The hope and excitement of a new school year could be felt last night at Kualapu’u Elementary School. Before the first day of school today, parents and students had the opportunity to meet teachers, pick up new uniforms and receive a free spaghetti dinner from the school’s Parent-Student Organization.
Also in attendance was Bill Hozey from Verizon Communications. He visited Kualapu’u yesterday to present the school with a $3,900 grant check from the Verizon Foundation intended to develop the school’s third grade science curriculum.
The grant will be used by the charter school’s math and science curriculum coordinator Sue Forbes to train the school’s third grade teachers in hands-on science instruction in the areas of gardening, health and fitness.
“I hope this engenders a love of science in teachers and students,” said Forbes. She will be designing lessons and tests that align with the Next Generation Science Standards. “We will build a curriculum that involves STEM (science, technology, engineering and math),” said Forbes. “Right now we are weakest in the physical sciences, engineering and design.”
Kualapu’u School Principal Lydia Trinidad said the school started looking for grants and partnerships last year that would help build the school’s STEM curriculum. “We are trying to build a sustainable, relevant science curriculum,” said Trinidad.
Because of the state of Hawaii’s emphasis on improving math and reading tests over the past few years, instruction in science has been lacking, said Trinidad. With the school’s “good standing” status after several years of demonstrated proficiency on the Hawaii State Assessment tests, the school can now begin to expand in other areas. “Now that we are OK we can bring in other things,” said Trinidad.
If the science curriculum proves successful, the plan is to expand it into the fourth grade next year, followed by fifth and sixth grades in subsequent years.
“We will be reaching out to all our partners to make this work,” said Trinidad. “This is one of our small, but potentially ambitious efforts,” she added.
Kualapu’u was selected from schools in Hawaii and the West Coast for this Verizon Foundation grant. “We have the infrastructure for this project that can be expanded,” said Trinidad. “There are not a lot of grants out there that we found that are more relevant.”
Although Hozey was not directly involved in awarding the grant, as the associate director of business channels in the state of Hawaii for Verizon, he was apparently impressed by Kualapu’u, Forbes and Trinidad. “When I met her (Trinidad) she was engaged, passionate and driven,” said Hozey. “You don’t see that a lot. With Sue’s enthusiasm and passion, this is a good investment.”
Hozey sees the grant as a win-win for Verizon and Kualapu’u. “They (the students) are impacting our world,” he said. “These kids will be our engineers and scientists, our leaders.” With 86 percent of Kualapu’u’s students receiving free or reduced lunches, Hozey also saw the immediate economic benefit. “The need was great,” he said.
Hozey also announced that Kualapu’u could receive 20-30 new iPad tablets as part of this pilot project. The iPads would be set up to only allow students to access research, science and math websites. At this time, he said he is “95 percent” sure they will get the iPads.
Another part of this partnership with the school could involve Verizon arranging for a free technology forum for the community. This would allow parents and other community members to learn about the latest cutting edge changes in technology and how to safely navigate the increasingly complex world of the Internet and communication technology. As the first communications company to bring true 4G broadband to Hawaii, Verizon is positioned to move forward on the next generation of technology, “whatever that might be,” said Hozey.
This year, Kualapu’u — the largest elementary school on Molokai — celebrates its 10th year as a conversion charter school. The school plans to roll out a five-year fundraising campaign this year to develop a school endowment to help continue funding of programs such as its pre-kindergarten and Extended Learning Time initiatives.