Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners chalkboard welcome

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mindset means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mindset: Learners with a growth mindset believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social-Emotional Learning

In our approach to education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we emphasize methods that foster learners’ social-emotional learning. Social-emotional learning is the process through which learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, and establish and maintain positive relationships to make responsible decisions.

We believe it’s vital to help learners develop skills such as social awareness, self-management, regulation of emotions, and self-awareness so they can weave these abilities through every facet of their lives. When emotional intelligence is nurtured and developed, it can inspire creativity and increased engagement.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore nine pillars of social-emotional learning (SEL) at Alaka’i O Kaua’i:

  • Social intelligence
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude
  • Purpose
  • Growth mind-set
  • Self-control
  • Curiosity
  • Zest
  • Grit

But why is SEL so important?

To adapt to an increasingly globalized economy, education must emphasize more than rote knowledge. We believe learners should be empathetic, critical thinkers who thoughtfully engage with the world around them. Modern employers prize these skills in the workplace, and research suggests employees with more highly developed social-emotional strengths earn more and are more productive.

Additionally, focusing on non-cognitive skills may further improve reading, writing, and mathematics performance in kids, according to the nonpartisan think tank Economic Policy Institute.

We measure and report SEL progress as part of every project, individualized learning plan goal, and Report of Progress. We have also developed SEL and academic rigor rubrics that add a well-balanced approach to academics and reflective practice for facilitators, learners, families, and administrators. Other elements of our SEL implementation, practice, and assessment include our Learner-Led Conferences (LLCs), Presentations of Learning (POLs), Passion Projects, Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs), Advisory Program, Morning Meetings, learner-led ambassador groups, and restorative approaches to discipline.

PBL expert and iLEAD partner Thom Markham summed up why social-emotional learning is so vital. “Navigating a changing world demands a communicative, creative, and collaborative person with a flexible, empathetic, resilient, and persistent temperament,” he said. “It’s time to make a change to our mind-set and be far more intentional about teaching the dispositions and personality attributes that lead to better work ethic, more engagement, improved relationships, a greater sense of well-being — and better projects.”

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i, our goal is nothing less.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i, 2019-20 school year.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners mosaic art ocean turtle

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School Culture

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Partnering with Home and Community

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we don’t believe that education happens solely within the four walls of a school. On the contrary, we believe education that produces well-rounded children is a result of synergy and collaboration between the school, the home, and the community.

That is why it is so important to us to build strong partnerships between families and communities. Parents and community partners are key resources to supporting learners’ success, which is why Alaka’i O Kaua’i actively and consistently involves parents, finding ways to support them and extend learners’ education at home.

Through our relationships with various community partners, we are able to provide learning experiences that broaden kids’ perspectives, not to mention often give back to the community. Strong community partnerships are a win-win.

There are several ways we promote parent involvement. We strongly encourage parents to volunteer at their learners’ school during the year, with opportunities including classroom volunteering, tutoring, attending board of directors meetings, participating in events, and more. We also encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.

Other community-related partnerships we encourage and facilitate include partnering with industry professionals, business leaders, government and civic leaders, community leaders, nonprofit leaders, higher-education partners, entrepreneurs, and more. Fostering these relationships provides learners with a wealth of knowledge, advice, and insight, in addition to access to real-world learning opportunities and experiences.

Collaboration is at the heart of Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s project-based learning model. When synergy is found between learners, families, and communities, something really special happens — the foundation is set for authentic learning that produces inspired leaders with promising futures.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School Culture

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Partnering with Home and Community

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we don’t believe that education happens solely within the four walls of a school. On the contrary, we believe education that produces well-rounded children is a result of synergy and collaboration between the school, the home, and the community.

That is why it is so important to us to build strong partnerships between families and communities. Parents and community partners are key resources to supporting learners’ success, which is why Alaka’i O Kaua’i actively and consistently involves parents, finding ways to support them and extend learners’ education at home.

Through our relationships with various community partners, we are able to provide learning experiences that broaden kids’ perspectives, not to mention often give back to the community. Strong community partnerships are a win-win.

There are several ways we promote parent involvement. We strongly encourage parents to volunteer at their learners’ school during the year, with opportunities including classroom volunteering, tutoring, attending board of directors meetings, participating in events, and more. We also encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.

Other community-related partnerships we encourage and facilitate include partnering with industry professionals, business leaders, government and civic leaders, community leaders, nonprofit leaders, higher-education partners, entrepreneurs, and more. Fostering these relationships provides learners with a wealth of knowledge, advice, and insight, in addition to access to real-world learning opportunities and experiences.

Collaboration is at the heart of Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s project-based learning model. When synergy is found between learners, families, and communities, something really special happens — the foundation is set for authentic learning that produces inspired leaders with promising futures.

