B-lab: Secret base for student

Since April 2015, Katariba started operating “B-lab,” a youth center in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo. “B-lab” is a secret base for junior and senior high school students where they can challenge anything they want. Katariba will help create a new after school program different from schools and preparatory schools.

Creating a place where students can belong

Many students in metropolitan areas often commute long hours to their schools as they enter into more competitive junior or senior high schools. Such a long commute separates students from their hometown as well as the community their schools are located. In Bunkyo Ward, 40% of junior high school students commute to schools outside the ward, and there are 15,000 junior and senior high school students who come to schools from outside the ward. Many students have become detached to their hometown and do not have the place to belong near their schools. They often end up spending time at fast food stores and cafes in city center which could not be safe for students. Creating a place where students feel comfortable and stay was a primary reason for starting B-lab.

Encouraging self-confidence of students

B-lab is not only a place where students feel safe and comfortable but also they can find their possibilities through various activities related to arts, sports and study.

1. Get to know B-lab

Katariba offer its career education program Katariba class at junior and senior highs schools in Bunkyo Ward. At these classes, Katariba give chances for students to learn about themselves and also know what B-lab does to support them.

2. Come and join activities at B-lab

Throughout year, B-lab organizes various events ranging from academic support, music, to sports. These events serves as a great opportunity for students to know about themselves and to identify where their interests lie.

3. Support students organize their own events

Once students find their interest and possibilities, staff and volunteers will support students to plan, organize and implement events they create.

3,000 students use B-lab*

3,000 students who live, work and study in Bunkyo Ward use B-lab.

B-lab organizes 180 events a year**

B-lab organizes many events that draw interests and passion from students. Events range from academic support (such as self-study support session), dance, acoustic experiment to sports. B-lab offers events called “tryout seminars” which encourage students to try something new. There also events organized by students themselves.

** For academic year 2015 (and includes events to be held)

“I wanted to overcome my shyness”

Akane Fujino, second year junior high school student in Bunkyo Ward

As I was a very shy person, I wanted to change such personality. That’s when I saw on the website a position offered at B-lab as a student staff. I applied because I thought I could be a part of managing events and interact with many people. My first activity was to create a video that shows how to get to B-lab from schools in Bunkyo Ward. Now I started a student-led film project and plan to present a film at Bunkyo Film Festival. When I work on a project at B-lab, I can borrow equipment and get feedback from other students and staff. I feel I have more things I can do by myself.

What I want to do in this film project is to get my message out to adults. I feel adults sometimes pretend to understand children but they do not in reality. I would like to change that by sending out a message on what junior and senior high school students today think.

Find your place through building a “diagonal”

Junior and senior high school students need to find a place they belong and comfortably express themselves. B-lab offers such place and opportunity through the support provided by volunteer staff (consists of mainly college students and called “floor cast”.) Since B-lab floor casts are not teachers or parents and just a few years older than students, they are more accessible and can better help identify what students are interested in. B-lab floor casts also help students in creating events and support students’ initiative to realize what they want to achieve.

Collaborating with local community

Staff and volunteers at B-lab not only work inside the facility but also collaborate with educational bodies of Bunkyo Ward and involve themselves in activities outside of B-lab. They organize “B-lab to go” and host a career education program Katariba at junior and senior high schools in the Ward. Their activities include afterschool academic support as well. During 2015, B-lab staff and volunteers reached out to fifteen schools.

Give all junior and senior high school students in Bunkyo to challenge

It is estimated that 27,000 junior and senior high school students can use B-lab. Katariba in collaboration with local community and schools aims to reach out to all junior and senior high school students to use the facility, especially those who are facing challenges.

Create leaders through students-led projects

“We want to host a live concert!” “We want to create a map of back alleys.” Many projects were created through various initiatives taken by students at B-lab. Through planning and implementing their own projects, students will become future leaders as they find what they are interested and learn how to involve other people to realize their goals.