Archive for September 2017

More joyful, less stress homework

September 26, 2017

My son started sixth grade this year. Though I don’t think he has more assignments than in fifth grade, he is convinced that he has more homework – and he feels more stress about it.

I’ve heard about the education achievements in Finland. Their high school students scored the highest on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. So I was curious to read “Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms” (2017) by Timothy D. Walker, written by an American teacher living in Finland.

I liked the fact that Walker taught at both American and Finnish schools, and could compare his teaching experiences firsthand. But I wasn’t looking to improve my son’s classroom; I was looking for ways I could make his homework less stressful.

Walker, an Arlington, Massachusetts teacher, admits that he was burning out on lesson plans, teaching guides, and classroom prep. In 2013, he and his wife Johanna moved to Helsinki, Finland. Walker was shocked that Finnish students have fewer hours of classroom instruction and more frequent breaks, and that teachers spend fewer hours on lesson prep and more time creating a peaceful environment. Based on his experiences, school visits, and research, Walker proposes that American schools need prioritize happiness in the classrooms.

Walker offers 33 strategies to prioritize happiness in the classrooms, focusing on things that teachers can do today to make a positive difference, without changing school policy. The strategies are organized around 5 ingredients of happiness: well-being, belonging, autonomy, mastery, and mind-set.

While the book is written for teachers, I read the book with an eye towards what parents can do to make learning more joyful.

Here are three ways to reduce some of the stress of homework.

* Schedule brain breaks. Take a 15-minute break for every 45 minutes of instruction. Attention begins to lag after 45 minutes, and taking a break means that students return refreshed and more focused. The brain breaks could be free play, reading, writing, drawing, game time, or a mindfulness exercise; but it should be enjoyable, independent, and new. At home, we can offer children a 15 minute break for every 45 minutes of homework. I tried this with my son – so far, he seems to procrastinate less, because he wants that brain break!

* Mindfulness. Take 5 minute mindfulness breaks to create a sense of calm. Students might pay attention to their breathing, listen to the sound of a bell until it stops ringing, or pay attention to how they walk. At home, we can encourage students to do mindful exercises to reduce stress about homework.

* Pursue a family dream. The teacher and students jointly decide on a dream together, discuss roles, and learn to compromise. The dream should be shared and realistic, and promote a sense of belonging, teach work, and responsibility. At home, we could decide on a family dream that takes place during a school break, such as a community service, neighborhood awareness campaign, or project. It’s a way to make learning fun, especially if we tie it in with something they learned in school. I’m really excited about this idea, and want to start a “family dream” this summer.

Do you know a student who feels stressed by homework? How can we make homework more joyful? Do you take work home (homework for grown-ups)?

Surf a book, live a museum

September 19, 2017

This Saturday, September 23, 2017 there two awesome events that you won’t want to miss: the Surf-a-Book Festival and Museum Day Live!

If you read with children or have ever thought about writing a children’s book, you’ll want to catch the Surf-a-Book Festival, a celebration of children’s literature in Hawaii at the Hawaii State Library in Honolulu, 10 am to 1:30 pm. There will be free presentations, children’s activities, read-alouds, book signings, a book exhibit, and panel discussions, with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Beginning authors and illustrators can dive into their own story and meet local authors and illustrators: Joy Au, Chris Caravalho, Kirsten Carlson, Ellie Crowe, David Estes, Leslie Hayashi, Dani Hickman, Lavonne Leong, Christin Lozano, Alina Niemi, Elizabeth Oh, Jessica Orfe, Tammy Yee, and more.

One of the best projects I’ve ever done with my son has been writing a book together. For a second grade recycling project, he created Mr. Roboto out of recycled materials (tissue boxes, plastic bowls, bottle caps) and started writing stories about him. That summer, he wrote and illustrated “The Story of SuperPoliceboto!” The best part of it was opening that bright orange Shutterfly box and seeing his book for the first time.

Another great way to spend your Saturday is by bringing the past to life at Museum Day Live!, an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Each Museum Day Live! ticket provides free admission for two people. Just find a participating museum or cultural institution, print your ticket or download it to your smartphone, and head to the museum.

In Hawaii, there are 7 participating museums:

* Honolulu, Oahu: Hawaii State Art Museum, which features contemporary artwork by artists with a connection to Hawaii (the current exhibit is “Hawaii: Change and Continuity”); Iolani Palace, the official residence of Hawaii’s monarchy; Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii Historical Gallery, which exhibits Okage Sama De: I Am What I Am Because of You (displaying the Japanese immigration experience from 1868 to modern times) and the Honouliuli National Monument Education Center (highlighting Oahu’s World War II internment camp); and Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, which exhibits aircraft and tells the stories of aviation in the Pacific.

