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Cleaning Tradition

place Japan + 5 more

How can cleaning a school at the end of the day help students learn?

Students who help clean and tidy classrooms at the end of the day learn about responsibility and gain an understanding of life skills.

HundrED 2018


HundrED has selected this innovation to

HundrED 2018

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September 2017
Working on the toolkit made me realize how much the cleaning activity is beneficial for our whole education. Thank you for giving me the chance!

About the innovation

What is Cleaning Tradition?

Cleaning Tradition is a way to get students involved in cleaning classrooms after school. It helps to promote students understanding of life skills such as personal responsibility. Aimed at children ages 6-18, all students can participate in making their school a tidier place.

Classrooms are busy places with lots of people doing many different things. Naturally, classrooms can look very messy by the end of the day. There isresearch to suggests that children in tidy classrooms tend to be happier than those in messy ones. However, when students are the ones largely creating the mess it is natural that they ought to be the ones to clean it up.

In Japan, there is a tradition that the students themselves clean their schools. For just 15 minutes at the end of the day, students use brooms, vaccuums, and cloths to clean the classrooms, bathrooms, and other school spaces. The tradition is based on the 17th century philosophy that a clear mind comes from keeping clean and clear surroundings. It is also a way of showing gratitude to people and objects that enable learning. Others believe that if students are responsible for their own mess, they are less likely to make it in the first place and will show respect for their surroundings.

The time spentcleaning afer school is relaxingand offers students the opportunity to talk with friends and engage with students of other ages. Students of all ages help each other, allowing older students to act as mentors and younger children to find role models.

Teachers have observed how their bond with students has strengthened as they can interact with them in an relaxed context. This allows teachers to fully understand how well students get on with one another. It also provides an opportunity for teachers to chat with students and to get to know them outside of the formal, learning environment.

Impact & scalability

Impact & Scalability


This is reinventing cleaning for school children using tips and hints that will turn them into passionate and responsible students. Although cleaning in school is an old tradition in Japan, modern educational philosophy and method is required to support students today.


Students become aware of cleanliness and begin to keep the school tidy all the time. They start to pick up trash once it is noticed and arrange desks and messy classrooms during the day. The development of respecting others and communal space is the main aim.


This innovation has already spread across Asian countries such as the Philippines and India, while similar activities are developing in Africa as well.

Implementation steps

Student Participation
Making students responsible for their own mess.

Many schools in Japan make students clean their own classrooms and communal spaces. Some schools make mixed-age groups to encourage younger students to learn cleaning skills from older ones, who in turn help their younger counterparts. For example, students aged 10-12 clean up common spaces while 9 year-olds tidy classrooms.

Since cleaning is included in the school time table, all students participate in this activity. Students develop respect and gain a mindulness of their environment. They also encourage peer learning as they develop practical skills together.

Training staff members
Train staff members to understand this cleaning exercise as an informal way to talk with students.

As this is an educational activity rather than using students as cleaners, it is essential for teachers to understand why and how to do this. More participants require more teachers to guide the project.

Teachers should become familiar with using brooms, vacuums, and whatever cleaning tools the school has at hand. Some discussion with the school is needed to understand what materials can be used by students for cleaning.

Choosing a place and time
Where to clean, when, and how long?

Think about where to clean. Schools can be large, so it is necessary to choose which areas to clean. Focus on communal areas as well as classrooms, and avoid areas that might be dangerous or off-limits to students. Take into account how many participants are there to help and make sure that no one is cleaning alone or in too small of a group.

When to clean must also be considered. Many schools place the activity at the end of the day, but it can also be done right after lunch to help the students clear their minds and get ready for afternoon learning.

Finally, cleaning should never take too long. 15-20 minutes is long enough for the students to enjoy the activity without it becoming burdensome.

Supplying the necessary resources
Learn how you clean and what materials you use.

Order the appropriate cleaning materials, once theyhave been decided upon. It is easiest if they can be provided by the school, but if not, parental donations and fundraisers can help off-set costs.

Students and teachers can wear smocks or aprons to protect themselves and their clothes during the process.

Opportunities for student leadership
Help your teachers and student leaders encourage others during the process.

Training students as group leaders is the final step. A supervising teacher instructs the leader on how to clean the room, what equipment to use, and how many people are needed for the task. When cleaning time comes, teachers allow student leaders to teach the others. As a result, leadership and participation skills increase amongst participants.

In the end, everyone has fun!

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