Rather than following the traditional path of teaching his students about the theory of sound waves, Mr. Javellana, 8th-grade Science teacher, decided to challenge them by going on a "learning by doing" journey. For the past several days, his students have transformed their science lab into a make space and music studio. While walking through his science classes, I was amazed by the level of student engagement as I observed them designing, building and testing the sound of their instruments.
There is a beauty in watching learning come alive!
7th-grade Make A Wish Fund Raiser
"Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time." Marian Wright Edelman
Taking an active role in the local community is a fundamental part of preparing our students to assume their role as open-minded, principled citizens in our ever expanding global community. Through community service, our students have the opportunity to see firsthand, the impact that their work can have on the world around them. Each year, our 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade students participate in a variety of community service projects designed to connect them to the local community. While they often serve and interact with community members who have vastly different backgrounds, they are learning that we are all inextricably connected to one another.
During the week of May 5th, our 6th and 7th-graders were actively involved in two projects that will have a profound impact on our local community. Our 7th-graders hosted a week-long bake sale that raised a jaw-dropping $3045.37 for the Make A Wish Foundation! This is an amazing accomplishment. At the same time, our 6th-grade students took time away from their final projects to make lei to be placed on the gravestones at Punchbowl National Cemetery. Under the direction of Kumu Todd Jinbo, our students are learning to honor those who gave their lives to ensure our freedom.
As I have said on numerous occasions, I am proud of our students, parents and faculty and thankful to be a part of our Mid-Pacific community.
6th-grade lei making
7th-grade Make A Wish Bake Sale
Given the nature of this series, The National Association of School Psychologists does not recommend viewing this series for younger audiences. However, if your child has already taken an interest, we strongly recommend devoting time to talk with them about the ways in which they might seek help if confronted with these topics.
If you would like to have additional information about the show, warnings, and how to prepare yourselves for thoughtful and meaningful conversations in support of your child, I recommend: The National Association of School Psychologists "13 Reasons Why" Netflix Series: Considerations for Educators.
Mid-Pacific is committed to fostering positive emotional growth within our students. Your child's middle school dean, BTSH (Dr. Jana Ortiz and counseling team), principals, teachers, school nurse, and coaches are resources that our students and parents can turn to for help.
24 Hour Access Crisis Line 808-832-3100
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
Thirteen Reasons Why Talking Points: www.save.org/13-reasons-why/
Students designing and leading their own investigations.
Today, now more than the ever, our world is more swiftly evolving. This means that our students will inherit a world that is highly digitized and globalized. As adults, our students will enter a workforce that requires them to be much more creative, collaborative, innovative solutions-oriented and self-reliant. In fact, in the immediate future, much of the workforce will be freelancers, which means that they will possess skills that were not required of their parents.
These dramatic changes are at the heart of the reason that schools must change. Ultimately, if students are going to be prepared to meet the demands of a rapidly changing workforce, they will need to assume greater ownership of their learning. Instructional models such as Project Based Learning (P.B.L.) is designed to provide students with the forward facing skills essential to successfully navigating a rapidly changing workforce. Unlike past instructional practices, PBL is immersive, which means students are solving real-world problems, thinking critically, and contributing to their learning.
Historically, when we thought about student voice, it meant student government. While it provided a platform for students to take an active role in their learning, it was limited to a select few with limited opportunities. Although it was an excellent way for students to get involved and help shape their environment, it was not enough. If students are to be involved, their voice has to be heard across the instructional continuum.
