Tsukuba International School Report – June 2011

This month was one of our busiest yet! The end of the school year is always a busy time, but it seems like we were trying to pack a whole year into a single month this time. Can you believe we did all of this in June?


Student Enrollment
Registration for 2011-12 school year started on June 1. We are currently expecting our enrollment to be around 80 for the 2011-12 school year. (We had 84 students before the March 11, 2011 earthquake.)

June’s units were:
Grade 1: Finishing up Life Cycles
Grade 2: Finishing up Inventions
Grade 3: Finishing up Energy and doing a mini unit on Money
Grade 4: Finishing up Weather
Grade 5/6: Finishing up Consumerism, PYP Exhibition (final project for the PYP)

Field Trips
Tsukuba International Preschool visited the Ibaraki Livestock Research Center where the students and parents made butter and ice cream and milked some robot cows.

Grade 1 visited the Ibaraki Nature Museum as a part of their units on “Forests” and “Life Cycles”. The students were particularly intrigued by the model of the enlarged cross-section of the plants and animals that live inside the soil.

Grade 2 visited the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention as a part of their unit on “Our Dynamic Planet”. Students were able to see a map of Japan with earthquakes happening in real time.

Grade 3 visited the National Museum of Nature and Science in Ueno as a part of their “Energy” unit. It was an exciting finish to a great year of inquiry for the Grade 3s.

Grade 4 visited the Meteorological Research Institute as a part of their unit on “Weather”. Students learned about the many different techniques that scientists use to forecast the weather and they also got a chance to see the institute’s supercomputer. After returning to their classroom, the students got to see what is inside a desktop computer and compare it with how the supercomputer looked.

Grade 5/6 visit the National Institute for Environmental Studies as a part of their unit on “Consumerism”. This is the “exhibition” unit for these students, so they had many questions about how products that we use every day have an impact on society and the environment.

Dr. Tokio Ohska (High Energy Accelerator Research Organization) visited the Grade 3 and Grade 5/6 classes to talk to them about nuclear energy.

Enrichment Programs
This month’s enrichment programs were gardening, puppeteering, musical theatre, Spanish, sports, cooking, recorder, and violin. The musical theatre enrichment program staged its performance of Little Red Riding Hood. It was a great delight to watch!

Student Assessment
The final report cards for the year were sent home on June 24.

Classroom Events
The Grade 2 and 3 classes had a special drama class hosted by Ms. Kristie Collins, a professor at the University of Tsukuba. The students memorized their parts and put on a mini production in just two hours!

The Grade 3 students held a bake-off with the solar cookers that they designed as a part of their unit on “Energy”. One student was able to get her oven up to 80C! The Grade 3 students baked cookies in their ovens and shared them with the other students and staff. It was a successful engineering project for all!

The Grade 3 students also travelled around to the other classes to tell stories with puppets they created. The puppets represented a character in a particular story, and the story that the students told were from the perspective of that character (not the original main character). This was an interesting way for students to learn about the concept of perspective.

The Grade 3 class made a giant model of a town showing its power sources and points of consumption. They invited the other classes to come and hear their explanations of the model.

The Grade 5/6 class put on their PYP Exhibition on June 16. The students gave presentations on their unit of “Consumerism”. The central idea of their presentation was that the products that we use every day have an impact on society and the environment. Students chose a particular product and researched the life cycle of the product. They then determined what kinds of impacts the product had on society and the environment throughout its life cycle. Many parents attended the exhibition. The students worked hard on their reports and can be proud of their efforts.

All grades had a picnic lunch together with their classmates on the final day of school.

The P3 class at Tsukuba International Preschool graduated to Grade 1 at Tsukuba International School and the Grade 5/6 students graduated to the Middle Years Program (MYP). From next year, Grade 5 will be the final class in the Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Grade 6 will be the first year in the Middle Years Programme.


Parent Conferences
Optional parent conferences were held at the end of the month for parents who had wanted to talk with the teachers about their children’s report cards or progress throughout the year.


Hiring of Teaching Staff
We hired Ms. Rio Nagakura as a full-time core teacher. She started to work at the school on June 1. As many of our core teachers will be leaving at the end of this school year, we wanted to have one teacher start early to help us make a smooth transition.

Two new teachers for the Middle Years Programme (MYP) were also hired to start in August. Their names are Mr. Jared Dano (English/Humanities teacher from Canada) and Dr. Clifford Kolba (Math/Science teacher from the United States). This completes our hiring of core teachers for the 2011-12 year.

We hired two new teachers for specialty subjects: Mr. Davidson Onuoha (Nigeria) for Physical Education and Mr. Samir Cavalho (Brazil) for Art. This completes our hiring of specialty teachers for the 2011-12 year.

Professional Development of Teaching Staff
Ms. Thorneycroft (Grade 5/6 teacher) and Ms. Crawford (principal) attended the PYP Exhibition at K International School in Tokyo on June 3. Ms. Nagakura (new core teacher) and Ms. Crawford attended the PYP Exhibition at Tokyo International School on June 9. These visits gave us some insight into the exhibition and provided some great ideas for our students this year and in the future.

Ms. Ava Richardson (Grade 3 teacher) married her fiance, Mr. Zenryu Owatari. A special celebratory weekend was held at the lodge in Nikko where the couple first met. Many TIS staff members were in attendance.


