Keio Yokohama Elementary School

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Curriculum

Descriptions of Subjects

We ensure that there is enough time for lessons in our six-day week to provide a truly relaxed education without cramming or rushing classes. The ages of 6 to 12 are a time when children acquire the habit of learning and gradually become able to understand and apply abstract concepts. For that very reason, primary education, in particular, ought to be a time for pursuing a relaxed education based on ample lesson time. Under such conditions, we feel we can provide reliable class management by homeroom teachers and an educational content with a high degree of speciality by specialist teachers. Our aim is to establish solid academic ability while providing both pupils and teachers with as much time as they need.

From the early years, there are specialized lessons in Music, Art, Physical Education, and English for Global Communication, among others. Meanwhile, all subjects in the final years (5th and 6th grades) will be based on a specialist subject teacher system.

Besides these, we positively incorporate language arts education to improve literacy, while also promoting statistical education, in which the pupils use a data-oriented perspective to analyze specific things that are familiar to them.

Japanese

Literacy is a central pillar of education cherished by Keio Yokohama Elementary School, and Japanese language plays a central role in this. Being introduced to good books is an important part of acquiring "reading skills." As well as helping the students to know the enjoyment of books by reading, reading aloud and being read to, we cultivate the ability to understand story structure. Meanwhile, various events and activities in school life help to teach "writing skills," and there is no lack of suitable material. We aim to take as many different opportunities as possible to make reading an everyday thing for the pupils. This will also help them to examine and improve themselves. In the lessons, we also focus on guidance in elaboration, and teach the pupils how to write intelligible sentences while sustaining story development. Improving our pupils' ability in reading and writing will nurture the emotionality, sensitivity and power of logical thought that will be important in their future lives; it will make learning in all subjects rounder and richer. We also cultivate "listening skills" by encouraging the pupils to listen to what people say and carefully take notes, and "speaking ability," in which we devote a lot of time to presentations, debates and discussions. This improves the pupils' ability to communicate, allowing them to have more stable human relationships. We also actively incorporate techniques from drama and language arts education, among others.

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Social Studies

In Social Studies learning, we place primary value on pupils' interest in their surroundings. The scale of this interest gradually expands to cities, prefectures, Japan, and the world, in spatial terms, and from the contemporary to the modern, premodern, and medieval worlds in historical terms. To keep the pupils aware at all times that the content of their learning and the society around them are connected, we hold study tours and direct participatory experience of various facilities that support society. Pupils then take the findings back to the classroom and discuss and present them. We also actively incorporate statistical analysis of information obtained from observation or surveys in the local area, and lessons on how to solve problems. Children today live in a society of tremendous upheaval; new problems are constantly coming to the fore. Our pupils will be unable to cope with this social environment unless they have the ability to solve problems by themselves. This is because many of the problems in the world today have no ready-made solution. And when solving problems, they will be easily swayed by short-term change and unable to make appropriate judgements if they lack the ability and deep insight to analyze phenomena from many points of view. At Keio Yokohama Elementary School, we provide opportunities to relate to people in a social context and to learn how society works through participatory experience, thus producing the leaders of society twenty or thirty years from now.

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Math

In math, we aim to teach awareness of numbers and shapes, and a solid foundation in the ability to calculate. We also want the pupils to feel the enjoyment of finding questions and the joy of solving them. For example, we cultivate awareness of numbers, quantities and graphics through various physical experiences in daily life or handling of physical objects. We teach the pupils how to calculate, and further polish this as they learn skills in creating graphs, tables and diagrams. We promote learning that values questioning and inspiration in the pupils when they encounter a new calculation or graphic form. This kind of learning fosters joy and confidence by accumulating experience of solving problems by the pupils themselves, rather than rote learning in which formulae are presented at the outset for them to memorize (as tends to happen when studying for examinations). They also learn how to establish and expound logic by explaining their reasoning to others. With these forms of learning, we cultivate pupils who can take up challenges when faced with difficult problems, and can enjoy doing so.

