As part of Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) Global Learning Initiative (GLI), students from the Technology Access Foundation Academy (TAFA) will participate in two trips to Japan in coming months.
The first trip is tentatively scheduled for April and will see eight students from TAFA traveling to Kyoto, Japan, as part of a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) leadership program. According to the district, the trip in April is still pending approval from the Japanese government.
The second trip is set for June, and is part of a larger student exchange program, wherein 2,300 students from Japan and the United States will switch places for approximately 10 days.
“We’ve been collaborating on these trips for about three years,” said Shan Steinmetz, a Chinese language teacher at TAFA, during a presentation to the FWPS board on Feb. 25. “This fall, it happened. I was able to get the Kyoto STEM leadership trip passed here at a board meeting a couple of months back. It was very exciting, but it was a lot of work.”
Steinmetz said for the first trip, FWPS students are going to “lead a STEM leadership program at an international school.” The theme of the STEM conference will be clean water and students will have the chance to put their brain power to the complicated but important issue. Along with this, Steinmetz and her colleague, Emily Orillon, are hoping the trip will “provide an opportunity for TAF Academy students for international relationships and experiences that will carry on into their university or career path, and connect global learning to real life.” It’s also aimed at immersing the students in the Japanese language more fully.
“(The students) are very excited about it,” Steinmetz said.
The second trip is part of the Kakehashi Project, where students from the US and Japan will switch places for a 10-day stretch. The program is sponsored by the government of Japan, and its objective is to “promote deeper mutual understanding among the people of Japan and the United States, enable future leaders of Japan and U.S. exchanges to form networks and help young people develop wider perspectives to encourage active roles at the global level in the future.”
“(The Kakehashi Project) is very different from the Kyoto STEM trip,” Steinmetz said. “It’s very formal and a lot of exchanges take place. It’s all about the exchanges, and they hope the young people from Japan and the young people from the United States will develop together and keep their relationships and their interest in each other.”
FWPS students will head to Okinawa, Japan for 10 days, from June 10-19. The Japanese students will visit Federal Way and FWPS in mid-November.
According to the district, there is no cost to the district for either of these trips. For the Kyoto trip, the funds were raised by TAFA’s Japanese Club. The government of Japan is covering nearly all costs for the Kakehashi Project.
“Students will be personally responsible for passports and incidentals,” district spokesperson Deb Stenberg wrote in an e-mail to The Mirror. “There is no cost to students or school.”
“It’s so exciting to see this and to see opportunities for students because this is what the whole Global Initiative is about,” said board member Claire Wilson. “This is what needs to happen for our kids to be successful and save us from ourselves.”
Board member Tony Moore echoed Wilson’s sentiments, saying these trips are what the district envisioned with the GLI.
“The hope was to see students actually getting out and around in the world, and learning that the world is bigger than Federal Way,” Moore said. “We’re excited to see kids, and a diversity of kids, getting this opportunity.”
TAFA principal Paul Tytler agreed, saying these trips are unique opportunities for the students involved.
“The opportunities for these students to have an experience, to create new mental models, and the stories they will share with their peers back at school … It’s unmeasurable,” Tytler said. “It’s exciting, the thought that we can take some 30 some students to have this experience is just outstanding.”
To learn more about the GLI, visit www.fwps.org.