The New Pacific Century Academy (NPC Academy) is a school within a school where our students have an opportunity to take advantage of Hawaii’s rich natural and geographical resources and engage in a project-based learning experience.
Why Project Based Learning?
As a purpose driven school preparing our children to be the leaders of the New Pacific Century, our educational philosophy (the Hibiscus Model) outlines a number of learning goals for our students:
- The ability to analyze and solve complex problems
- The ability to think critically and apply analytical-reasoning skills
- The ability to effectively communicate orally and in writing
- The ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings
- The ability to innovate and be creative
- The ability to collaborate with others in diverse group settings
Many surveys and research studies (e.g., Conley, 2005) also point out that these skills are precisely what our students need to be successful in college, careers, and life in the 21st century. APIS has been very purposeful in designing our curriculum and instruction to target these goals; we are convinced that project-based learning, when done right, can address these goals more effectively than anything else can.What Does Project Based Learning Involve?
The NPC Academy follows the Gold Standard Project Based Learning (PBL) methodology developed by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE), a leader in PBL research and best practices since 1987. The Gold Standard PBL entails the following elements:
Key Knowledge, Understanding, and Success Skills – Students are to dig deeply into a subject, going beyond rote learning and grappling with the concepts and understandings fundamental to the subject and the discipline. Gold Standard PBL develops not only students’ understanding but also their ability to use and apply that understanding.
Challenging Problem or Question – Problems and questions provide the organizing structure for Gold Standard PBL and they make learning meaningful because they give learning a purpose. Students are not just gaining knowledge in order to remember it; they are gaining knowledge in order to use it.
Sustained Inquiry – The intentional and purposeful pursuit of a solution or answer that is at the heart of all meaningful learning. It guides learning activities toward project goals and establishes a purpose for learning.
Authenticity – When a learning experience is as real as possible, students are engaged and motivated to achieve at their highest level.
Student Voice and Choice – Gold Standard PBL calls for students to exercise judgment and make decisions about how to solve a challenging problem or question. When appropriately guided, student voice and choice are a prerequisite to critical thinking and problem solving.
Reflection – Students reflect throughout the project on the effectiveness of their inquiry and project activities, the quality of their work, the obstacles confronted, and how they can be overcome.
Critique and Revision – According to John Hattie’s research, formative assessment and feedback is the most influential factor in students’ learning outcomes. Gold Standard PBL involves built in checkpoints along the way that give students opportunities to improve and revise their work.
Public Product – Gold Standard PBL provides the opportunity for students to create a product and share it with an audience beyond the classroom. A public product is more authentic, engaging for the students, and promotes learning to the larger community.
Sample PBL units at NPC Academy
Hawaii is beautiful, rich, and diverse. As a cultural melting pot and meeting point between the East and West, Hawaii offers an ideal setting to study the influence different cultural and ethnic groups living in the same society have had on one another. Students will investigate Hawaiian culture through the question, “What does it mean to be Hawaiian?” This leading question will challenge our students to examine deeper into ways that people have maintained their traditions and resisted external challenge (e.g. generational gaps, migration patterns, or globalization). Through a variety of activities that explore Hawaiian local art, language, food, and landscapes, our students will, in the end, discover and learn to reflect and inquire about their own identity — that is, what does it mean to be Korean, American, Chinese, or belonging to any other ethnic or national group?
Students will explore how innovations in communication and transportation transform a society from isolation to globalization. With its position as a global tourist destination, Hawaii is a perfect laboratory to examine this central question, allowing students to take advantage of great locations such as Pearl Harbor, North Shore, and Waikiki Beach to investigate the transformation of Hawaiian society and culture. Students will engage in unique hands-on experiences, such as rowing traditional outrigger canoes and building their own boat, to launch into the bigger understanding of how adoption of scientific knowledge and use of technologies influences cultures, the environment, economies, and the balance of power. These activities will result in student- created video documentaries.
Students will explore each step of local food production from farm to table. Beginning with a critical analysis of the students’ own ecological footprints and consumption habits, students will then be tasked with researching and developing a proposal for building their own sustainable garden. Utilizing various resources, including visits to local farms, community organizations, and businesses, students will incorporate into their plan concepts of soil chemistry, seed germination, and effective garden structuring and planning. A highlight event includes students constructing art sculptures in their garden using recycled trash from the surrounding beaches. Students will also plan, cook, and serve a nutritious meal utilizing locally produced goods. Through these learning activities, students will examine sustainable lifestyles and explore ways to nurture community identity committed to sustainability.