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Simmons to Train Boston Middle School Teachers

BOSTON (December 2, 2005) — In an unusual effort to prepare Boston youths for an increasingly global society, Simmons College is training Boston middle school teachers to introduce a comprehensive study of Japanese culture and society into their classrooms.

The program, which is funded by the U.S.-Japan Foundation, will enable 12 middle school teachers from Boston public schools to attend courses at Simmons, develop and implement instructional lesson plans, and embark on a 10-day study tour of Kyoto, Japan, a sister city of Boston, in July 2006.

Participating are teachers from at least four Boston middle schools, including the New Boston Pilot Middle School in Dorchester.

Joy Bettencourt and Gary Oakes, Simmons College education professors and co-organizers, say Japan's distinct culture, increasing population, advances in technology, and current ties to the United States make it an ideal country for students to study in-depth."The world is becoming smaller," said Bettencourt. "We're hoping that as part of this program, teachers can develop ongoing relationships with teachers we meet in Japan, and that there will be connections between students."

Bettencourt said middle school is a crucial time to instill cultural awareness in students, because of their willingness to learn new and different information, and the interdisciplinary format of middle school education. The program, which also involves the Simmons College East Asian Studies program, will focus on Japanese culture — including art, religion, and language — from the perspective of Japanese middle school students, they said.

The U.S.-Japan Foundation is a private foundation committed to promoting stronger ties between Americans and Japanese by supporting projects that foster mutual knowledge and education, deepen understanding, create effective channels of communication, and address common concerns in an increasingly interdependent world. The foundation awards grants in three main program areas: pre-college education, education and public opinion, and U.S.-Japan policy.

Simmons College ( is a nationally recognized private university located in the heart of Boston. It includes an undergraduate college for women, and graduate programs for women and men in social work, health studies, library and information science, management, and liberal arts.