Project Report: EGAKU for Educators Course

We ran our second collaboration project with Sensei No Gakkou (School for Teachers), a 3-month online course for educators interested in exploring the practical applications and ideas for enquiry-based learning. Sensei No Gakkou is a community of educators in Japan exploring new approaches to learning that go beyond traditional instructional design methods.
Participants were a diverse mix of educators from public and private schools, primary and middle schools, high schools, universities and local boards of education from all over Japan.
The course comprised on 3 EGAKU sessions, as well as presentations on the philosophy and core principles behind EGAKU as a learning experience, and discussions exploring ideas around “empowering and dialogue-based deep learning” in an educational context. The course was designed to give educators the chance to experience the joy of making and experiencing art, and inspire ideas for lesson planning and creative ways to engage and interact with their students.
Here are some of testimonials we received from the participants:

  • I want to reflect on ways to manage my classes, and create lessons in a way that creates the kind of 'neutral' space I experienced in EGAKU. I want to try to create a safe space where children don’t feel judged, a space which doesn’t discriminate on ability. Of course measurement and evaluation are part and parcel of schools, but I’d like to try to create a space which doesn’t make it so obvious.
  • I participated because I wanted to learn about art thinking, but I loved that this went beyond art thinking and ended up becoming an experience which allowed me to engage in a philosophical discussion deeply connected with my own view of life.
  • I learned so much - it was a truly fulfilling experience. A few takeaways stood out for me: each person engages in introspection and self-expression in their own (unique) way, the importance of articulating one’s thoughts and feelings before making an artwork, avoiding a (formal) atmosphere of “Let’s start doing some introspection.”
  • I experienced how receiving feedback from other people actually helps me define my own space (and sense of who I am). I feel that there are so few opportunities to express oneself, it’s would be wonderful to create a space where lots of people can feel it’s ok to show their inner selves to others.


Program dates: Aug 22 - Oct 24, 2021
Program: EGAKU the Future for Educators
Participants: 19 educators (primary and middle school teachers, high school teachers, university teaching staff, staff from local boards of education)
Venue: Online
Organizer:  Smilebaton.Inc, Sensei No Gakkou (School for Teachers)
Supporter: Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence
Facilitator: Kimi Hasebe
Staff: Hiroko Takahashi, Miki Matsuda


Project Report: Musashino University High School - EGAKU the Future Program, 2021 Spring Semester

ELAB has been running the EGAKU the Future Program as a liberal arts elective at the Musashino University High School since 2019. The program is designed to empower students to flourish and live creatively and nurture their self-awareness, self-understanding, their ability to embrace diversity and expand their minds and hearts. In the program, which spans 10 two-hour sessions over a semester, students repeatedly practice EGAKU and participate in deep self-reflection exercises and dialogue-based exercises designed to encourage active participation and a sense of agency.
In the midst of various restrictions due to COVID and the impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health, we made a number of changes to the 2021 Spring Semester Program to ensure that every student was able to participate fully and experience the joy of creative self-expression and nurture their self-confidence.
Students explored four themes in the EGAKU sessions: 'What I value most,' 'Joy,' 'My Inner Seed,' 'Wish - My Vision of Hope.' For the final session we invited students to reflect on the theme 'The World I Want to Paint' - we asked them what kind of theme they would like to paint, and what moments they feel like painting a picture. The students seemed to enjoy exploring their chosen themes and appeared to gain many different insights through sharing their artworks and ideas, encountering different ways of expression and becoming aware of their own biases.

