An updated version of the Geo-Cosmos exhibit is seen during during a preview at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Koto Ward, Tokyo. The six-meter-diameter globe can simulate various views of the Earth as seen from space using organic electroluminescence panels. The Yomiuri Shimbun

Globe with next-generation technology unveiled (NHK, Jun 4, 2011)

A gigantic globe made of thousands of organic electroluminescent lighting panels has been unveiled at a Tokyo museum.

The ceremony took place at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation on Friday.

The 6-meter globe is covered with 10,000 state-of-the-art OEL panels developed in Japan. It can show movements of clouds, the changing of the seasons and how the tsunami spread on March 11. The display has 10 times the resolution of conventional LED screens.

The museum director, astronaut Mamoru Mori , says he wants to let the world know more about this new Japanese technology. The exhibit will open to the public in mid-June.

With the usual terpid Japanese summer season appearing to be setting in today, it might be timely to begin our regular EDU WATCH blog with an E. coli caution…

According to an AP news report, the current outbreak of E.coli in Europe is the third-largest and the deadliest. In 1996, a Japanese outbreak killed 12 people and sickened 9,000. Mindful of the recent outbreak of E.coli found in a yakiniku beef restaurant chain, it might be pertinent to post here WHO’s recommendation “to avoid food-borne illnesses, people wash their hands, keep raw meat separate from other foods, thoroughly cook their food, and wash fruits and vegetables, especially if eaten raw. Expert also recommend peeling raw fruits and vegetables if possible: AP news source ”

Below are briefs and summaries of the news on the local educational scene:

[Editor’s note: In our last EDU WATCH blog, we posted a link to the School casualty questions article that showed that in Ishinomaki (Miyagi prefecture) the only schoolchildren who were swept by the tsunami were those who had been released from school and had gone home early. It seemed to show how importance and effective the school disaster drills are. Here’s another article … Students credit survival to disaster-preparedness drills | After quake, instincts kicked into get everyone to higher ground (Japan Times, Jun 4, excerpted below)

KAMAISHI, Iwate Pref. — March 11 started out as another ordinary Friday at Kamaishi East Junior High School, which stands by the mouth of the Unosumai River that runs through the city into Otsuchi Bay. Classes were over for the day and students were about to start their after-school club activities when the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m.

Vice Headmaster Yoko Murakami was at her desk in the faculty room when the office began to shake, knocking everything to the floor.

“It was the first time in my teaching career that I hid under my desk,” said the 53-year-old educator. “The temblor was really strong. It was nothing like past earthquakes I’ve experienced.”

Although the Sanriku region, a coastal area that stretches from Iwate to Miyagi prefectures, had long been warned of a possible major earthquake, locals say the magnitude of this temblor and the tsunami it triggered far exceeded their projections.

More than 850 people died in the city of Kamaishi, and some 450 others are still missing. But only five of the casualties were elementary or junior high school students.

About 2,900 students who attend the city’s 14 schools managed to survive, including students of the three schools overwhelmed by the tsunami — Kamaishi East Junior High School, Unosumai Elementary School and Toni Elementary School — who reacted quickly and escaped.

Local educators credit the disaster prevention education program that Kamaishi began a few years ago for the high survival rate.

“If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would be alive,” said Shin Saito, 38, an English teacher at Kamaishi East in the city’s Unosumai district, one of the hardest-hit communities.

Once the quake stopped, all the teaching staff at the school rushed to evacuate the students, fearing tsunami.

According to the drills they had practiced, the teachers were supposed to gather the students on the school grounds and immediately do a head count. Once it was confirmed that everyone was present, the teachers would then lead them to a designated evacuation site on higher ground. That day, however, the microphone was knocked out by a power outrage and the teachers were unable to issue instructions to the entire school, according to Saito.

Without being told what to do, the students gathered on the school grounds and began running toward the evacuation site located about 1 km away.

Recalling the time they dashed out, students said they knew it was not an ordinary earthquake.

“I was nervous. I thought tsunami would come and was desperately trying to escape,” said Aki Kawasaki, 14, who was attending basketball practice when the quake hit.

Her classmate, Kana Sasaki, 14, said she wasn’t sure whether she needed to escape but “before I realized, I was running. My feet were moving already.”

