For life to be worth living, one shouldn't aim simply to survive, one should aim to excel. This belief was the essential credo of the JFMF MTP. It inspires us now with the sense that we are not interested in merely providing disaster relief, we want to help communities to gain the will to recover and then exceed their past expectations.

A Heritage of Excellence

The Third Responders Initiative draws on the alumni of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Master Teacher Program (MTP) to re-implement their ideas and practices in addressing the need for redevelopment in Tohoku. The MTP pioneered the extensive and intensive use of computers in creating a wide array of collaborative activities involving students and teachers in the United States and Japan in environmental and community development projects. They reached out beyond the scope of the bilateral relationship to include activities with schools in Rwanda, Mozambique and Tanzania. Schools in the Tohoku region, particularly in the city of Kesennuma, played very active roles in contributing to this outreach process. Now they are in need of support so that they can return to this level of operations. The following images and text give some sense of the standards we are aiming for.

The Scope of the JFMF MTP


Over the course of almost a decade, the MTP involved over 200 pairs of schools that spanned both the United States and Japan. The selection process insured that these schools were geographically and socio-economically diverse, and that they included participation by multiply disabled and otherwise severely disadvantaged students. It did so by applying a simple rubric – who will benefit most. Applicants demonstrated this by committing to develop and implement carefully thought out projects that they could show as having a demonstrably positive effect on their schools and community.

This sense of benefit helped determine which applicants would make the best use of their opportunity to contribute to the overall quality of environmental and technology education. The environmental projects engaged all the participants in collaborative inquiry based education that integrated technology into the learning process. The project designed required schools to engage in community and network building by recruiting voluntary support for various organizations, such as universities, civic groups, museums and businesses. The MTP program coordinators contributed to this
through reaching out to the public by way of special education events, including a traveling museum exhibit.

Education Prepares for the Future

Education lays the foundations of the future in the minds of the young. It has to engage youths’ curiosity and enthusiasm with things that might be, so as to enable them to become adults whose aspirations take them beyond having to wonder about what might have been. One way in which the MTP program did this was through giving students the opportunity to creatively engage in the consideration of alternative environments through the Lego Mars Rover project and the Future City Competition.

These illustrations show a trans-Pacific robotic collaboration, the Future City Competition and students in the Nara Education University Junior High School.
The Nara students interacted with partners in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in remotely controlling model rovers that each side built and set in a Mars environment of their own making. The Future City model is one that students in Kesennuma made in 2007 to depict a community that would provide greater security from environmental disasters. Recently these groups converged when the Nara students set up a webpage to encourage students in the disaster area to look to the future with hope.



Technology played a central role in MTP activities. It enabled program students in the United States and Japan to engage in monthly Internet based videoconferences during which they reported on their projects, shared language lessons and cultural experiences. In many instances, this has led to enduring online friendships.

Japanese Lessons


Language lesson exchanges were an important part of the MTP. One participant illustrated a lesson between Hibiki High School in Kita Kyushu and East High School in Laramie, Wyoming with these pictures, and said: “This time, they introduced the students at East High School to phrases and words that could be used at a hamburger shop. They spent a lot of time preparing small props for the skit, which was fine since I knew that the students were taking the work very seriously. For this videoconference, we used three cameras. The first was for the ‘explainers,’ the second was used to show the spelling and pronunciation of the phrases, and the third was used to film the actors.”

Extending the Scope of the Program in a Videoconference about Peace


"The conference was about peace. A half dozen Japanese students had written peace poems (in English!) and read them to us. Luis was visiting from Mozambique and he sang us a peace song in his native tongue before telling us about the civil war and weapons to sculpture program (600,000 guns traded in for bicycles, sewing machines and the like over the past few years).” - Jim McElroy, commenting on an interaction between Shoreline High School in Tomales, California and Ehime Matsuyama Technical High School in Japan that was part of a link building process between Ehime and Mozambique.

Using GPS and GIS


Kainan High School students from Wakayama, Japan visited Eureka Springs, Arkansas and learned GPS use. On their return, they gathered data from throughout their city to create a GIS map of disaster evacuation routes. "We were able to teach Tomoe and Yurie the basics of GPS and GIS. Both girls felt more comfortable with the technologies and seemed more confident about creating their maps that will cover demographic data and evacuation routes. The girls got to practice with the Trimble rover we lent them. We have copied ESRI-Japan so they can continue to provide software assistance." Mila Floro, East High School, Eureka Springs.

Conserving the Natural Environment


The use of pair-projects in the MTP helped to focus interest on specific environment concerns such as the state of water use and wetlands in the two countries. Students in Kushiro, Hokkaido explored water quality and biodiversity in the Kushiro Wetlands National Park, while students in Homestead, Florida investigated them in the Everglades. The program also opened the doors to understanding Nigerian culture through Homestead teacher Dr. Adwale Alonge.

Engaging Differently Abled


The Master Teacher Program had a fundamental emphasis on improving educational opportunities – embodied its selection criterion of "who will benefit most." Under this standard, participant selection took place on the basis the impact that the program would have on improving the lives and learning experiences of those involved. It opened opportunities for participation by institutions that normally have little or no opportunity for access to international exchanges. The use of technology permitted differently abled students in each country to share in common projects and to develop a mutual interest in understanding the natural environment.

The Collaborative School Science Network (CSSN)


The CSSN project brought middle and high school students from the U.S. and Japan together in exchange visits to each country interspersed with collaborative research that they coordinated through videoconferencing and other online exchanges. During their exchange visits, they met and worked with leading scientist at national research institutions. Their projects ranged from conducting the NaGISA survey of marine life, depicted here, to sequencing the genes of the Japanese giant salamander and the American Hell Bender salamander. As a result of Rick Hernandez’s participation in MTP and CSSN, Niceville High School in Niceville, Florida has taken the leading role in the global expansion of NaGISA to developing countries. While the Bergen Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology in New Jersey has continued its research and exchanges on genetics with Kokutaiji High School in Hiroshima.

BUGS - A Unifying Core Project


The Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Master Teacher Program encompassed great diversity in its participants and provided opportunities for unique experiences to each of them. It also provided a common sense of identity through the engaging them in a common unifying project: BUGS - Biodiversity Understanding Global Systems. This project was a biodiversity survey that encouraged students to explore the ecosystem and the interdependence of life through mapping out the diversity of insect life in the areas near their schools. In the process, the students learned to combine fieldwork, lab studies, and on-line collaboration into a final presentation on their schools’ pair projects. The Third Responder Initiative is taking a similar approach to team building through the implementation of the Mapping Project.


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