The Times They Are a Changing

quote bob dylan

Last night I was watching a program on the television and an economist was predicting up to 30 % of current jobs in the U.S. to be replaced by automation, artificial intelligence, and globalization over the next ten years.  If he is correct, this means 30% of jobs currently in existence won’t exist when our 3rd grade students graduate high school.

As I pondered this, I considered the steady march of technological breakthroughs that have been significantly changing the labor market since the Industrial Revolution.  Throughout history, people have worried that such technological advances would result in widespread unemployment and economic doom.  Textile workers in the early 1800’s England destroyed industrial equipment in response to the threat it posed skilled textile workers.  In the 1920’s rural workers in the U.S. experienced significant job losses displaced by improved agricultural technology, such as the tractor.  The entry of robotics to the automotive assembly lines replaced routine assembly jobs once held by assembly line workers.

Despite the worry over technology threatening jobs, throughout the 20th century mechanization and automation did not result in apocalyptic unemployment, it shifted how and where people worked and actually stoked economic growth.  Manual labor jobs did not disappear completely, but the rise of knowledge workers fueled an economy where the white-collar worker became more important.  These white-collar occupations were not easily susceptible to mechanization and automation.  Urban centers grew, and possessing a college degree was viewed as the pathway to a brighter future. From 1965 to 2015, total college enrollment increased by roughly 240 percent in the U.S.

Rapid globalization and the ability to outsource white-collar jobs to lower paid workers in other countries has steadily challenged the knowledge worker economy over the past 20 – 30 years.  Once again, a variety of voices have sounded the alarm bell warning of impending economic doom as once safe, prosperous jobs shifted offshore.  As we near the 3rd decade of the 21st century, the new worry is that advances in computerized artificial intelligence will soon threaten even the jobs previously impervious to technological advances due to the need for human intelligence.  In a 2013 Oxford University study, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated that approximately 47% of workers in America had jobs at high risk of potential loss due to computerization.

So, how do we educate our 3rd grade students today if estimates are correct and somewhere between 30 – 50 % of the jobs in existence now will not exist when these students graduate high school?  I think the answer lies in meeting the anxiety over loss of predictable career paths with the optimism that technological changes have historically resulted in shifting labor in new directions rather than eliminating jobs altogether.  Companies and governments will need to make it easier for workers to acquire new skills and switch jobs as needed.  Likewise, educators need to help students develop the ability to adapt, and to hone emotional intelligence skills.

No matter how advanced artificial intelligence becomes, jobs involving empathy or social interaction are likely to be done better by humans. Winners in the 21st century economy will not be those who can memorize the most facts, or even those who hone the ability to analyze complex data better than others.  Computers can do this much more efficiently than humans.  In the medical field, for example, computer software solutions are increasingly more accurate at diagnosing medical conditions and identifying the most effective treatment protocols than doctors.  Computers cannot, however, provide the empathy and emotional support that are so important in managing a patient’s emotional well being throughout the course of treatment.  Schools need to strategically address the development of emotional intelligence in our students.

Winners in the 21st century economy will also need to be able to adapt, anticipate people’s needs, and think in creative ways.  Schools will best prepare students for the challenges of the 21st Century by building their capacity to deal with change in positive ways.  Students need to understand how they can actively look ahead to leverage innovation to their advantage instead of waiting to respond as innovations make previously valued skill sets obsolete.  Dr. Bruce Nussbaum, Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons School of Design writes: “It is about more than thinking, it is about learning by doing and learning how to do the new in an uncertain, ambiguous, complex space–our lives today.”

As we look to the future for our students, our biggest challenge may be in letting go of the past.  As teachers, we have to move beyond doing school the way we experienced it, focusing the majority of our time regurgitating facts that students can now easily access on their smartphone.  We need to help students develop an aptitude in what Daniel Pink refers to as Symphony: “Symphony, as I call this aptitude, is the ability to put together the pieces. It is the capacity to synthesize rather than to analyze; to see relationships between seemingly unrelated fields; to detect broad patterns rather than to deliver specific answers; and to invent something new by combining elements nobody else thought to pair.”

To do this, we have to let go of the traditional approach of single-subject, content heavy instruction and challenge students to apply learning from multiple disciplines in connection to issues or opportunities in the real world.  Project-based or problem-based learning gives students the chance to do this.  As students identify local needs or global issues of interest to them, we have the ability to connect a variety of disciplinary learning around meaningful projects that require students to hone the skills for success in the 21st century.

