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 Social Emotional Learning

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

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did you know that consciously practicing gratitude can help improve your physical and psychological health?

Did you know gratitude can enhance empathy, reduce aggression, improve self-esteem, and increase mental health?

Practicing gratitude is another vital component of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s approach to social-emotional learning (SEL), which is focused on whole-child development. Gratitude begins with increased awareness of our own experiences, and as we become more mindful we realize we have choices when it comes to our emotions.

And here’s the thing: Gratitude is not just about being thankful; it’s about showing appreciation and returning kindness to others. Another facet of gratitude is the expression of appreciation, when we become active by doing something to show we are thankful. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age five. By instilling in learners early on the importance of gratitude, we are empowering them for a much fuller life.

There are four components to gratitude, as identified by UNC Chapel Hill’s Raising Grateful Children Project:

  • Noticing: Did someone do something nice for you? Did someone give you something or take you somewhere fun?
  • Thinking: What are all the reasons you’re thankful for this? Why do you think someone did something nice for you? Does this mean something to you?
  • Feeling: When you think about these special things or people, how do you feel?
  • Doing: What can you actively do to express your gratitude for this person, place, or thing?

Gratitude helps support social communication because it helps us understand others’ feelings, practice empathy, and learn the social power of kindness and appreciation. It also supports emotional development. Gratitude helps kids notice what makes them feel good and take time to focus on that.

True gratitude isn’t an action that needs to be taken as much as it’s an attitude to be cultivated so that gratefulness and kindness can become natural responses in our lives. Gratitude doesn’t simply happen; it must be practiced. And when it is, it has the power to change lives. Kids who know how to show appreciation, thankfulness, and kindness are kids who can — and will — change the world.

Watch: On Gratitude

Social Emotional Skills Alakai O Kauai

Pumpkins for Science, Math and Social Emotional Skills

Recently, kindergarteners learn to use their senses to explore and learn about pumpkins. With support from their 3rd grade buddies, they worked on understanding number sense related to quantity, as well as more and less than. Additionally, they learned from 3rd graders who modeled skills in listening and following directions, as well as the importance of one person speaking at a time.

Learners observed and explored the textures and features of three pumpkins. They discussed and predicted the height and circumference of each pumpkin. Facilitators and learners measured the height and circumference of each. Next, learners predicted which pumpkin would have the most seeds and why.

In small groups, learners took turns removing the seeds. They counted them by placing seeds in ten frames drawn on the table cover. Learners in 3rd grade helped their kindergarten buddies accurately count the seeds and articulate their thinking.

The following day, learners tasted the fruits of their labor. The seeds were roasted and the pumpkin cooked in a crockpot with butter, honey and agave. It was served with a side of Craisins and marshmallows. While enjoying that delicious treat, the learners listened to Room on the Broom written by Julia Donaldson and read by Alaka’i O Kaua’i Art Facilitator Ms. Nicole.

Check out the Pumpkin Seed Counting Video Here.

Social Emotional Skills Alakai O Kauai

Pumpkins for Science, Math and Social Emotional Skills

Recently, kindergarteners learn to use their senses to explore and learn about pumpkins. With support from their 3rd grade buddies, they worked on understanding number sense related to quantity, as well as more and less than. Additionally, they learned from 3rd graders who modeled skills in listening and following directions, as well as the importance of one person speaking at a time.

Learners observed and explored the textures and features of three pumpkins. They discussed and predicted the height and circumference of each pumpkin. Facilitators and learners measured the height and circumference of each. Next, learners predicted which pumpkin would have the most seeds and why.

In small groups, learners took turns removing the seeds. They counted them by placing seeds in ten frames drawn on the table cover. Learners in 3rd grade helped their kindergarten buddies accurately count the seeds and articulate their thinking.

The following day, learners tasted the fruits of their labor. The seeds were roasted and the pumpkin cooked in a crockpot with butter, honey and agave. It was served with a side of Craisins and marshmallows. While enjoying that delicious treat, the learners listened to Room on the Broom written by Julia Donaldson and read by Alaka’i O Kaua’i Art Facilitator Ms. Nicole.

Check out the Pumpkin Seed Counting Video Here.

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 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 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.

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

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

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we believe when kids learn how to face challenges, they grow into leaders. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.

Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • My intelligence is something I can’t change very much.
  • I’m a certain kind of person, and there isn’t much I can do to change that.
  • I often get frustrated when I get feedback on my performance.
  • Trying new things is stressful, and I avoid it.

How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.

Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head-on, and be motivated to succeed.

Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:

  • A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”
  • A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”

 

  • A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”

 

The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered by them.

A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.

Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.

“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed” (emphasis ours).

Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents, but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities and to value their efforts. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what they may achieve.

Watch: On Growth Mindset

Alaka'i O Kaua'i 2nd graders with Ms. Mick

Alaka’i O Kaua’i 2nd Graders Embrace the 7 Habits Every Day

By Michael Niehoff
Education Content Coordinator, iLEAD Schools

For educators, an important part of the role is establishing classroom expectations and culture. Some educators develop their own systems, some implement a school-wide plan, and others use practices developed outside of education. Regardless of which approach an educator chooses, the question always remains: How do we encourage all our learners to adopt classroom expectations and culture?

