All Stella Maris all students, from Preparatory to Year Six, learn Japanese. The focus is not on creating fluent speakers of Japanese; rather, the aim is to equip our youngsters to feel comfortable and confident with another language and to be familiar with the culture of Japan. This is done through the use of games, songs and stories. Curriculum content is related to the Integrated Units covered by the classroom teacher and links across curricula are made wherever appropriate.

As the children progress through the school their skills in listening, speaking, reading and writing in Japanese are developed. The Hiragana phonetic script is introduced at the Preparatory level and is developed as students advance through their years at school. In Years Five and Six there is a more concentrated focus on reading and writing in Hiragana, which is an extension of the new Victorian Curriculum Foundation – 10, and is highly beneficial to students as they prepare for the Secondary School stage of their education.

Where possible, opportunities are provided for Japanese native speakers to visit and spend time in classes with the children. This benefits the children enormously in terms of experiencing authentic Japanese culture first hand and creating empathy and cultural connections. Years Five and Six students also have the opportunity of communicating with students in Japan, both live (via Skype) and by correspondence. Skype exchanges with school students in Japan are scheduled at least once each school term. A Japanese Day celebration is also planned each school year at which children have opportunities to experience the Japanese language and culture through a variety of performance styles, and to interact with session presenters.

Stella Maris will establish a formal “sister school” relationship with the Tsutsujigaoka Primary School in Japan from term two in 2016. The school is in Nabari, a city of about 80,000, located in the central Mie Prefecture on Honshu Island, the largest and most populous island of Japan. A famous product of the Mie Prefecture is Akafuku, a wholesome sweet made with mochi and sweet red bean paste. Yummy! The children of the Tsutsujigaoka school are very excited about extending their outreach activities to the children of Stella Maris. They, and the Stella Maris school community, will benefit significantly as the sister school relationship develops in the years to come. An early item on the agenda might be to ask the Japanese children for the Akafuku recipe!