Alakai O Kauai Embrace the 7 Habits

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alakai O Kauai learners in boat on land

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i learners mosaic art ocean turtle

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alakai O Kauai learners in boat on land

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social-Emotional Learning

In our approach to education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we emphasize methods that foster learners’ social-emotional learning. Social-emotional learning is the process through which learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, and establish and maintain positive relationships to make responsible decisions.

We believe it’s vital to help learners develop skills such as social awareness, self-management, regulation of emotions, and self-awareness so they can weave these abilities through every facet of their lives. When emotional intelligence is nurtured and developed, it can inspire creativity and increased engagement.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore nine pillars of social-emotional learning (SEL) at Alaka’i O Kaua’i:

  • Social intelligence
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude
  • Purpose
  • Growth mind-set
  • Self-control
  • Curiosity
  • Zest
  • Grit

But why is SEL so important?

To adapt to an increasingly globalized economy, education must emphasize more than rote knowledge. We believe learners should be empathetic, critical thinkers who thoughtfully engage with the world around them. Modern employers prize these skills in the workplace, and research suggests employees with more highly developed social-emotional strengths earn more and are more productive.

Additionally, focusing on non-cognitive skills may further improve reading, writing, and mathematics performance in kids, according to the nonpartisan think tank Economic Policy Institute.

We measure and report SEL progress as part of every project, individualized learning plan goal, and Report of Progress. We have also developed SEL and academic rigor rubrics that add a well-balanced approach to academics and reflective practice for facilitators, learners, families, and administrators. Other elements of our SEL implementation, practice, and assessment include our Learner-Led Conferences (LLCs), Presentations of Learning (POLs), Passion Projects, Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs), Advisory Program, Morning Meetings, learner-led ambassador groups, and restorative approaches to discipline.

PBL expert and iLEAD partner Thom Markham summed up why social-emotional learning is so vital. “Navigating a changing world demands a communicative, creative, and collaborative person with a flexible, empathetic, resilient, and persistent temperament,” he said. “It’s time to make a change to our mind-set and be far more intentional about teaching the dispositions and personality attributes that lead to better work ethic, more engagement, improved relationships, a greater sense of well-being — and better projects.”

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i, our goal is nothing less.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Zest

“Enthusiasm is the electricity of life.” —Gordon Parks

Central to the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning is a belief that education works best when it’s energetic. Rather than being stale and rote, it’s filled with excitement. That excitement, which we call zest, is a core element of social-emotional learning.

Individuals who approach life with zest tend to have the following characteristics:

  • They refuse to do things halfway or halfheartedly.
  • They are energetic.
  • They approach life as an adventure.

In the context of classroom learning, zest coupled with curiosity can help drive kids’ motivation to learn and press on even when things get difficult. Zest is enthusiasm in the face of challenges. It can help learners overcome challenges to find amazing rewards.

So what does developing zest look like in the learning process? Facilitators can leverage kids’ innate ability to learn by creating and maintaining environments that encourage their zest and curiosity and support their feelings of autonomy. We believe in framing mistakes as opportunities for learning and discussion, and we celebrate questions to drive learning. We also believe in kids taking ownership of the direction their learning takes.

Incorporating zest into learning means funneling energy into dynamic, project-based learning that brings concepts to life. Whether it’s conducting scientific experiments, engaging in historical research and reenactments, or enjoying play-based learning, our learners engage in vibrant methods of exploring, creating, and understanding.

For a facilitator — and families, too — it’s important to bear in mind that some children are not as naturally “zestful” as others. With these learners especially, keep in mind that enthusiasm isn’t taught as much as it is modeled and encouraged. Enthusiasm is infectious. If kids see your zest for learning, they can be inspired too. The goal is to help kids move along the spectrum of enthusiasm toward a more zestful attitude.

When the seeds of enthusiasm are planted early and take root in the soil of learners’ minds, they are empowered to approach challenges as opportunities to grow and succeed.

Embrace the Near-Win

learners at beach with a rainbow behind them

Share Aloha Card

We are holding a Holiday FUNdraising Opportunity this month! This program supports Alaka’i O Kaua’i and local businesses in the community. We are thankful to the Parent Teacher Organization for presenting the school with this opportunity. When a card member chooses services from a vendor within the Share Aloha card ohana, they are able to receive discounts from a wide variety of local businesses! Please consider purchasing a Share Aloha Card as a gift for your family, friends or co-workers!

Share Aloha Participants
Share Aloha Card Fundraising Form
Social Emotional Learning Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Curiosity

“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” — Golda Meir

Within the Alaka’i O Kaua’i education model, we believe kids are more empowered to learn and retain knowledge when learning means asking questions. That’s why we reinforce curiosity as a component of social-emotional learning (SEL).

Simply put, curiosity is a strong desire to learn or know something — a search for information for its own sake.

Curiosity is frequently the engine that drives learning and achievement. Children are curious by nature, and so much of life is a source of wonder for them.