Project Based Learning affords students with an opportunity to be active participants in their learning. For example, they frequently help in the process of defining their individual projects, development of rubrics, assessment of their learning and shaping the outcome. Because project-based learning depends heavily on a student's ability to collaborate, they are often required to work with fellow students to provide feedback about both the process and quality of work. Although this instructional approach to teaching and learning represents a change from past practice, it means our students are truly college and career ready. Under the direction of our teachers who continue to deliver meaningful content, our students are expected to apply their knowledge. They are taking ownership of their learning, both now and in the future.]>
Mrs. Funk modeling for her students.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I am excited to report that the trial period of the 80-minute schedule was met with overwhelming approval. Over the course of the past two weeks, both faculty and students have shared the benefits of teaching and learning respectively within the block schedule. In addition to scores of positive comments, it became apparent that the 45-minute schedule was insufficient in meeting the needs of our community, as I walked through our middle school classrooms. In fact, many of our faculty and students requested that we not return to their regular schedule.
As a project-based learning environment, our students require greater uninterrupted blocks of time to engage in meaningful learning. Excessive transitions in their day can often impede their ability to engage in opportunities to apply the information learned. In the past two weeks, many teachers and students have shared, "we can actually take our time." As a Middle School and larger Mid-Pacific community, we have always enjoyed the honor of building supportive relationships with our students. The extended time in classrooms will support and deepen opportunities for a greater student-to-teacher and student-to-student relationships.
With an understanding of research, personal observations, and most importantly, honoring the voice of our faculty and students, we have made the decision to complete the academic year with the 80-minute block schedule. While this will cause little impact to the Middle School's academic day, it was important that you understand the rationale for this change. As always, I deeply appreciate your unwavering support and welcome the opportunity to address any questions. Feel free to contact me at 808 973-5023.
New Middle School Daily Schedule:
6th and 7th-graders learning across grade-levels.
Building A Collaborative And Student-Centered Instructional Environment
"Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination." - John Dewey
On Thursday, March 30th, the middle school community will begin a 2-week trial period of the newly adopted 80-minute trial block schedule (MS March-April Trial Schedule.pdf ), that will officially begin in August 2017. Block scheduling provides both students and teachers an opportunity to reorganize traditional middle-school classes into longer periods of time (usually 75-90 minutes) based on the overall structure of the instructional program. Specifically, this instructional framework is designed to provide a more in-depth study of subject specific topics; limit the day-to-day and class-to-class transitions associated with the traditional schedule; increase student-driven instructional flexibility; and enable more opportunities for interdisciplinary teaming (collaboration).
Although the final decision to adopt a block schedule was reached during the fall semester of 2016, the decision was not made in a vacuum. We worked in concert with our middle and high school faculty, parents, educational consultants, and parent community. The administration, over a 5-year period, believed that our students would be best served by breaking away from a traditional 50-minute structure. This move, to an outside observer, may appear to be a radical shift in practice. The opposite is true. For the past 10-years, our middle school faculty have routinely altered the schedule for grade-level projects, interdisciplinary teaming, project planning, and other activities designed to meet the instructional needs of students. The transition to the 80-minute block schedule presents an opportunity to codify the importance of the work currently being done. Additionally, it brings our middle school program into closer alignment with the current high school schedule and allows for cross-divisional collaboration between our students and faculty.
Since the most recent 80-minute trial period that occurred during the fall of 2016, our faculty members were tasked with chronicling the successes and challenges associated with the newly adopted schedule. To ensure a successful integration, our middle school faculty have divided into small collaborative groups. These small groups will also spend time with an instructional consultant, with an expertise in helping teachers transition to a block schedule. Specifically, our faculty will focus on designing and implementing student-centered instructional practices, researched-based pedagogical practices, and strategies focused on meaningful student engagement.
The implementation of the 80-minute block schedule is a demonstration of our ongoing desire to provide student-centered excellence for our middle-level learners.]>
Mr. Jeremy Lawi gives a great interview on Tuesday, February 21st on Hawaii Public Radio's "The Conversation." Mr. Lawi discussed the importance of bringing a new form of music to the middle and high school through the introduction of a new course Studio Music. To listen to the complete interview click here and scroll down to Studio Music: Jeremy Lawi.]>
"We should seize every opportunity to give encouragement. Encouragement is like oxygen to the soul." - George M. Adams
If you have spent any time on social media this week, it is more than likely that you have had a chance to see the video of Barry White Jr., dubbed the "Hand Shake Teacher." His unique style of greeting each one of his students with their own unique handshake has highlighted the importance of making each student feel that they matter.
