LAHAINA - The winds of change are upon us; the 21st century is now. Education has taken a new tack, with Sacred Hearts School (SHS) seventh- and eighth-graders spreading the word. At the helm is educator Mary Anna Enriquez, using the A'o Hawaii teaching curriculum as her guide.
The results have been amazing, and Enriquez is justly proud to overflowing.
"In February, one of my students (JP Hill) and I will be traveling to Anchorage to present at (ASTE) Alaska Schools for Technology Education. The theme is Nature, Learning and Technology. We presented in Oahu at Schools of the Future (SOTF) at the Honolulu Convention Center, and the president of ASTE was in the audience," Enriquez told the Lahaina News. "He heard our talk at the end, he came up and asked us if we would present at ASTE.
Nicole Slusser (right) and Krizhna Bayudan speak to the Kamehameha Schools Maui students.
"I wrote a proposal, and it was accepted," she continued, "and JP and I have an all-expense paid trip to attend."
"We were given a one-hour time and an additional three-hour time to share with Miki Tomita, a brilliant educator /(Hokule'a) crew member from Oahu, where we are to speak on Polynesian voyaging."
From Room 8 at SHS, Hill has become an ambassador of what he calls the "abnormal curriculum."
Hill will also be speaking at TEDxYouth at Seabury Hall in April.
"He was asked by a woman in the audience at this same talk for SOTF in Honolulu in October. What is amazing to me is that another SHS student, who is now a sophomore at Seabury, is also going to be speaking at TEDxYouth - two SHS kids," Enriquez boasted.
On Wednesday last week, the Lahaina News joined the crew of young diplomats on a learning journey to Kamehameha Schools Maui in Pukalani.
It was an eye-opener watching the spirit of the Polynesian Voyaging Society (PVS) and the mission of the Worldwide Voyage come to life before the 50 fourth-graders at the Hawaiian school campus.
Enriquez was the lead speaker on "how Hokule'a has changed our education."
Specifically, she described her commitment to the PVS and the 61-foot, double-hulled voyaging canoe Hokule'a, as she and her sister ship, Hikianalia, embark on a 36-month global trek.
The mission is to "re-empower educators and youth to embrace teaching and learning as a dynamic process that draws on indigenous knowledge and values infused with the development of 21st century skills Through STEMS (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and social studies) and culture-based education, A'o Hawaii promotes real world application of interdisciplinary content, skills and dispositions required for college, career and community readiness."
Enriquez's students are A'o program "poster children," epitomizing the success of the teaching method in a presentation, sharing their learning experience with the elementary students at Kamehameha Schools.
The message was enlightening.
Eighth-graders Chanel Charbonnier and Erin Tsue were jointly outspoken about the benefits of the new learning methods.
"We discovered that the key to a true education was to be open to new ideas of learning," Tsue said.
"Instead of writing about textbooks," she continued, "we go on the Internet and learn about the world around us - like we read Yes magazine, or we go to NPR radio station, or we do Ted Talks, and we share about those."
Charbonnier followed up with the detail: "We have figured out a way to merge our left and right brain, developing both our creativity and intellectual side of our mind," she said.
The SHS Class of 2014 has developed a website. Blogging is part of the exercise.
"Blogs replace essays," another eighth-grader advised, adding, "We do blogs to spread our news out to the community.
Field trips become "Learning Journeys," with student-created video documentaries charting the expeditions.
In Room 8, they will be following the Hokule'a and Hikianalia via the Internet as they sail around the world.
Enriquez invited the Kamehameha Schools fourth-graders to join them on the 46,000-mile passage.
"What I am going to teach you guys what to do for the next few years is how to follow the canoe. Every single one of you are going to be crew members, and the crew members that you will be is called on-land crew members," she explained.
"We even have a site... where you can actually feel like you're going on the canoe," she commented.
"What you will be able to do by the end of the time that we leave today is that you'll have a better feeling for what it's like to live on board the canoe for maybe 30 days at a time to learn about way-finding... to see if you just get that little bite that makes you want to know more about the canoe; and, quite possibly, I could be looking at somebody's eyes in here that, 15 years from now, you could be on the canoe that's in Lahaina, the Mo'okiha o Pi'ilani, and you could be sailing to Tahiti."
"This is a real possibility," Enriquez added in her challenging, animated and alluring style.
Cynthia Lallo, a philanthropic consultant by trade, was one of the parent escorts.
All four of Lallo's children, ages 20, 19, 16 and 11, attended or currently attend Sacred Hearts School. Her daughter Isobella is in the seventh grade.
"They didn't all start in kindergarten, because we have only been here for eight years; but all of the kids have been to Sacred Hearts School and through Mary Anna's class," she said.
Lallo is an advocate of the Enriquez teaching method.
"Mary Anna always provides the extra piece of education, always the push, always outside of the box. Always new, but based on love and history; and she creates this relevancy for the kids that they find inspiring in a very big way. I think the Hawaiian voyaging piece is another tool and another vehicle that she uses that really brings that spiritual component to the education piece. It is a perfect fit," she remarked.
"It gives us a chance for us to be teachers, and then for the teachers to become students or facilitators; so we all learn from each other," in true A'o Hawaii learning fashion, Tsue said.
The Hokule'a and Hikianalia set sail for the South Pacific in May of this year; the first leg of the historic passage.
The public can join them. To learn more, visit hokulea.org.