For curious learners, it’s less important to have the “right” answers and more important to create an environment where questioning and learning can occur.

So how do we nurture curiosity in learners? We do it, in part, by modeling an interest in the world around us and asking open-ended questions. Through dynamic project-based learning, facilitators at Alaka’i O Kaua’i foster and develop kids’ natural inclination to be curious. Families and facilitators alike nurture curiosity when they encourage learners to identify and seek answers to questions that pique their interests.

A component of curiosity is uncertainty. While uncertainty often creates hesitation for learners, it’s possible for it to fuel the learning process. There are several ways to respond to uncertainty, according to Jamie Holmes, author of Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing.

  • Address the emotional impact of uncertainty: “The emotions of learning are surprise, awe, interest, and confusion,” according to Holmes. However, facilitators can help learners respond to these emotions by encouraging them to see uncertainty as an opportunity for learning.
  • Adopt a nonauthoritarian facilitation style to encourage exploration, challenge and revision: By facilitating learning with a sense of curiosity and humanity, facilitators can help learners find ways to think and learn. Holmes writes, “The best teachers are in awe of their subjects.”
  • Show how the process of discovery is often messy and nonlinear: Instead of simply presenting breakthroughs as logical results of long treks toward understanding, facilitators can share with learners how discoveries are often made — through trial and error, missteps, “happy accidents” and chance.

How do we pique learners’ curiosity? Developmental psychologist Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell has suggested several ways:

  • Value and reward curiosity in learners.
  • Give learners practice asking quality questions.
  • Notice when kids feel puzzled or confused.
  • Encourage learners to tinker with materials, thoughts, or emotions.
  • Use current events as launchpads for conversation.
  • Give learners opportunities to show healthy skepticism.
  • Explore a variety of cultures and societies.
  • Encourage curiosity outside of the classroom.

We believe when kids know how to be curious, they know how to think differently. When they know how to think differently, they’re empowered to be problem solvers who can change the world around them.

Still Curious?

“Curiosity. It’s the most powerful thing you own.”

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Self-Control

By definition, social-emotional learning (SEL) helps kids tap into their emotions and how they affect what they do. So it should follow that an essential component of SEL is an understanding of self-control, or self-management.

As defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) — which has informed the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to SEL — self-management is “the ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations.” In essence, it’s the ability to both set and work toward personal and academic goals without significant deviation from your charted course.

Associated with self-control are many skills that, when developed, equip learners for academic success and overall life success.

  • Impulse control: The ability to distract oneself from a desire, to not act on immediate impulses, and to delay actions for a period of time.
  • Stress management: Having a solid foundation of self-awareness allows learners to determine when they are stressed so they can implement practiced strategies with more success.
  • Self-discipline: Often simply called willpower, self-discipline allows one to ignore other stimuli in order to focus on the goal at hand and follow plans in spite of distractions.
  • Goal setting: Research has shown that learners tend to achieve more success when working with their own realistic goals.
  • Self-motivation: This is one that can be difficult to teach. Learners must develop their own internal push that will keep them moving toward goals.
  • Organizational skills – Particularly in light of current distance learning, keeping one’s work area uncluttered and organized allows for more productive work time. Filtering information to be relevant to the topic at hand with a clear big picture can help learners stay on track. Keeping track of time and commitments can help them reach goals.

Success in work and life is strongly influenced by self-management. When learners take ownership of their work and create norms for themselves, they are more likely to meet their goals.

An important function of education is to foster self-reliance and independence. This is why we refer to our teachers as facilitators. They are not simply talking at students; they are facilitating the process of learning. They are empowering learners to take ownership of and responsibility for their work and success. If kids learn these principles early on, there is no doubt they will stay with them the rest of their lives.

Additionally, self-management plans can be instrumental in positively addressing behavioral issues. The intent of self-management strategies is to build a learner’s independence and ability to engage in self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. The true power of self-management is its emphasis on building that feeling of control over one’s own behavior. Teachers’ attempts to simply control a student’s behavior often decreases the power of a reinforcer, which in turn makes a self-management plan less efficient and problem behavior more likely to occur.

Everything is connected. When kids learn, understand, and adopt the principles of social-emotional learning, they’re not simply becoming better students — they are becoming the well-rounded leaders our world needs.

learners at beach with a rainbow behind them

Join Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s Fall Family Fun Challenge!

Dear Alaka’i O Kaua’i families,

We want to invite your kids and, better yet, your whole family to participate in our Fall Family Fun Challenge!

We’re challenging your family to create a fun video (60 seconds or less)! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tell us what you love about Alaka’i O Kaua’i — examples might be your favorite subject, facilitator, or project.
  • In the spirit of our annual Multicultural Feast, share a tradition or recipe your family enjoys during this season.
  • Show us a dance you made up.
  • Perform a song you wrote or love.
  • Share your art project.

