Navy Veteran brings Bento Art to Sullivans Students
Yokosuka, Japan Mandy Shimakura, a navy veteran, now a student teacher, teaches nutrition to fourth grade students at The Sullivans School on board Yokosuka Naval Base, with a unique twist. She uses Japanese bento preparation techniques to create “bento art” with her food. But first a little background as to how this Arkansas Native acquired her traditional Japanese expertise.
12 years ago, in December, 2001, MASA Mandy Chapman arrived for her first tour of duty at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) Security Detachment. Her first duty station was standing 12 hour shifts as a gate guard at Carney Gate. Even then, she was attracted to the local elementary school and spent her off duty hours volunteering to read to students in Patrice Noma’s English as a Second Language class. One night, she assumed the same post alongside a Japanese national employed by the Fleet Activities Civilian Police, Yuusuke Shimakura, who would become her future husband.
Flash forward 12 years and Mandy Shimakura is now married to Yuusuke, a mother of 3, separated from the Navy and employed by the Personnel Support Detachment (PSD), Navy Passenger Transportation Office (NAVPTO). She is in the student teaching phase of receiving her latest degree from University of Phoenix. Thanks to her Montgomery GI Bill, Shimakura has earned three degrees, an associate degree in general education, a bachelor's in social science, and her current master’s degree in elementary education.
After teaching her students a health unit on nutrition, Shimakura decided to have the children build a Japanese bento as a final assessment activity. Shimakura stated, “I learned to make bentos by watching my mother-in-law and Japanese TV. I wanted to make them so my daughter would not stand out in Japanese schools. The secret to making a nutritious bento is using a variety of different colors; this will ensure added nutritional value.”
Shimakura taught 4 students to make ham and cheese sandwiches in different shapes. She also added cut vegetables, fruit rollups and yogurt to the lesson. The 4 students then supervised their peers in the making of the bentos. Jayla Thomas, one of the helping students in Shimakura’s class stated, “ It was fun helping classmates and doing a fun food project with Ms. Shimakura.” Miho Leonard, a parent volunteer who helped with the activity said, “It was exciting to see the students teaching each other and eating their vegetables.”