Here are some comments from the program participants:

  • Rather than comparing myself to others, I felt what was more important was how I’d changed compared to the old me. My picture on the theme 'Joy' made me realize this - it’s my favorite (picture).
  • This class made me realize that making (things) is so fun! I feel like I managed to express what was inside me - it feels amazing.
  • I feel it’s so important to turn inward and face that part of me that I don’t usually express. It also made me realize that other people have all kinds of thoughts and feelings, and it’s important not to get caught up in my own biases and prejudices.
    I learned that the world that I see and the world that others, is actually pretty different.
  • Before, I used to think that I saw the world in the same way as other people and I’d want others to guess (what I was thinking and feeling) but that didn’t work. I now realize that we’re all completely different, separate people.
  • Looking at the pictures made me more curious about what other people are thinking. There were people who seemed to paint similar-looking pictures or use a similar color palette, and yet the thoughts and feelings behind the pictures were completely different. It was fun making connections with people I didn’t really know.

Program dates: May 12 - Sep 29, 2021
Program: EGAKU the Future
Participants: 30 grade 1 senior high school students, 1 teaching staffVenue: Musashino University High School
Host institution: Musashino University High School, Liberal Arts Musashino
Supporter: Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence
Facilitator: Kimi Hasebe
Staff: Hiroko Takahashi, Miki Matsuda


Announcing the appointment of our new Executive Director - Finance

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Hiroko Takahashi as Executive Director - Finance, effective 10th September.
ELAB’s work delivering art-based learning experiences - centred on the EGAKU Program - to the next generation continues to expand with the generous support of The Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence and many other supporters. With Hiroko’s appointment as Executive Director, we look forward to strengthening our organization's capabilities and continue to build out the foundations to deliver our programs more broadly in the field of education.


After completing her undergraduate studies, Hiroko joined
MUFG Bank, Ltd. where she had a 31-year career in a variety of roles spanning finance, fund settlement and firm-wide diversity initiatives. Hiroko’s experience of working with people with diverse backgrounds deepened her belief in the strength and resilience of organizations which embrace diversity. Her desire to get involved in the kind of education that empowers the next generation of youth to live authentically and create their own futures inspired her to join ELAB. Hiroko is a graduate of the TOTSUKITOKA - 10-month EGAKU Intensive Course. Today she continues her EGAKU practice as part of her broader learning journey.


Musashino University High School - EGAKU the Future Program 2021Spring Semester kicks off

We kicked off this year’s ‘EGAKU the Future Program’ a 10-part course for the Musashino University High School. We ran the same course at the school in 2019 as part of the school curriculum.
We will run two half-year courses during the academic year. The course, which has the EGAKU Program at its core, is designed to nurture students’ creative confidence through the practice of dialogue, discovery and expression. In the course, students will deepen their self-understanding and learn how to validate themselves and others, and learn to embrace difference.  
The theme for the first class was ‘What I value most.’ Despite various restrictions due to COVID-19, students appeared to be engaged and at ease, each of them responding to the prompt ‘What I value most’ in their own authentic way.  
Below are some of the participants’ comments:
People were feeling all kinds of emotions. I realized that just like me, they were also anxious and struggling with stuff.
I realized that there are ways of seeing that are completely different to mine. I felt like I could sense the person’s real thoughts and feelings hidden behind their words.
I managed to express what I really felt. I painted freely without worrying about what other people would think - it was so fun! I’m not good at drawing pictures but this time when I did EGAKU it didn’t feel like such a struggle.
Sometimes I get really negative and start thinking everything sucks, and get stuck in a pattern of self-hate. But today, as I was taking a close look at my picture, I realized that I’d actually used some pretty bright colors and it occurred to me that life isn’t all so terrible after all.    
I don’t really know what people are thinking and feeling, and I didn’t think I cared much. But doing EGAKU made me think, I want to know more.