Put your own spin on it! Include the family or make it a solo routine.

Most importantly, have fun!

We can’t wait to see what you create!

With gratitude,

The Alaka’i O Kaua’i Team

We can accept files or links to your public social media posts. If you send us a video, we will consider this approval for use on our school websites and social media accounts. Please do not include images of video conference screens showing learners. For questions — or to email your submission instead of using the form (please include school name) — email stories@ileadschools.org.

learners at beach with a rainbow behind them

Join Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s Fall Family Fun Challenge!

Dear Alaka’i O Kaua’i families,

We want to invite your kids and, better yet, your whole family to participate in our Fall Family Fun Challenge!

We’re challenging your family to create a fun video (60 seconds or less)! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Tell us what you love about Alaka’i O Kaua’i — examples might be your favorite subject, facilitator, or project.
  • In the spirit of our annual Multicultural Feast, share a tradition or recipe your family enjoys during this season.
  • Show us a dance you made up.
  • Perform a song you wrote or love.
  • Share your art project.

Put your own spin on it! Include the family or make it a solo routine.

Most importantly, have fun!

We can’t wait to see what you create!

With gratitude,

The Alaka’i O Kaua’i Team

We can accept files or links to your public social media posts. If you send us a video, we will consider this approval for use on our school websites and social media accounts. Please do not include images of video conference screens showing learners. For questions — or to email your submission instead of using the form (please include school name) — email stories@ileadschools.org.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Purpose

“The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Living with purpose.” The phrase evokes a range of thoughts and emotions, doesn’t it? When we choose to live with purpose, we choose to live proactively and decisively, rather than reactively.

As part of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning with a social-emotional focus, one vital component is purpose. Within the social-emotional learning (SEL) framework, we recognize purpose as follows: You are oriented toward a future goal, and you can explain the reason for your goal.

To understand the importance of purpose, it’s helpful to examine another key element of Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s approach to education: the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Successfully living with purpose encapsulates several of the 7 Habits: Being Proactive, Beginning With the End in Mind, and Putting First Things First. Understanding and incorporating those steps into your life connects directly to having a clear sense of purpose.

Let’s dive a little deeper into those Habits.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive — With this habit, a learner can say, “I am a responsible person. I take initiative, and I choose my actions and attitudes.” Through developing this habit, kids are able to learn responsibility, initiative, self-control and self-management.
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind — With this, a learner can say, “I plan ahead and set goals. I do things that have meaning and make a difference. I look for ways to be a good citizen.” In turn, they are learning to have purpose and vision, and developing skills of planning, self-management and reflection.
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First — By practicing this habit, a learner is saying, “I spend my time on things that are most important. I set priorities, make a schedule, and follow a plan.” This habit develops skills of prioritization, planning and time management, and follow-through.

These habits influence a child’s sense of purpose and attitude. When learners embrace the value of thinking and doing with purpose, they can develop stronger self-esteem, improve social skills and empathy, and are empowered to enrich the world around them.

When learners understand the importance of approaching things — from school projects to life goals — with proactivity and the end in mind, they begin to grasp the value of living with purpose.

Watch: On Purpose

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Celebrates Growth and Potential

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator at iLEAD Schools

Now in its third year, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School — which translates to iLEAD Kauai — is still experiencing lots of new. The school, located at the beautiful Kahili Mountain Park and serving kindergarten through 6th grade, has a new director, new learners, new projects and renewed enthusiasm.

New Director

Alakai O Kauai Meet the TeamAbout his role at Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School, Director DJ Adams said, “It is refreshing to join a team of people with a shared vision of a high-quality, free public education infused with project-based learning. Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School has tremendous potential for continued positive growth, so it is exciting to be part of our journey ahead.”

Adams is impressed with so many things about Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi, whose staff have worked hard to safely accommodate face-to-face learning during the pandemic this school year. He said that Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi team members and families are grateful to live and work on a beautiful island that is almost COVID-free. But above all, Adams is inspired by the enthusiasm, engagement and attitudes of the learners.

“Our learners have been fantastic,” Adams said. “They have embraced the challenges and uniqueness to be on campus, and we are extremely proud of their efforts to keep everyone safe here at school and on our island.”

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi kindergarten facilitator Casey Zoppa said that, within a few weeks of Adams’ arrival as director, he’d learned the names of all the facilitators and learners and made his positive presence known.

“Talk about dedication to that job,” Zoppa said. “The man is always in sneakers because he is always on the run! And I love it!”

Outdoor Classrooms

Also new to Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi are outdoor classrooms, which have added to the instructional environment and culture of the school.

Adams said that the outdoor classrooms create great opportunities, including safe social distancing, physical education and lots of play-based learning.

“The outdoor classrooms here in beautiful Kahili Valley are somewhat surreal, as the learners are surrounded by green, lush plants framed by the mountains,” Adams said.

