"A dose of Japanese culture Teens at academy give kids 
taste of what they've learned."
By James Fuller, Daily Herald Staff Writer 01/16/2003

Teens at academy give kids a taste of what they've learned.

When it comes to Japanese culture, most kids know more about hi- ya than haiku.

Ryan Goble and Kristin Jaeger recently set out to change that reality for several students at the North Cook Young Adult Academy in Des Plaines. The school helps students with behavior or performance difficulties earn credits to graduate from high school.

Using a grant received from the Institute of International Education and the Toyota Motor Corp., Goble visited Japan for two weeks last summer to suck up as much culture as possible.

Last week, he released that information to his English class at the academy. Using John Hersey's novel "Hiroshima," a trip to the Midwest Buddhist Temple and lunch at a Japanese restaurant, students opened their eyes to a culture they had not yet explored.

With the assistance of Jaeger, a graduate student in DePaul University's teaching and learning program, the students received a large enough dose of Japanese culture to transfer their new knowledge to students at Iroquois Community School. Jaeger studied Japanese at Northwestern University and spent a semester in the land of the rising sun as an undergraduate.

She helped the academy students learn the basics of Japanese writing, food and origami.

The whole idea was to learn by doing.

"It's one of those experiences as a teacher you yearn for," Goble said. "It's more about let's understand what's different about everybody and learn to respect and appreciate that.

"We can't take the kids to Japan, but we can take them to meet a Buddhist sensei."

Meeting the sensei was the best part for student John Akhile, 17.

"He just told us about the way he does his life," Akhile said. "He told us jokes and was really calm."

Akhile said he also enjoyed teaching the younger kids how to fold paper cranes and explain the story of the Japanese girl that believed she could cure her atomic-bomb-induced cancer by folding 1,000 paper cranes and receiving a wish.

In doing so, part of Goble's teaching style rubbed off on him.

"You had to have conversations with them, make them laugh to make them listen," Akhile said.

Overall, he added, the Japanese culture was interesting to learn about. Mostly.

"The raw fish, it wasn't too good."

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