Japanese culture, expression comes to HMS

 

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

HAMLET — Sue Wheeler confessed she was at a loss on how to properly use chopsticks.

But she can explain it just fine. Wheeler was one of several who assisted Hamlet Middle School Social Studies teacher David Rathfon Wednesday for a day-long hands-on orientation into Japanese culture.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Rainiece Holloway carefully clutches her chopsticks for her first bite of rice.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Rainiece Holloway carefully clutches her chopsticks for her first bite of rice.

The idea of this unit, Rathfon said, was to teach students how the culture in Japan reflected the values of the people who live there. Rathfon and others, including David William, Karen Brewer and Xaveria McRae, helped transform the school’s first-floor media center into a Japanese tea house. Along with soothing cultural music and a video demonstrating a tea ceremony, Rathfon showed students an assortment of Japanese artifacts.

But mastering the chopsticks was perhaps the most difficult task.

“I can tell you how to do it so well,” Wheeler told sixth-grader Rainiece Holloway, “but I can’t do it myself.”

Holloway tried and tried and sure enough, practice makes — well, if not perfect, at least she wouldn’t go hungry with a sample menu of rice and green tea. She smiled when she was able to gather up a bit of rice for her first bite. The second bite came easier.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com David Rathfon, Social Studies teacher at Hamlet Middle School, shows students a blooming flower inside a makeshift tea house.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
David Rathfon, Social Studies teacher at Hamlet Middle School, shows students a blooming flower inside a makeshift tea house.

Meanwhile, over in the makeshift tea house, Rathfon guided students through the lesson of the day. Japanese culture bottles up four key traits — humility, respect, tranquility and purity — and sells it to society. It’s a concept the Japanese people bought into long ago.

They sat cross-legged — instead of on knees as the Japanese might do, due to the room’s thin carpet. Rathfon asked them to sit “criss-cross applesauce.”

“That’s a word I just learned,” he said. “I’m trying to use it.”

Rathfon asked students how they felt.

“Peace,” one student said. “Harmony.”

The music was soothing, and it helped to have a warm bit of food in their tummies.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Sue Wheeler tries to demonstrate how to properly use chopsticks.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Sue Wheeler tries to demonstrate how to properly use chopsticks.

Many of the Japanese artifacts were part of Rathfon’s personal collection. He’s never been there, he said, but “bless eBay” and friends who have provided gifts over the years. Artwork on the tea house walls was created by HMS students.

In another part of the media center, Brewer guided the students through a worksheet. She explained how the Japanese tea ceremony is Chinese in original but is something that spreads through all of Japan — urban and rural, wealthy and poor. It’s been a Japanese mainstay since the 16th century. Although, Brewer said, that could soon end.

“I have a feeling, probably in a few years … that will start to wane off,” she predicted.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Karen Brewer, left, helps students through a worksheet on Japanese culture.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Karen Brewer, left, helps students through a worksheet on Japanese culture.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com David Rathfon in a Japanese kimono explains to students who have just entered the Hamlet Middle School media center where to go and what to expect.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
David Rathfon in a Japanese kimono explains to students who have just entered the Hamlet Middle School media center where to go and what to expect.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com David Rathfon shows a ceramic tea cup. The Japanese, he said, frequently decorate such items with scenes inspired by nature.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
David Rathfon shows a ceramic tea cup. The Japanese, he said, frequently decorate such items with scenes inspired by nature.

 

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Hamlet, Latest Headlines, News

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