The outdoor classrooms have also enhanced the school’s creative projects and learner inquiry. For example, Zoppa and the kindergarten learners are currently focusing on sound design and the driving question “How do we make sound?”

“We’ll be making instruments, learning about Hawaiian culture and seeing how native Hawaiians made instruments,” Zoppa said. “Music connects us around the globe, and this is a perfect time for connecting.”

Play-Based Learning

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter SchoolIn addition to project-based learning, the idea of intentional and learner-led play has become a foundational instructional element of Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi.

Zoppa said that his kindergartners are learning school is not about sitting at desks but rather about being active and engaged in their environment.

“We have tremendous freedom here as facilitators, and we try to model that freedom for our learners,” Zoppa said. “We allow them to take chances, make mistakes and ultimately get messy. Authentic and deeper learning are messy.”

Adams said, “It’s so exciting to be part of new opportunities for our learners as they continue to be challenged in new ways by their amazing facilitators.”

Looking Ahead

Having achieved so much in only three years, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi is just getting started. The team and families are making plans to continue to engage the learners and the entire community.

According to Zoppa, Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi is a special place with a strong foundation and exciting potential.

“We have come so far in just three years. I can’t imagine all the amazing things ahead for our learners, facilitators and community.”

Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Components of Social-Emotional Learning — Optimism

Social-emotional learning (SEL) is one of the core elements of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School approach to education. Through social-emotional learning, learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

Academic achievement is only one aspect of a learner’s education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. We also deeply value learners’ development of emotional intelligence, life skills, and community engagement, and we support these through the development of character strengths, as defined by Character Lab. Social-emotional learning develops strengths of heart, mind, and will.

Today, we want to discuss a character strength of will: optimism. Optimism is being hopeful about future outcomes combined with the agency to shape that future.

When we embody the character strength of optimism, the following things are true about us:

  1. We attribute problems to temporary, changeable causes rather than explaining them in terms that author Martin Seligman calls “the three Ps” – permanent, personal, and pervasive.
  2. We expect good things from others, the world, and the future.
  3. We can overcome obstacles to reach goals.

We can help learners build healthy optimism in the following ways:

  • Create a positive, stable, caring environment. We can create positive, stable environments where kids feel known and cared for.
  • Help learners develop more positive thinking patterns. For example, if a learner gets stuck and says, “I’m not good at this,” we encourage them to reposition the statement like this: “I need more practice or a new perspective to master this concept.” This takes consistent practice.
  • Give learners opportunities to learn from their mistakes. If learners experience failure and learn from that failure, they will develop resiliency when obstacles occur.

Character Lab CEO Angela Duckworth has said, “It stands to reason that even in our darkest moments, there will always be hope for humankind.”

That thought likely rings true for many of us as we survey a world gripped by multiple ongoing crises. We all need optimism, and we have a responsibility to help kids develop a healthy strength of optimism that will help them face the world.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social Intelligence

In the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to project-based learning, which produces well-rounded kids, social intelligence is a key component of whole-child development.

What do we mean by social intelligence? It’s a person’s ability to interact well with others. It’s often simply called people skills, or tact. It isn’t necessarily a natural-born characteristic, but it can be learned. It involves situational awareness, understanding of social dynamics, and self-awareness.

In a nutshell, it’s the ability to recognize our emotions, exert control over them, show empathy for others, handle conflict well, and make good choices. By helping kids develop social intelligence, we empower them to build stronger relationships and lay the groundwork for bright futures.

Social intelligence isn’t static; it continually develops throughout one’s life. It’s never too late to sharpen it, and children are especially ready to learn. Educating children on healthy communication helps them to be a friend who is empathetic, generous, kind, and a good listener. There are four main characteristics of social intelligence:

Empathy: Empathy determines how well one relates to other people’s thoughts and emotions. Empathetic people consider and understand diverse perspectives, even if they don’t share the same ideas. They can pick up on a person’s mood and adjust their reactions accordingly.

Respect: Mutual understanding calls for a degree of respect. Respecting others can mean adapting communication styles to fit their needs, or finding a healthy compromise.

Behavior: This component concerns how people carry themselves in social situations. Are their actions appropriate for the setting? Do they make others feel relaxed or uncomfortable? A person must be able to adapt when necessary while maintaining their core values.

Self-efficacy: This characteristic refers to how a person judges themselves on their capacity to perform particular tasks. If someone has a stable sense of self-efficacy concerning social intelligence, they’re confident in their social abilities.

These skills are reinforced in school, but the foundations are set at home, which is one reason why Alaka’i O Kaua’i believes in strong parent/guardian involvement in the educational process.

