Education is Not a Spectator Sport

I believe education is not a spectator sport, and students learn best when what they are learning has purpose outside the classroom.  Project-based learning takes students beyond the classroom and provides them the opportunity to experience and interact with the world around them in a meaningful way.  Through project-based learning at APIS our students are gaining an understanding of how the academic content and skills they are expected to master during their school day actually connect with life outside of school.  As a result, we are experiencing students who are genuinely engaged in their learning, and growing in their understanding of how they can make a difference, rather than simply filling a seat or consuming information.  

Here are three short overviews of projects APIS students participated in this past November as part of our New Pacific Century Academy.  Each project below was an intensive, three-week project designed by teachers on our faculty and conducted in collaboration with students from our Seoul Korea campus who came to join us for the month.  (Project descriptions written by APIS faculty)

From Seed to Citizen

Essential Question:  How can we rely on ourselves and one another to live when systems fail us & resources are limited? How do our daily decisions about the food that we eat impact the world?

Project Description: Students developed and shared their insights on what makes a more sustainable community by a variety of hands-on cooking and farming activities as well as several expeditions around the island to local farmers, markets, and an ancient Hawaiian fishpond. The students learning culminated in cooking a sustainable meal for over 100 members of our community and exhibiting projects that address everyday obstacles to living more sustainably. Students’ families and peers all sat down to enjoy a homemade four-course meal. Guests explored all the ingredients used in the meal using interactive menus students created. Over the course of the entire project students developed an appreciation for the land through farming, camping, and hiking.


Culture and Identity

Essential Questions:

​How does where you live affect how you live?

How do we learn about cultures in a deep way?

What does it mean to be Hawaiian?

Project Description:  ​6th graders sought to share their cultures with each other as they explored Hawaiian culture together. Over the course of this project, students sought to look beyond the surface of their own culture and in their experience of Hawaii. Student work included collaborative mural pieces, Hawaiian music (traditional and student-composed), written artist statements, and legend narratives. Students also presented their art, music, and written pieces formally at a community exhibition event. Our students found an authentic audience for their murals and artist statements by contacting Oahu community organizations asking to display their work. We have installed two of our murals at the Hau’ula Civic Center on public display. Students were also encouraged to apply their cross-cultural learning to real-world situations in social and business situations. We found a further connection to the community by doing in-depth interviews with Native Hawaiians and engaging in cultural activities outside of school such as taro (kalo) farming and outrigger canoe paddling.


Outriggers to Internet

Essential Question:  How do innovations in communication and transportation transform a society from isolation to globalization?

Project Description:  During this three-week program, students explore a variety of innovations in communication and transportation to better understand how these advancements impact society, contribute to pace of change, and, in turn, globalize our world. Students create seven immersive experiences to allow for the community to build an understanding of their essential questions and enduring understandings. These immersive experiences include posters, presentations, and interactive activities.  These stations have included: Airplane innovating, Boat creation and racing, Virtual Reality, Postcard Making, Drone flying, Reading Choose Your Own Adventures made by the students, and listening to Student Podcasts.  


Throughout the rest of the Fall semester students engaged in a variety of projects that integrated academic standards from Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts.  From simulated colonization of mars, to watershed and reef studies, to connecting aesthetics and environmental science in the creation of an elementary garden, students got their hands dirty and ignited their minds around real, meaningful work.  I can’t wait to see what our kids accomplish next.

For more examples of awesome Project-based Learning Units see our Project Site:


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