Program: EGAKU the Future
Participants: 30 participants - grade 1 senior high school students
Venue: Musashino University High School
Host institution: Musashino University High School, Liberal Arts Musashino 
Supporters: Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence
Facilitator: Kimi Hasebe
Staff: Hiroko Takahashi, Miki Matsuda


‘EGAKU the Future Program’ for Infinity International School has kicked off

We ran session 1 of the 'EGAKU the Future Program' for Infinity International School.
Infinity International School is a high school without a school campus, and students learn in the field as they travel around Japan and the world together. 'EGAKU the Future Program' has been integrated into the school’s curriculum centred around domestic and international fieldwork, and participants will take part in 3 EGAKU sessions across 3 semesters focussing on the themes of deepening self-knowledge through dialogue, discovery and expression, and understanding and embracing difference and diversity.
In this first session, participants powerfully created distinctive artworks on the theme of 'What I value the most.' By engaging a dialogue through the medium of art, participants were immersed in a rich experience of discovery - discovering how different people have different ways of perceiving and modes of expression, and learning more about themselves and others.

Program details: EGAKU the Future Program
Participants: 7 high school students (grades 1-2), teaching staff
Program organizer: Infinity International School
Supporter: Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence
Facilitator: Kimi Hasebe
Staff: Hiroko Takahashi, Miki Matsuda
(To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the session was facilitated remotely.)


'EGAKU the Future Program' for high school students in Fukushima: participants’ interview movie released

Bridge for Fukushima, our partner for the 'EGAKU the Future Program' for high school students in Fukushima, made a short film featuring program participants reflecting on their experience.

Check out the students’ artworks as well as their powerful messages about the future! (Movie in Japanese only)
Read more about the 'EGAKU the Future Program' for high school students in Fukushima here >>


‘EGAKU the Future Program’ for Fukushima High School Students - 2020 Program has come to a close

'EGAKU the Future Program' for high school students in Fukushima run in partnership with Bridge for Fukushima has come to a close. This was the second year we ran the program.
During the four-month program participants developed the practice of exploring range of themes in the 4 EGAKU sessions, and then applied their insights and discoveries from this experience to their daily lives and behaviour. This practice empowered them to engage with and recognize their thoughts and emotions and deepen their understanding of others, nurturing their self confidence as well as a powerful sense of creative confidence in their ability to create the future.
Below we share some of the participants’ reflections on the program:

  • "In addition to the ideas I’d been thinking about through the themes of ‘What I value the most’ and ‘Fear’ - being honest with myself and my desire to overcome my fears - this time as I reflected on the theme of 'The Future I Want I Create' it occurred to me that the idea of continuing to strive, putting in the effort is important to me too. I realized I want to bring about a future in which I can honestly say to myself, from the bottom of my heart, I did everything I could, I gave it my best."


  • "At first I thought it looked difficult and I was worried if I’d be able to do it. But through this experience I discovered the joy of transforming ‘fear’ and ‘pleasure’ - things that have no shape - into a picture. My range of emotional expression has become richer, I’ve become better at expressing my emotions." 

  • "I realized that even though we were all addressing the same theme, the future, each person comes at it differently, and each of us values different things. I’m also glad I realized that I can’t quite articulate my ideas about the future, that I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around it."

  • "The future I painted was so much brighter and full of hope than I’d imagined. Even when I was painting I was able to maintain that positive feeling and I think I managed to clearly give expression to the beautiful future inside me. The future I painted is a society in which every person can show their true colours and everyone has equal opportunities. In order to realize this future, I think we need to eliminate the roots of discrimination and prejudice, and give everyone the same kinds of choices in their lives."

  • "Believing in myself: that’s what I want to cherish. When there’s something I want to do, although I think some people are supportive there are usually a lot of doubters who’ll say, ‘Can you really do it? Will it work out ok?’ I want to live my life believing in myself: believing I can do it, that it’ll be ok."


Program details: EGAKU the Future Program (November 1, 2020 - February 28, 2021)
Participants: 18 high school students from Fukushima prefecture (selected through an open call)
Joint program organizers: Bridge for Fukushima, ELAB
Supporters: Fukushima Prefecture Board of Education, Mitsubishi Memorial Foundation for Educational Excellence
Facilitator: Kimi Hasebe
Staff: Ryoko Nakamura
※ Due to the spread of COVID-19, the 3rd and 4th sessions were held online with students participating from home.