APIS Middle School Students and Teachers working with  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to survey and track data on the Hauula Reef

Reef Survey


Lifeworthy Learning

This past summer I received an email from one of our parents that read:

“Please let the staff know that we took our daughter to China and Thailand this summer and she didn’t go more than a day or two without saying ‘I miss my school!’ Whatever you guys are doing, keep it up. And thanks!!”

Building a school community that becomes a place teachers and students “want to be,” instead of just a place they “have to be” creates the healthy environment needed to promote deeper learning.  At APIS we are striving to accomplish this in many ways.  In the past, I have written about the importance of positive relationships to learning.  It is through the safety of caring interpersonal relationships that we form the foundational environment for learning.  This is a critical first step, but what we build on this foundation is equally important.

While I am certain, the student referred to in the email above missed school because of the relationships formed here between students and teachers, I am equally confident that the student missed school during the summer break because our school is a place filled with meaningful exploration and learning.  Make no mistake, this is not an easy goal to reach, and at times we fall short.  There is a constant tendency to revert to the same old teacher-oriented instructional style, but school doesn’t exist in the service of teachers, it exists in the service of students.  So, we must constantly strive to provide what Dr. David Perkins from the Harvard Graduate School of Education has termed, “Lifeworthy Learning.”

Professor Perkins Writes:

Historically, the first 12 or so years of schooling have focused on educating for the known, “the tried and true, the established canon,” he writes. “This made very good sense in the many periods and places where most children’s lives were likely to be more or less like their parents’ lives. However, wagering that tomorrow will be pretty much like yesterday does not seem to be a very good bet today. Perhaps we need a different vision of education, a vision that foregrounds educating for the unknown as much as for the known.

To do that, Perkins says we need to rethink what’s worth learning and what’s worth letting go of — in a radical way.

At APIS, we are passionately pursuing such “Lifeworthy” curricula, understanding that our instructional activities and student projects must be embedded with interdisciplinary thinking and 21st century skills.  It is not sufficient for students to just collect information, they must think with that information and apply their thinking to lifeworthy projects. To think with information, students use academic content knowledge to solve problems, weigh options, make decisions, and better understand their world.  When we provide students consistent opportunities to engage with lifeworthy educational activities, we create a place that is meaningful, exciting, and fun to be.  We create a place our students miss coming while they are on vacation.  Oh yeah, and we create a place where we are preparing students for their future instead of our past.

Learning for Life


Summer was a mixture of long, hot days working in the vineyards and cool nights under the stars by the river when I was a kid.  School let out in June, and my buddies and I turned our thoughts and our hands to work.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mind remained engaged in the geometry of carpentry, the science of irrigation, and the cultural studies that presented themselves in the interactions I had with immigrant fieldworkers I labored beside each day. I wrote some of my best poetry rumbling back and forth through the vineyard rows on a tractor.   Evenings, my friends and I plumbed the depths of philosophy as we sat around campfires or lay out on smooth rocks by the river and deconstructed the world as we knew it.  Our hands were worn, but our hearts were full.

Looking back on these summers I realize now just how important they were to my growth as both a student and a human being.  It wasn’t just that I had the chance to apply the academic knowledge I had been developing throughout the school-year, it was also that I was learning the value of hard work, perseverance, and the ability to solve problems.  I had the opportunity to step back from the academic world of school and let my mind wander and ponder the wonder of the world around me.

I could have spent my evenings and summers taking extra courses at the local community college or attending SAT prep courses, but instead I studied life, and in the process, developed a lot of the skills they couldn’t teach me in school.  In his book, “Most Likely to Succeed,” Ted Dintersmith writes, “When you fill up every waking hour of a teenager’s life with these drills, you don’t have time for what really counts.  And you produce disengaged kids doing the most mind-numbing tasks, rather than developing the skills they’ll really need to take on life’s biggest challenges.”

I’m not advocating there is never a place for additional academic study in the evening, over the summer, or to improve a specialized interest such as music or art, but I hope that our students will choose not to completely fill their time with academia at the expense of getting out there and experiencing life.  In the end, it won’t be the extra 50 points on an SAT that helps them succeed at university or in their career or marriage.  It will be the time they spent learning to put their hands and head to work, the time they dedicated to nurturing relationships.  These are the things that transcend the academic and prepare us for life.