While this viral sensation is at the height of its popularity and may soon be replaced by the next trend, it does remind educators of a simple yet profound lesson. That is, to make an effort to greet each one of our students as a reminder of how much they matter. Because we are immersed in a wired culture, it is easy for us to become engrossed in our electronic devices.
As I draft this short blog, I am reminded of a simple lesson shared with me by Eddie, a long time friend and dear brother, who is now the pastor of a church in Ethiopia. Within this culture it is highly devaluing to walk past an individual without a greeting or some kind of acknowledgement. He explained that to ignore someone means to deny their existence. As a principal, and taking this to heart, I continue to encourage, honor and acknowledge the humanity of each one of my students. Although they may not always respond, I believe in the importance of making it known to each student that they are invaluable. Imagine a world where we all made it part of our lifestyle to acknowledge every individual we encounter in some way.
Dee Priester and Pastor Eddie Evans
All too often when people discover that I am a middle school principal, they respond in amazement saying, "I could never do that." While some may be offended by that sort of response, I am not. To be a part of shaping the lives of middle schoolers is an honor and a privilege for me.
While many adults describe the middle-level years as a period marked by confusion, I see this period as an amazing time of discovery. In fact, the way in which our students navigate their way through novel academic and social challenges is much like an artist mixing the colors of paint on a palate. Their ideas and perspectives are much like an explosion of various colors, tones, and textures coming together to paint a picture on a canvas.
Our students are a representation of thoughtful conversations and empowered voices colored with the belief that they can meaningfully impact their local and larger community. Each day, I am astonished by the paintings of our students on their canvases at Mid-Pacific's Middle School. Each day, I consider it a blessing to be a Middle School principal.]>
One of the greatest challenges facing middle-level educators, who work within a traditional schedule, is the lack of instruction time necessary to successfully cover the breadth of content within their respective courses. Adding to this concern is a limited amount time for teaching the skills required to make the information learned relevant. As a result, students often have a base of knowledge but are challenged to make meaning of what they have learned.
With this in mind, our middle school has continuously made instructional adjustments and designed alternative schedules. These changes have afforded us the time necessary to improve how we use our allocated teaching blocks. This methodical approach to the current daily schedule has provided our students the most meaningful learning experiences possible given the current constraints the daily schedule. In recent years, it became increasingly apparent that if we were to address the needs of our learners adequately, the current 45-minute daily schedule had to be revised. Although we experienced a modicum of success with the 45-minute blocks of time, the adjustments that we made was a temporary solution and unsustainable.
Understanding the importance of addressing our daily schedule, the middle school faculty and administration spent the past two years in intensive training, ongoing scheduling discussions, reviewing research about the learning needs of middle-level learners and alternatives for a daily schedule. As a result of our collaborative work, the middle school will make the transition to an 80-minute daily block schedule. The new schedule will take effect in August 2017.
The new 80-minute daily schedule will provide us with increased opportunities to address the broad range of challenges and expectations critical to the active growth of our students. Not only will we have more time to cover important content, but as a bonus, our students will also have more time to hone the skills necessary to make the content relevant. This new daily schedule will also provide more opportunities for our students to innovate, work collaboratively, solve unique and disparate problems in a greater way.
We are excited about the potential that the 80-minute daily block schedule will create. We also acknowledge that these changes will require understanding and patience of both our students and teachers. While we understand that new and unfamiliar challenges may arise, we are confident that this a step in the right direction and a huge benefit to our students.
In the 20th-century, many schools began using textbooks as a means of standardizing instruction. This served well in both the industrial and information age. Over time, textbooks created a cycle of instructional dependency, limited thinking, and limited space for creativity. Now that we are well into the 21st-Century, many educators are beginning to discover that this often prescriptive way of thinking ineffectively addresses the learning needs of today's learner.