* Lahaina, Maui: Baldwin Home, the oldest house still standing on Maui; and Wo Hing Museum, a restored social meeting hall for Chinese laborers who helped build tunnels and irrigation systems through the mountains.

* Lihue, Kauai: Grove Farm Museum, with authentic sugar plantation buildings and homes, orchards and pasture lands, and operating sugar plantation steam locomotives.

The Okage Sama De exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii is a wonderful experience. Walking through the gallery is like stepping into the past. If you haven’t already visited the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, I encourage you to take your family this weekend!

Share your Museum Day Live experience @MuseumDay  #BoundlessCuriosity  #MuseumDayLive

What are your favorite children’s books? Have you ever thought about writing a children’s book? Where will your curiosity lead you?

Driving electric

September 12, 2017

Hawaii is good place for electric vehicles, with its year-round sunshine, high gasoline prices, and limited driving distance. As of July 2017, there were 6,084 electric vehicles and 24,378 passenger hybrid vehicles registered statewide, according to the “Monthly Energy Trend Highlights,” July 2017. That’s 2.88% of the 1,056,103 registered passenger vehicles in the state – and growing.

The electric car I drive reflects who I am – or rather, who I want to be. I try to be environmentally conscious, and reducing, recycling, and reusing are slowly becoming second-nature. I try to be positive, driving with aloha to reduce the stress of traffic. I try to be plan ahead and be prepared – though this hasn’t worked out as well, as just the other week I forgot to charge the car and drove around on my lunch break, desperately looking for an open charging station.

For those of you who are thinking about an electric vehicle, and those of you who already drive one, this week, September 9-17, 2017, is National Drive Electric Week – a nationwide celebration of all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Plug-in vehicles are better for the environment, more affordable than ever, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil – and the drive is surprisingly peppy.

Check out one of these upcoming three National Drive Electric Events in Hawaii:

* Hilo, Hawaii Island. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to noon at the Home Depot, to meet other EV owners and families.

* Honolulu, Oahu. On Sunday, September 17, 9 am to noon at Kapiolani Community College, with specified staging locations for the Electric Island Drive and an Electric Vehicle Fair.

* Lihue, Kauai. On Saturday, September 16, 9 am to 1 pm at KCC Kauai Community College, with the opportunity to test-drive electric vehicles.

On a related note… As part of October’s National Energy Action Month, mark your calendars for the Clean Energy Fair on Saturday, October 7 at Kahala Mall in Honolulu, 10 am to 3 pm, with interactive displays, live entertainment, keiki games, and a show by Mad Science of Hawaii at 10:15 am.

Do you drive an electric car? If yes, what made you go electric? If not, what holds you back? What does your car say about you?

Planning 21st century Kalihi

September 5, 2017

My memories of growing up in the Kalihi-Kapalama area in the 20th century: going to Woolworth’s for Icees at the Kamehameha Shopping Center… spending a summer at the YMCA in Kalihi… taking the #2 School-Middle bus around town… borrowing books from the Kalihi-Palama Public Library…

Now we’re looking to Kalihi in the 21st century. This summer the Hawaii Office of Planning and the Kalihi 21st Century Transformation Initiative’s Vision Committee released the “21st Century Kalihi Transformation Initiative: Vision Report 2017.” The report is based on work by the public and private sector committee members and community input at three public informational meetings, and spotlight’s the top priorities of economic development and housing.

Mahalo to the Vision Committee, which designed an impressive planning process. Community meetings began with the 5 Pillars of Aloha to ensure that participants are welcome and inclusive; and included a graphic recorder for visual note-taking, maps with sticky notes that highlight action items and priorities, word-clouds, and wish cards for community feedback. I especially like the comments by children.

I learned that 72% of Kalihi residents are renters (compared with 45% of Oahu residents) and 30% of Kalihi residents take public transportation to work (compared with 6% of Oahu residents). This tells me that transit-oriented development will help Kalihi – though the Honolulu rail may not take residents where they need to go.

I learned that as of November 2016, 10 alternate sites for OCCC are being reviewed. Construction costs alone are projected to be $433 million to $673 million, depending on the site selected. I have to wonder why it took over a decade to reach this point.

I learned about the Kalihi-Palama Action Plan (2004), which envisioned possible uses of the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) site. The most practical proposal is a Multi-Cultural Market Place with an open market, playgrounds, pedestrian paths, outdoor stage, and green spaces. The most inspirational proposal is the Lo‘i Kalo Cultural Park with a taro patch, hale pili (grass house), and cultural classes and workshops for schools, residents, and visitors – a gathering place and center of learning.

