Land and Population: An Insight into Japanese Culture

By Bower, Bert | Social Studies Review, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Land and Population: An Insight into Japanese Culture


Bower, Bert, Social Studies Review


Introduction to the TCI Approach

The TCI Approach was developed by a group of California teachers who joined me in giving a successful series of presentations at the 1989 CCSS Annual Conference in Oakland. Based on the enthusiastic support of the conference attendees, we began exploring ways to carefully combine the realities of classroom experience with educational research and theory. TCI was born.

From our collective years of teaching, we knew for a fact that when students are active, they stay focused, are more motivated, and learn better. Thus, "active learning" was an essential ingredient of the TCI approach from the beginning. To this foundation, we added the ideas drawn from Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, Elizabeth Cohen's research on cooperative groupwork, and Jerome Bruner's idea of the spiral curriculum. Educational theory, then, contributed to the three key premises behind the TCI Approach: (1) students learn best through multiple intelligences, (2) cooperative interaction increases learning gains, and (3) all students can learn via the spiral curriculum. The following activity includes key parts of the TCI Approach and can be used immediately in your classroom.

Overview of the Activity

This Experiential Exercise allows students to discover how Japan's population distribution and geography affects its culture. Students use their bodies (population) and their desks (land) to approximate the population densities of Australia (2 students and 29 desks), the United States (29 students and 35 desks), and Japan (13 students and one desk). As students physically create the population density for each country, the teacher asks a series of questions comparing how the varied population density might affect the way people live. Afterward, students label Japan's population distribution on a map.

Procedures at a Glance

Tell students this activity will allow them to discover how land and population affects Japanese culture. Move 29 desks (note: you can also use pieces of paper and simply have students stand on them) to the center of the room and have 2 students sit in "Australia." Ask them how they feel in Australia. Then move 6 more desks to the center of the room and ask 29 students to sit in "the United States." Ask them how the United States compares to Australia. Finally, remove all the desks from the center of the room except one. Ask 13 students to sit in "Japan." Ask them to compare Japan to the United States and Australia. Pass out Student Handout 3. IA. Have students label the basic geographic features of Japan. Afterward, hold a class discussion to debrief the experience.

Procedures in Detail

1. This activity is designed to allow students to discover how Japan's population distribution and physical geography influenced its culture, especially regarding land use, housing, and social norms. (Note: This activity is not intended to suggest that Japan's culture is simply a manifestation of its population density. The unique aspects of Japanese culture are only partially a by-product of its population density-religion, climate, historical events, topography, and proximity to China and Korea are also some of the factors that influence Japanese culture. As this activity unfolds, it is important that you emphasize this point.)

2. Explain to students that this activity is designed to let them experience how geography and population affect Japanese culture. Tell students to stand around the periphery of the classroom. Move 29 desks to the center of the room. Tell students that the desks represent the land mass of Australia, which is 2,941,283 square miles. (Each desk thus represents approximately 100,000 square miles.) Ask two students to sit "in Australia"-in 2 of the 29 desks-to represent its population, which is approximately 19,913,144 million. (Note: For this activity, each student represents 10 million people. We suggest rounding up.

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