Teaching world history out of a textbook can get stale for some students, but as one Loyalsock Township High School teacher found out, relating it to an experience is much more effective.
Jennifer Beck, social studies teacher, was one of 10 teachers from across the country selected by the Japan Society of New York to travel to Japan for three weeks to observe the culture and schools.
"A lot of it is participation and observations," Beck said.
Jennifer Beck, Loyalsock Township High School social studies teacher, traveled to five separate countries over the summer. Beck observed the cultures and schools of Japan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia. She spent six weeks visiting the countries. Having the experience has enhanced her world history classes as she can now describe the areas with greater detail, she said. Above, Beck makes gyoza in Obu.
Jennifer Beck, Loyalsock Township High School social studies teacher, is shown with students in Kyoto.
During her time in Japanese schools, Beck said how there were many cultural differences than she was used to seeing.
"All students cook and clean schools at lunch and at the end of the day," she said.
She added that students also don't wear their shoes inside the school. Each classroom has a row of pockets for students to place their shoes in.
Beck also was put to work as she helped to do some farm work with fifth-grade students.
"I got to farm rice with the elementary students," she said.
Beck was impressed by the way the schools take care of their plants. Students don't use traditional fertilization or pesticides, they use ducks.
The ducks eat the pests and fertilize the plants, Beck said.
And while students in America may get excited about Friday night lights at football games, it isn't the case in Japan. Baseball is "a big deal," and every school has a pool. Beck said everyone wants to be a member of the swim team.
But for some schools, it's all about sumo wrestling. "It's like an honor to be that big," Beck said of the sport.
Beck and the other visitors saw religious structures and spoke with locals.
One story had Beck in tears, she said.
"He survived the atomic bomb of Hiroshima," Beck explained.
And although he survived, his brother did not. But the man didn't have any ill feelings toward America. This wasn't the last time the man would lose someone. The man's son also was lost when he traveled to New York and was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers.
"He talked about healing and having a good relationship with America," Beck said.
At the end of the three weeks, Beck wasn't ready to leave, so she traveled to other Asian countries. She traveled to Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
Although some parts were "chaotic," Beck said she "would do it again tomorrow."
Not only was the trip memorable for Beck but she now can describe how things look, feel and smell when teaching about the topics.
"Now when kids ask me what it's like, I actually have answers," Beck said. Beck brought currency from the countries and other items to show students. "When they want to discuss something I can get into details," she added.
And she said she hopes students are better equipped to handle different situations as they encounter them.
"I hope that they will be able to work with people from other cultures and have at least some understanding of them," Beck said.