Alaka’i O Kaua’i 2nd grade facilitator Joeanne Mick, who along with the rest of her school community embraces Stephen R. Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has arrived at an effective answer.

While many educators introduce the norms at the beginning of the year and periodically remind the class, Mick instead makes the 7 Habits a yearlong project. According to Mick, the election year of 2020 inspired the following driving question: “How can I be a responsible citizen and help others be responsible citizens?”

The result was more than a project. According to Mick, it became an effort to continually learn and use the 7 Habits. Mick said she wanted all her learners to reflect on what it means to be an active and engaged citizen in the classroom, at school, in the local community, in Hawaii and even globally.

“I wanted them to have a deeper understanding that led from learning words to taking action,” Mick said. “The 7 Habits are really a philosophy, a mind-set and a way of life. I wanted them to see them that way.”

In Mick’s classroom, the 7 Habits have taken on a life of their own. In January 2021, the learners established an economy, a voting system and an entire culture based on the 7 Habits. There is now a learner store — stocked with family-provided merchandise — that allows learners to purchase items with currency known as Mick Money, which they earn in class for such accomplishments as completing assignments on time, being ready to work and volunteering inside and outside of class. From this income, each learner must pay 25 percent on rent and 15 percent on taxes, and the rest can be spent at the store. The learners earn a dollar a day for attending and can earn additional income for serving the classroom and community.

“The learners are really getting it,” Mick said. “They are asking to do extra jobs, such as sweeping the sidewalks, to earn extra money.”

In addition to the classroom economy and other systems, the learners’ 7 Habits work has extended to field trips, partnerships with outside nonprofit organizations like Surfrider Foundation, creating slideshow presentations like the one below and even creating a puppet show they’ll soon present the 7 Habits to the entire school.

Mick said parents have been enthusiastic about the 7 Habits work and have seen the impact on their children. They love that the learners have taken ownership of the classroom and the store. She said they are often impressed with the learners’ level of responsibility.

“The learners understand what each habit means and how to set goals for themselves,” Mick said.

Recently the learners memorized the song “Leader in Me” and have now decided to record their own version. With Mick’s support, they even recently paid the royalties to use the song.

Educational aid Whitney Backus said she, too, has enjoyed seeing the learners embrace the 7 Habits and has found herself doing a lot of self-reflection as well. “I love that we are doing this the entire year,” Backus said. “It helps my life and my support of the learners.”

Others have seen the growth in the learners over multiple years. iLEAD Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Linda Krystek, who has worked closely with Alaka’i O Kaua’i from its first year, noted that Mick’s class includes many learners who were part of the school’s founding kindergarten class.

“It’s exciting to see how these young learners have grown into school leaders while developing 21st-century skills,” Krystek said. “By incorporating social-emotional learning into project-based learning, these 2nd graders have developed into articulate, self-directed learners.”

Alaka’i O Kaua’i Director DJ Adams is also proud of the work that Mick and her learners are doing. According to Adams, through the efforts of the learners, the 7 Habits are now firmly embedded into the culture of the school.

“Through their presentations and continuous efforts, these learners have created true cultural change at our unique school,” Adams said.

In addition to the upcoming puppet show and other year-end activities, these 2nd graders are going to finish the school year with one more event with Surfriders focused on cleaning up their local beaches.

Mick said that she is learning a great deal about the 7 Habits herself. “I am learning to delve deep into the 7 Habits and see what they really mean to me as an adult, a facilitator and a citizen every day.”

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.

Alakai O Kauai campus and learners

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

What does it take to really succeed? Some might call it drive or determination. At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we like to call it grit, and it is a crucial component of social-emotional learning.

We define grit as “having courage and resolve, and strength of character.” Someone with grit works hard and passionately, sets goals, and follows through. Why is grit important? Because to truly accomplish goals and thrive, we need the ability to persevere. Without grit, talent may be nothing more than unmet potential. That is why we believe it is so valuable to instill an understanding of grit early on in kids.

But how does one assess “grittiness”? A simple way is to see if you identify with some of these statements:

  • I enjoy projects that take time to complete.
  • I am working toward a long-term goal.
  • What I do each day is connected to my deepest personal values.
  • There is at least one subject or activity I never get bored thinking about.
  • Setbacks don’t discourage me for long.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I finish whatever I begin.
  • I never stop working to improve.

Our approach to SEL has been deeply influenced by Angela Lee Duckworth, who has done extensive research in the area of grit. She suggests that one way to think about grit is to consider what it isn’t.

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. Further, grit means holding fast to that goal, no matter what.

There are many practical ways to foster grit in learners:

  • Help them see how their efforts can contribute to the well-being of others.
  • Nurture a growth mindset; a belief that the ability to learn is not fixed.
  • Ask them to set their own long-term goals.
  • Focus discussions on effort, tenacity, and learning from failures.

We believe as part of a curriculum that’s rich in project-based and social-emotional learning, when kids learn to model grit in their academic pursuits, their mindset will positively affect every area of their lives.

