By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
A representative of Japanese-owned automotive parts manufacturer Denso recently visited Ocoee Middle School to teach students about Japanese culture. This visit came about because the company's …
A representative of Japanese-owned automotive parts manufacturer Denso recently visited Ocoee Middle School to teach students about Japanese culture.
This visit came about because the company's Athens facility is paired with OMS through the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce's BEST (Business and Education Serving Together) Partnership program.
Victoria White, senior specialist of compensation and benefits at Denso, spoke to students in Jordan McElhaney's sixth-grade social studies classes about some of the differences between the United States and Japan.
"I'm glad we could have this opportunity to come into the school and present a different cultural viewpoint," White said. "At Denso, we see these students are our future, and having this kind of knowledge can help them be better prepared to work in a global marketplace."
Japan is currently Tennessee's largest foreign investor. According to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, there are now 187 Japanese-owned companies in Tennessee, which together employ nearly 50,000 people.
White told the students her job involves helping workers who come to Tennessee from Japan get acclimated to life in the United States.
Her presentation focused on many aspects of daily life in Japan, including language, food preferences, etiquette and more. The students were particularly surprised by some of the details about what it is like to be a student in Japan, including the fact students there often help clean their school buildings.
"I think it's great we were able to have this discussion," said McElhaney. "They got another perspective on a culture they do not normally get to interact with."
White had taken several props with her to help teach students about Japanese culture. These included examples of popular movies and cartoon characters, along with books written in the traditional Japanese format, meant to be read from back to front.
Students also got to learn how to use chopsticks and practiced their skills with a game that required them to pick up peppermint candies and move them from one bowl to another.
"The students were awesome," said White. "They asked really good questions. Some even asked about things like the dollar-to-yen exchange rate and the Japanese stock market — not just questions about food and things."
Though no definite dates have been set, there was talk of White returning to the school in the future to share her presentation with other classes.
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