As our middle school understands the necessity of making a fundamental shift in practices, we took an aggressive step forward by phasing out textbooks during the spring of 2009. We opted to design student-centered lessons based on current research and best practice. While this change did not come without its challenges, we have seen the benefits of our decision over the past five years.
Innovative teachers like Mr. Javellana, middle school science teacher, are now incorporating creative approaches to making subjects come alive. Recently, he 3D-printed and constructed a fully functional microscope designed to help students understand and manipulate the flow of microbes also known as microscopic organisms.
Like other faculty in our middle school, this innovative design happened because Mr. Javellana is designing real-time lessons that are multifaceted, standards-based and structured around the instructional needs of our students. In fact, while designing lessons for his students, Mr. Javellana discovered the open-sourced schematics for a microscope created by a Stanford professor. Mr. Javellana then developed a prototype of the microscope that could be replicated by his students to also be used for instructional purposes. As a next step, he is requiring his students to 3D-print a classroom set of microscopes that will be directly tied to future science lessons.
When educators embrace innovative approaches to instruction student learning becomes limitless.
As the world of technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, it signals a call for K-12 educators to also hasten the rate at which their curriculum evolves to ensure that students within our care are poised to thrive in a changing world. So it makes sense that Mid-Pacific has embraced and implemented virtual reality as one of many languages of technology, an essential aptitude for today's learner. With the rapid shift from textbooks, pencils, and pens the use of interactive technologies are designed to enhance the application of knowledge.
Students in our Mid-Pacific Middle School are leveraging the power of virtual reality through newly developed courses such as Design Thinking, Studio Music, and Digital Storytelling. They are working closely with their teachers to apply the relevant knowledge that they have learned in traditional course offerings. Rather than simply reading about the Greek Coliseum and looking at 2-dimensional pictures in a textbook, middle school students are now able to wear the HTC Vive and experience the ruins in virtual reality. Science students interested in learning more about deep sea life can walk a simulated deck of a sunken vessel while observing the sights and sounds of sea life encircling them. For our students, the possibilities are limitless - these experiences of reality all done within the walls of the classroom.
Most recently, the middle school Advance Design Thinking students partnered with the organization Catalog.Earth, is a non-profit organization dedicated to documenting the world's vanishing landscapes with 360-degree video for free and public use. The published video will be uploaded to the Creative Commons License making it available to students world-wide to use for instructional purposes. Our students are the first and only educational partners with Catalog.Earth and pioneers in publishing 360-degree video capture.
Although virtual reality has been used as a training tool for graduate students, high tech professional organizations, and the military, it has not been widely embraced by the K-12 schools. As outlined in Mid-Pacific's Strategic Plan Aspirations 2020, technology is one of many languages necessary for our students to learn as they grown and evolve in the 21st-Century. With this in mind, embracing new technologies like virtual reality empowers our students with a "growth mindset" and positively influences their future by making the application of their knowledge relevant.]>
Over the course of the past five years, our faculty and administration have dedicated countless hours to exploring and implementing effective assessment research practices designed to improve instruction and mastery of learning. Many believe that assessment is a term exclusively used to mean standardized tests and student achievement. The truth is, assessment is an integral component of instruction designed to communicate whether or not the standards or goals of learning are being met. Unlike standardized testing, the teacher can use the student feedback to gauge their depth of knowledge and understanding and make necessary adjustments to delivering instruction.
Across our middle school classrooms, teachers use assessment feedback to affect decisions about how or when grades are assigned, how to address the instructional needs of students, and when to move forward or go deeper with a lesson. As a bonus, the feedback from the assessment is being used as a tool for our middle school teachers to ask these meaningful questions about their practice: "Are we teaching what we think we are teaching?" "Are our students achieving the expected outcomes?" "Is there a way to deliver the content more effectively, thereby promoting deeper understanding?" This framework has developed a more comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of our students within the middle school as well as taking a more introspective look at our professional practices.