We can do the following to develop our social intelligence:

  • Pay close attention to what and who are around us
  • Work on increasing our emotional intelligence
  • Respect cultural differences
  • Practice active listening
  • Appreciate the important people in our lives

Much like the other components of the Alaka’i O Kaua’i approach to education, the development of social intelligence builds strengths in kids, as well as sharpening all the other pillars of social-emotional and project-based learning — resulting in well-rounded kids who are ready for whatever challenges life may bring.

Alakai O Kauai Public Charter School

Remembering with Tutu B: How Alaka`i O Kaua`i Became a School

Aloha, Alaka`i O Kaua`i `Ohana,

Time for a little mathematics! How long ago was the year 2013? How old were you? Do you remember where you were or what you were doing? Let’s find out why the year 2013 is important to the `Ohana of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School!

Ms. Moraes holds her certificate: “Thank you for your vision and insight to bring an iLEAD School to Kauai.”

In the year 2013, plans for iLEAD Kauai first began and our first application was submitted to the charter commission. Deena Fontana Moraes wrote the first series of applications with iLEAD cofounders, Amber Raskin and Dawn Evenson. Ms. Moraes now works as an administrator in the DOE as an educational consultant.

For the 2014-2015 application, Dr. B Blackwell (Tutu B — that’s me!) was added. A lot of volunteers supported this application and went out into the community to gather over 800 signatures in support of the school.

Nicola Sherrill, Tutu B, and Minna Freeman Prichard in 2015 at Kapaa Town Nite.

Three people who worked hard to gather signatures were Nicola Sherrill, Tutu B, and Minna Freeman Prichard, who also served as board members. Nicola had been part of the school effort since 2013 and still serves today as vice chairperson of the Alaka`i O Kaua`i Governing Board.

We held many community meetings, the first in May of 2014. The largest meeting was held January 8, 2015, at the All Saints’ gym in Kapa`a. Over 100 people attended, including the Mayor of Kauai, Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Superintendent of Kauai Schools Bill Arakaki!

Amber Raskin and Dawn Evenson,
cofounders of iLEAD Schools Development (now Maker Learning Network), our service provider.

In spite of the overwhelming community support, the charter commission denied iLEAD Kauai’s applications for both 2013-2014 and 2014-2015.

So how did the community triumph with their third and final effort, when we submitted the application (now as Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School) for the 2015-2016 year?

This poster says, “Please join us for some free food and entertainment and learn about this innovative new K-8 charter school, proposed for the island of Kauai – Fall 2016.”

New rules stated that no director or group of people could submit an application. Only a governing board with officers could submit an application and a director had to be selected through an advertised and vetting process. Many times there were challenges that I thought we couldn’t overcome.

I spent many hours looking at my computer screen, answering the Charter Commission’s questions.

What got me through the process?

On my computer screen were the photos of the governing board members’ children, our school’s keiki (see our featured photo above). I wanted them to benefit from the alternative educational program offered by iLEAD Schools Development (now Maker Learning Network).

On August 11, 2016, Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School was finally approved!

And did you know that the Hawaiian translation for Alaka`i O Kaua`i means iLEAD Kauai?

Here is our Kauai County Fair booth, designed by Indulekha Reeves with her keiki, Sylvan and Nimai and Minna Freeman-Prichard’s children, Anneli and Ipo.

Soon after we received the approval, we shared the news with Kauai through the Kauai County Fair. Our booth was designed by Indulekha Reeves, who was vice chairperson of our board at the time and is now the chairperson.

But wait! If our school was planned to be in Kapaa, then how did Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School end up in our beautiful Mount Kahili home? That story will be told in the next chapter of Remembering with Tutu B!

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Whole-Child Development

Last week we introduced the importance of social-emotional learning at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School. Social-emotional learning is integral to our whole-child educational approach.

A whole-child mind-set means that we are focused on far more than teaching to tests or holding up state standards as the be-all, end-all of education. We believe in focusing on the whole child and promoting social-emotional learning, because education is about more than test scores.

Whole-child development empowers kids to be creative, engaged citizens. With that in mind, we believe it’s our responsibility to nurture learners’ creative abilities to express themselves, understand others, and navigate complex information so they can confidently solve the problems of an ever-changing world.

So when we say we focus on “whole child” development, what do we mean? We’re talking about an approach to project-based learning that emphasizes the following deeper-learning approaches:

Mastery of Core Academic Content: Learners lay their academic foundation in subjects such as reading, writing, arts, math, and science, understanding essential principles and procedures, recalling facts, and drawing on their knowledge to complete tasks.

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Our learners understand how to construct effective arguments using their critical, analytical, and creative skills. They develop the know-how to come up with solutions to complex problems.

Collaboration: Learners embrace teamwork and consider multiple viewpoints to cooperate and achieve shared goals.

Effective Communication: Learners communicate effectively in writing and oral presentations. They structure information in meaningful ways, listen to and give feedback, and construct messages for particular audiences.

Self-Directed Learning: Learners develop the ability to set goals, monitor their own progress, and reflect on their strengths and areas for improvement. They learn to see setbacks as opportunities to grow and be more adaptive.