Fumiya Akasaka, 14, didn’t really expect that tsunami would come. “But it was really an extraordinary shake. I saw older students running and followed them,” he said.

The fact that the students fled their school premises apparently influenced neighboring Unosumai Elementary School. Adhering to quake drill procedures, the school had already evacuated the children to the third floor, Murakami said. But after seeing the junior high school students running away, the elementary school followed them.

Both schools were swallowed by the giant tsunami that struck about half an hour after the quake. A car remains stuck on the third floor of the elementary school, indicating how high the water reached.

“If we had made our move 10 minutes later, our lives would have been over,” said Saito, who checked all the classrooms and confirmed that no one was left behind before he caught up with the students.

But the story of their evacuation doesn’t end there.

When the students and Saito reached the evacuation site, an elderly woman told them that part of the cliff behind the site had collapsed during the earthquake. “She told me that all the years she had lived there she hadn’t seen that happen. She said this was bad and huge tsunami could come,” he said.

The teachers urged the students to continue running up the road to a new location a few hundred meters away. On their way, the junior high school students ran behind the elementary school children and supported them, Saito said.

By the time they reached the next evacuation site, however, tsunami were sweeping over Unosumai. “I looked back and saw the approaching tsunami and how houses and cars were smashing into our school building,” Saito recalled.

Seeking to move to even higher ground, the students dashed from the second evacuation site and continued running up the hill. “It wasn’t like they were very calm as they evacuated. They were screaming. They were really running for their lives,” he said.

“I was coaxing a few elementary school kids to keep moving, but as I ran, I remember hitting my legs because they were trembling,” said Saito, who still dreams about the experience.

In the end, tsunami swept over the first evacuation site and stopped only a few meters from the second location. But all the students were safe.

Through their swift action, the 212 junior high school students not only saved themselves but also the 350 elementary school children and their teachers, and even some from the local community.

It was still freezing cold in Kamaishi, and the teachers and students took shelter in the gymnasium of one of the school buildings in the city. They evacuated to another school the next day, and were eventually reunited with their families.

Nearly 70 percent of Kamaishi East students lost their homes, and 14 students lost either one or both parents, according to the school. Of the 21 teachers, seven saw their homes destroyed, including Murakami and Saito.

But the teachers at Kamaishi East are proud their students applied the knowledge and skills developed through the disaster prevention education program that the school had been working on with Kamaishi’s board of education during the past three years.

According to the board’s Katsumi Yokote, the Sanriku region experienced huge quakes in 1896 and 1933 that claimed thousands of lives, and stories of the disasters have been handed down from one generation to another. But as the region had been expected to experience a major temblor within the next 30 years, the disaster prevention program was started to raise awareness among the young.

Three years ago, the board of education compiled a series of teaching materials on tsunami in different subject areas to make sure students comprehended what they might have to face one day.

For example, sixth-graders researched the local tsunami history in social studies classes, and studied the physics of tsunami in science class. In their reading class, the students read about the 1896 tsunami and wrote an essay on it.

Because Kamaishi East was designated as one of the schools that would work on its own programs, it offered special sessions for the students to learn first aid and how to cook food and run a soup kitchen. The students also made their own hazard map and performed quake drills several times.

Murakami said the goal of the program was to teach students how to save themselves, as well as others, in the event of a disaster. “I believe our students were able to show leadership in this evacuation,” she said.

Yokote of the board of education said the students of Toni Elementary School, which was also hit by tsunami, likewise made it to higher ground and survived.

The city will continue to work on the programs, he said, but for now they will also start classes that emphasize the preciousness of life.

The new school year at Kamaishi East began April 25. As the school building can no longer be used, the students are currently sharing Kamaishi Junior High School until a temporary home for the school is built later this year.

Kamaishi East students Kawasaki, Sasaki and Akasaka, who started their third year, said everyone seems fine at school but aren’t sure how they are at home. School life has changed, however. Although classes are held separately, they do club activities with the other school, and none of the Kamaishi East school events they look forward to have yet to be scheduled, they said.

Kawasaki, student body vice president, said that despite all that’s happened, she wants to ensure that the first-year students of Kamaishi East have the opportunity to learn their school culture, such as greeting everyone they meet.

“I don’t want us to feel like victims. I want to make sure that our school maintains its identity,” she said.

