Exploring activities to learn the culture of peace in no-contact situations with children in Hiroshima – Commemorating International Day of Peace 2021 – Mie Oba

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In Fukuyama (Hiroshima prefecture), peace education for young children is organized according to children’s development. I have developed “three steps for developing a peaceful mind in children and students” since 2006. The first step is to impress upon the children an image of peace using a traditional Japanese Kamishibai: picture and story. This Kamishibai is based on a real story written in collaboration with an A-bomb survivor, and it is about a tree that was exposed to the A-bomb. The second step is physical expression with a song, that is, understanding the meaning of a song and physically expressing a peace-developing process. The third step is wishing for peace by making paper cranes. This step realizes children’s hopes for a peaceful future using hand-made arts. This series of peace activities with children is quite important training for future teachers.

While the children were making paper cranes, a nursery teacher asked, “What are you feeling?” The children answered “We are friends;” “I’m happy to make paper cranes with my friends;” “My friend is kind to help me;” “I want to present this paper crane to my family.” Children understand that friendship, kindness, cooperation, and attachment are important, and this warm feeling represents children’s image of peace.

This activity won the ESD Award 2019 of World OMEP. The survivor who made the Kamishibai, the story of the Hiroshima tree, with us was delighted at this news and she said to me, ”Please continue to show my wish of peace to all of the world.” After she passed away in 2020, we continue to do so. 

In 2020, World OMEP presented three movies of our Peace activities involving children in Fukuyama on Facebook. I would like to invite you to discover the Japanese culture of Peace by watching these short movies.

Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 pandemic, my students and the future teachers of ECEC could not visit the ECEC facilities for the activities of peace education in 2020, so we tried to explore a non-contact way to disseminate the culture of peace. We made a movie to explain to children the process of making a crane using a large piece of paper, accompanied with singing the song “Orizuru (Paper cranes)” (lyrics and composition by Shihei Umehara).

In March 2021, between the third and the fourth wave of the Covid-19 infection, I went to a public nursery school to show this movie, but students could not get permission to visit. After watching the movie, 4-year-old class boys came to me and said, “We want to make a crane with a large paper like this!” I discussed the possibility of conducting this activity with the director of this nursery school and the municipal office. I had an opportunity to visit and make some large paper cranes with 4-5 year old children and students in July between the fourth and the fifth wave.

First, the children listened to and watched the Kamishibai of the Hiroshima peace tree. Then, we physically expressed developing the process of peace by singing a song. After that, the children, with the help of my students, set about making their large paper cranes. Now, since August 2021, a mother and baby paper cranes (photo ①), as co-productions of children and nursery teachers, and a giant crane (photo②) that children made with my students welcome all children, families, and visitors at the entrance of this nursery school. We gave them a lot of paper of different sizes and colors for children and nursery teachers to make different types of paper cranes. They continue to inspire thoughts and wishes of peace at the nursery school.

Every summer since 1990, in Fukuyama City, the “peace appeal exhibition”, which is the work of children with a hope for peace, shown in posters and strings of a thousand paper cranes, has been displayed at the public facilities. After our visit, the children’s work using different paper cranes was presented at the Peace appeal exhibition 2021 with a message from them: “Let’s save our precious lives” (photo ③). 

We can find a tree, sky, animals, insects, and friends, all in the image of peace with children. Children understand the peace in view of both humanity and ecology. 

Our activities for peace with children and students are continuing even in this no-contact situation.

“I can hear a voice even if my ears are blocked.

Love is overflowing even if I close my heart.

Flap paper cranes, from me to you.

Flap paper cranes, from you to the world.”

From the lyrics of the song “Orizuru (Paper Crane)” (lyrics and composition by Shihei Umehara) (Translation by Mie Oba.)

1 Oba, M. (2020). L’Éducation à la Paix dans la Petite Enfance, OMEP Theory into Practice Vol.3, 47-51.

2  Kamishiba is a picture-story show. In Japanese, “Kami” means paper, and “Shibai” means play. The reader tells the listener the story while turning over a series of large picture cards.

3 This Kamishibai was made in Japanese in 2006. The French translation was later added in 2008, and it is currently published in three languages (Japanese, French and English). Oba, M, et al. (2014). A story of Hiroshima: Walking together for peace ~We are always with you~. Community Renaissance Research Center, ISBN 978-4-907964-00-9

4 Oba, M.(2019). The 2019 Education for Sustainable Development Award Winner’s Presentation. 71th OMEP International Conference. Panama City.

5 Small Step for Peace, Continued with Children: https://www.facebook.com/300436806775379/videos/1589495091232469

OMEP Commemorates World Peace Day 2020: https://www.facebook.com/300436806775379/videos/1033873510405325

We encourage you to make your peace paper cranes: https://www.facebook.com/300436806775379/videos/2665989747051545

Born in Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture.

She worked as a teacher (in the subjects of History, Geography, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education, and French) at a high school overseas education facility in France, and at Fukuyama City Women’s Junior College. At the moment, she is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at Fukuyama City University and she is the director of OMEP’s Japanese National Committee.

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