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Simmons Helps Boston Public School Teachers "Go Global"

BOSTON (June 16, 2006) — Sparked by a desire to better prepare Boston students for an increasingly global society, nearly a dozen Boston public school teachers are traveling to Japan in July in an unusual effort to bring back to their classrooms firsthand knowledge of the country's society and culture.

The program, which is funded by the U.S.-Japan Foundation, requires the teachers to attend rigorous curriculum courses at Simmons College, develop and implement instructional lesson plans, and then embark on a 10-day study tour of Kyoto, Japan, a sister city of Boston, July 2- 13.

Participating teachers hail from several Boston public middle schools, including the New Boston Pilot Middle School in Dorchester, the James P. Timilty Middle School in Roxbury, the Patrick F. Gavin Middle School in South Boston, as well as TechBoston Academy and Boston International High School.

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," says 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 that middle school is a crucial period to instill cultural awareness in students, because of adolescents' 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.

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.