MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Piñatas and line dancing were part of the “American” experience for 42 Japanese middle school students and 10 teachers who visited Robert D. Edgren High School on Monday.

The cultural exchange was the second between the schools. Last October, Nishimeya Junior High School invited teacher Missy Murphy’s AVID students — AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination — to their campus near Hirosaki in northern Japan.

One of Murphy’s goals for her 16 middle- and 10 high-school students is to experience Japanese culture often through field trips. AVID is a college-preparatory class that teaches skills such as organization and note-taking.

“We try to get them out into Japan as much as possible,” Murphy said. “These are kids who are going to be college graduates and professionals. They need to know about the culture they’ve been living in.”

The visit to Misawa was a way to repay Nishimeya’s hospitality, Murphy said.

This time, most of Edgren’s middle-school student body participated. They spent the morning getting acquainted through American-style games, such as the “three-legged” relay race and “hula-hoop wiggle,” where students lock hands and try exchanging a hula hoop with their bodies.

Later, it was on to a pizza lunch, a tour of the school, a student-produced slide show of American and base life, and line dancing. Lastly, the Japanese students took swings at a piñata, a common tradition at American birthday parties.

Eighth-grader Amber Kers said the best part of the cultural exchange was intermingling with Japanese students and showing them a piece of America.

The highlight for Nishimeya science teacher and recreational basketball player Satoru Ichinohe was seeing Edgren’s new gym and its basketball accessories. At Nishimeya, the gym has no scoreboard, fewer basketball goals and chairs that sit on the floor instead of bleachers, he said.

Though Nishimeya students learn English at school, they rarely have a chance to use it with native speakers, he said.

“We hope to have a good experience speaking English,” he said.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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