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Science

To nurture an interest in natural sciences among the pupils, the most important thing is to cultivate their powers of observation and curiosity about familiar organisms and phenomena. In the lessons, we incorporate many elements such as observation and experiments to inspire interest, while also enhancing the pupils' understanding of natural sciences based on tangible phenomena. By accumulating observations, experiments and others with predicted outcomes, we cultivate scientific thought and analytical methods, as well as the ability to explain things logically. We value the acquisition of knowledge based on actual experience, and nurture the joy of exploration as the pupils apply and examine the knowledge they have learnt according to a given situation. There is a pond and a stream in the schoolyard, and we also have a rice paddy, a vegetable garden and animal sheds. By linking the entire campus with trees and flowering plants that change with the seasons, we will form a biotope network where various living creatures can come and go. We have also created a specimen section in the library, and have made it possible for specimens to be actually picked up and studied. In this way, we will enhance the environment for learning about nature freely both inside and outside the school buildings. We hope this will increase the pupils' curiosity and powers of observation amid their daily school life.

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Music

In music, the most important thing is to cultivate sensitivity. The six years from ages 6 to 12 are an irreplaceable time for nurturing the sensitivity with which to feel the beauty in sounds and melodies, and the "ear" that supports this. From the early years, our pupils diligently learn how to "listen" and cultivate basic musical ability. Continuous accumulation is an important means to this end. Specifically, we have established the four main elements of solfège, singing, playing instruments and appreciation, and develop lessons in which these are organically combined. In singing, we focus on beautiful songs and nursery rhymes that have been passed down through the ages in Japan. On graduation, our target is for the pupils to be able to read a musical score unassisted, to feel for themselves the enjoyment of choral and orchestral works, and to be deeply immersed in music. We provide many opportunities for pupils to present their own feelings and thoughts in events such as music recitals, and to feel the joy of expression and the enjoyment of sensation. We also hold concerts performed by invited musicians in the Lecture Hall, thus enriching the pupils' creativity through the experience of contact with good music.

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Art

The six years of the elementary school stage are a time when children have a grasp of shapes, an awareness of color, and the flexibility to be able to express themselves in a carefree manner, without being bound to existing concepts or wisdom. We want to cherish this flexible sensitivity and help it grow at its own pace over these six years. In art class, we nurture the spirit of sensitivity and the ability of self-expression, through direct experience of carefully observing then drawing or making things. The spirit of sensitivity means, for example, seeing trees and flowers and finding them beautiful, seeing beauty in sunsets and skies, or feeling beauty in their parents' hands. This spirit of being able to sense beauty leads to having consideration for others, a valuable attribute when relating to other people and society, in the process of transformation from children to adults. By seeing the works and expressions of others, the pupils realize that each person has different ways of feeling and expressing the same thing; they learn the attitude of trying to understand others and the importance of seeing things from different angles. Finally, we encourage them to feel for themselves their own happiness and the joy of their friends.

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Physical Education

The target of physical education is to show each pupil the enjoyment of being physically active and the attitude of living a cheerful, healthy life. Specifically, we aim to nurture the qualities and ability to be immersed in sport, to improve physical fitness, and to build a foundation for maintaining and improving health into the future. Meanwhile, as the pupils use the expansive environment of Keio Yokohama Elementary School to plan and engage in various forms of play and sport, we expect them to extend not only their physical fitness but also their self-reliance; to increase their ability to have creative ideas, and to cooperate with their schoolmates. We also value the spirit of fair play, and encourage pupils to keep trying their best. In doing so, we preserve the philosophy of former Keio University president Shinzo Koizumi, who taught that "Practice makes the impossible possible." Although injuries are inevitable in sports, we engage in various play and sports to cultivate powers of concentration and agility to protect the body from major injury. Finally, we teach pupils the knowledge and ability they need to protect their own safety.