Empowering Independent thinkers

When I went to school in the 1980’s, almost everything was designed by and orchestrated by my teachers, from what learning activities I was assigned each day to where I sat in class.  When the bell rang, I moved from one subject to the next, and waited to be told what to do again.

It was mostly outside of school that I experienced the need to think for myself and make decisions without someone telling me what to do each step of the way.  In my part-time job on a local ranch, I had general tasks assigned to me, but a lot of the time I had to figure out what needed to be done on my own.  I learned building skills helping my father on projects at home, and then experimented as my friends and I constructed tree forts and a variety of contraptions in the woods behind my house.  But during school hours, my friends and I mostly waited to be told what to do.

While this didn’t relegate me to a lifetime of drudgery in some mindless factory job, I had to develop a lot of independent thinking skills during college and on the job later in life.  Wouldn’t it be great if our students today were empowered to think for themselves before they complete elementary and high school?  George Couros writes:

“I think the best educators have always tried to empower their students.  They know that if you are truly good at your job as an educator, the students will learn to not need you eventually.2 That is why “lifelong learning” has been a goal in education forever.  If we truly want our students to be “compliant” when they walk out of schools, they will always need someone else’s rules to follow.  To develop the “leaders of tomorrow”, we need to develop them as leaders today.
Focusing on “empowering” students is seen by some as “fluffy”; students just show up to school to do whatever they want.  This is not my belief at all.  Empowering students teaches them to have their own voice and follow their own direction, but if they are going to be successful, they will need to truly have the discipline (using the definition, “train oneself to do something in a controlled and habitual way”), to make it happen.  “Empowerment” and “hard work” are not mutually exclusive; in fact, both elements are needed to make a true difference in our world.”

Schools of the past focused on looking for answers – Learning for the future promotes starting with great questions.  Schools of the past were about consuming information – Learning for the future is about creating.  Schools of the past were highly standardized – Learning for the future is personalized.  Schools of the past promoted surface level thinking – Learning for the future is about deep exploration.  At APIS, we are striving to provide our students more and more opportunities to go beyond the traditional, spoon-fed education of centuries past, and learn to think for themselves, problem solve, and develop the ability to direct their own learning.  We will know we are nearing our goal when our students look to teachers to guide them as they learn and discover, rather than wait for teachers to tell them what to do.

Pursuing the Future Now

APIS Hawaii is a place where students are immersed in working together to solve real world problems and connect academics to personal passions.  It is a place where students are concerned with each other’s well-being as part of a team, and their concerns reach far beyond the classroom to others all over the globe.

According to a growing body of indicators, in the near future, employers may not be so concerned with a diploma. They’ll look more at portfolios and examples of how students contributed to solving real-world problems. They’ll want to know how well students worked in a team and how well they can communicate with others and work toward innovative solutions.  Likewise, top U.S. Universities no longer have room to admit students who have not demonstrated the ability to apply their learning in real-world situations, think critically, and design innovative solutions, no matter how impressive their test scores and GPA.

Ted Dintersmith writes:

We collectively are pushing our education system in the exact wrong direction, and beating on it to go faster. When we should be educating our students to be bold problem solvers, we’re pushing them to memorize and regurgitate. When they’ll be entering an economy where their best job opportunity will be the job they can create, we’re educating them to be mindless hoop-jumpers. And until parents, government officials, and the press wise up, educators will be pushed to do the wrong thing, and our children’s futures will be jeopardized.

The administrative team at APIS Hawaii recently attended the Leading Schools of the Future Conference in Honolulu.  We had the chance to not only hear from, but actually sit at the table and work with innovative education consultants and researchers, Ted Dintersmith and Dr. Yong Zhao.

Dintersmith has become one of America’s leading advocates for education policies that foster creativity, innovation, motivation, and purpose. He shares what skills are valuable in a world of innovation, and how we can transform our schools to prepare kids for their futures.

Dr. Yong Zhao is a Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. His works focus on the implications of globalization and technology on education. He has published over 100 articles and 30 books.

The exciting thing about working with these two education consultants was the confirmation that APIS Hawaii is already implementing many of the education reforms they suggest.  Both advocate for eliminating the traditional, single subject approach and instead working collaboratively through projects that require cross-disciplinary application of knowledge and skills to solve real world problems.  This approach is at the heart of the instructional design of APIS Hawaii.  Everyday our students work with small teams of teachers on cross-disciplinary projects that require deeper understanding of the core academic content.  Learning is active and students are not only encouraged, but expected to pursue the things they are passionate about through the projects they choose.

