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Get to Know Mirai no Mori Series #6 – Program Tools

Through this series, we deliver insights into the institutional care system in Japan, children in it, and Mirai no Mori’s mission. This newsletter focuses on some of our methods to create and provide valuable experiences for the children. We hope you find it interesting and informative.

Series #6: Mirai no Mori Program – Program Tools

            Mirai no Mori programs use three principal tools: Outdoors, Diversity, and Role Models. The outdoor provides an environment without discrimination and prejudice. It is also an environment where one cannot dictate the surroundings, and the only thing you can control is yourself. This environment allows children to face their true selves without distraction from everyday life or social stigma. In this new environment, children are exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking by interacting with people of diverse backgrounds, occupations, and lifestyles. Through wide range of new experiences in new environment, children can rediscover themselves and start to establish a solid foundation to build their “Essential Life Skills.”

            One of the first things we do at every program is form teams, usually consisting of 4-5 campers, a care worker, and a camp staff. New teams are formed every program, and each of them needs to come up with a team name and an original headcount. Headcount is essentially a roll call, where each member calls out their assigned number. In creating a headcount, children are encouraged to be creative. They come up with different ways of counting, their own chants, and incorporate gestures to make a unique headcount for the team. Headcount is called several times throughout the program, helping to strengthen teams’ bond. It is also a great opportunity for repeater children to play a leading role in deciding team names or gestures or even calling out headcounts themselves.

            Each program is closed with a reflection. This activity creates a designated time for the children to revisit the day and helps solidify their experiences and thoughts. There are four themes to help children reflect their day; “Impact – most memorable moment,” “New – something I did/learned for the first time,” “Yay – something that went well,” and “Hmm, next time – something that did not go well.” The reflection is done in a team, and each member shares their reflection with the rest of the team. It is a great opportunity to hear how others see or feel about the same moment differently. Hearing various thoughts and feelings of others and comparing them to their own, children can gain deeper understanding of themselves and their surroundings.

            Such internal development of children cannot be completed over a single program. It is the continuous accumulation of experiences and learning moments that eventually leads to realizations of true selves. As children grow, the same activity is experienced differently with different takeaways. For children to continue to learn about themselves and gain “Essential Life Skills,” continuous access to opportunities for experiential learning is crucial. And for Mirai no Mori, it is crucial to be able to continuously provide the unique and special environment for the children we serve.

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Series #1 – Children’s Care Homes

Series #2 – The Children

Series #3 – Care Home Staff

Series #4 – Challenges the children face: Mirai no Mori’s perspective

Series #5 – Mirai no Mori Program – Fundamental Concepts