Authentic Experiences Nurture Children's Dreams
Children Experience the Hands-on Programs to Usher in a Bright, Promising Future
— Please tell us how your initiatives aimed at children came about, and the reasons and impetus for starting them.
Yasui Wakaba, Seiko Group Corporation: They started because we wanted to make the hands-on learning programs for children that we had been offering at the Seiko Museum available to as many children as possible. In order to do so, we believed there was a need for on-site hands-on learning programs in which our employees would go out to visit various locations, and we launched the Seiko Exciting School as a company-wide initiative.
Implementing initiatives aimed at children is also coherent with company-wide policy. In 2021, upon the 140th anniversary of the company's founding, the Seiko Group established the Group's Purpose: "As a company trusted by society, we will constantly pursue innovation, inspiring people everywhere, and creating a future full of smiles." In addition, we state that our company will commit to developing businesses that help solve social issues over the next ten years. Our group has also identified the need to "Cultivate and support the next generation" as one of the 13 material issues in its Sustainability Policy, through which it aims to contribute to the development of a sustainable society and to create a future full of children's smiles.
Miyadera Noboru, the Seiko Museum Ginza: The Seiko Museum began its initiatives for children with the opening of the museum to the public in 2012. It was initially established in 1981 as an archival center for the collection, preservation, and study of reference materials and specimens related to time and timepieces. The museum switched over to focus on contributing to society with the opening of its doors to the public. To this end, we at the museum have gradually added learning and education to our traditional role as a research institute, planning and carrying out workshops and other activities for children. We now offer hands-on learning programs for children on the premises of the museum jointly with the Seiko Exciting School.
Higashino Yuka, the Seiko Museum Ginza: We decided to hold events for children in the hope that they would familiarize themselves with time and timepieces from an early age, given the growing trend away from clocks among the younger generation.
Offering Hands-on Programs Related to Time and Craftsmanship, which the Seiko Group is Best Positioned to Offer
— What is the Seiko Exciting School about?
Yasui: The Seiko Group offers four unique hands-on learning programs: the Exciting Time & Timepieces School, Environment School, Sports School, and Music School, for elementary, junior-high and high school students. Today, we will focus on the first hands-on learning program that we started in 2017, the Exciting Time & Timepieces School.
The Exciting Time & Timepieces School is a free hands-on learning program for elementary school students, linked to the elementary school curriculum, that prompts them to think about time from various perspectives. Seiko Group employees serve as instructors in on-site presentations, providing educational content and conducting hands-on programs that link up what the students learn in science class with society at large, as well as with everyday life. In these programs, students learn about the history of mankind's relationship with time and the evolution of the technology needed to obtain information about time. In doing so, they come to understand that clocks have evolved to be more accurate by applying the isochronism of the pendulum—which they study in science class—and that this is part of what makes our lives convenient. Students can observe with their own eyes the tiny parts contained in a wristwatch, witness the exquisite movement of the minuscule parts that make a second hand tick, and try to mimic the watchmaker's art of picking up a watch screw and inserting it into a hole 0.9 millimeters wide. All this is something that can only be experienced within this program.
The strength of the program lies in marrying theory and reality, for example by inviting children to the rooftop of the clock tower in Ginza 4-chome (known as the symbol of Ginza) to teach them about the sundial, which tells time based on the movement of the sun, and inviting them to make a sundial of their own and experiment with it.
Higashino: The Watch Assembly Program and Clock Painting Program, offered by the Seiko Museum Ginza, are part of the Exciting Time & Timepieces School.
The Watch Assembly Program is aimed at third to sixth graders, and offers them the opportunity to assemble a quartz watch. Experienced engineers from the Seiko Group serve as instructors, and participants absorb basic facts about watch mechanisms and types before trying their hand at assembling the watches.
The Clock Painting Program is aimed at children five to eight years old, who are invited to draw on a clock face to create their own one-of-a-kind clock. We provide wall clocks on which children draw freely or affix stickers, creating unique clocks festooned with original art.
Both programs charge a nominal fee to cover the cost of the materials, and they are proving to be very popular with children and parents alike, with tickets selling out quickly as soon as the programs are open for registration. Perhaps this is because the experience of having children assemble a watch or design their own clock is precious in itself.
Yasui: Other initiatives such as the Exciting Environment School, the Exciting Sports School, and the Exciting Music School also provide free hands-on learning programs related to time and manufacturing. Seiko's luxury mechanical watches are brought to life by our watchmakers in our workshop in Shizukuishi Town, Iwate Prefecture. At the Exciting Environment School, students explore the forest surrounding the workshop, learning about biodiversity and nature conservation through fieldwork. The Exciting Sports School offers elementary, junior-high, and high school students the opportunity to learn the importance of time in sports, with the advice of top athletes and equipment used in world-class competitions.
Offering Authentic Experiences to Children, Using Technology that has Led not only Japan but the World
— You have mentioned aspects that "the Seiko Group is best positioned to offer." What do you think are the unique strengths that the Seiko Group brings to its initiatives?
