Tackling the tough topics in Tokyo

École Rockingham School travels to Japan to present its view of Canada

By Sarah Sawler

Earlier this year, the students of École Rockingham School in Halifax worked together to create a video that tells the world exactly what Canada means to them. That video turned out to be an all-expenses-paid ticket to Tokyo for Grade 5 student Hannah Daley, her stepdad, and her teacher, Andrew Stickings. 

The project was Rockingham’s contribution to the Panasonic Kid Witness News (KWN) program, a worldwide contest that teaches kids to use different formats to express their views on such topics as communication, ecology, and sports, while also providing students with the video equipment they need to pull it all off. The videos are judged by national panels, who are responsible for choosing a winning school to represent the country at the KWN Global Summit in Tokyo. The annual summit, which took place in August, is a fantastic opportunity for students from all over the world to gather and discuss possible solutions to some of the world’s most pressing concerns. 

“It never ceases to amaze me how thoughtful and exciting the video representations about real-world issues and opportunities are, especially in the primary grades,” says Tammy Doherty, Panasonic’s eCommerce sales and marketing lead. “The simplicity of some of the entries is thought-provoking. It really makes you stop and consider some of those social responsibilities at play around the globe when you see them through the eyes of the children.”  

Rockingham’s entry, a video that showed students assembling a map of Canada made from individual pieces of art that showcase different elements of Canada, was a whole-school effort. Doherty says that’s one of the elements that stood out to the panel. 

“There are attributes and elements of all of the entries that are outstanding and unique, but I think in this particular entry, all of the students participated,” she says. “They really took on a leadership role in terms of playing up the Canadiana—which was really apropos this year—and in simplistic yet compelling terms, they really brought to life what it meant to be Canadian.”

Because so many kids were heavily involved, the school took care to handle the win delicately, choosing a student that they felt had both earned the trip and would be a good representative for the country. After some discussion, they decided to send Daley. 

“Hannah basically took a lead role in the project,” says Stickings, one of three teachers involved in the selection process. “It wasn’t a chosen role—she just rose to the top of the class in terms of taking ownership of the project. She has that natural ability anyway, to work within a group and lead a group towards a finished project. We did everything as a group, but she was the one who had her hands in the whole project, from start to finish, the creation, the data collection, the presentation of the cards, and filming.” 

“I got home, and my mom told my whole family to come for a family meeting,” Daley says. “We don’t have those unless it’s really important, so I was really curious. And she said, ‘you have been selected out of your class to go to Japan for the KWN Global Summit contest,’ and I was shocked. I screamed. I was super excited, and I was in shock until I got there because it’s such an amazing opportunity.”

Once the students arrived at the summit, the kids were broken up into groups so they could discuss certain societal issues, come up with possible solutions, and ultimately present their findings to the entire summit. As they talked, they realized a lot of their experiences and concerns are the same.

“Things like pollution, and how some people don’t have enough money while other people have so much money,” Daley says. “And we all noticed how a lot of things are getting more expensive, like food, and people shouldn’t have to pay for water. And how some people can’t afford food, or water, or clothes, or public transportation.”

Hannah’s group, which included students from Japan, Malaysia, and Hong Kong, focused on pollution.

“We all talked about how we’d like less water pollution and air pollution in our future, and how we could all use public transportation instead of each person having to take their own vehicle and putting more pollution into the air,” Daley says. “There were a lot of different ideas when we discussed it, and a lot of the same ideas. We all understood each person’s perspective and how they thought we could make this better.”

And the students communicated effectively despite the language barriers.

“They all communicated and enjoyed their time in Japan together even though they didn’t speak the same language,” Stickings says. “They did have interpreters, but they weren’t there all the time. At one point, I saw Hannah with one of the other girls, and she was showing [Hannah] how to do origami, and it was hands-on. Her hands were on Hannah’s hands, and they were learning that way. The smiles on their faces said everything. And there was no shyness. Children are children and given the situation, they’re quite happy to be children together.”

And the students weren’t the only people learning. For Stickings, visiting Tokyo with KWN was a twice in a lifetime experience, since he was at Grosvenor-Wentworth Park Elementary School when it won in 2010. From an educator’s perspective, the summit is a great opportunity to share knowledge with teachers from other countries and cultures. 

“We talked a lot about our classrooms, our schools, our communities,” Stickings says. “Some of the teachers travelled from remote areas. One of our new friends from Malaysia came from a community of 100 people, and they all lived in a longhouse. They have one school and the teachers live at the school. These stories are just amazing to hear.”

“It’s really a great opportunity… [for the students to] really experience something unique, as almost junior reporters, as videographers,” Doherty says. “Dealing with real-world opportunities and issues unique in their countries, but at other times global, and being able to share those with their peers internationally.”