Akasaka, captain of the judo team, said training isn’t the same because their host school doesn’t have a judo team and lacks tatami mats. “Things aren’t easy, but I want to do everything I can,” said Akasaka, whose family has been renting a house since late April after their home was destroyed in the disaster.

The students said they are grateful for the Self-Defense Forces and for the support of volunteers who came to the city.

Sasaki said that volunteering was something they learned through the disaster prevention program, and she wants to demonstrate what she learned at some point.

“Everything is different now, but I want us students of Kamaishi East to do what we can,” said Sasaki, who recently moved to temporary housing with her family.

Saito, the English teacher, said the students have yet to realize how fortunate they are to have survived the disaster.

“Things are very tough already, and the students may face many difficulties going forward, but I know they won’t be defeated,” he said.

“It’s the responsibility of we adults to make sure they can utilize their skills to survive, and that they can even lead a better life because of what they have experienced,” Saito said.

“But the fact is, it’s the students who are giving us hope and the strength to move on.”

This next article concerns the situation on vaccinations in Japan: Immunization key word at Ibaraki school (Jun 2, Daily Yomiuri)

Lawrence J. Zwier on the importance of Pronouns point the way in TOEFL reading

Mike Guest illustrates the ease of learning the past perfect through communication and emphasizes the role of communication over current classroom conversation approaches AND over the learning of disconnected grammar phrases in In praise of grammar — and not conversation

Health teachers play key role in lives of students (Jun 2, Daily Yomiuri)

CHIBA–On a late-February day, a male student at Oihama High School in Chiba Prefecture came to the health room when lunchtime started. He did not feel sick; he eats lunch on the balcony of the room every day.

He is not the only one who comes to the room to spend lunchtime. Kyoko Uzawa, a health teacher, welcomes their visits.

“In coming to this room, the students are sending a kind of SOS,” the 46-year-old teacher said during a visit to the public school by The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Uzawa referred to a female student who seldom attended school. One day, she showed up at the room.

“I haven’t seen you for a while,” Uzawa said in greeting the girl. The student eventually told Uzawa she had been staying at her boyfriend’s home almost every day.

Rather than scolding the girl, Uzawa asked her why she did not want to go home. After hesitating, the girl said she was afraid of her father, and eventually revealed he had physically abused her.

Uzawa informed the school’s principal, who then reported it as a case of child abuse to a local child consultation center.

As another example, Uzawa cited a male student who sometimes came to the health room to check his height. One day, the boy told Uzawa his single parent neglected him and often left him at home alone.

“I sometimes find ready-to-eat food from a supermarket in the fridge,” the boy said. “But I often go to bed without eating because there’s nothing to eat.”

After listening to the student, Uzawa suggested he buy groceries on his own and told him some easy recipes.

The high school has a three-year full-time program and a four-year part-time one, with a total enrollment of 835. Under the motto, “The school where you can start fresh,” Oihama accepts many students who used to be bullied or were unable to go to school during their middle school days, as well as those who have difficult family backgrounds.

The school’s faculty always encourage students to work hard despite such difficulties. Thanks to the efforts of the faculty and students themselves, some graduates have attended prestigious universities or landed jobs at well-known companies.

“In helping our students achieve such outcomes, the health room plays a pivotal role,” said Vice Principal Akiko Seki, 54.

During the 2010 school year, the room recorded 7,219 visits by students, and in 4,145 of the visits, the students did not feel sick but came to the room for no specific reason.

Kanako Okada, a Chiba University professor who teaches future health teachers, says it has become a nationwide trend for students to visit their schools’ health room without a clear reason.

“Quite a few students today have problems in their families and relationships with friends,” the 50-year-old professor said. “Students tend to view health rooms as a place that can offer them a helping hand, or a place where they can feel at ease.”

However, it is not easy for health teachers to determine which students visiting health rooms have private problems.

Uzawa recalled one female student who was found to have lived alone for months since her single parent left home without giving the teenager living expenses. The fact was discovered when the student’s teacher visited her house after she failed to pay for school materials.

The student apparently tried to hide her problem. She was never absent from school and worked hard in her classes. When visiting the health room, she talked cheerfully to Uzawa about the meals prepared by the absent parent.

