Having returned from The Australian Science Teachers Exchange – JAPAN, a week-long cultural exchange in Tokyo, the science teacher from the NT is brimming with new ideas about how to get children immersed in all that the Asian nation has to offer. 

“One of the things I was most impressed with was the range and variety of museums and learning that could take place outside the classroom, and so since coming back I’ve started to put together a STEM tour for our students to go over to Tokyo,” she says.

As one of three educators chosen to participate in the annual exchange program – run by the Australian Science Teachers Association and the Sony Science Teachers Association of Japan – Martin says she set out on the trip with high hopes. 

“Mostly, what I wanted to get out of it was to get a better understanding about what the differences in the curriculum would be and the ways teachers managed classrooms and implemented different strategies to help increase achievement.

“Also just being able to immerse yourself in a professional learning environment for 10 days is a pretty great experience,” she enthuses. 

Luckily, a jam-packed itinerary allowed the educator to fulfil these aims. 

“We spent three days in schools, so we visited a junior school, a middle school and senior school and every school we visited, one of us would teach a lesson, and then we participated in a discussion with the staff there. Sometimes there would be people from the local board who would come and add to the discussions as well,” Martin explains.

In addition to forging professional bonds, the chance to glean an insight into the Japanese education system affirmed Martin’s firm belief in the value of inquiry-based learning. 

“It was still quite traditional there, in terms of (there are) very teacher-led lessons, I think that was probably the thing that struck me the most ... I didn’t feel like [teachers] had the same flexibility that we have in Australia to kind of follow interests, and there was not as much inquiry.

“Every lesson there were lots of comments about how little instruction we were giving the kids and how much we were letting them explore and develop ideas for themselves, so that was quite a big difference as well,” she adds. 

A key aim of the exchange has been to tighten intercultural connections, and Martin says a special trip to the Australian embassy did just that. 

“That was another really big learning experience, so looking at what links are happening between Japan and Australia and where to go to in the future in terms of providing options for students to get scholarships or work in businesses.”