Alakai O Kauai Presentation of Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Kindergarten Presentations of Learning: Making Musical Instruments

Project-based learning is thriving in Miss Casey Zoppa’s kindergarten class. Their driving question was “How can we as sound engineers build instruments?” We asked Ms. Z for some highlights of this exciting project. Read her insights below, and then be sure to check out the video of the kindergarteners making some beautiful noise in their Presentations of Learning (POLs).

What inspired this project?

That’s easy! This year I have a class of sixteen boys and six girls. The only thing that most of them have in common is the fact that they all are very loud and love music. We very quickly decided making noise was one of the things that brought us together.

What was a surprising result of this project?

The surprising result was how much the kids loved learning about the science of noise. They weren’t just interested in making the instruments themselves. They loved learning about sound waves and how our brains receive them and code them into messages that we understand.

Also, it was amazing watching them collect recycled materials and turn them into a variety of beautiful instruments.

What were some of the most interesting observations learners made?

While studying and making instruments, the learners realized that the different ways instruments are made created their different noises. They also realized even though we can re-create the instruments, we couldn’t actually make them yet. They learned that professionals who make instruments take time and slowly work with tools to create the instruments.

Check out this video to see the kindergarteners making music in their Presentation of Learning:

Project Based Learing

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Culture: Project-Based Learning

Spend even just a few moments inquiring about the Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi approach to education, and one of the first things you’ll hear about is project-based learning, or PBL. It’s at the core of our approach to school and a proven asset to education.

So what is project-based learning? In PBL, learners actively explore real-world challenges to acquire deeper knowledge of the subject at hand. Research shows that learners increasingly retain and enjoy what they’re learning when PBL is done well.

This educational model helps students learn the valuable collaboration, academic, and problem-solving skills our global economy will demand from them. Through the PBL method, learners tackle engaging projects about real-world issues that require critical thought, inquiry, and synthesis, and culminate in regular Presentations of Learning (or POLs) to their peers, facilitators, community members, and parents.

The PBL model requires learners to research, collaborate, and carefully weigh information and evidence in a nuanced problem-solving environment. It teaches learners to accept feedback, create solutions, and present their findings in a high-performance context — preparing them for the rigors of the 21st-century economy and the challenges of a global world.

PBL provides the following benefits:

  • PBL makes school more engaging: In PBL, students are active, not passive. Projects engage their hearts and minds and provide real-world relevance for learning.
  • PBL improves learning: At the completion of a project, learners understand content more deeply, remember what they learn, and retain it longer than is often the case with traditional instruction. Because of this, students who gain content knowledge with PBL are better able to apply to new situations what they know and can do.
  • PBL builds skills for college, career, and life: Learners are preparing for life in a world where success requires more than basic knowledge and skills. In a project, students learn how to take initiative and responsibility, build confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage themselves more effectively.
  • PBL helps address standards: Common Core and other current education standards emphasize real-world application of knowledge and skills, as well as the development of success skills like critical thinking/problem-solving, collaboration, communication in a variety of media, and speaking and presentation skills. PBL helps learners effectively meet these goals.
  • PBL embraces technology: Kids enjoy using a variety of tech tools that are a perfect fit for PBL. With technology, facilitators and learners not only find resources and information they need; they also collaborate more effectively and connect with experts, partners, and audiences.
  • PBL makes teaching more enjoyable and rewarding: Projects allow facilitators to work closely with active, engaged learners doing high-quality, meaningful work. In many cases, facilitators rediscover the joy of learning alongside kids.
  • PBL connects kids and schools with communities and the real world: Through PBL, learners have opportunities to solve real problems and address actual issues, and as such they learn more about interacting with adults and organizations, are exposed to workplaces, and can identify and develop career interests.

In short, project-based learning is at the core of the Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi model because we believe it is at the heart of how kids learn best. Time and again, we’ve seen how PBL helps learners develop academic skills, build leadership skills and character, and lay the foundation for promising careers.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Third Grade PBL: Making a Podcast

Driving Question: How can we create a podcast for Alaka’i O Kaua’i that effectively shares the vibrancy of our learning with our community?

Learners found inspiration while listening to several other podcasts in class and learned concepts in each subject. Podcasts for children that brought us inspiration were as follows:

Throughout the project-based learning, experts in our community helped. Bandwagon Music Center owner Jeremy Hartshorn visited to show our class how to record vocals and music. Then we went on a field trip to KONG Radio, where hosts Ron Wiley, Lexi Jones, and Marc Valentin taught the third graders the importance of broadcasting, showed them how to edit vocals, and aired them singing a song on the radio.

Learners covered many Common Core standards while creating the podcast. One of the main ones was in “Speaking and Listening: Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas 3.5: Students can create interesting and understandable audio recordings of stories or poems and add visual displays when appropriate for certain facts or details.”

Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on the development of the whole child, including the academic, social, and emotional aspect of learning. A core belief here is that learning is more relevant to children when it engages them in projects that help solve problems important to them and their community. It is our hope that this project-based learning opportunity to create a podcast will help learners understand the value of sharing ideas in the 21st century. Whether it be with our small community or other areas of the world, making connections is a wonderful part of the human experience.

Together, the third graders recorded facts and jokes that pertain to island life, stories and poems that they have written, interviews that they conducted, and multiplication jingles that I wrote earlier in my teaching career.

We hope you are enlightened, entertained, and informed as you listen to the Alaka’i O Kaua’i podcast.

Alakai O Kauai Presentation of Learning

1st Grade Presentation of Learning: Healthy Earth, Healthy Me

Before the break, Ms. Joeanne’s first grade class hosted their Presentation of Learning for Healthy Earth, Healthy Me. Their driving question was “How can we help keep our environment and ourselves healthy?”

Children began their investigation by going on a walking tour over the grounds of Alaka’i O Kaua’i with Mr. Jon. They investigated, observed, compared, and recorded things found in nature. Next, they went on a field study to Hokuala Organic Farm in Lihue. They identified what plants need for survival. They distinguished the different structures of plants. They investigated, compared, and discussed how the structures, parts of the plants, help them survive and grow. They noticed that plants have different-looking structures, and even some of the same plants have differences. They learned that getting fruits and vegetables harvested on a local farm could be healthier than going to a store.

These two field trips led learners to wonder about dirt. They collected and investigated soil samples from various locations around Kaua’i. Through experimentation, they noticed the similarities and differences of the various soils. The learners used simple tools, such as magnifying glasses, to sort and separate the particles of the soil. They observed the separation of the different layers in the soil, read books about soil, and learned what helps soil be healthy. Learners discovered the importance of worms and composting as opposed to throwing everything into a landfill. Composting helps grow healthy food for us and helps produce less methane gas in landfills, which contributes to global warming, and it causes less leachate, which contributes to ground water pollution.

As a cumulating activity, learners created posters encouraging others to compost their food scraps. The posters were distributed to local businesses for display. Additionally, the first grade learners gave a PowerPoint presentation to their families and other learners at Alaka’i O Kaua’i, encouraging them to compost food scraps at snack and lunchtime. An added bonus was when a volunteer from Kauai Worms came to Alaka’i O Kaua’i and provided information on how to establish and maintain a worm-composting bin. The children loved examining the worms and playing in the dirt. An awesome conclusion to our Project-Based Learning on Healthy Earth, Healthy Me!

Mrs. Joeanne Mick's first grade class recently held a Presentation of Learning for their Healthy Earth Healthy Me PBL…

Posted by Alaka'i O Kaua'i on Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Project Based Learning at Alakai O Kauai

Alaka`i O Kaua`i Learners Present Their Project-Based Learning

We ended the month of February with our 5th and 6th graders displaying what they learned about Native Americans and how to make pop-up books through the use of mathematical concepts.

5th grade, Ms. Collette Oguin

Ms. Collette Oguin’s 5th graders studied the lives of indigenous Americans in the 1400s-1600s and how the geography of North America shaped the development of their societies. Through their Presentation of Learning, our 5th graders displayed the deep learning they’ve been doing in class. We are proud of our inquisitive, hardworking keiki!

6th grade, Ms. Donna Daum

Our 6th graders had a strong interest in creating flip-books, and we discovered how creative the learners could be! Research brought about engineering designs that they could use to build pop-up books. How fun! They followed step-by-step directions tirelessly, finding out what worked and what didn’t. They would design and redesign over and over again to get just the right angles and proportions for the pages to pop out correctly. They learned so much while having so much fun! They came up with the idea that these books should be marketed to a younger audience. Then they realized that because we also do so much math together, maybe we could share some of the math concepts with the other learners within the fun pop-up book! What an amazing project!

Alakai O Kauai Gardening

Kindergarten Project-Based Learning in the Garden!

Our kindergarteners are in the midst of a project-based learning unit on gardening. They’re learning what’s needed to create a successful garden and what plants need to thrive.

Our driving question is “How can we make our garden into a beautiful reality?”

Through many hands-on activities, learners are mapping and constructing a bird’s-eye-view picture of our orchard. They have learned to identify plants in the garden and worked together to make garden signs. We introduced learners to the insects and other creatures they will find in the garden and their characteristics.

Through a reflection and presentation process, learners will work together to make group decisions in planning a classroom garden tour for our Presentation of Learning.

Learners will review characteristics of mature produce and discover how to harvest different types of fruits. They have learned about the parts of plants and their functions and will use the garden to teach a hands-on plant-based activity at our upcoming POL.