Lo’i Kalo Cultural Park, Kalihi-Palama Action Plan (2004)

At the end, I was left with two basic questions that are beyond the scope of the Vision Report, but that need to be answered:

How will Honolulu pay for redevelopment in Kalihi? The Vision Report deliberately avoids the financial impact of redevelopment, but we need to know how much our vision could cost, and who will pay for it. Will we raise property taxes, general excise taxes, gas taxes, or transient-accommodations taxes? Could we create a public-private real estate investment trust (REIT), which would allow people to invest and “own shares” in Kalihi?

How can we ensure that residents aren’t priced out of their homes? Whenever we redevelop deteriorating neighborhoods, there is the danger of current residents being unable to afford their homes. Could we limit property tax increases so that residents are not hit by large increases in property values and taxes? Will affordable housing be “affordable” for 10, 20, 30 or more years? Could we create “affordable” leases for small businesses, so that neighborhood businesses have a chance?

What are your stories about growing up, living, working, or doing business in Kalihi? What do you envision for Kalihi in the next 50 years?

“Clouds of Memories” by Mona Kahele

September 2, 2017

“To have Hawaiian blood is to be Hawaiian, but to love one another whether Hawaiian or any other ethnicity is also to be Hawaiian at heart.”

“Clouds of Memories” (2006) by Native Hawaiian historian, educator, and community leader Mona Kapapaokeali‘i Kapule Kahele (1921-2006) offers an autobiographical glimpse into rural Hawaiian life and stories from remote areas, specifically life in South Kona from the 1939s to the 1990s. It is a collection of diary entries, legends learned from Kahele’s grandparents and kupuna, and line drawings and maps. The book is divided into 6 sections: diary entries, early years, place names and legends, Miloli‘i stories, Miloli‘i legends, and fishing traditions.

“My material comes from my relatives on a hearsay basis and to me it is just like the clouds: they can paint an interesting story,” Kahele writes. “The clouds tell me more things than you can ever imagine. The formations that take place are out of this world.” She reveals, “All through the years, I kept these stories as my treasures. To me they mean a lifetime that cannot be repeated.”

Throughout “Clouds of Memories,” we see Kahele’s love of writing and her keen interest in writing down legends and stories to share (her grandmother Lokalia would save old scraps of paper and iron them for Kahale to write on). We feel her matter-of-fact acceptance about adapting to harsh living conditions, such as an abusive father, poverty, little food or water, and hard work. And we witness Kahele’s compassion, her devotion to children (from 1947 to 1959, they raised 23 children!).

Through diary entries, we learn that Kahele was born at Nāpo‘opo‘o (“the great dents,” named after two hollows in the land that were once fresh water ponds) in South Kona, Hawaii in 1921. Kahele’s family relied on the land for food and trade, and she grew up in relative poverty. According to hānai tradition, she was fostered with her father’s adopted mother, Tūtū Mele, and rescued from abuse by her paternal grandmother, Tūtū Lokalia. They moved to Hilo and stayed with relatives, until an uncle helped them find a small home of their own.

She married Abel, who came from the fishing village of Miloli‘i. They adopted a son and daughter, Danford and Dolly. They farmed coffee, avocados, and mangoes, until Kahele became sick and temporarily wheelchair-bound.

Kahele retells stories learned from kūpuna in Miloli‘i in 1946, written in Hawaiian and translated into English. The stories and legends reinforce Hawaiian beliefs about that the gods and ‘aumakua were benevolent and would help people, like the stories of Ānuenue, a princess of the rainbow; Kanuha, whose ‘aumakua rescued him from the people of the sea; Lilinoe and Waihua‘i, who were transformed into pools so the people would have water; and Kū‘ula and Hinapukui‘a, who heard the prayers from a poor village and helped them because of the villagers’ kindness. These stories reinforce the Hawaiian values of self-sacrifice and compassion in response to suffering and misfortune.

For me, Kahele’s acceptance of poverty and abuse is distressing, but the reality that young women and girls were abused by Westerners in the 1700s is heartbreaking. Kahele states with brutal honesty that in Nāpo‘opo‘o, they talk about “…the women folk who were enticed and taken aboard ship by Captain Cook’s men where they were raped and beaten. Some of the women were beaten badly because they wouldn’t do what the sailors wanted them to do. Some of them died and were thrown overboard into the water… Some of these women became pregnant. Others became very sick…” She states clearly, “Some young girls were stolen by the crew and taken aboard, raped, and held captive.”

Through her memories, we can experience the fear of family, the land that is not prosperous, the wrong-doings against the innocent, contrasted with Kahele’s own life in her caring for children, caring for the land as a farmer, and her determination to make sure that voices are heard.