Evanston Township High School (ETHS) in Illinois has received a $19,000 grant to establish an internet link with its sister school in Japan from an unusual source: the United States-Japan Foundation.

Though the foundation hadn’t awarded grants directly to K-12 schools in the past, it was looking for ways to strengthen cross-cultural communications between the two countries via the internet. The foundation chose ETHS and its Japanese sister school, Kokusai Joho High School, to pilot a web-based project to serve as a possible model for other high schools participating in sister-school programs.

The grant promises to bring the schools’ seven-year-old relationship to new heights.

At ETHS, the grant will be used to install the necessary hardware and software for its Japanese classroom. The school will purchase several computers, as well as digital cameras, a scanner, and a projector. It will also purchase the software needed to make the internet project possible.

Second- and third-year students of Japanese language instructor Michael Van Krey, who spearheaded the grant proposal, will use the internet to communicate directly with the sister school’s students in hopes of gaining a clearer understanding of what life is like for Japanese teenagers.

Students of Asian history courses at ETHS will also participate in the project.

The program, scheduled to launch in September, will start small. Students will correspond via eMail at first, and will later add digital images as attachments.

The schools also will work to develop a joint web site to share information about the program. Down the road, a more advanced link could involve videoconferencing between the two schools, Van Krey said.

The link will provide a first-hand source of cultural information and will facilitate a dialogue on a wide variety of contemporary issues concerning youth across the globe.

“I’m hoping this makes the whole experience so much more real,” Van Krey said. “I want my students to realize that language is not just another subject they take in high school.”

In February–the end of the Japanese school year–students at each site will deliver PowerPoint presentations over the web in the language they are studying.

If successful, the project could serve as a model for other high schools with sister-school relationships, according to the United States-Japan Foundation.

About the foundation

The United States-Japan Foundation, based in New York and incorporated in America in 1980, was established with a grant of $44.8 million from the Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation (now the Nippon Foundation).

In education, the foundation supports the improvement and enhancement of instruction about Japan here in the United States, and about the U.S. in Japan.

The foundation provides funding to programs which “foster the creative use of the internet in education, teacher training, professional development, intensive study tours, and curriculum design.” It also supports the improvement of Japanese language instruction through teacher training and curriculum development.

The foundation typically does not provide grants directly to teachers or schools. Instead, it focuses primarily on delivering funds to higher education institutions and non-profit organizations, which then implement a variety of pre-college education programs for schools. Individual teachers and school districts work with grantees to develop the programs.

But, as the Evanston Township High School grant shows, the foundation does make exceptions.

If you’re looking to implement a project that would facilitate communications with a Japanese school, you should consult the foundation before developing a proposal, officials recommended. Call (212) 481-8753 or eMail info@us-jf.orgfor more information.