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English for Global Communication

We place value on attempts to absorb English as a living language, and to become familiar with other cultures by learning English. In the early years, the focus is on listening. Later, we encourage pupils to use expressions they have become used to hearing through songs and various activities. And in the final years, the pupils start to confirm, in written work, the English expressions they learnt in the early years. They broaden their own worlds through the experience of expressing themselves, not only in speech but also in writing. Also, rather than learning English merely as a language, we cultivate the ability of global communication, as well as the quality of respecting others and being able to take a flexible stance toward different cultures. By providing contact with a broader world, the aim is that the pupils will reflect on themselves, and that this will lead to respect for others and tolerance towards different cultures. In extracurricular situations, we provide opportunities for contact with different cultures through international exchanges, as well as cultivating new ways of thinking and the ability to overcome barriers against the unfamiliar.

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Calligraphy and Classics

In our contemporary society, inundated with information and full of people living busy lives, the time to sit with correct posture and calmly pick up our pen in a quiet atmosphere is particularly valuable. In the lessons, we start by using hard pens and pencils, and teach the habit of carefully writing characters while sitting with correct posture. In the process, pupils not only practice writing but also learn about the origins and transformations of hiragana phonetic writing and kanji Chinese characters, among others. By doing so, they develop an interest in the characters themselves and come to acquire the habit of familiarity with books. As they advance through the grades, they gradually switch to using calligraphy brushes. As well as calligraphy paper, they also write letters or create playing cards, thus incorporating materials suited to daily life and play. Another important element of this subject involves familiarity with classics (such as waka, haiku and Chinese poetry). One purpose of this is to familiarize pupils with old characters and obsolete kana usage through simple reading aloud (without concern for meaning); another is to acquaint them with the sounds of words that have been passed down through the long course of history, and the beauty of the characters themselves. Learning about Japan's classics and traditional culture also means creating a foundation in liberal arts, indispensable for activity in the international community in future.

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Yukichi Fukuzawa studies

Our pupils are expected to grow in refinement and nurture the ability to know right from wrong. In their younger days, they should cultivate the qualities of "integrity, honesty and kindness" in their own minds, and then, as they grow older, expand these so that they are manifest not only in their relations with people around them but also in society at large and public situations. Yukichi Fukuzawa wrote many books for children in expectation of this, including Dōmō Oshie-Gusa ("Junior Book of Ethics," a collection of English moral tales for children). To this end, we select topics from Fukuzawa's works and life for various lessons. In the final years, pupils learn about the history of Keio Gijuku and how pupils in former times lived. By learning from the history of their own school, not only do they feel modern and contemporary history as something familiar to them and expand their interest in it, but they also acquire a sense of history. In addition, realizing the sense of historical mission and social responsibility of the school's early figures also helps them to consider their own future roles. Finally, we deal with contemporary issues such as personal safety, health, life, and information ethics whenever appropriate, and promote the pupils' spiritual growth by helping them to think for themselves and discuss issues with their classmates.

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Life Skills

The guidelines on Courses of Study (issued by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) prescribe what is to be learnt under Living Environment Studies in the 1st and 2nd grades of elementary school, and Home Economics in the 5th and 6th grades. In our view, however, these should both be learnt continuously throughout the six-year period. Yokohama Elementary School has taken steps to link the two by combining them in the general subject "Life Skills." In the early years, the emphasis is on experiences and activities in contact with nature, such as keeping animals and growing vegetables, with attention also paid to life at school and in the home. From the middle years, pupils learn about the social systems that surround them, while also considering current issues. Through these, they are expected to realize that they are all members of society and to recognize their individual roles and responsibilities, while also developing a "public" awareness. In the final years, the perspectives of dietary and health education are added to the conventional content of home economics, including housework and lifestyle design. By continuing to raise familiar topics of the home and the environment surrounding it, the lessons learned in various subjects (such as social studies and science) interact to form a living knowledge, acquainting pupils with the fascination of considering things from multiple angles. They also learn how to read and handle statistical data, and cultivate the ability to think in terms of specific figures.

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Keio Yokohama Elementary School3-1-3 Azamino-Minami Aoba-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa

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