Two weeks of research culminated in today's Chiri Project presentations. Students had been grouped into teams of six or seven, and given a chiho, or area of Japan, to research on their own. The students learned about their area, gathered information, and developed their presentation. They created PowerPoint slides and rehearsed their pronunciation with their teachers. Today, they came together as six teams, and educated each other on what they had found. Students shared information about delicious foods, historical locations, cultural heritage, products, entertainment, symbolic characters, festivals, and more. Each group brought the best of their area to share with the entire Academy, and demonstrated the unique value of the things they found there. Each group did a wonderful job of balancing a wealth of information with the strict time constraints. It was particularly of note how each student behaved with such kindness and politeness as their peers presented. Everyone knows how stressful it can be to give a presentation, and these students did their best to be extremely supportive. This was yet another opportunity for the staff to witness the sheer strength of character of the Academy's students, as they poured their hearts into lifting each other up.
But even that was eclipsed by the cheers that rang out during karaoke! Once the students had finished with their challenging group projects, many chose to join in the afternoon karaoke event, which was held in VR. Students joined the virtual karaoke room in RecRoom, and were able to take turns singing karaoke songs on stage as their peers cheered them on and sang along. Thanks to some first-hand assistance from the RecRoom programmers and support staff, our Academy was able to set up an incredibly unique and immersive experience for the students. Students were able to choose karaoke songs and see them displayed on a giant screen, and sing into microphones that amplified their voices throughout the virtual room, just as if they were in a real karaoke parlor. While one or two students sang, the others watched, sang along, jumped around, waved their hands, and danced to the beat. Some students expressed themselves in a different form of art, drawing giant murals and mounting them for the performers and audience to see. Many of the murals were pieces of encouragement, with positive messages and multicolored images. Oh, and cats. Karaoke naturally went over time - as it usually does in real life - easily bounding past the first two hours and wrapping up at right around three and a half hours. The TAs - Peighton, Joey, and Sana - were the original proponents of karaoke time, and they worked hard to run the behind-the-scenes mechanics of keeping the karaoke room functioning. Thanks to their effort and the eagerness of the students to spend time together, the karaoke activity proved to be one of the most fulfilling and memorable functions of the Academy. It was a wonderful way to deepen friendships and make memories, a last hurrah before our final gathering at tomorrow's graduation ceremony.