Gilman Scholarship winner Megan McClory ’18 brings Japan to Lemberg children

megan mcclory in japanPhoto/Megan McClory

Megan McClory (closest to the right) in Japan.

Megan McClory ’18 spent last semester studying abroad in Osaka, Japan and wants to share as much about her experience as possible with a curious constituency: pre-school children.

McClory is integrating lessons about Japanese culture with children ages three to five years old at Brandeis University’s Lemberg Children’s Center, where she is employed part-time as a student worker.

A native of Chicago who triple majors in history, anthropology and East Asian studies, McClory believes exposing children to different cultures – especially those from an ocean away – can have a profound impact on how they grow and perceive their place in the world.

“Before I left for Osaka, Lemberg did weekly themes on a different country in the world,” said McClory. “I started thinking about how I could maybe do this with Japan.”

McClory went to Japan with the help of a Gilman Scholarship, a bequest of up to $5,000 given to students across the country each year who may not otherwise have the means to afford studying abroad.

Named for former Republican New York Congressman Benjamin Gilman, the scholarship encourages students to study foreign languages and learn about cultures deemed important for America’s national security and economic competitiveness. At the end of their time abroad, recipients are required to conduct a project based on their experiences that aligns with the scholarship’s purpose.

“I decided, as part of my project, to have a Japanese theme week at Lemberg,” said McClory, who will launch her project the week of Oct. 9. “We’re going to do different activities, everything from having the children read books to learn Japanese words at their level and introducing them to the Japanese writing system.”

“I bought some traditional Japanese clothing – in child sizes – so they can put them on and see how people in Japan dress. And I’ve brought all sorts of materials back to teach about how someone in Japan might go about their daily life.”

In Osaka, McClory was required to speak only Japanese while in an academic setting. According to her, that requirement was unsettling at first, but boosted her Japanese speaking proficiency. She said being forced to speak the local language, as well as interacting with Japan’s people, culture and way of life caused her to grow in ways she never expected.

Now that she’s back in the U.S., McClory recognizes the importance of sharing her experience with others – particularly the children at Lemberg.

“When you work with kids you realize just how smart they are,” said McClory. “You notice how much they emulate adults and what they pick up. I think that’s a big reason why it’s important to teach kids about other cultures and diversity. You want them to grow up with that understanding.”

McClory is the recipient of the Abram and Thelma Sachar Endowed Scholarship.

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