Wednesday, January 12, 2011

School Days--4th Grade Ukiyo-E

Koshi's woodblock print

About the end of November, Koshi (my 4th grader) came home with an order form from school.

"Mama!  I have to get one of these for school!   Hayaku, kaite! (hurry--fill it out!)"   These.  One of these...what?   Hmmm....another case.  He has two other similar cases--second grade was a case with paints, a palette, and brushes (not Prang, either--they use acrylic paints in a tube from kindergarten).  Third grade was the calligraphy set--brush pens, ink, weights, inkbox, a roll-up mat.  I was ridiculously jealous of my own son for getting to have something that cool for school in the third grade.  Iiiiii naaaa....

He picked out a dragon case (again), and I put in the money (Y2300--$25) and filled out the form, without really understanding what it was he was going to get or what they were going to do with it.  When the set was delivered to school, he brought it home to show me.

"Neat-o, honey!  What is it?"   "Tools!"
Thanks, Koshi.  I could see that they were tools, but I couldn't get from his explanation ("They're for art!") what exactly they were going to be doing with those.... hmmmm.....what *are* those?  Exactly?

No matter--I figured I'd find out eventually.  Parent-teacher conferences were coming up in December, and they always have out the things the kids had been making in art class.

And  then he brought this home:

Wow!  So *that's* what those weird-looking tools were for--making a woodblock print!  I don't ever remember getting to make anything that cool in elementary school art class (iiii naaaa....).  Or anything that difficult, either, for that matter.

...a closer look

...the claws...

...the teeth....
...the dorsal striping...

Can you see the red and blue paint staining the carved-out areas?  All the fourth graders made prints, several, in fact, in different colors from their carved wooden plates.  They were all displayed in the hall when I went for parent-teacher conferences:

All the prints were very detailed, and the kids had clearly worked hard on them.

A brief moment of sickening parental gloating:

   (I thought Koshi's was the best one.)

Sorry.  All done ;-))

Here's a closer look at those tools.

Yeah--that's exactly what I thought.

Those are *sharp*.

And every kid in the fourth grade has a set like that.

That's a lot of sharp.

They trust kids in Japan.  They trust kids,  because they know the children have been carefully taught how to be careful.

I noticed it before my kids were born, while teaching English in various language schools.  All the jr. high and high school students I taught usually had a cutter knife in their pencil caseThey used the cutter knives to trim down handouts so they could be glued into their notebooks, among other uses.  I was always fascinated by how carefully every student I saw used their cutter knife.  Remove cap and set aside. Push the blade out one or two notches--no more than necessary.  Cut.  Cut.  Cut.  Slide blade back.  Replace cap.  Put away in pencil case.  *Then* glue the paper in the notebook (or whatever else).  Under no circumstances do I ever recall seeing a cutter knife carelessly left out on a desk, certainly not left open out on a desk.

This was astounding to me until I had kids of my own, and *really* began to watch how the Japanese teach and interact with children.  I can think of a number of examples off the top of my head, but I know that as soon as I hit "Publish",  I'll think of ten other better ones.  So since this post is getting a bit long...

...To Be Continued.... ;-))

Koshi's favorite print


  1. oh man. so much to say.
    1. i love that he made a dinosaur.
    2. i am really impressed by his dinosaur "drawing" skills
    3. I totally want those tools.
    4. japanese elementary school is clearly much cooler than american elementary school

  2. I agree with you. It's clearly the best one!

    If I was given a blade in elementary school, there would have been a lot of bleeding. And not just mine. I had a vicious temper. My Sage would lose at least one of the tools within 24 hours. She's extremely absent-minded.

  3. Was! They have cutters. They definetly wouldn't allow our elementary students have those.

    (pshh...I like koshi's the best too)

  4. Aww--thanks. Since you all like Koshi's best, I hereby dub you Honorary Aunties:-))

    Sarah--I totally want those tools, too! Isn't it silly to be jealous of your own kid...:-))

    Alice--Cici's absent-minded, too. Constantly forgetting homework, school shoes, textbooks....she'd probably lose a tool right off, too ;-))

    Ez--That's just what I thought when he brought those tools home! No *way* would elementary school let kids use tools like that in America...which I think is a mistake and what I'm going to talk about in the continuing post.