Yasui: We are able to offer authentic experiences to children. The Seiko Group has taken on numerous challenges in its history spanning more than 140 years, and has introduced technologies that were the first of its kind not only in Japan but globally. For example, we developed the world's first quartz watch, and Japan's first alarm clock, and served as the first Asian official timekeeper at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Also, we boast watchmakers who have been recognized by the government as Outstandingly Skilled Workers (Contemporary Master Craftsmen). Therefore, we believe we have a wealth of assets to pass on to the children.
Higashino: We also consider it our strength that we are able to let children feel a sense of accomplishment through such authentic experiences, and to help them learn to cherish objects. By inviting children to create their own clocks, they learn how to take good care of things, and to use them for a long time. Some children came to us several years after going through the clock-making program, asking us to fix their clocks because they had stopped working. We feel that the program did induce a change in behavior, precisely because it was authentic.
— What are the things you have prioritized or emphasized in your efforts so far, in carrying out the initiatives?
Yasui: I hope children can realize that our life of convenience is, in fact, made possible by numerous technologies. Time is a very familiar concept to us, and we can now tell the exact time as a matter of course. But I hope that thinking about the technological innovations, the social structure, and the way of thinking underlying it will serve as an opportunity for them to consider more broadly their own future.
Higashino: Since we offer learning programs in specialized fields, using precision instruments, we also make sure that they are understandable from the point of view of a child. For example, we take care to use words that children can readily understand when explaining things, and we break down the process of watchmaking in detail to avoid delays or getting ahead of schedule. Since the programs aim to familiarize children with time and timepieces from an early age, we try to make the experience fun and rewarding for them.
The Joy Comes from Knowing that We are Creating Excitement and a Bright Future for Children
— What kind of feedback or opinions have you received from children and parents who have participated in the hands-on learning programs?
Higashino: Some children come every year to the programs offered by the Seiko Museum, and parents have also told us that they want their younger children to participate when they are older, and then they actually bring their children here several years later. Some families also come because other parents spoke well of the programs in schools. We are happy to be able to offer programs that attract ever more people thanks to favorable reviews by past participants, and that make people want to visit again.
Yasui: Many of the participants have said that they now want to cherish watches and time, that they want to be engaged in work that is of benefit to others, like the work the Seiko Group is engaged in, and that they feel like embarking on a search for their own dreams after having such an authentic experience. The way the students are encouraged to value objects as well as time, and to think about their dreams, encapsulates the spirit of the slogan of the Seiko Exciting School, "Every time you get excited, the future shines brighter," and we are very happy to see that.
Adopting a Point of View of Making Children Happy has Led to the Initiation of New Projects
— Did the reaction within the company change, before and after implementing the initiatives?
Higashino: At the Seiko Museum, I feel that people are starting to think from the viewpoint of what we should do to make children happy. We used to be a research institute, mainly receiving engineers and specialists as visitors, but when we opened our doors to the public, children began to visit the museum as well. So we began to actively discuss things like, "What kind of exhibits would kids find interesting? How can we explain this in a way that is easy to understand?" The nurturing of such a culture has led to new projects, such as the launch of a website for children, SEIKO KIDS, the creation of cartoon characters aimed at children, and the summer vacation project, "Let's become a SEIKO expert! Quiz."
Digital Initiatives as well as their Expansion Overseas are also being Considered, in order to Make them Available to more Children
— What is your vision for the future? How are you going to further improve and expand the initiatives currently being implemented?
Yasui: In order to make the Seiko Exciting School available to more children, we are thinking of expanding the programs, target age groups, and regions further. We are also participating in the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's “STEAM Library” project, and we are offering videos that comprise more advanced educational materials, mainly for junior-high and high school students. Along with such active use of digital technology, we are also looking to expand overseas.
Children Gain Insights by Experiencing Authenticity, Precisely Because We Live in a Digital Society
— Finally, is there a message you would like to convey to children, or to other companies and organizations?
All: To the children, we would like to say, "Come and experience something authentic. Nowadays, information is available in abundance with a smartphone search, but by actually meeting and talking with people who are at the top of their field, and experiencing something authentic, you will gain important insights and an opportunity to change your future. We will continue to offer authentic experiences, and would welcome your participation in our hands-on learning programs, or visits to the Seiko Museum Ginza."
To other companies and organizations, we would like to say, "We believe that the topic of time offers a wide range of opportunities for collaboration. We would be happy to extend our activities in cooperation with companies and organizations that share our commitment to providing authentic experiences, and our interest in offering our programs in diverse regions."
— Thank you very much for your inspiring message!
The Seiko Group Corporation makes a significant effort to create high-quality learning opportunities for children by providing them with authentic experiences. Its initiatives fully demonstrate the strengths of a company with the advanced knowledge, technology, and experience that comes with having manufactured precision instruments, including watches, for more than 140 years.
The Seiko Museum Ginza: https://museum.seiko.co.jp/en/Opening hours 10:30 - 18:00
Closed Mondays/New Year Holidays *Schedule is subject to change.
*This article was originally published on "The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Children's Smile Movement" website (Feb 2, 2023).