La Plata, MD – The story goes — two deities Orihime and Hikoboshi fall so deeply in love, they forget all about their work. Orihime’s father, a god, is angered and forbids the two from seeing each other, separating the Milky Way to keep them apart. But on the seventh day of the seventh month — July 7 — if it is not raining and the Milky Way is not flooded, the lovers can reunite for the day.

On Earth, those who celebrate Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival, can write their wishes on tanzaku, or colorful slips of paper, and attach them to bamboo trees. If Orihime and Hikoboshi meet, the wishes will come true.

Students in Corrie Wutka’s fourth-grade class at Walter J. Mitchell Elementary School learned about Tanabata through a lesson taught by Riho Nishinouchi, a visiting student teacher from Bunkyo University in Japan, who introduced herself saying she liked art and playing basketball.

The fourth graders wrote their wishes on a tanzaku and placed them on a bamboo tree that Nishinouchi drew on chart paper. “Did you draw this,” Brett Wilkinson asked her while affixing his wish to the drawing. When she answered yes, “You really are good at art,” he said.

Among the wishes were to be a better soccer player than Messi. That dad wouldn’t work so much so he could spend more time at home. To be rich, but not greedy. To have a kitten. For a world full of joy and animals. For all the homeless people to have homes. To travel to the moon.

Thirty Bunkyo University students visited Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) for two weeks from Feb. 19 to March 2 to get a feel for what American public education is like. This marks the 28th year for Bunkyo students to participate in the educational study training program in the U.S.

The first week, while staying at a hotel, the university students learn about CCPS and its programs and curriculum. They tour the one-room schoolhouse in Port Tobacco, learn about using telepresence as an instructional tool, observe classes and witness Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs. During the second week, the students stay with host families and teach a Japanese lesson at schools around the county. This year, Bunkyo students taught at Berry, Mary B. Neal, Dr. James Craik, Indian Head, Walter J. Mitchell, Mary M. Matula and Malcolm elementary schools and Milton M. Somers and John Hanson middle schools.

Exposure to a different culture is welcome among CCPS students, said Mitchell fourth grader William Ddungu. “I want to know about other cultures,” he said. “It’s pretty cool and fun learning about Japan,” Grace Lamb, Ddungu’s classmate, added.