Skills for the New Pacific Century

Rows of students maniacally zipping along frothy waves on boogie boards, grinning ear to ear, provides a stark contrast to the rows of silent children that most likely characterized education throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.  For 15, glorious days, APIS middle school students traded in textbooks for a dizzying array of hand-on educational activities and adventures. They hiked jungle trails, snorkeled in clear ocean bays, dug in the dirt, built things with tools, laughed, and learned on the APIS Hawaii campus and all around the beautiful island of Oahu.


The New Pacific Century Academy was an opportunity for middle school students from the APIS Seoul, Korea campus to come and work and learn alongside our local Hawaii campus students to develop important skills that will prepare them for success in the 21st Century.  In his book A Whole New Mind, author Daniel H. Pink writes that we are “moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.”  He argues that the workplace is changing and the skills necessary for success in the 21st century workplace are different from those needed in the 20th century. Pink notes that while the “defining skills of the previous era are necessary, they are no longer sufficient.”  This conceptual age Pink describes, led by Asia, abundance, and automation, is what we at APIS refer to as the New Pacific Century.  “The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different type of mind,” warns Pink. Workers will need to build on the skills of the 20th Century by mastering a new and different set of skills in the 21st Century.  The APIS New Pacific Century Academy provides our students a strategically focused opportunity to practice these 21st century skills and receive targeted feedback to help them develop their skills in Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking & Creativity, and Cultural Citizenship.

The Academy was an action-packed time of exploration, hands-on learning, and personal growth for our students as they stretched both their intellectual and social boundaries.


The grade six program was titled Hanguk to Hawaii.  Sixth grade students investigated Hawaiian culture through the question, “What does it mean to be Hawaiian?” This leading question challenged students to examine ways that people have maintained their traditions and resisted external influences (e.g. generational gaps, migration patterns, or globalization). Through a variety of activities exploring Hawaiian art, language, food, and landscapes, our students had the opportunity to discover and learn to reflect and inquire about their own identity — that is, what does it mean to be Korean, American, Chinese, or belong to any other ethnic or national group?


The grade seven program was titled Outriggers to Internet.  Seventh grade students explored how innovations in communication and transportation transform a society from isolation to globalization. With its position as a global tourist destination, Hawaii was the perfect laboratory to examine this central question, allowing students to take advantage of great locations from the North Shore to Waikiki Beach to investigate the transformation of Hawaiian society and culture. Students engaged in hands-on experiences, such as rowing traditional outrigger canoes and building their own boats, to visiting a modern television news studio, to flying drones and designing and building model airplanes.  These experiences launched into the bigger understanding of how adoption of scientific knowledge and use of technologies influences cultures, the environment, economies, and the balance of power.


The eighth grade program was titled Seeds to Citizens.  Eighth grade students explored each step of local food production from farm to table. Beginning with a critical analysis of the students’ own ecological footprints and consumption habits, students were tasked with researching and developing a proposal for building their own sustainable garden. They learned farming techniques by actually planting their own garden plot, and explored the symbiotic relationships between fish and plants at our aquaponics garden.  A highlight event included students constructing an amazing mural using recycled plastic cleaned up from beaches near the campus. Students also planned, cooked, and served a nutritious meal utilizing locally produced goods. Through these learning activities, students examined sustainable lifestyles and explored ways to nurture community identity committed to sustainability.


Over the course of the academy our students learned a lot about culture, innovation, and sustainability, but more importantly, they had the opportunity to grow and develop the 21st Century skills we know will be important for their future.  For over two weeks, students lived and learned side by side, communicating, creating, thinking critically, collaborating, and considering how their lives impact the world around them.

On the final day of the academy, each group had the opportunity to present their learning experiences at the Learning Expo.  The 6th grade led it off with a mural of the different Hawaiian Islands, as well as individual presentations on Hawaiian culture.  The 7th grade followed up with seven, hands-on stations including a virtual reality experience, drone flying station, airplane building, postcard making, photo timeline competitions, tin-can-phone experiments, and a station to listen to the podcasts the students created.  The 8th grade then led tours throughout the campus on the different farming techniques used in Hawaii and what sustainability means.  They also presented the incredible mural created from micro-plastics they cleaned from the beach.  The 6th grade then ended the day with a concert, performing a song they composed using traditional Hawaiian instruments and then singing a farewell song in Hawaiian.

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