books. Overall, the children were very excited to have access to a variety of books in English that will be there for future students as well. Check out their projects below:
- Jordan Bauzon, Hokkaido, “Furnishing Popular Novels and Picture Books in English to Promote Cross-Cultural Awareness,” $450
- Dylan Coffey, Miyagi, “Kesennuma Library English Language Revitalization Project and ALT Reading Event,” $450
- Cynthia Mitchem, Ishikawa, “Little English Picture Book Library,” $450
- Monica Narang, Osaka, “An English Language Library and Resource Center for Students and their Parents,” $400
- Lindsay Teeples-Mitchell, Nara, “It's a Small World: Let's Discover it Together Through Books!” $450
- Matthew Wong, Hyogo, “Curating Wadayama Public Library and Diversifying English Story-time,” $400
- Angela Young, Aomori, “MuchuLingual and MuchuReading in Mutsu,” $400
- Kevin Yuan, Mie, “Taki Book Fair: “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” $550
Various penpal exchanges were conducted between Japanese and American schools. The students were happily engaged in the projects, as they were able to communicate in English with each other and share interesting things about each other's culture. One exchange even utilized a scrapbook exchange, where students would write about a day in their life and include photos. Another exchange included a video exchange where students chose sites around their town that they most wanted to recommend to their pen pals and took two days to visit the sites and film speeches on location.
- Annabel Baker-Sullivan, Hokkaido, “To and from Hokkaido and New York: Pen-pal Project,”
- Jacqueline Witwicki, Hokkaido, “Cleveland and Nakatombetsu Letter Exchange Program,” $500
- Samantha Sodetz, Kagoshima, “Pen Pal Exchange between two Rocket Towns,” $450
- Emily Masuda, Gifu, “Letters for Language and Culture: An Exchange between Japanese and American Students,” $460
- Malcolm Harper, Gunma, “A Day in the Life,” $500
- Caitlin Orwoll, Tokyo, “Pen Pal Letter and Video Exchange,” $210
English Language Study
A few unique projects were conducted to engage students with the use of English. For the first project mentioned, students wrote poems (mostly haiku) in English, put together a poetry anthology, and hosted a poetry reading event at their high school with the help of their ALT. The second project brought together athletes to watch American sports movies, which also happened to spur a great conversation about race relations in America and Japan. JETs were also able to bring their experiences doing improv and participating in circle time as a child to help their community use English in new ways. Another project had international members of the community helping to prepare students to study abroad by role playing different situations in English and discussing cultural differences. Lastly, an ongoing project had students write podcast of their experiences living in Japan to share with the world. These podcasts ranged from the informative (riding a train in Japan) to the very personal (one student’s experiences in the 2011 earthquake). Students plan to continue creating these podcasts as the school year goes on! Please check out all of the projects below:
- Cassandra Ferget, Nagasaki, “Poetry Across Culture,” $400
- Teresa Fong, Tokyo, “Athletes Abroad.,” $200
- Hannah Winters, Saga, “Circle Time Spring Festival,” $300
- Stephen Nguyen, Saga, “Conversation Community Improv Comedy Café,” $300
- Niko Schultz, Fukuoka, “Kokura High School International English Seminar”, $719
- William Harvey, Nagano, “Voices of Nagano City Radio Journalism Program,” $495.89