The end of the school year is drawing near, but one Houston County teacher greeted 24 new pupils last week.
Angie Battle, a fourth-grade teacher of gifted students at Langston Road Elementary School, traveled to Japan to teach economics to a sixth-grade class.
She was part of a three-person team that went on the Georgia Council on Economic Education trip from Feb. 16-21. Mike Raymer, associate director of the council, and Stacy Dockter, an advanced social studies teacher at DeSana Middle School in Forsyth County, were the other participants.
Generally, council representatives go all over the state to help kindergarten through 12th-grade educators learn to teach economics in new — and exciting — ways.
Yoshi Nakamoto, president of Japan’s Council for Economic Education, visited Atlanta last year and sat in on the Georgia council’s teacher workshops. Impressed with the work being done, he asked Raymer to bring elementary and middle school teachers to Japan to share their approach to economics education.
Japan’s current model of education is based heavily on lecture and note taking, with little or no student participation or group work, Battle said. The Council for Economic Education in Japan is working to show teachers alternate strategies.
Raymer, Dockter and Battle did a little sight-seeing in Tokyo, but the rest of their time was spent in Odate. They visited several schools and also met with the school board members, superintendent and teachers.
Raymer gave a presentation on the importance of economics education and the active learning approach. With the help of interpreters, Dockter taught an eighth-grade class about gross domestic product, and Battle focused on scarcity and opportunity costs with sixth-graders in an elementary school.
The students loved the hands-on activities, Raymer said. Nakamoto told the Georgia team there was only positive feedback from the Japanese educators and community stakeholders, Battle said.
“They were very engaged in the learning process,” said Battle, who’s been at Langston Road Elementary for two and a half years and won the state council’s 2014 Georgia Economics Teacher of the Year award. “Both students and adults present seemed intrigued by the concept of teaching students how to think rather than what to think.”
Active lessons are important when teaching economics because they allow students to connect with what they’re learning, Raymer said. They are more engaged, enriched, inspired and productive and gain a deeper understanding, Battle said.
Battle said her favorite part of the trip was interacting with the students, principals and teachers and seeing how similar students in Japan are to her own students in Houston County.
“Getting to share the wonderful things we’re doing here in Georgia with economics education and education overall is a grand highlight of my career,” she said. “The opportunity to interact with people of another culture, embracing the similarities and differences, was an amazing experience beyond description. This was an adventure of a lifetime.”