Thursday, April 21, 2016

A New Name for Our School

It happened so quickly that we haven't really realized the full impact yet.  Back in June 2015, the Daniel K. Inouye Institute asked if we would consider changing the name of our school. They were looking for an opportunity to honor this statesman for his work with the military as well as his support for education. After gaining the support of our school community as well as the military leadership of the 25th Infantry Division and US Army Garrison Hawaii, we moved forward with the proposal. On Tuesday, April 19, 2016, the Board of Education unanimously approved the request to change the name of our school from Hale Kula Elementary School to Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School. Pasted below is part of the letter I wrote to the Board of Education in support of the change.

Hale Kula Elementary School first opened in 1959, the same year that Hawaii became the 50th state. When Hawaii achieved statehood, Daniel K. Inouye was elected as its first member of the United States House of Representatives. In 1962, he was elected to the United States Senate where he served until his death in 2012. At that time, he was the President pro tempore of the Senate.

Senator Inouye was a veteran of World War II, a decorated member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and throughout his political career, he fiercely advocated for the military and education, and more specifically, for military children. He was instrumental in the creation of the Joint Venture Education Forum, a coalition of public school educators, military commands, government, community, and business leaders. He secured millions of dollars in funding to address concerns of military families, and Hale Kula was the beneficiary of thousands of dollars in JVEF funding for technology, textbooks, playground equipment, 3R’s projects, and other school-wide initiatives. Today, JVEF continues to work collaboratively to support our military-impacted schools.

In 2011, the Office of Economic Adjustment performed a facilities assessment of 157 schools located on military bases across the United States. When assessment results were released, Hale Kula Elementary School on Schofield Barracks ranked #9 on the list based on our capacity and condition of the school. Through a collaborative effort between the Department of Education and the US Army Garrison Hawaii, the school submitted a proposal and received $26.6 million in Congressional funding to address the deficiencies in the assessment. The State of Hawaii Legislature allocated the 20% match or $6.6 million for the project to proceed. Senator Inouye who chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time, was instrumental in ensuring that Congress would allocate the funds. The school is presently in the third phase of a 3-year project, and the transformation of Hale Kula Elementary School has been remarkable. Students now and in the future will have a 21st century learning environment that makes exploration, discovery, collaboration, creation, and sharing possible, not just within the school but globally as well.

The Daniel K. Inouye Institute has approached the Department of Education and the leadership of Hale Kula Elementary School and requested that the school be renamed Daniel K. Inouye Elementary School to honor the late Senator. As a school on Schofield Barracks with an enrollment of 99% military-impacted students, we are supportive of this change. We are requesting that the Board of Education approve this request. We can think of no greater privilege than to rename our school after this American hero.

The change is effective immediately, but we have time to officially transition by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. We would like to express our sincere appreciation to Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi, Jennifer Sabas of the Daniel K. Inouye Institute, Army School Liaison Officer Wendy Nakasone, Major General Charles Flynn, and Colonel Richard Fromm for their support and assistance as we navigated the process, and mahalo to the Board of Education for approving this request. 

Senator Daniel K. Inouye

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's Been Awhile

My last post was on March 21. I've been having difficulty finishing up blog posts.  I've started several then hit a wall and ended up deleting them. How do people like +Peter DeWitt and +Eric Sheninger do it? They write several blogs a week.

So here I am on a Sunday afternoon, and this time, I will finish this blog post!

Today's post will be composed of several short thoughts or reflections; these are actually posts I started but didn't finish.

  • Randy and I took a short vacation to Maui during our Spring Break. It was a great time to get away and not even think about school. (I didn't bring my computer.) Randy was there for a hearing so I joined him the next morning, my golf clubs in tow. I truly enjoyed playing at two new courses I had not had the privilege to play at previously, but it was certainly a challenge. I felt like a beginner because it was so unfamiliar. It's sort of like our kids and learning. We give them worksheets that are familiar then test them. They do okay, but when we give them something new and different, they struggle. If I wanted to become a better golfer, I would learn how to play at different courses rather than going to the same course each week. Likewise, if we want students to be better readers or mathematicians, we should present them with problem-solving activities or project-based learning. They may struggle, but applying what they've learned to a relevant, real-world situation leads to a higher level of thinking. Isn't that what education should be?
  • Our school has been implementing interdisciplinary units for over a decade. We are moving toward project-based learning, and it's been a struggle. So we decided to use a real-life problem that would give teachers and students an opportunity to experience PBL first-hand . Now that our school construction project will be completed later this year, we should be getting new playground equipment.  We're asking students for ideas so we can come up with a proposal to our Department. Students have been asking questions, doing research, and sharing their ideas of what they would like to see in the playground. I am impressed with their ideas and their questions and especially with their enthusiasm! Some classes have even asked whether we can extend the time for recess and whether they can suggest changes to the whole field. We never think to ask students for their ideas; it is evident that even kindergarteners have creative ideas! Since this is PBL and sharing is part of the process, we plan to share our students' ideas with the Department and have conversations about recess, schedules, and the best way to utilize the fields. Check out #hkesplay on Twitter. We just started this hashtag and hope that teachers and students will add to the discussion!
  • Earlier this school year, we held a Super STEM Saturday for Girls Only. This past Saturday, we hosted our Super STEM Saturday for Boys. The observation we had made that girls and boys approach problems differently was clearly evident. It reminded me of a book I read a few years ago, Play Like a Man; Win Like a Woman by Gail Evans.  There is a difference between girls and boys when they are confronted with a problem. Girls are more methodical; they think of their idea then share with someone else. They agree on a plan and then implement that idea. Boys, on the other hand, just do . . . without really thinking of the consequences. I watched a group of boys collaborating on building a bridge with planks, bricks, boxes, and other available materials. Teams would have to drive a remote control over it without falling into the hot lava.  The boys were supposed to work as a team, draw up their design and then discuss and come to a consensus. The volunteer tried to get them to do that, but I notice that the boys preferred to just start building! When the volunteer asked, "Do you think you can get the remote control car to go up that hill?" the boys replied, "Let's try it! We can always change it if it doesn't work!" I also noticed that some of the boys were so absorbed in building their bridge with popsicle sticks; some stayed at that activity for over an hour and they kept making revisions until it worked. And competition is what drove the boys. Even if there was no prize, they wanted to have the longest bridge or float the most pennies or design a spaghetti/marshmallow bridge that held the most weight before breaking. We didn't see that with the girls. Super STEM Saturday was a success for both the girls and the boys! This is an activity we plan to continue in the coming years. 
This team collaborated to build a bridge that would go over hot lava. Collaborating is a crucial element of STEM. 
These are some of the boys who showed up for the STEM Saturday for Boys.
We were competing with sports, Scouting, and family events so boys and parents were allowed to come for part of the day if they could not stay for the full 3 hours.
Whew! I feel better now that this blog post is done!