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2000年9月16日付のデイリー読売(The Daily Yomiuri,英字)において, 新潟県の小学校における取り組みが1ページにわたって紹介されました。ここではその一部を 転載させていただきました。   ("The Daily Yomiuri" Sep. 16, 2000, p7. より転載 )



Kawasaki Elementary School


Learning to see the forest for the trees



By Asami Nagai (Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer)

NAGAOKA, Niigata−During class breaks or after school hours, primary school students usually head for the playground. But students at Kawasaki Primary School have another option: Kawasaki no Mori, a small woodland on the grounds of their school in Nagaoka. About 12 years ago, the school's newly appointed principal led an effort to have a tract of land next to the school building planted with about 400 young trees which have since grown to provide visitors with a shady sanctuary.

At break times, students swarm to the area to relax, play with friends or even do class assignments.

"There are no forest near my house," lamented a third-year student who, with her two friends, was looking for acorns, which she described as "cute." Then a group of fourth-year students selected spots among the trees to sketch them for their science class.

The now retired principal, Giichiro Yamanouchi, hoping to enhance the students' fascination with the trees, told some to put their ears to the trunks. "You can hear water flowing through them," he said.

With a population of 200,000, Nagaoka enjoys a much more natural setting than most urban areas. Still, Yamanouchi thought students would benefit considerably from the on-campus woods when he was appointed principal in 1986.

The idea came to him while the school was undergoing renovations. He realized that after the construction ended, there would be some open space next to the building and wondered how best to use it.

He was concerned about accessibility to nature, because he felt this played a beneficial role in a person's formative years. With this in mind, he settled on the woodland project. The idea stemmed from an experience. Yamanouchi had in 1974, when he became a principal for the first time.

"I was in an position to manage a school for the first time, and I had no idea how to run things," he recalled.

Mr. Yamanouchi

While resting along a mountain road as he tried to collect his thoughts, he found himself pondering the numerous terraced rice fields that dominated the landscape. It occurred to him that the terraces held within them the history of the village and its people, that the surroundings had had a profound impact on the character of the villagers. He decided that children should be raised with an appreciation of their surroundings.

And so, a decade later, he settled on tree planting for the largely concrete environment at Kawasaki Primary School. While talking with a professional landscape gardener, he realized that this would require more work than he thought. However, the neatly manicured landscape the gardener proposed was not what he had in mind.

He consulted Takashi Kohinata, 60, a teacher at a nearby middle school who had studied ecology on a graduate course under the ecology expert Akira Miyawaki. He advised Yamanouchi to design a woodland with indigenous trees because they would last a long time and would require little care.

"I also hoped students would be able to learn in a natural woodland setting, where various species live in a way that benefits each other and the group," Kohinata said.

Yamanouchi persuaded an initially reluctant meeting of parents and alumni to back the plan. Then Kohinata set about studying the trees in the area to determine which species would be most appropriate.

In the end, the students, parents and teachers planted 81 different species −412 trees in total−on the 600-square-meter tract at a cost of \3 million. Thus, on March 27, 1988, Kawasaki no Mori was born.

Even today, Hideo Kanai, who was chairman of the PTA group that finally approved Yamanouchi's plan, visits Kawasaki no Mori a few times per month. "Teachers will eventually leave the school," he said, "So we residents have to check on the wood."

Kanai said the adults involved in the project had learned something as well. The grove, with its different kinds of trees growing together, reveals how a typical workplace can function despite different personalities.

"The jobs of some people are overlooked−like roots, they remain hidden from our view," he explained. "But without them, we would be in trouble, just as a tree will wither without roots.

"Once we realize that we are all interrelated, just like the trees, we will no longer neglect others."

The project's immense success has led other schools to follow suit.

Children in Kawasaki no Mori


More woodlands springing up

Educators from foreign countries have shown a keen interest in Kawasaki no Mori. A Japanese book on Yamanouchi's work published in 1992 was later translated into Korean and English, with the title, "School With Forest and Meadow." This year, he published an essay in Encounter, a U.S. journal on holistic education.

The most surprising result of Yamanouchi's work, however, was that the mayor of Seoul declared his intention to create similar woodlands in the South Korean capital. Under a four-year plan to plant 10 million trees, which started in 1998, about one million will be planted on school grounds. "South Korean educators told me that there is little space in Seoul for planting trees, except for in school enclosures," the 70-year-old Yamanouchi said.

South Korean educators began contacting Yamanouchi in 1993, when a kindergarten director who read the Japanese book visited Kawasaki Primary School and a few other schools with woods on their campuses. Last year, a group of South Korean teachers visited Japan to learn more about the reforestation projects. Yamanouchi himself was invited to speak to the group.

Domestically, woodlands in the style of Kawasaki no Mori are also appearing in such places as day centers for the elderly.

Yumiko Kawase, who directs a day center for the elderly in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture, was trying to determine a suitable setting for senile dementia patients when she heard a radio program featuring Yamanouchi. She opened the Kashi-no-Mori day center in 1996.

"In the radio program, Yamanouchi-san was describing how children's minds were more receptive in the woods and how they learned many things that teachers were unable to teach," she recalled. "We face a similar situation with the aged. There are so many issues humans cannot solve but that nature might be able to."

"We talk about the flowers, leaves and branches in every season, regardless of the weather. And the clinic staff, who spend the whole day in the air-conditioned rooms, come here for lunch.

"I'm positive about the benefits of the woodlands, even though they may be hard to determine statistically. I'm afraid we only realize their true importance when they are gone."

With more and more people determined to establish their own woods within cities, Kohinata cautions that, if they are not careful, their efforts may be counterproductive.

"In some cases, landscape gardeners uproot mountain trees to replant in the city. This is not the way it should be done," he said. He encourages members of a wild herb collectors' club he organizes to plant acorns and raise the trees for three years. These saplings are then used for projects like Kawasaki no Mori, so that the creation of these woods will not come at the expense of the surrounding environment.

Kanai, who is also a member of the club, allows members to raise the saplings on a plot of land he owns, saying he views the whole project as a gift for future generations.

"We were so happy when we saw how our children were so mesmerized in Kawasaki no Mori," he explained. "We have accomplished something that will still be here long after we are gone."



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