At APIS Hawaii, students experience an education that, as Dintersmith advocates, “Puts wonder, creativity, and initiative at the very heart of the learning process and prepares students for today’s economy.”  It’s exciting to see our students pushing beyond the limits of traditional schooling and developing the skills that top universities are looking for in their applicants and that the students will need for success in the future workplace.

Lifelong Learning Time Ignights Passions & Projects

Written by Matthew Manley, Humanities Teacher, Asia Pacific International School, Hawaii

At APIS Hawaii, everyone seems to be excited about Wednesdays.

“I really look forward to Wednesdays because I get to do my own thing,” said Soleil Worrell
(Grade 6).IMG_0743

“Wednesdays are my favorite,” added Chris Stapleton (ELA and social studies teacher).

What’s so great about hump day?

APIS Hawaii has created Lifelong Learning Time (LLT), a weekly time in which students and teachers partner to pursue projects that pique their interest and challenge them to learn something completely new. LLT began in the fall, when APIS Hawaii decided to make a commitment to a special type of learning that would take students outside the boundaries of the classroom.

“We always talk as teachers about how education should be lifelong, and classroom education does not always demonstrate this type of learning,” said Mr. Stapleton. “In LLT, you get to really take control of your own learning.”

The LLT period, which meets weekly for 150 minutes, provides a wide-open time for a huge variety of projects. Current LLT pursuits include app design, building shoe racks,
trailblazing, vegetable farming, and designing a campus zip IMG_9475line.

Experience in a certain area is not a prerequisite for choosing an LLT project. Never made home- made ravioli? No problem – Hannah Todd (Grade 6) practiced Italian cuisine, then made a feast for the whole school. Soleil used one six-week session in the fall to become CPR/First Aid certified alongside Shannon Todd (school nurse).

“There’s a lot more choice, and on your [own] path at your [own] speed,” Ms. Todd said of LLT.

There are only a few simple requirements for an LLT project: The project cannot relate to some- thing studied in class, it must sustain a student’s interest for six weeks, and the student must be able to show and explain their learning at the end of that time.

At the end of the six-week period, students and staff share their learning at a celebration with all students, parents, and staff. Last semester, John Kim (Grade 8) shared the film he directed, filmed, and edited with Andy Peeler (music teacher).

“It’s not like the answer was always right there, you’ve got to search for it,” John said. “We got close and learned together.”

Magnificent Kids and Their Flying Machines

My third-grade teacher wasn’t prone to irrational fear or unwarranted concern.  To be honest, I was a bit obsessed with the dream of flight.  I had been checking out library books on the topic, drawing up multiple plans for a variety of flying contraptions, and asked worrisome questions like, “How long do wings have to be to keep someone my size in the air?”  I think what prompted the call to my parents, however, was an incident one day at lunch recess.  Mrs. Smith happened to be on yard duty and wandered by the area where my friends and I were playing just in time to overhear a small business transaction between me and another student that involved the exchange of oatmeal cookies and an old pocketknife for a backpack frame with the straps still intact.  It wasn’t so much the exchange that bothered her, though.  I think it was more the robust debate we were having about the best method for attaching the wings to the frame.  To be fair to Mrs. Smith, I did eventually conduct a failed attempt to fly from the roof of our garage in one of my machines built from a long sheet of old corrugated tin and a sampling of bicycle parts and the backpack frame.  It was 4 seconds of exhilarating, terrifying wonder culminating in a spectacular combination of crunching metal, ripped blue jeans, and a flurry of dirt driveway dust.  I might not have achieved Wright Brothers success, but I didn’t die either, much to Mrs. Smith’s relief.  Such was my reality growing up in a small town in the 1970’s.

My childhood was wrought with tantalizing peril.  Our bicycles roared off homemade jumps as we imagined ourselves Evel Knievel.  Soda cans, small rodents, birds, and the occasional little brother were ready targets for BB guns.  We blew stuff up with fire crackers, chopped down trees, dug underground forts, swam in rivers and lakes, climbed things, jumped from swings and winced as mom applied Bactine or hydrogen peroxide to our various scrapes and wounds.  My childhood was also full of wonder and wild, unbridled opportunity to discover first-hand the laws of physics, the chemistry of fire, the aesthetics of nature, and the poetry of life.

