Monday, April 25, 2016

Where Eagles Soar

Our first school visit in Hawaii was to Hale Kula Elementary School (soon to be officially known as Daniel Inouye Elementary School) on the Schofield Barracks Army Installation and began bright and early with a 6:00 am pickup by our wonderful tour guide Brendan Brennan.  We had quite an eventful start to the day, but more about that later!

We were warmly greeted and hosted at the school by Principal Jan Iwase and her leadership team.

A highlight of the school was seeing Learn, Create, Share in action through the eyes of a group of children who were keen to share their Project Based Learning with us.

Nyla had been working on a way to build a better product and chose the disposable coffee pods that have become ubiquitous in American homes. She was designing a reusable, biodegradable filter that could be used instead of the plastic environmentally unfriendly items in current use. We saw the prototypes she had created and the movie she made at home while she tested it out on the family.

Her movie was shared on the school’s YouTube channel.

Teachers will be interested to see how this project template was designed by the teacher in a shared Google Doc to support the learning, including colour-coded staging points for when each step of the process was due to be complete.

This school is high decile but has an interesting point in common with us. The children move in and out of the school at a significant rate.  Most of the 970 students are dependents of military personnel assigned to Hawaii and so move around a lot, making transition and deployment issues unique challenges for the school. From our own experience of transience we understand that this means the school has a short space of time to transition learners into the school community and to accelerate learning before they move on.

The circumstances of our visit did tempt me to title this post “Foreign Nationals”, but I didn’t want to detract from the quality learning experience we had at this school.  We had been pre-warned to carry our passports as we would be entering a military base, but this was not sufficient.  Brendan had obtained clearance in advance but it was only satisfactory for him as a US citizen.  We were given a very curt dismissal at the gate and told that as “Foreign Nationals” we were denied access.  This was disconcerting to say the least, compounded by the soldier on duty radioing all the other gates as we backed out to warn them to be on guard for Foreign Nationals attempting to enter by another gate!

Brendan drove us a block away and then contacted the school to let them know what had happened.  Fast forward half an hour of anxious conversation... the school located a staff member who was military personal.  She drove out to meet us down the road. We both got in her car and she drove us through an entrance gate without a problem. Not so for Brendan.  He drove back through, carrying the correct paper work for his own entry and was delayed while his vehicle was given a thorough search. Apparently they even looked for the Foreign Nationals under the car bonnet - which is quite flattering really!

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