Exploring God’s World Through the Drama of a Japanese Girl’s Difficult Journey

The GCCS mission statement is “to nurture, educate, and inspire in Christ-centred learning and serving.”

Last year the board and staff expanded on this mission by developing a set of core values. These core values include:

  • Integrating our Christian faith into all aspects of learning.
  • Serving and caring for each other, our community, and world.

We have not done a cross-cultural play of this nature before, so in this blog post I would like to explore some of the lessons our students are touching on in grades 3-8 through this year’s school play, A Thousand Paper Cranes and suggest how they fit the Christian mission of GCCS and our school’s core values.

A Thousand Paper Cranes is the play that GCCS will be hosting in April 2018. It is a story about a Japanese girl named Sadako, inspired by Takayuki Ishii and Eleanor Coerr and written by Mr. Stam and Mrs. Wood. The story deals with a number of challenging issues including her childhood illness, the ethics of war and peace, and the human need for hope. The play also includes cultural and religious references related to a Japanese family. As such, we as a school are using this play to engage in conversations and learning that both strengthen our faith, and make us aware of broader cultural and religious perspectives.

Below I summarize a few areas of conversation that we will engage with in an age-appropriate way with our students. We hope that our broader community of family and friends can also benefit from this educational opportunity in the dramatic arts.

Lessons on who our neighbour is. God calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves. When we know very little about our neighbours, it is easier to judge them. It is much easier to love a neighbour once we learn more about them. During this play, the audience and the students will learn about our neighbours in Japan. The characters in this play are from a culture different than ours but they also share common interests and perspectives with us. As the students prepare to view this play they will learn to care for their neighbour by first learning about their neighbour.

Lessons on family and friends. Through this play we will also learn about the importance of God’s gift of family and friends. The play investigates the role of family members and friends when times are good, and when times are difficult. Students will see what it means to disagree with each other and how to restore these relationships afterward. Students will discuss the value of friendship and family and what it means to be faithful to friends and family in both the triumphs and tragedies of life.

Lessons on empathy. This play deals with the life threatening disease of leukemia. The characters who are suffering with this disease in the play are the same age as our students. This play deals with this tough topic in a sensitive way that can grow a sense of empathy for those image bearers of God who suffer. As Christ wept when he learned that his friend Lazarus had died, our students might experience deep emotions themselves or come to understand why others weep as they empathise with the characters of this play.

Lessons on history. There are many novels, class units, and family stories in which our students learn about the tragic events of World War II in Europe. As Canadians, we know far less about the events in Japan during World War II. This play investigates this aspect of World War II and will help our students realize that people far away from us were also deeply affected by this war. As tragic as the events portrayed in the play were, our students will be encouraged to lament the destruction and death caused by war and to become peacemakers in their families, in their school, in their communities, and in the world.

Lessons on our Christian faith. The characters in this play are from a different culture and a different faith than ours. As a Christian school, we teach and profess that our only hope comes from Christ’s sacrifice and the resulting forgiveness of our sins. The Holy Spirit guides us to that truth, and our hope is in being part of the family of the Creator God of the Bible. While learning about how the characters of this play believe differently than us, our students will recognize the contrasts. This learning will strengthen their understanding of what it means to live in hope as a Christian and to help them feel more secure as they encounter other faiths.

Lessons in the beauty of arts and performance. This play is a beautiful demonstration of the ability of children to use their creative skills to perform powerfully and to motivate deep emotions. The script artfully weaves together a variety of themes and characters. Our emotions are brought to the fore as we engage in this touching story. Our students will discuss why God created us to be so moved and inspired by beauty in this world and the beauty that we can create through the arts.

Lessons in symbolism and imagery. The folded paper cranes from this story are a simple but compelling symbol. They have become a world-wide icon of peace. Why does this visual symbol resonate so effectively? How might Christians engage arts and crafts from other cultures? How are our prayers to the Living God similar yet very different from the hopes that the story’s characters place in the folded paper cranes? This play is an opportunity for our students to reflect on these questions together from a Biblical perspective.

The GCCS graduate profile states that our students will, “Understanding current events and issues but living without fear in this world, having a humble confidence that our loving God is in control, and will provide. Graduates will be prepared to discuss, engage and redeem culture rather than escape from it;” We ask that you pray for the students and our broader school community, that through this play we may faithfully engage with these challenging questions and lessons. Join us by attending the play during one of the performances from April 19-21. More information about performance times will be forthcoming. Beginning in April, tickets can be reserved by visiting guelphccs.ca/tickets.