Along the way there were some broken bones, stitches, and burns, but all in all my buddies and I emerged on the other side of childhood mostly intact and with minimal scars. Now it seems everything has changed.  There’s an empty spot on my old, school playground where the merry-go-round used to be, the monkey bar tower is gone, and regulations made the school lower the slides 10 inches.  Don’t get me wrong, things like bike helmets and car seats for toddlers save lives, and made my kids use such things.  But in a larger sense, I think we are bubble wrapping childhood to a degree that we rob our children of valuable learning experiences.  It is important for kids to have opportunities to experience reasonable risk, to face fears, push their limits, and suffer a few bumps and bruises.

Gever Tully, founder of Tinkering School writes: “The world is a marvelously complicated place, and simple rules are insufficient to protect kids from danger.  Let them engage with real tools and materials and they will learn to recognize and manage risk for themselves.  We, the adults, are all superheroes, endowed with the power of supervision.  Let us use our powers wisely and be amazed at what children can do”

While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for encouraging kids to jump off garage roofs in homemade flying machines, I absolutely believe they should have room to let their imaginations fly.  Kids should climb trees, wade in creeks, and learn to be responsible with fire.  There just isn’t a replacement for learning from experience.  Every kid should build things with real tools, take things apart to see how they work, and use their creativity to dream up new adventures.  It’s time to “unsanitaize” childhood just a little and peel back at least a layer or two of the bubble wrap.  It’s a risk/reward proposition to be sure, but properly managed, our kids will come out the other side much more resilient and better able to recognize and manage risk in their lives.  And as a bonus, they will learn a lot about the world around them and their place in it.  And maybe, just maybe, they will have a few great stories and fond memories of how they cheated death and really, really lived.

Assuming Positive Intent in a Divided World-Doorway to Critical Thinking

According to the Pew Research Center, 48 % of Americans identify as belonging to the Democratic party and 44 % identify as belonging to the Republican party.  So, the U.S, is fairly evenly split between these two parties.  If we believe what we see on T.V., read in newspapers and magazines, or look at our social media feeds, we would undoubtedly arrive at the conclusion that roughly half of Americans are bad people.  It doesn’t really matter which side of the political spectrum you agree with, the prevailing trend is to vilify those on the other end of the spectrum, usually through oversimplification of issues, stereotyping, hyperbolic absurdities in the form of social media memes, or outright fabrication of data or incorrect information.  Civil discourse targeted at understanding each other and finding common ground in the pursuit of real solutions to real issues has given way to personal attacks and vitriol.

If I believe what I see on any given day in my Facebook feed, I must assume at least half the people I know suffer from antisocial personality disorder – that’s what psychologists now use to describe sociopathic or psychopathic disorders.  Here’s the problem.  Most people I know are not bad people.  They’re certainly not greedy, self-serving sociopaths.  As a matter of fact, most people I meet genuinely desire to improve the world, for themselves and for others.  They just disagree on how we can do this best.

So as educators, how can we guide the next generation as they navigate our divided world?  Much attention has been given over the past few years to the idea that the 21st century requires critical thinkers who can work collaboratively and creatively to solve problems and come up with novel solutions.  All the while our children are watching the adults in their lives grow ever more divided and unable to collaborate and find common ground.  Well-meaning educators all too often fall into this same pattern of vilifying those who hold political, religious, or philosophical positions that differ from theirs.  It’s so easy to post a clever meme without considering how broad a brush it paints with or how oversimplified it treats an issue.  It’s so easy to forward/share that latest “news article” that showed up in your newsfeed without carefully vetting it for accuracy.  And on some level, we feel a sense of duty to post and share as a civic duty, fighting the good fight or standing up for those who can’t stand for themselves.  I get it.

But what if we started by assuming positive intent?  What if we assumed that half the population wasn’t sociopathic, but actually wanted to work to create the same better world we want?  What if we stopped throwing stones and arguing our point and tried to actually understand each other?  What if we taught our students to listen to each other and seek understanding?  I believe this is the doorway to critical thinking when it comes to controversial topics.