“Students don’t usually feel free to talk about their problems,” Uzawa said. “That’s why we should always be sensitive to any small changes we see in our students and to always show them we understand and accept them.

(Jun. 2, 2011)

EDUCATION RENAISSANCE / Health teachers play key role in lives of students (Jun.2)

Anthem ordinance obliges Osaka teachers to stand, sing ‘Kimigayo’ (Japan Times, Jun 5)

***

Elsewhere in the world … the news briefs on education:

Cambridge second in the world for medicine (BBC, May 4) Three UK universities in top 10, but Harvard tops new league of medicine courses

The MIT factor: celebrating 150 years of maverick genius (BBC, May 18) The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has led the world into the future for 150 years with scientific innovations. Its brainwaves keep the US a superpower. But what makes the university such a fertile ground for brilliant ideas?

UK slashes the number of trusted English language testers (BBC, May 10) Overhaul of English language exams recognised for UK visas favours providers with international availability and tighter security measures…

[Editor’s note: Does this create an anomalous situation where a student may have been accepted by a UK educational institution based on an English test axed from the visa list, and then denied entry by the UK Border agency?]

***

Next, the news briefs and article links on the continuing Fukushima nuclear crisis and tsunami disaster:

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

TEPCO to install additional storage tanks (NHK, Jun 4)

Tokyo Electric Power Company will install more tanks to store the radioactive wastewater that is accumulating at its troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Water levels are rising in the basements of the turbine buildings of reactors 3 and 4. The total amount of accumulated wastewater at the plant is now estimated at more than 105,000 tons.
TEPCO plans to start filtering highly radioactive water on June 15th. It will treat 1,200 tons of water per day and transfer the filtered water to temporary tanks.
The utility will start bringing in 370 steel tanks, each with a capacity of 100 or 120 tons, from a plant in Kanuma City, north of Tokyo, and elsewhere.
TEPCO has already installed temporary water tanks capable of storing 13,000 tons.
The additional tanks will bring the total storage capacity at the plant to more than 40,000 tons.

TEPCO says work to install the filters is proceeding smoothly. But it must quickly address the issue of securing sufficient water storage, as it is feared that the current rainy season will worsen the situation.

Gov’t failed to release some radiation projections

projections of how radioactive substances would spread if they leaked from the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

The science ministry used a computer system called SPEEDI to calculate how radiation would spread depending on the weather and terrain.

It said on Friday that it had failed to release 37 projections for the Fukushima Daini plant. It made the projections once an hour from 6PM on March 11 to 9AM on March 13.

The ministry said it had overlooked the existence of the data because it stopped making projections for the Fukushima Daini plant on March 13.

It was found on Thursday that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had failed to release 5 SPEEDI calculations for the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear plants.

The government said in May that it would release all projections made with the SPEEDI system.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Steam, high radiation detected at No.1 reactor (NHK, Jun 4)

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says steam was observed coming out of the floor of the No.1 reactor building, and extremely high radiation was detected in the vicinity.

Tokyo Electric Power Company inspected the inside of the No.1 reactor building on Friday with a remote-controlled robot.
TEPCO said it found that steam was rising from a crevice in the floor, and that extremely high radiation of 3,000 to 4,000 millisieverts per hour was measured around the area. The radiation is believed to be the highest detected in the air at the plant.
TEPCO says the steam is likely coming from water at a temperature of 50 degrees Celsius that has accumulated in the basement of the reactor building.
The company sees no major impact from the radiation so far on ongoing work, as it has been detected only within a limited section of the building.
The No.1 reactor is believed to have suffered a meltdown after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.
It is believed to have created holes in the pressure vessel and damaged the containment vessel, causing highly contaminated water to leak out and accumulate in the basement.

Under the utility’s plan to bring the plant under control, a circulatory cooling system is to be installed to decontaminate radioactive water and use it as coolant.

TEPCO to install additional storage tanks  (NHK, Jun 4) Tokyo Electric Power Company will install more tanks to store the radioactive wastewater that is accumulating at its troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Water levels are rising in the basements of the turbine buildings of reactors 3 and 4. The total amount of accumulated wastewater at the plant is now estimated at more than 105,000 tons.

