Creating a dual-language program in a public school is a huge endeavor. There are 5 of us (mothers) working on making this happen and it seems that there is always more to do, more to think about, more to plan. Similar to child rearing, it is an ongoing ever evolving set of needs. The work load doesn’t seem to become less as we progress – it just gets different.
To help us get our bearings and guide us in the right direction, we’ve been reaching out to many people and organizations: other parents who have started DLPs, Principals of schools with DLPs, Fabrice Jaumont at the French Embassy, the Japanese Embassy, relatives in Japan, old work connections – any possible thread that will lead us to a productive connection.
Yumi is our liaison to the Japanese community, and she has been doing a lot of research and outreach. Recently she met with two organizations: Brooklyn Aozora Gakuen (Blue Sky Preschool), a privately run preschool, and BJAFA (Brooklyn Japanese American Family Association). She set up a meeting for them to meet us – Hee Jin, Lanny and me (the non-Japanese speaking moms). Miho Nishimaniwa & Kaoru Kashima of Aozora Gakuen, and Miki Yeung, co-founder and board member of BJAFA, came to my house to this morning, and it was a great meeting – these women are fantastic! So much information and support, we are lucky to have their experience and expertise to tap into as we forge onward to make this happen.
Brooklyn Aozora Gakuen (Blue Sky Preschool)
Aozora Gakuen is a fully-licensed Brooklyn preschool committed to passing on the Japanese language and culture to a new generation with an international perspective. As the first bilingual preschool in Brooklyn,it provides a balanced Japanese-English early childhood education for children living in the multicultural, progressive urban environment of New York City. Through a fun, energetic and stimulating curriculum of activities, Aozora Gakuen helps each child grow and develop a warm and well-rounded character. The emphasis is not only on teaching the children Japanese values, morals and spirit, but also on instilling a world perspective through activities derived from American and international cultures.
Founded in 2012 by three Brooklyn moms with preschool age children, Aozora Gakuen is located in a brownstone in Fort Greene. The structured curriculum which spans the preschool and after school programs is provided by six experienced teachers with a wide range of skills from the academic to the artistic. Aozora Gakuen currently serves a community of 30 families and is working on an expansion plan that will give many more families access to bilingual early education.
The Brooklyn Japanese American Family Association (BJAFA) is a New York State licensed, non-profit organization that provides parenting support to Japanese and Japanese-American families living in Brooklyn. Its three major areas of activity are:
1. Teaching Japanese and Japanese-American children the Japanese language and culture
2. Making connections among Japanese and Japanese-American families and their children
3. Sharing information and learning to support these activities
BJAFA relies on cooperative efforts by numerous volunteers for its operations and the execution of these activities.
In 2005, Co-Founder, Nanae Benson’s online search for fellow Japanese moms led to the formation of the “Brooklyn Mom’s Group,” a network loosely organized around play dates. In 2006, it became “Brooklyn de Kosodate” (Parenting in Brooklyn) – today a large community boasting over 250 member families.
With help from its members, Brooklyn de Kosodate has held periodic play dates where children of all ages and grades can gather and play together, a Fall Athletic Festival in Prospect Park, and various types of seminars.
Using these activities and networks as a base, BJAFA was founded in 2011 by like-minded parents for the purpose of providing Japanese and Japanese-American children growing up in Brooklyn with a solid foundation in Japanese language and culture, while supporting other Japanese and Japanese American families who share similar interests.