Years ago, I tried an experiment in my high school civics class.  I had my students brainstorm a list of 15 or so controversial topics like gun control, abortion, legalization of drugs, immigration, etc.  Then they had to create a fairly simple position statement for both sides of the issue.  From there the task was to begin by assuming positive intent and write a brief description of what positive outcome they thought each side of the issue was trying to accomplish.  What developed through this process was a rich discussion that helped us all grapple with the reality that someone could hold a position opposite to our own and honestly have good, positive, noble motivations for holding their position.

When such topics came up throughout the rest of the year, and students began to get emotionally charged, we were able to reference this work, and remind each other to assume positive intent until given a reason to not to.  I’m not saying this magically eliminated all discord and argument, but it did help us steer the discourse away from personal attack and keep it focused on the issue and working together from our differences to seek novel solutions and divergent thinking.  It helped us not take disagreements so personally.  It helped us strengthen our commitment to understanding each other rather than just tearing each other down.  Sometimes discussions led to interesting ideas for how to find common ground and work together and sometimes when the dust settled folks just had to agree to disagree, but we were able to do it with a higher degree of respect and tolerance for each other’s positions.

I know we won’t all agree on everything, but wouldn’t it be great if we could at least disagree respectfully?   Let’s expect our students to be willing to listen to each other and consider the possibility that they might develop more positive solutions together than they would isolated in their own little political camps where the information they are fed rarely, if ever challenges preconceived ideas and philosophies.  Let’s get serious about teaching students to think critically and creatively.  In the end there is far more that unites us than divides us, and the world will be a better place if we believe this and act accordingly.

Want Your Students to Learn? Build a Positive Relationship With Them.

I’ve always been keenly interested in building relationships.  It’s what drives me in almost every arena of my life, and looking back over the years, always has.  Because of this, I found that relationship was always at the heart of my career in education.  As a teacher, I made it my mission to find ways to connect with students and build a positive relationship.  I didn’t have any data to back it up, but it seemed indispensable to fostering intrinsic motivation in my students.  If they liked me and knew I cared about them more than my subject, my paycheck, or my peace and quiet, I reasoned, they would want me to be proud of them, they would trust me to be there for them, and they would be more likely to give it a go in my classes.  All in all, I observed this to be true.  Students seemed to do better when we built good relationships.

As I moved into administration, I took this belief with me and searched out ways to promote this in my schools and throughout the faculty.  In hiring, I always search out educators who demonstrate a sincere love for kids more than a love for whatever academic area they teach.  My mantra is that we can teach you better pedagogy or improved unit planning procedures etc, but if you don’t genuinely have that love for kids, I probably won’t change that – it’s who you are.  Here again, I would say my experience bears this out to be true.  The teachers who come at education from a place of genuine concern for kids, and have that burning desire to build relationships and make a difference in the lives of their students, tend to be the most successful in guiding kids in academic growth.  But that’s just my experience.

Here’s the thing though.  Brain research now backs this hunch up with research based findings.  It turns out our brains really do learn best in the context of positive, relationships that attend to and support our students’ emotional health.  In their study, We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education,  Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Antonio Damasio assert:

Recent advances in the neuroscience of emotions are highlighting connections between cognitive and emotional functions that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of learning in the context of schools.  

…In teaching children, the focus is often on the logical reasoning skills and factual knowledge that are the most direct indicators of educational success. But there are two problems with this approach. First, neither learning nor recall happen in a purely rational domain, divorced from emotion, even though some of our knowledge will eventually distill into a moderately rational, unemotional form. Second, in teaching students to minimize the emotional aspects of their academic curriculum and function as much as possible in the rational domain, educators may be encouraging students to develop the sorts of knowledge that inherently do not transfer well to real-world situations.

As teachers, with ever increasing pressure to deliver measureable academic results, I think we can become hyper-focused on the cognitive side of our profession, pushing for higher and higher levels of academic performance and content mastery from our students.  While this is not an incorrect goal for our students, we need to remember that we will be most successful in reaching it if we also attend to the social, emotional, and cultural needs of our students.  This, I contend, is nearly impossible outside of attending to the building of real, healthy interpersonal relationships with our students, and guiding them in developing real, healthy relationships with their peers.  Immordino-Yang and Damasio conclude their paper writing:

After all, we humans cannot divorce ourselves from our biology, nor can we ignore the high-level sociocultural and cognitive forces that make us special within the animal kingdom. When we educators fail to appreciate the importance of students ’ emotions, we fail to appreciate a critical force in students ’ learning. One could argue, in fact, that we fail to appreciate the very reason that students learn at all.


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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