Hands-on Learning Course Held in Teshima, Kagawa Prefecture

Public Relations Office        May 30, 2017

— Seven students interview local residents in heatwave

Hand-On Learning Programs, which include not only common programs but also seminars and practical training provided from each faculty, have started with the key term of “experiencing actual society off campus”. “Social inquiry practice (Environmental Fieldwork at Teshima in the Seto inland Sea)” is one of such programs. In August, seven students from the first to third grade of school of Sociology, law and Politics, and Human Welfare Studies, traveled to Teshima island (Tonosho-cho, Kagawa Prefecture). They were divided into three. In intense heatwave, they with dividing into three groups, visited three villages in the island, and lent their art to people’s narration.

Hands-on Learning Course Held in Teshima, Kagawa Prefecture — Seven students interview local residents in heatwave

Teshima is well known for its struggles with illegal dumping of large quantities of industrial waste from Kansai and other regions. A campaign by residents was successful
in winning the complete removal from the island in arbitration. The students knew almost nothing about this scandal, but they read two books on the subject as instructed by the Professor Koichi Kimoto of the Center for Common Educational Programs, who convened the course, and had three preparatory sessions before embarking on the practicum.

The students divided into groups of two or three and went into three villages in the island. They went around the villages, approaching the leaders of the residents’ campaign, local government chiefs and members of the general public, without appointments, to ask for their views.

In this period, the Setouchi Trien- nale international art festival has cast the spotlight on Teshima and it is experiencing a wave of tourists. But as the number of children continues to decline, many of the rice paddies and crop fields have been abandoned. There are people who want to move to the island and many vacant houses to are there.

But few owners prepare to rent those houses to them. Based on the reality and issues that were raised in these interviews, on their fourth day on the island, the students held a meeting to present their report to the locals.

They also gave a presentation on the outcomes of the practicum back on campus in September. The students commented that, while they had initially thought that the entire island would have been opposed to the industrial waste, it was not actually that clear-cut.

They added, however, that they did find it difficult to get the residents to talk about their true feelings. Other students garnered from the island’s residents a sense of pride that they had overcome the industrial waste scandal and changed society. On the other hand, they also wondered whether something could be done about the contradiction between the many people who want to move to the island and the unwillingness of many locals to rent their vacant houses to outsiders. They also said that they sensed a gulf between the locals and the incomers.

While there were certainly differences of degree in the relationships between island residents, the students’ overall impression was that everyone on the island seemed to know everyone else, and that there was not much distance between people.

Hands-on Learning Course Held in Teshima, Kagawa Prefecture — Seven students interview local residents in heatwave

A third-grade female student from the School of Sociology, who said that Faculty participate in the program because she “liked to travel and thought it would be fun to go to the island for class,” said that, when she tried to compile her thoughts from what she had heard from the residents, the lecturer kept coming back at her with questions. “I felt keenly the need to think properly and to keep questioning. It was a very rare and valuable experience. I just wish I could have done it in first and second year as well.” Another third-grade female student recalled, “It was not just a matter of listening;

we had to listen to what someone we didn’t know had to say and then come up with our own opinions. That alone has made this course, of all the courses I have taken so far, one that I will never forget.”

Course convener, Professor Kimoto, commented, “Given the concept of the curriculum, I had hoped that the students would have been able to inquire the issues more thoroughly. Nevertheless, looking at each individual student, they have all definitely grown, which made me realize anew how very meaningful this kind of fieldwork practice is.” He plans to continue the practice beyond the next scheduled trip in February next year, and, as he and the students make suggestions to the island’s residents, watch over the changes in the island.

Hands-on Learning Course Held in Teshima, Kagawa Prefecture — Seven students interview local residents in heatwave

Other scheduled Hands-on Learning Programs are PBL Special Practicum 001, “Thinking About Nuclear Power From Fukushima” (October to December), in which students will travel to Fukushima to consider the issues of nuclear power and energy, and a social exploration practice (February to March 2017), in which students will travel to Etajima in Hiroshima Prefecture.