Presentation of Learning

Kindergarten POLs

The week of Oct. 1 in kindergarten, we did our first community helpers Presentation of Learning (POL). We are so proud of our kindergarteners! They worked so hard the past month to learn all about the community helpers.

In this POL, the learners got to pick who they wanted to be when they grow up. The goal was that the learners be able to articulate who they were, what tools they would use, and how they help the community.

Project-based learning is a great way to showcase an individualized learning around what each learner finds interesting.

Bubble Bonanza

Bubble Bonanza PBL

Mrs. Ashley’s class just finished up their latest installment of Project-Based Learning, “Engineering Bubble Wands”. They presented their designs to the 1st and 2nd grade classes and then took them through the engineering design process, where they were given the opportunity to construct their very own wands.

They also experimented with different designs and created bubble formulas to help discover all the things bubbles can and cannot do. They wrapped up their presentation with their BUBBLE BONANZA showcase, where they took their classmates out to the field and blew them away with some of the biggest bubbles the learners have ever seen. Their Bubble Bonanza showcase was a great success for all!

Hands-On Science Learning

Our 5th grade class is fortunate enough to be located in the school’s science lab, and last week we took full advantage of this by having a full lab day. We studied physical and chemical changes, and in the spirit of Project-Based Learning we got our hands — and our room — dirty while experimenting with these concepts.

Learners performed experiments in which they observed chemical reactions, and cited the evidence of such a reaction. They created and observed gas bubbles, color change, change of state, heat creation, and more. We love learning in an environment which allows us to experience concepts, rather than just reading about them. This gives context to our learning, and it’s just plain fun!

Project Based Learning

Project-based Learning in First & Second Grade

Miss Kim and Miss Megan have begun their second unit in Project-Based Learning. First and second graders are learning about the world through their explorations with “Flat Stanley,” our literacy guide, a character from a series about a boy who was flattened and travels the world. Each child has the opportunity to send their own Flat Stanley to someone they know in another state or country, with a letter of their own composition. Learners get to choose where they send their Flat Stanley and which countries they want to learn about. Flat Stanley will then be sent back to the learner with a letter about the place he visited.

This project is a fun way for our learners to explore the world and discover different places through inquiry and interaction. We encourage first and second grade families talk to their kids at home about the country of their choosing and explore with them the locations that they are learning about.

Our learners will also be doing independent, hands-on projects that help them reflect on the places they are studying. Miss Kim and Miss Megan’s classes are looking for materials for the learners to build with as they explore their different locations. They will have the chance to build pyramids, buildings, monuments, and other structures with the following materials. If you have any of these items to donate, please bring to the school:

  • Shoe boxes
  • Pringle cans or paper towel/toilet paper rolls
  • Cardboard
  • Foil
  • Bottle caps
  • Juice Cartons


Project Based Learning

Learning More About Project-Based Learning

Alakai’i O Kaua’i and iLEAD Schools are pleased to have Dr. Thom Markham, founder of PBL Global, visit our school this week to work with our staff on developing rigorous project-based learning (PBL) in every grade level.

Also, there are two opportunities to hear Dr. Markham’s presentation on Project-Based Learning this Tuesday, February 5th (see times below).

He will hold a “PBL Parent University” for families interested to learn more about project-based learning at our school in the morning, and provide an evening-time option for families and community at Chiefess Middle School.

We hope you can join us during one of these opportunities to learn about the “why” behind Project-Based Learning from one of the key leaders responsible for growing effectiveness of PBL as the pathway to deeper authentic learning. For more information, please contact Linda Krystek at

Topics to be discussed will include:

  • Preparing young people to be ready for the world of 2020 and beyond
  • Developing skills as collaborators, problem solvers, design thinkers, and self-starters
  • Fostering curiosity, empathy, and resilience as core attitudes helping young people to flourish in learning and life

Presentations on PBL Tuesday, Feb. 5th:

  • 8:30-10 a.m. at the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Library
  • 5:30-7 p.m. at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School multi-purpose room

iLEAD Students Prepare for Launch to Space Station

A team of iLEAD students is preparing to send a science experiment aboard the SpaceX-16 Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) scheduled to launch on December 4.

The project is part of a partnership between iLEAD and DreamUp, the leading provider of space-based educational opportunities. The students’ experiment, which will be on the ISS for approximately four weeks, tests whether black coffee kills a type of bacteria found in everyday plaque on teeth in microgravity in the same way it does on Earth. This launch opportunity is made possible via DreamUp’s partnership with NanoRacks and its Space Act Agreement with NASA.

Click here to read more!

And click here to watch the livestream of the rocket launch on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at 1:30 p.m. EST!