Growth Mind-set: Learners with a growth mind-set believe in themselves. They trust their abilities and believe their hard work will pay off; they persist to overcome obstacles. In the process, they also learn from and support each other and see the relevance of their schoolwork to the real world and their own future success.

Coupled with vibrant project-based education and social-emotional learning, all these elements work together to empower kids to overcome any challenge that comes their way academically; but more than that, they build the character to succeed in the 21st century.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Social-Emotional Learning

In our approach to education at Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we emphasize methods that foster learners’ social-emotional learning. Social-emotional learning is the process through which learners understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, and establish and maintain positive relationships to make responsible decisions.

We believe it’s vital to help learners develop skills such as social awareness, self-management, regulation of emotions, and self-awareness so they can weave these abilities through every facet of their lives. When emotional intelligence is nurtured and developed, it can inspire creativity and increased engagement.

Over the coming weeks, we will explore nine pillars of social-emotional learning (SEL) at Alaka’i O Kaua’i:

  • Social intelligence
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude
  • Purpose
  • Growth mind-set
  • Self-control
  • Curiosity
  • Zest
  • Grit

But why is SEL so important?

To adapt to an increasingly globalized economy, education must emphasize more than rote knowledge. We believe learners should be empathetic, critical thinkers who thoughtfully engage with the world around them. Modern employers prize these skills in the workplace, and research suggests employees with more highly developed social-emotional strengths earn more and are more productive.

Additionally, focusing on non-cognitive skills may further improve reading, writing, and mathematics performance in kids, according to the nonpartisan think tank Economic Policy Institute.

We measure and report SEL progress as part of every project, individualized learning plan goal, and Report of Progress. We have also developed SEL and academic rigor rubrics that add a well-balanced approach to academics and reflective practice for facilitators, learners, families, and administrators. Other elements of our SEL implementation, practice, and assessment include our Learner-Led Conferences (LLCs), Presentations of Learning (POLs), Passion Projects, Individualized Learning Plans (ILPs), Advisory Program, Morning Meetings, learner-led ambassador groups, and restorative approaches to discipline.

PBL expert and iLEAD partner Thom Markham summed up why social-emotional learning is so vital. “Navigating a changing world demands a communicative, creative, and collaborative person with a flexible, empathetic, resilient, and persistent temperament,” he said. “It’s time to make a change to our mind-set and be far more intentional about teaching the dispositions and personality attributes that lead to better work ethic, more engagement, improved relationships, a greater sense of well-being — and better projects.”

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i, our goal is nothing less.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i, 2019-20 school year.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

Remembering with Tutu B: Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi’s Beginnings

Aloha, Alaka`i O Kaua`i `Ohana,

The pandemic has given us lots of time to clean our rooms (as you might have been told by your families). I was given some more time when, after 17 years as a professor at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa (UHM), I retired on July 7, 2020. When I had a chance to clean out my office, I discovered many pictures and documents that had gotten buried under lots of other papers!

The photos reminded me to share the story of Alaka`i O Kaua`i with you.

Above is a picture of me during the very first day of school, August 29, 2018. I was outside the office to greet each and every learner (with their parents) to our new school. What an exciting day that was! Well, we were supposed to open on August 28, but Hurricane Lane made a river across the road to our school and we had to cancel the first day of school. Thankfully, we postponed our opening only by one day.

Before that day, many more people worked very hard to help bring you your school.

(L to R) Tutu B, Paul Zina, Felicia Cowden

A few people, working in what was called the Advisory Group, helped our Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Governing Board in several ways but especially with writing the application for charter school approval.

Paul Zina, who was principal of Ele`ele School and is now Kaua’i Complex Area Superintendent, served as the educational liaison. He showed great support for our school to the Charter Commission and gave valuable input for writing the application.

Felicia Cowden, who had operated her own homeschool and written a book about homeschooling, served as community liaison for the Governing Board and actively served on the Advisory Board. Felicia is now a Kauai County Council Member.

Steve Martin-Oldfield, owner of Kauai Pacific Real Estate, served as our business liaison. He helped look for locations for the school and met with all prospective candidates to share about the housing opportunities on Kauai.

Tutu B with Minna Freeman Prichard

Minna Freeman Prichard was previously a teacher at Koloa School but had taken some time off to have a baby. Minna opened a homeschool not only for her own children but for other children to join as well. She had a lot of experience with environmental education and envisioned what Alaka`i would be. After she had her baby, Minna joined the Advisory Board to continue helping when she could.

As chairperson of Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Governing Board, I made certificates of appreciation for each of the people named here, but I found the certificates only while going through my office files! “Better late than never” is a good motto. So this past Wednesday, September 16, 2020, three out of the four Advisory Group members finally received their certificates of appreciation. Steve could not be seen, for he is dutifully serving quarantine time after visiting the mainland and will be given his certificate later.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Remembering with Tutu B. I look forward to sharing more of the story of your school, Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School, very soon!