TEPCO plans to start filtering highly radioactive water on June 15th. It will treat 1,200 tons of water per day and transfer the filtered water to temporary tanks.

The utility will start bringing in 370 steel tanks, each with a capacity of 100 or 120 tons, from a plant in Kanuma City, north of Tokyo, and elsewhere.

TEPCO has already installed temporary water tanks capable of storing 13,000 tons.

The additional tanks will bring the total storage capacity at the plant to more than 40,000 tons.

TEPCO says work to install the filters is proceeding smoothly. But it must quickly address the issue of securing sufficient water storage, as it is feared that the current rainy season will worsen the situation.

Radiation in No. 1 reactor building at highest level yet (Kyodo, AP) Excerpts:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday it has detected radiation of up to 4,000 millisieverts per hour in the building housing the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The radiation reading, which was taken when Tepco sent a robot into the No. 1 reactor building on Friday, is believed to be the highest detected in the air at the plant so far.

On Friday, Tepco found steam spewing from the basement into the building’s first floor. Nationally televised news Saturday showed blurry video of a steady stream of smoky gas curling up from an opening where a pipe rises through the floor.

The radiation is so high now that any worker exposed to it would absorb the maximum permissible dose of 250 millisieverts in only about four minutes. Tepco said there is no plan to place workers in that area of the plant and said it will carefully monitor any developments.

The utility said it took the reading near the floor at the southeast corner of the building. The steam appears to be entering from a leaking rubber gasket that is supposed to seal the area where the pipe comes up through the first floor. No damage to the pipe was found, Tepco said.

The reactor’s suppression chamber is under the building, and highly radioactive water generated from cooling the reactor is believed to have accumulated there, Tepco said, adding that the steam is probably coming from there.

Meanwhile, tanks for storing radioactive water were on their way Saturday to the plant.

Tepco has said radioactive water could start overflowing from temporary storage areas on June 20, or possibly sooner if there is heavy rainfall.

Two of the 370 tanks were due to arrive Saturday from a manufacturer in nearby Tochigi Prefecture, Tepco said. Two hundred of them can store 100 tons, and 170 can store 120 tons.

The tanks will continue arriving through August and will store a total of 40,000 tons of radioactive water, according to Tepco. Read more here.

Gov’t didn’t release radiation data after accident (NHK, Jun4)

The Japanese government has expressed regret for not disclosing some important results of the radiation monitoring conducted near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant soon after the accident.
The central and Fukushima prefectural governments collected the data to determine evacuation measures as well as food and water restrictions for residents.

A reading on March 12th, one day after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the plant, shows that radioactive tellurium was detected 7 kilometers away. Tellurium is produced during the melting of nuclear fuel.

Three hours before the data was collected, the government expanded the radius of the evacuation area around the plant from 3 kilometers to 10 kilometers.

But the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported at a news conference several hours later that the nuclear fuel was intact.

The government also failed to disclose the high radiation levels in weeds 30 to 50 kilometers from the plant. On March 15th, 123 million becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per kilogram were detected 38 kilometers northeast of the plant.

The nuclear safety agency says it deeply regrets not releasing the data.

Professor Yasuyuki Muramatsu of Gakushuin University says radioactive iodine has a high effect on children. He says that if the data had been released earlier, more measures could have been taken to protect them from exposure.

Gov’t failed to release some radiation projections (NHK, Jun 4)

The Japanese science ministry has admitted failing to release some of its projections of how radioactive substances would spread if they leaked from the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.
The science ministry used a computer system called SPEEDI to calculate how radiation would spread depending on the weather and terrain.
It said on Friday that it had failed to release projections of how radioactive substances would spread if they leaked from the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

The science ministry used a computer system called SPEEDI to calculate how radiation would spread depending on the weather and terrain.
It said on Friday that it had failed to release 37 projections for the Fukushima Daini plant. It made the projections once an hour from 6PM on March 11 to 9AM on March 13.
The ministry said it had overlooked the existence of the data because it stopped making projections for the Fukushima Daini plant on March 13.
It was found on Thursday that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency had failed to release 5 SPEEDI calculations for the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear plants.
The government said in May that it would release all projections made with the SPEEDI system.

Disaster volunteers find plenty to do in Fukushima (Japan Times, May 31) but are hampered by lack of Japanese speaking skills …