Tsukuba Global Academy Working Group
A few members of the Tsukuba Global Academy Working Group met to discuss the future of the school. They discussed ways to raise the profile of the school and how to go about fundraising. One suggestion of the group was to start a regular newsletter so that the community can be more aware of the activities of the school.


Donations and Volunteering
Intel donated around 20 large storage cabinets and a number of smaller desk cabinets to the school. We were able to put one large cabinet in every classroom, which will let the teachers store more resources in their classrooms. We also put several cabinets in the art room, resource room, and offices.

A student from the University of Tsukuba started to volunteer in the TIS library this month. She is doing an internship program as a part of her degree in Library and Information Science. She is working on labelling the fiction and non-fiction books and helping us to classify our non-fiction books so that they will be easier to find and keep track of.

The Grade 3 class was given samples of coal for their unit on “Energy” from the Geological Museum.

One of the parents donated pebbles for the walk in front of the school and some cleaning supplies for our end of year clean up.

Many parents came to the school to volunteer their time to clean up the school at the end of the year. We were able to put together some desks for the new Grade 8/9 classroom, clear stray branches and weeds, put down new pebbles on the walk, clean out and rearrange the art and science supplies, and clean the classrooms and common areas.

Many parents donated appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, fans, rice cookers), bicycles, and mosquito coils to families in Ishinomaki. Several staff members will be leading a team of volunteers to help with tsunami recovery efforts in Ishinomaki from July 6 to 10 and we will deliver the donations at that time.

School Cat
A cat appeared on our sports field this month. We tried to find a new home for her, but were not successful. The students begged us to keep her as a school cat and Mrs. Okubo (our art teacher) agreed to take her home during school holidays, so we decided to do that. The students love having a cat at school (in addition to our beetle larvae, fish, and worms) and they have asked many questions about her. They are learning about how to care for a pet, including the importance of spaying or neutering animals in order to control the pet population. The cat’s name is Kiki Noki (キキ 野木). I hope you will get a chance to meet her the next time you come to the school!

Open School
An open school day was held on June 8 for current and prospective parents. From the next school year, we will hold school tours for prospective parents and open school days for current parents.

Summer Camp
It was decided that Tsukuba International Camp will be held at the school during the summer. The goals of the camp are to give students opportunities to be creative and engage their minds with challenging activities, to give students a chance to practise their English over the summer, and to give students a chance to meet people from other cultures.

Since Mr. Kano (our principal from 2008 to 2011) passed away, we have had to find people to fill the many roles that he played at our school. One very important role was that of groundskeeper! He was very diligent about cutting the grass, keeping the weeds down, and maintaining the forest. We have decided to hire members of Tsukuba Silver Jinzai to help us with our grounds from now on. A team of men came and helped us with the forest and a team of women helped us with the weeds in our parking lot. Mr. Zenryu Owatari (husband of our Grade 3 teacher, Ms. Ava Richardson) weeded our entire front lawn with the help of many of our students during school breaks.

Power Conservation
We all promised to use our air conditioners as little as possible, despite the heat. We purchased 11 fans for the classrooms and offices to help to keep the air circulating. We found that the downstairs classrooms stayed cooler than the upstairs rooms. The classrooms at the ends of the second floor were especially hot. Students were encouraged to drink water often and we turned on the air conditioners at high settings (28C) and for short periods of time when the heat became too much for the students to bear.

We used a “REN 200 x gamma radiation monitor” to take some radiation readings around the school with the help of one of the TIS parents. We took measurements in a variety of locations around the school. The readings were generally between 0.12 to 0.16 microsieverts/hour, which is basically in line with other readings that were taken at a variety of facilities in Tsukuba on June 20. However, we did find some elevated readings at the base of the eaves pipes on the southwest corner and back of the school. The pipes themselves had normal readings, but on the ground, the readings were higher right beside the pipe. If we moved the monitor away from the base, the levels returned to normal. At the base of the pipe at the southwest corner, the reading spiked up to 1.0 microsievert/hour briefly and then went back down again, so we are not sure how to interpret that reading. The bases of the other pipes at the back of the school were generally under 0.5 microsieverts/hour. We will continue to monitor the radiation levels at the school and will report on our findings.


Here is what we have in store for the future.

July 6-10 – TIP/TIS staff volunteering in Ishinomaki to help with tsunami recovery efforts
July 11-15 – TIS Summer Program
July 17 – Informal Family Get-Together at Doho Park (11am to 2pm)
July 25-29 – Tsukuba International Camp – Week 1

August 1-5 – Tsukuba International Camp – Week 2
August 13-14 – Mrs. Suzuki will attend a literacy workshop in Nagoya
August 22-29 – Teacher Work Days
August 24 – Volunteer Day
August 26 – Parent Orientation / Violin Sizing (10am to 12 noon)
August 30 – First Day of School (bring school supplies, indoor shoes, new emergency supplies)
August 30-Sept 5 – Orientation at Tsukuba International Preschool (half days)

September 12 – Open School Day for current parents, Parent Circle
September 14 – School Tours for prospective parents
September 17-18 – Mr. Dano, Dr. Kolba, Ms. Crawford attend MYP In-School Workshop
September 17-18 – Mrs. Suzuki, Mr. Breithaupt attend workshop at Yokohama International School

If you have any questions about this report, please feel free to contact us.