WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Buddhist Temple was bustling with activity Monday morning, with children and adult volunteers working on everything from calligraphy projects to taiko drumming routines.
Kokoro no Gako—or “School with a Heart”—is a two-week program held every summer at the temple. Students from Kindergarten to 6th grade learn about traditional Japanese customs and practices.
“For me, it celebrates not only Japanese culture but all cultures,” said Kokoro no Gako Principal Melissa Eguchi. “I teaches kids to understand each other—different generations, ethnicities, ages.”
Founders of the school Gerald Kondo and Mark Takeuchi formed Kokoro no Gako in 1989 in an effort to preserve their culture as third-generation Japanese-Americans in Watsonville. They brought on a group of teachers from local schools and a Board of Directors from the local community.
The program has become a summer tradition for Watsonville. Each grade works with a different theme, participating in activities such as sushi making, bonsai and calligraphy. On Monday the school’s fourth-grade class practiced its lines for a play. Second-graders were in a separate classroom creating origami pieces. The sound of drumming could be heard as another group worked on a taiko routine outside in the courtyard.
This student cuts out a painting at Kokoro no Gako in Watsonville. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
Lindsey Hashimoto, a college sophomore, was on hand to help set up and organize the school’s Farmers’ Market station. Hashimoto went through the entire seven-year program when she was young.
“It’s wonderful see the kids here enjoying themselves and learning so much,” she said. “This kind of cultural learning isn’t something you get very often in normal school.”
Wednesday, Kokoro no Gako will hold its annual Open House at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, 423 Bridge St., at 6 p.m.
Class visitations and refreshments will be available. Recognitions, a raffle and class performances begin at 7 p.m.
“I just love coming here to support this school,” said longtime volunteer Cindy Mine. “It’s nice for kids of any nationality to come learn together. It’s healthy for a community to have this kind of program.”