Thomsett Elementary School Children visit Kogawa House with Joy
Tuesday, February 21st, Grade 3 and 4 students from Tomsett Elementary
in Richmond went to visit Kogawa House. The students had been
reading Naomi's Road, which is touring BC schools as a production by
Vancouver Opera Touring Ensemble.
Joy Kogawa met with teacher
Joan Young and students at the house, which resulted in the students
being inspired to write letters for Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan,
pleading to help save the treasured house. Here are the pictures from
the event and thank you letters between author Joy Kogawa and teacher
Kogawa House” banner made by Thomsett Elementary school children,
cheering for the camera with author Joy Kogawa – photo Joan Young
The following is written by teacher Joan Young, of Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond, BC.
Our Visit to Historic Joy Kogawa House
On Tuesday February 21st, an excited group of 23 boys and girls ages 8
to 10 from Tomsett Elementary School in Richmond arrived at 1450 West
64th Avenue in Vancouver. The students and their teacher, Mrs. Joan
Young and their principal, Ms Sabina Harpe were here to meet Joy Kogawa
and to tour her childhood home. This was a much anticipated day for
the children since they had been engaged in many learning experiences
in the classroom before arriving.
This adventure began last fall when the students first read the novel, Naomi’s Road by Joy Kogawa. After the students read the novel, they attended a performance of the Vancouver Opera’s production of Naomi’s Road.
Through the story, the students learned about the experiences of the
Japanese Canadians during the Second World War and about the life of
the author. Through their research, the students learned about Joy
Kogawa’s childhood home in Vancouver and of the campaign to save it.
The class felt that this was an important project and decided to
support it by making a donation to the Save Kogawa House campaign.
The students also wrote letters to Joy Kogawa expressing their
feelings about the novel and the opera.
In January, 2006 the class was thrilled and surprised to hear from Joy
Kogawa herself! Mrs. Kogawa invited the class to become actively
involved in the campaign to save her childhood home. The class eagerly
took up the challenge. The children thought of dozens of ideas for how
they might be able to make a meaningful contribution to the campaign.
In the end, it was decided that they would do two things: make a
large banner which would draw attention to the cause and they would
write letters to the mayor of Vancouver, appealing to the city to
preserve the home as a valuable historic landmark.
The banner was constructed during a busy week at school. Every student
in the class made a contribution. On February 21st It was with great
pride that the students unfurled the banner in front of the house and
showed Mrs. Kogawa the results of their efforts. The banner depicts
the house surrounded by details from the past which the children had
learned from the story such as the cherry tree, the peach tree, birds,
butterflies, and children playing. The banner also contains images of
the future. The children envision a welcoming happy place where
friends can come together.
The students thoroughly enjoyed their morning with Mrs. Kogawa. They
listened intently as she recalled her memories of her life at the
house as a young girl. They embraced the spiritual significance of
the cherry tree, the tree of friendship and each one of them touched
the tree and felt empowered by it. Mrs. Kogawa read to the children
from her book and taught the children a Japanese song, “ The Farewell
Song”. Everyone who shared this time at the house that morning was
touched in a special way. At the end, the students presented Mrs.
Kogawa with some stories that they had written about her cherry tree.
We would like to thank Joy Kogawa for spending this special time with
us. Thank you for helping us to learn about the power of love and
understanding. We will never forget this experience.
Teacher, Division 4, Grade 3/4
Tomsett Elementary School,
Joy Kogawa signs books and autographs for Thomsett Elementary school children – photo Joan Young
Thomsett Elementary school children pose at cherry tree with author Joy Kogawa – photo Joan Young
Thank you so much for spending the time with my class today. It was
a very special time for the children as well as for myself.
recollections of your childhood were precious and brought to mind
some of my own memories as well. I know that the students loved the
experience, and that they learned so many valuable lessons from you. Many
said that the house was better than anything that they had imagined.
Being in the house has made the campaign so real to the
students and has helped to lay the foundation for the letters which they will write to the mayor.
The children have
developed a very genuine affection for you and the house which will allow them to
write and speak from their hearts. I am looking forward
to seeing the results of their efforts during the next phase of this
Again, thank you for being so generous with your time and for taking such
interest in the children. This will be an experience that we will
My thanks go to you, spectacular teacher that you
are, for a special time for me too. I also will never forget this day. I just
wished so much that my granddaughter who is the same age, could have been
there. The little books the children made are wonderful treasures. And the
banner! Can’t wait for everyone to see it! Good luck for us all
when you see the mayor.
Teacher Joan Young with author Joy Kogawa – both share Japanese Canadian Heritage – photo courtesy of Joan Young.