Language Learning and CC’s Japanese Garden

By Sarah Senese ’23

Professor of Japanese Joan Ericson recently published a chapter in the book “Language Learning in Foreign Language,” titled “A Case Study in Integrated Learning: Building a Japanese Garden.” As the faculty liaison of the Asian Languages House at CC, Ericson was interested in and intrigued by presenting different ways in which language houses can be integrated into general classroom curriculum. 

Ericson has always been interested in experiential learning and how she could combine typical classroom activities with hands-on, innovative ways to get students interested and involved — sometimes even beyond the classroom. Ericson knew that the founding of a Japanese garden at CC could provide the framework for such a multi-faceted project. “Students were able to take what they learned from our textbooks and apply those historical and aesthetic concepts to creating something tangible,” Ericson says, noting that from day one all students were able to learn hands-on by speaking Japanese with experts like Master Gardener Takeshi Hayashi.

The editors of this volume of “Language Learning in Foreign Language” brought together a diverse group of ideas based on papers presented at two different conferences that focused on foreign language housing. While some examples of papers were more practical or theoretical, Ericson’s goal was to “examine the ways in which we can coordinate what we teach in the classroom through a project that can benefit our students, while involving many parts of the campus.” 

Ericson thinks back fondly on the building of a CC Japanese garden during her very first First-Year Experience class way back in the fall of 2003. The class was a culmination of a multi-year process involving faculty, staff, and students — a feat that doesn’t occur in an FYE often. The students in the class were given the opportunity to create the garden on the side of the brand-new Asian Languages House, in collaboration with Groundskeeper Jerry Switzer and Master Gardener Takeshi Hayashi.  

Ericson, while proud of her publication and integration of multi-disciplinary learning, is most proud of what the Japanese garden brings to the CC community. Ericson loves the garden “especially in winter, where residents of the house who find a spot around the kotatsu (heated table) atop the tatami-mat platform in the living room can enjoy the peacefulness of the small Japanese garden surrounding their residence while doing homework or chatting with friends.” 

You can find more information and pictures of the Japanese garden in the Asian Languages House website, in Ericson’s publication in “Language Learning in Foreign Language”, and in this short video: