In Japan, Shichi-Go-San is a special festival for children who are three, five or seven years old. Children of these ages dress in traditional clothes and go to the shrine to pray for long life. They get a special, very long candy called Chitose Ame symbolizing healthy growing and a long life.

On the day of Shichi-Go-San we planned to walk to a local shrine where the children could bow, clap hands and wish for a long and healthy life. We bought a long Chitose Ame candy for each child. We wanted the children to make their own bags to carry the long candy back from the shrine. We decided to use a thinking routine called See, Think, Wonder to introduce this idea to the children.

We showed the children two shop-bought long Chitose Ame bags.

First, we asked the children what they could see.

  • I see turtle
  • Flower
  • Boy
  • I see a girl and a boy wearing a kimono
  • I see a bird, no, a crane.

Then we asked the children what that made them think about.

  • I am thinking about when I saw a real turtle and his head was bobbing in the water.
  • And I saw real cranes. I think they were cranes.
  • It makes me think about all the beautiful things in the world

Finally, we asked the children what that made them wonder.

  • I am wondering if Bob (the ELC turtle) is still alive.
  • I am wondering what the boy and girl are doing.
  • Lego. I wonder lego.
  • I wonder if we could make a bag out of lego?
  • I wonder what we are going to do with these?

I wondered aloud who the bags could belong to. The children thought they might be Yuri’s so they asked her, and she came and explained about Shichi-Go-San. Yuri explained to the children that we would all (even the six year olds!) walk to a near-by shrine and that everyone would receive  a long-life candy. She asked the children to make a bag to carry their candy.  When we adults planned this engagement, we  decided not to give the children any instructions for making the bags as we were interested to see what ideas and strategies they came up with.

For the next hour the children were deeply engaged in personal and collaborative inquiries into how to make a paper bag that was the right size for the candy, strong enough to hold the candy and designed in such a way that the candy would not fall out. We documented the process through photographs. Note the children’s facial expressions as they work, deeply engaged in what they are doing, and how they use each other as resources to help them with their problem solving.

In that hour the children were engaged in:

  • thinking about elements of design
  • planning which materials and techniques to use
  • testing their designs
  • problem solving and adapting the designs

Throughout the process the children collaborated, reflected, analyzed, predicted, hypothesized, encouraged, reflected and rejoiced! The finished bags are unique and each one reflects it’s designer’s personality!

One thought on “Shichi-go-san

  1. We really liked your bags. How did you make them in your video? What do your sweets taste like? Do they taste yummy? We have never ever had sweets from Japan. We are 5-6 years old from England and we don’t have any traditions like this!

    Class 1 (Athersley South Primary School)

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