Now more than ever, it's important for our students to have a mastery of their core subjects: math, reading, and writing. Of equal importance are the skills that will allow those core content subjects to have relevance in a world that demands a more complexed set of skills. This means, in addition to learning the fundaments, our students must be able to problem-solve, think critically, analyze and apply new and disparate information. Assessment provides the framework for making learning meaningful and relevant in the lives of our students.]>
I am excited to announce that during the latter half of the fall semester and into the months of January and February, our middle school will be exploring options for a new daily schedule. This decision to select a new daily schedule was reached after spending more than three years gathering data about the ways in which our students learn. Additionally, we engaged in numerous all-faculty discussions, worked with educational consultants and spent time reading the literature reviews published by the Association for Middle-Level Education: This We Believe: Keys to Educating Young Adolescents.
As we begin this process of exploring various scheduling options, we have selected 4-day blocks of time strategically spread over a five-month period, to ensure that there are no disruptions to student learning and opportunities for our students and faculty to provide feedback about various options. The new scheduling options will not cause any changes or disruptions to drop off and pick up times as our day will continue to begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m. After reviewing similar daily schedules to the ones that we have selected, I am excited that our students will be given longer blocks of time to engage in more meaningful collaborative time, in-depth student-to-teacher interaction and the much needed time to move from class to class. As a school steeped in inquiry and project-based learning, the new scheduling options will serve as an opportunity for our students to engage in more meaningful exploration projects, interact with professionals related to their learning interests, and making real-world connections to their learning.
Our faculty has done amazing work with our students in the past given the time constraints of the current 45-minute daily schedule. The new scheduling options will provide our students and faculty with limitless learning possibilities. This move is in keeping with our commitment to constantly question the status quo, explore the most current instructional research and not be afraid to address change if it is in the best interest of our students.]>
As we endeavor to engage today's learner, it has become clear that the student voice must be an integral part of the instructional process. In many classrooms across our middle school, our faculty members are taking the time to build a classroom culture before school begins. So, how does this process look? As they solicit student feedback, our teachers will ask their students to help co-construct norms and value statements about their classroom expectations, and might include seating and arrangement of desks, tables, and chairs, overall conduct for expectations of behavior, and standards for interacting with one another. Norms, which are different than rules, are specifically meant to establish order. Unlike the rules, norms provide the teacher and students with a shared understanding of how they can support one another in the learning process. Norms are a useful tool for communicating values and beliefs about what it takes to successfully make learning meaningful.
When we began the process of asking our students to help develop a classroom culture and norms, there were initial concerns - that students would be too permissive (anything goes), they would suggest a classroom culture without rules or limits, and a climate of chaos would emerge. Astoundingly, the opposite happened. Often the teacher had to help guide our students to think about norms that were, in fact, less restrictive. We discovered that our students, reacting to past experiences, were working considerately to develop norms and values that would ensure that everyone's voice would be heard and all opinions and ideas respected.
Over time, our middle school faculty has discovered that our students are keenly aware of their learning needs. As astute observers, our students deeply believe and value their education, and when given a chance will develop norms that will maximize and support opportunities for themselves and those around them.
As I walk through many classrooms in our middle school, it is apparent that our teachers have given our students voice by allowing them to be a part of building a culture of learning. Although this represents a shift in past practice, our students are empowered as they learn the fundamentals of self-advocacy. A prime example of student-driven culture is found on the third floor of Atherton Hall. The Middle School Student Council, taking their oath seriously, developed a set of norms that would build a culture of respect, inclusion, and care for everyone. Listed on the bulletin board are the words and phrases: "Compromise," "Be A Friend," "The Honor Of My School is Mine," "Creativity," "Laughter," "Persistence," and "Communicate." These norms and values that hold great meaning to our students, not only define our middle school culture, but will sustain them beyond the community of Mid-Pacific.]>