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School

Alakaʻi O Kauaʻi Charter School Culture: Real-World Experiences

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School emphasizes 21st-century skills and preparing learners for the work world, and tangible experiences help elevate the learning process.

Examples include our third graders’ podcast; our DreamUp to Space challenges, where teams of learners come up with scientific research projects that launch to the International Space Station for testing; or our living history programs, where learners re-create scenes from history.

Real-world experience is at the heart of what can make project-based learning (PBL) truly exciting, challenging, and rewarding for learners. When PBL is infused with real-world experiences, learners develop crucial skills while they’re still in school. Additionally, these experiences can provide learners with deeper insights into career areas they may want to pursue. Furthermore, kids find that their success isn’t defined merely by a grade but by the experience they gain through the process.

Finally, learning that incorporates real-world experience helps learners become familiar with professional environments. Besides learning the subject content, learners develop skills crucial in the work world, including clear and timely communication, thinking critically, problem-solving, and time management.

As part of a well-rounded PBL curriculum, real-world experiences are essential to Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s mission.

21st Century Skills Alakai O Kauai

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Building 21st-Century Skills

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, what’s important is not only ensuring learners are receiving an academically well-rounded education but also that they have the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. That’s why we place a high priority on 21st-century skills.

These skills are essential in a worldwide market that’s moving faster by the day, and they funnel to a key focus: a person’s ability to enact and/or adapt to change.

Why? Because we live in a world where long-established industries are now regularly disrupted with new ideas and methodologies. Kids are preparing for work in an era when nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to be adaptable.

When we speak about 21st-century skills, we’re talking about those things that help learners adapt and thrive in a world that is increasingly more dependent on technology as well as a global economy and workplace. The 12 essential 21st-century skills include the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Information literacy
  • Media literacy
  • Technology literacy
  • Flexibility
  • Leadership
  • Initiative
  • Productivity
  • Social skills

Through individualized instruction and project-based learning, we celebrate and foster each child’s individuality and support them in discovering their highest potential. We believe each child will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to achieve their fullest potential in preparation for college and the demands of the 21st-century workplace.

Succeeding in the 21st century calls for skill sets that go beyond the basics mandated by densely packed education standards and what’s evaluated on standardized tests. Learners also need to build skills sets that will last a lifetime. To solve problems in our complex, fast-changing world, learners must become nimble, creative thinkers who can work well with others.

In line with the 12 skills identified above, there are four Cs Alaka’i O Kaua’i focuses on instilling in learners, as identified by the Partnership for 21st-Century Skills:

  • Collaboration: Learners are able to work effectively with diverse groups and exercise flexibility in making compromises to achieve common goals.
  • Creativity: Learners are able to generate and improve on original ideas and also work creatively with others.
  • Communication: Learners are able to communicate effectively across multiple media and for various purposes.
  • Critical thinking: Learners are able to analyze, evaluate, and understand complex systems and apply strategies to solve problems.

It is critical to keep in mind that those 4Cs don’t replace academic learning goals; rather, they complement and enhance them.

Since Alaka’i O Kaua’i ’s inception, we have been committed to helping develop well-rounded kids, those who are lifelong learners empowered to lead and succeed in a changing world. By incorporating 21st-century skills, we’re making sure they’re ready for anything they face in their journey.

Pictured: Alaka’i O Kaua’i classroom, February 2020.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i Charter School Culture

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School Culture: Partnering with Home and Community

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we don’t believe that education happens solely within the four walls of a school. On the contrary, we believe education that produces well-rounded children is a result of synergy and collaboration between the school, the home, and the community.

That is why it is so important to us to build strong partnerships between families and communities. Parents and community partners are key resources to supporting learners’ success, which is why Alaka’i O Kaua’i actively and consistently involves parents, finding ways to support them and extend learners’ education at home.

Through our relationships with various community partners, we are able to provide learning experiences that broaden kids’ perspectives, not to mention often give back to the community. Strong community partnerships are a win-win.

There are several ways we promote parent involvement. We strongly encourage parents to volunteer at their learners’ school during the year, with opportunities including classroom volunteering, tutoring, attending board of directors meetings, participating in events, and more. We also encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s learning.

Other community-related partnerships we encourage and facilitate include partnering with industry professionals, business leaders, government and civic leaders, community leaders, nonprofit leaders, higher-education partners, entrepreneurs, and more. Fostering these relationships provides learners with a wealth of knowledge, advice, and insight, in addition to access to real-world learning opportunities and experiences.

Collaboration is at the heart of Alaka’i O Kaua’i’s project-based learning model. When synergy is found between learners, families, and communities, something really special happens — the foundation is set for authentic learning that produces inspired leaders with promising futures.