Watch This: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

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

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.

Alakai O Kauai Social Emotional Learning

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

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Did you know that consciously practicing gratitude can help improve your physical and psychological health?

Did you know gratitude can enhance empathy, reduce aggression, improve self-esteem, and increase mental health?

Practicing gratitude is another vital component of Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School’s approach to social-emotional learning (SEL), which is focused on whole-child development. Gratitude begins with increased awareness of our own experiences, and as we become more mindful we realize we have choices when it comes to our emotions.

And here’s the thing: Gratitude is not just about being thankful; it’s about showing appreciation and returning kindness to others. Another facet of gratitude is the expression of appreciation, when we become active by doing something to show we are thankful. A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age five. By instilling in learners early on the importance of gratitude, we are empowering them for a much fuller life.

There are four components to gratitude, as identified by UNC Chapel Hill’s Raising Grateful Children Project:

  • Noticing: Did someone do something nice for you? Did someone give you something or take you somewhere fun?
  • Thinking: What are all the reasons you’re thankful for this? Why do you think someone did something nice for you? Does this mean something to you?
  • Feeling: When you think about these special things or people, how do you feel?
  • Doing: What can you actively do to express your gratitude for this person, place, or thing?

Gratitude helps support social communication because it helps us understand others’ feelings, practice empathy, and learn the social power of kindness and appreciation. It also supports emotional development. Gratitude helps kids notice what makes them feel good and take time to focus on that.

True gratitude isn’t an action that needs to be taken as much as it’s an attitude to be cultivated so that gratefulness and kindness can become natural responses in our lives. Gratitude doesn’t simply happen; it must be practiced. And when it is, it has the power to change lives. Kids who know how to show appreciation, thankfulness, and kindness are kids who can — and will — change the world.

Watch: On Gratitude

Alaka'i O Kaua'i

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

At Alaka’i O Kaua’i Charter School, we believe when kids learn how to face challenges, they grow into leaders. As part of our emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL), we believe it’s important to develop what we call a growth mindset.

Let’s do a quick test. Do you tend to agree or disagree with the following statements?

  • My intelligence is something I can’t change very much.
  • I’m a certain kind of person, and there isn’t much I can do to change that.
  • I often get frustrated when I get feedback on my performance.
  • Trying new things is stressful, and I avoid it.

How we respond to these statements reveals whether we have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Many children are raised and exposed to situations that create a fixed mindset, which may seem harmless on the surface, but actually creates long-term challenges for them in school and in life, when they fear failure and tend to avoid challenges.

Conversely, children who have a growth mindset are more likely to learn from their mistakes, tackle challenges head-on, and be motivated to succeed.

Some contrasting statements may be helpful for bringing this into focus:

  • A fixed mindset says: “Failure is the limit of my abilities.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Failure is an opportunity to grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “I’m either good at it or I’m not.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I can learn to do anything I want.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My abilities are unchanging.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Challenges help me grow.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “My potential is predetermined.”
  • A growth mindset says: “My effort and attitude determine my abilities.”

 

  • A fixed mindset says: “Feedback and criticism are personal.”
  • A growth mindset says: “Feedback is constructive.”

 

  • A fixed mindset: “I stick to what I know.”
  • A growth mindset says: “I like to try new things.”

 

The development of a healthy growth mindset is all about helping kids realize and embrace their potential and equipping them to be empowered and fueled by challenges, rather than hindered by them.

A growth mindset will intrinsically motivate children to improve, learn, and grow in school and all other areas of their lives.

Writing in Scientific American, psychologist Carol S. Dweck unpacked “The Secret to Raising Smart Kids” and the importance of fostering a growth mindset, stressing the importance of seeing success as the result of hard work instead of simply inborn talent.

“When we gave everyone hard problems anyway, those praised for being smart became discouraged, doubting their ability,” she wrote. “In contrast, students praised for their hard work did not lose confidence when faced with the harder questions, and their performance improved markedly on the easier problems that followed” (emphasis ours).

Make no mistake, it is good to praise our children for their strengths and talents, but it is crucial to encourage them to see challenges as opportunities and to value their efforts. If they can learn and embrace this at school age, there’s no telling what they may achieve.

Watch: On Growth Mindset

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

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.

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.

Kindness Club

Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School Introduces Kindness Club!

Alaka`i O Kaua`i Charter School is special because of our curriculum focus. The two main pillars of our curriculum are Project-Based Learning and Social-Emotional Learning. Last week, a new school club was formed to support the social-emotional needs of our learners. Our 4th grade facilitator, Ms. Kate, and a 4th grade parent, Mrs. Sally Nichols, have helped our learners start a new club called Kindness Club.

The Kindness Club is described as “an opportunity for all learners who are interested to meet during lunch to talk about what kindness is and how they can bring it into our school community daily, as well as create projects to serve those around us.”

Ms. G and Mrs. Nichols gave a presentation to invite learners to become involved in the Kindness Club.

Good results from this new Kindness Club have already manifested throughout our school as our learners left notes for their facilitators and peers expressing their appreciation for them.