SAGAMIHARA FAMILY HOUSING AREA, Japan (Feb. 12, 2020) – Sabrina Tsai, manager of the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center, couldn’t meet in-person with students at the School Age Center here due to COVID-19 restrictions, so she met with them virtually.
Broadcasting live from the Camp Zama Library, Tsai taught two classes Feb. 9 on how to make Japanese “Hinamatsuri” dolls. Students could see and hear Tsai providing step-by-step instructions on five iPads in the SAC’s art room, and were free to ask her questions.
“With all the (COVID-19) safety restrictions, we only can do so much in-person, but with the technology right now we can expand all the possibilities,” Tsai said. “Can’t do too much in-person? Fine! We will work around it to carry on our missions.”
Ashley Nunez, acting director of the SAC, said the class fit in perfectly with the center’s 2021 Growth Mindset initiative, which aims to improve children’s lives through positive thinking and the use of technology for enrichment projects during COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s a 12-month initiative that we kicked off in January,” Nunez said. “The Growth Mindset allows children to reframe their thinking, especially during COVID. A lot of the kids aren’t used to all the restrictions and the limitations and the way that school is currently.”
Tsai arranged the dolls on a traditional tiered display at the SFHA Library Feb. 11, and they will remain there through Feb. 25. Hinamatsuri displays, draped with red cloth or carpet, feature dolls wearing the traditional court dress of the Japanese Heian period (794 to 1185), and Japanese households with daughters traditionally set them up in celebration of Girls’ Day, March 3, a time to pray for a daughter’s health and happiness.
Students at the SAC made emperor and empress dolls, which are featured at the top of the displays. Other dolls placed below usually include attendants, musicians, advisers and samurai.
Anne Grace, 9, said she signed up for the class because she likes art, and because Marino Nakanowatari, art-room caregiver, always encourages her when she works on projects.
The class was “amazing,” Anne said, adding that she really loves the art room.
Amiyah Davis, 8, said she especially enjoyed painting her dolls, and always likes visiting the art room because “you get to create and make.”
Meanwhile, Nate DeBotts, 8, said he normally isn’t a big fan of arts and crafts, but decided to participate this time because he wanted to make something Japanese for his big brother.
Tsai said the center presented the class and also displayed the dolls in the library last year, so she is glad they were able to do it again.
When it comes to virtual classes, Tsai said she hopes to hold more with the SAC, as well as through the libraries and Army Community Service.
Tsai thanked Marenzo Domingo, Camp Zama’s FMWR marketing manager, for helping her broadcast the class, and Jim Lacombe, supervisory librarian, for providing the idea and space to broadcast from the library.
Likewise, Nunez thanked Tsai for putting together the material kits the children used to make the dolls, and for the class itself.
“It’s opening [students’] eyes to different ways that we can use technology,” Nunez said. “It’s a great opportunity for them and for MWR and all of our partnerships on base.”