It's a WHEA of life....aloha...kk

Trip Start Apr 15, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

So let me tell you about this school I visited today.   Its motto is "No Child Left Indoors"'s an experiential school focused on environmental science (West Hawaii Explorations Academy---WHEA).   I meet a teenager in a bookstore who, in conversation, tells me about his high school.  He wants me to visit...says he would be happy to give me a tour around it.  And so I do.
I arrive just in time for a visit by a bunch of 4/5 graders who have come to see the projects.  There are loads of salt water fish tanks including some very large fish ponds all built by the students.  One contains a hammerhead, another shark, and a manta ray...I see projects related to native vegetation, there is a desalinization project, a student is building an electric car, another is working on solar panels, and others are building a geodesic dome...there are all sorts of ongoing projects that students describe to the visiting kids - and to me. This place is very cool.
Students work with a guiding teacher and community professionals on scientific research projects.  They're often related to some aspect of marine science...but it's up to the student to design, budget, develop, and present their project. Student project work includes writing, mathematics and portfolio development for college.   It's a public charter school...anyone is welcome...and the school is located right on the shore on the north Kona coast.   This is quite a place.  It's been in existence for 12 years and has been really successful.
I spend most of the day with Kyle and with other students and later visit with the co-directors of the school.  I'm quite impressed with the learning going on in this environment but especially with the enthusiasm of both the students AND the teachers.  There's a real sense of teamwork amongst them and I can see why as I listen to a director/teacher meeting...nothing but supportive guidance and encouragement.   As one teacher puts it..."when I came to Hawai'i I decided that the only way I would teach would be if I could work outdoors, work in coordination with other teachers, and not necessarily have to wear shoes to work".   Sounds ideal to me too.    
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