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Washington and Lee University

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Tea in a Box

Washington and Lee University has received a grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership to develop "Tea in a Box," an outreach program that will introduce local school children to Japanese culture through the traditional tea ceremony. The program was piloted during the Winter term 2007 in Rockbridge County's Central Elementary School with the help of students enrolled in Professor Ikeda's Literature in Translation course, "Food and Tea in Japan."Washington and Lee University has received a grant from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership to develop "Tea in a Box," an outreach program that will introduce local school children to Japanese culture through the traditional tea ceremony. The program is being piloted this winter in Rockbridge County's Central Elementary School with the help of students enrolled in Professor Ikeda's Literature in Translation course, "Food and Tea in Japan."

The W&L student presenters arrive in the classroom with a chabitsu--a traditional laquered box that holds special utensils and accoutrements for a tea ceremony--and a stage for kamishibai, or "paper drama," a traditional Japanese form of storytelling using beautifully illustrated cards. This story and hands-on introduction to chanoyu, the Way of Tea, is designed to prepare the children to be guests in the Japanese Tea Room recently constructed in the Watson Pavilion, a gallery of the Reeves Center for the Research and Exhibition of Porcelain and Paintings. As visitors to the tearoom, they will participate in a tray tea, the simplest tea service, performed by W&L students trained in temae (the tea procedure).The W&L student presenters arrive in the classroom with a chabitsu--a traditional laquered box that holds special utensils and accoutrements for a tea ceremony--and a stage for kamishibai, or "paper drama," a traditional Japanese form of storytelling using beautifully illustrated cards. This story and hands-on introduction to chanoyu, the Way of Tea, is designed to prepare the children to be guests in the Japanese Tea Room recently constructed in the Watson Pavilion, a gallery of the Reeves Center for the Research and Exhibition of Porcelain and Paintings. As visitors to the tearoom, they will participate in a tray tea, the simplest tea service, performed by W&L students trained in temae (the tea procedure).

 

Dr. Janet Ikeda, Associate Dean of the College and Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Literature, is the project director for Tea in a Box. Ikeda was instrumental in bringing the Japanese tea room to Washington and Lee, where it serves as a cultural laboratory for her students. But her vision for the new tea room extends beyond the classroom to opportunities for community outreach.

"The 'Tea in a Box' program gives my literature students a chance to share their knowledge of the Japanese tea ceremony and tea culture with local school children. I'm delighted with the Reeves Center's willingness to open the Japanese tearoom for cultural exchanges like this between the university and the community, and to the Japan Foundation for supporting our first outreach efforts."

Bonnie Bernstein, a curriculum writer and program developer, is coordinating the project, including development of an interdisciplinary activity module to bridge "Tea in a Box" presentations and visits to the Reeves Center tea room. Bernstein has experience staging Japanese tea and festival events as the former program director for Princeton University's Cotsen Children's Library. She is working with Central School staff to correlate Tea in a Box lessons with state standards of learning.

Central Elementary Principal Ryan Barber is gratified to have his staff and students involved in the program pilot. "I believe that one of our most important responsibilities as educators is to provide experiences that open doors to the world around us. This project aligns with our curriculum and allows students to access it in an exciting, meaningful way. Our school is a better place to learn because of this experience." Dr. Janet Ikeda, Associate Dean of the College and Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Literature, is the project director for Tea in a Box. Ikeda was instrumental in bringing the Japanese tea room to Washington and Lee, where it serves as a cultural laboratory for her students. But her vision for the new tea room extends beyond the classroom to opportunities for community outreach.