UPBEAT International School Nagoya District Campus Sports Day

"Team Work Makes the Dream Work.” That’s what a collection of banners spell out as they peer across an assortment of tents, equipment, cheering kids, smiling parents, and proud teachers on a sunny Saturday morning in May. The banners were not purchased or printed by a single source. Staying true to its own slogan, each letter was colored by Sports Day participants in a style of their choice. Each word was carefully placed on a background with its own unique pattern picked out by an individual class. The poster-making process is something that can only be accomplished through creative collaboration, a concept also known as “teamwork.”

Sports Day is divided into two teams: the Red Team and the White Team. These colors are taken from the official logo, theme, and design of UPBEAT International School. Rather than simply placing one group of classes on the Red Team and the other on the White Team, each team is a mixed assortment of students from different classes. Teachers collaborate to ensure a pair of teams in which different skill sets are as carefully balanced as possible. This is a strong way to encourage students to bond with others from outside their own class. However, the students at UPBEAT are already quite familiar with all their schoolmates from their grade level, as they are given the freedom to mingle with other classes of their choice through the school’s unique Student Learning Agency Program.

To ensure a smooth and efficient final day, the Red and White Teams practiced regularly with their teammates to learn the rules and steps of the Sports Day games. They also participated in open-ended discussions with their friends and teachers to foster a culture of good sportsmanship and fair play. If you ask the Red and White Teams, “What is good sportsmanship?” some will point out that we need to help our friends when they are down. Some will say, “Follow the rules!” Others will encourage you to clap for the other team, even when yours loses. Some will say, “Have fun,” but they have all come to these conclusions on their own.

Discussions about the importance of sportsmanship are just as important as lessons about reading and writing at UPBEAT. Since the curriculum is based on a transdisciplinary theme, all subjects at this point in the year are aimed at discovering “Who We Are” or “How the World Works.” In this unit, one of the youngest grade levels learned about the materials needed for a school to work. Not only did they learn about using pencils and books in school, they learned about using sports equipment for exercise. Another grade level focused on the emotions we have as people. This allowed for daily opportunities to talk about how to deal with feeling sad when you lose a game, or how to express your excitement politely when you win. The oldest grade level was learning about relationships and how they are affected by our actions. These students could identify their relationships with their teammates, their competitors, their coaches (teachers), as well as their audience (parents). Some of their assignments included expressing these relationships with drawings, posters, or charts and ways to illustrate our actions between each other.

So much preparation goes into Sports Day because it is a celebration of these transdisciplinary themes. It is a chance for the children to express who they are in a fun and passionate way while learning important life lessons about how the world works. These include the importance of practice and preparation, learning how something important and fun can be organized by many people, and how we can all follow rules to yield a fun and happy experience!

Now that Sports Day has finally arrived, the flow of the event will tell if all the preparation has paid off. It’s a sunny spring day but not overbearingly hot. Teachers line up at the entrance of the court with signs to guide their respective classes. The students smile, run to their classroom signs, and laugh together as some teachers spontaneously dance to the uplifting music that is playing over the speakers. When the sun rose this morning, there wasn’t a bit of movement in the park, and not a sound but the buzzing cicadas. Now, it is bustling with excited parents waiting outside the court with their cameras ready.

After an introductory speech from the campus head manager, the activities begin! First is a routine of exercise songs that are performed by the entire school roster. Even the babies get a chance to show their moves! Speaking of babies, the youngest grade levels (known as Canaries, Ladybugs, Goldfish, and Butterflies) competed first! However, they weren’t alone. The parents were there to help them shine! The youngest students, Canaries and Ladybugs, were maneuvered around the track by their mommies and daddies in mini cardboard box fire trucks!

The Goldfish and Butterflies, however, are old enough to show off a wide variety of motor skills. They raced across an obstacle course that challenged them to hop across rings on the ground, run across a balance beam, match the image on cardboard boxes, and drive a mini fire truck across the finish line! This game also required the assistance of parents and family members to help their young ones reach the goal.

Helping the youngest ones isn’t the only way the parents got involved. Up next was a three-legged race! Each mommy present partnered up with a female teacher to tie one leg together and use their coordination to make it down the track and back to the goal.

Next, the Turtles, Whales, and Dragons took turns participating in Sports Day activities. These students are old enough to participate without the physical help of parents. Their games included fun UPBEAT classics such as a race where students must hop in a sack to the finish line and one where students must roll a giant inflatable ball across the track! Not only did these games test the students’ physical mobility and hand-eye coordination, but many of them were designed to be won with teamwork!


The Basketball Bonanza, for example, required students to throw as many balls as they could into a basket at once, rather than relying on one person to score a point with one ball.

The Brisk Baton Relay was a race in which, rather than waiting for a teammate to cross the finish line, a contestant's round could not be initiated until their previous teammate handed them a baton.

After the Turtles, Whales, and Dragons finished their games, there were two more highly anticipated activities left! One being…the Tug-of-War! A long, sturdy rope was spread across the Sports Day Courtyard. On one side: the Red Team. On the other: the White Team. Both teams consisted of daddies and male teachers. The children and mommies cheered with excitement as one team dragged the other across the sacred goal line!

After a cordial exchange of handshakes and high-fives between the two teams, the court was once more filled with the preschool roster and its dedicated teachers. Every year a song is selected for the school to perform as an ending ceremony to show off their ability to follow, memorize, and execute more advanced dance moves than what was shown in the opening exercise songs. This year, the students and teachers had voted on “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake from the Trolls soundtrack.


As the finale song ended its last note and the students made their final pose, an announcement was made for representatives of the Turtles, Whales, and Dragons to enter the center of the court and receive their symbolic prizes. Everyone held their breath until the results came in. The Red Team won! Its members jumped and cheered, while the White Team clapped for their friends. Every student was smiling with their medal of honor and their box of delicious apple juice! The parents seized the opportunity to take tons of fun pictures with the kids and teachers. As the upbeat music closed out the day and a sense of happiness was felt throughout the air, one thing was for certain: teamwork made the dream work…and it will continue to.