Summer Camp Ideas: Japan

Japan Summer Camp

This June, I’m looking forward to a change in my usual teaching schedule–MSO is hosting their annual Summer Camp and my theme for the 6+ group will be Japan. I’ve already started my Pinterest board and begun gathering ideas as fast as I can find them. I can’t wait to delve into a new culture in a fun, Montessori way. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the ideas I’m tossing around:

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Tea is actually central to the practical life curriculum in my classroom, so you can imagine that I’m terribly excited about the prospect of including an actual tea ceremony as part of my Summer Camp program. I’d adore to have the students be able to create their own tea cups to use in the ceremony, and to have them be involved in the set up as well as the ritual. Since it’s unlikely that we’d be able to have a true expert come demonstrate the Japanese Tea Ceremony (or the Way of Tea) to us, we’d all have to recreate the experience together, which is something I think the students will enjoy researching and making happen, especially if I can provide as many of the real tools as possible (i.e., a chosun, an iron pot). It’ll be a coin toss to see who will be willing to try the matcha, but I think it would be fun to offer blooming jasmine tea as an alternative. Even if it’s Chinese.

Minature Karesansui, a Japanese Rock Garden, from Highlights

I love the idea of making personal Zen rock gardens! I would, of course, prefer to make a less plastic-y version than the one pictured above. I already have some ideas, like using wooden forks rather than plastic ones, but I’m still brainstorming on the tray. Here are some ideas that have flitted across my mind (but easily be rejected):

Kimono Collage

Clothing is a fun way to explore any culture, and the kimono is no exception. I’m looking for just the right project, but honestly, I could do a summer unit on the kimono alone. It’s so hard to choose, from textile patterns, to the many parts, to practicing putting one on (it looks like a group effort, really), discussing the different varieties, male versus female versions, and introducing occasions that might require one to dress in this most traditional of garment.

Which brings me to two very important Japanese holidays:

Children's Holidays in Japan

Camp attendees will be delighted to learn that Japan has two holidays especially for children. Kodomo No Hi is the official, nationally recognized Children’s Day (there used to be separate days for boys and girls). Shichi-go-san celebrates boys ages 3 and 5 and girls ages 3 and 7.

Of course, holidays can’t be celebrated without good food, so I’ve also been researching summer cooking ideas:

Japanese Cooking Ideas

I think the students will be attracted to the incredible cuteness that is bento boxes, so we can have some fun playing with (some of) our food. I’m also ridiculously excited to try making mochi, though I’ll definitely try it at home first. I’ve made gyoza before–the press makes them easy and fun, and it’ll be fun to make sushi, even if all we roll is rice and seaweed. It’s the experience that counts!

Finally, I’d like to give the students an opportunity to practice some Japanese writing:

Japanese Writing

I especially like the idea of having a Buddha Board in the class so the students can practice their Japanese calligraphy. I even bought some dice at the American Montessori Society Conference so they can practice their number recognition!

It’s going to be a great summer, with activities galore. I hope some of you will consider joining us–there will be fun for all ages!

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