Ma ka hana ka 'ike (in working, one learns)

This blog offers a glimpse into the journey of the MidPacific 
students in the MPX project-based learning program.
Please follow the class on twitter and instagram for more fun!
Thank you,


posted Nov 16, 2015, 10:09 AM by Heather Calabro

Last week the students conducted great socratic circle discussions on their latest reading of The Spanish Tragedy. The students are challenged by the play and are increasingly comprehending. The beauty of the socratic circle discussions, is that the students can help each other through the tough spots, as well as freely share their opinions (like "OMG I can't believe that he did that!", haha). Some of our more reserved students are starting to come out of their shells during the socratic circle discussions and for that, I am most thankful and proud! 
In Humanities, the students continued to make progress with their Renaissance historical work: History Day documentaries that will be entered into the school's contest. 
In the Humanties-STEM joint venture, the teams are making great strides bringing their hydroponic designs to life. Also, the classes took another field trip to Mari's Gardens to continue to learn all the ins and outs of modern farming BY DOING. Each team has a specific topic that they are investigating while at the farm as well as through database research. The students really enjoyed transplanting Manoa Lettuce seedlings into hydroponic channels inside the greenhouse this time around.


posted Nov 6, 2015, 5:35 PM by Heather Calabro

It was a bit of a short week here at Mid-Pacific with the Schools of the Future Conference occurring on both Tuesday and Wednesday, where the Mpx teachers present each year. In Humanities, the students worked on their History Day documentary projects. This assignment requires research and analysis of historical information. The students have chosen topics from the Renaissance era that particularly interest them. Their final products will be entered into the school History Day contest. They also began reading and discussing The Spanish Tragedy, to dovetail with their History Day work.
In the Humanities-Stem realm, the students took another field trip to Mari's Gardens. They had an action-packed day there, and utilized the experts to gain information and insight on their year-long research projects. Please check out the photos and captions below to get a feel for the students' time on the farm.

The students checked on the fish that they caught, sorted, and moved a couple of weeks ago. They got to see that the sorting and new tanks are providing the fish better growth, with less feed, which effects both efficiency and marketing.
The students checked on the carrots that they planted during the first field trip on the farm. Being beginners at cultivation, they didn't evenly space the seeds, resulting in uneven growth.
Expert Mr. Lau showed the students how small the carrots are because they are fighting for space because of the uneven spacing. The students were able to learn from their mistake. The students are still going to get to eat these carrots, but Mr. Lau explained that they won't get them in December, as planned, but instead likely February because of the mistake.
The students worked inside one of the greenhouses to harvest cucumbers. The students learned a lot of information about what greenhouses do for certain plants, the role they play in pest control, and the role they play in environmental control.
The students harvested cucumbers and learned all about marketing. Cucumbers are graded before they are sold to grocery stores. It is very important to harvest cucumbers that are straight, a certain size, and to handle them very carefully. Also, every hour that the cucumbers are not refrigerated cuts one day of their shelf life. 
The students planted avocado trees in an area on the farm that was previously dead space, but now home to drainage trenches for the new tanks for the fish they sorted and moved a couple of weeks ago. 
The new tanks are draining surplus wasterwater into trenches. The avocado trees will take the nutrients from the surplus wastewater and grow! This is efficiency! This is sustainability.
The students prepared beds of coconut husk that will grow microgreens. These microgreens will be grown indoors under high tech LED lights in stacked aquaponic systems. This facility is going to be inspected next week and certified organic!
Expert Mr. Lau teaches the students about the height of the LED lighting and the coconut husk beds the students prepared and installed. The distance from the light decreases exponentially, which really effects the type of plants that can be grown in the stacks.


posted Oct 31, 2015, 12:40 PM by Heather Calabro

In Humanities, the students began a new unit. The Renaissance Unit. The students used class time this week to explore videos, conduct research "scavenger hunts", and songs about the different aspects, to give them an introduction to the period. They will be creating documentaries to submit to the History Day Contest as part of this unit, but the real fun will be reading The Spanish Tragedy, and writing and performing a revenge play of their own, which will culminate in an exhibition of course.
In the Humanities-Stem venture, the students made great strides beginning their hydroponic gardens. Models and scale drawings (blue prints) have been approved and the groups got to work bringing their design ideas to fruition. The students also use the "work time" to conduct original research for their Mari's Gardens Project. Work should be challenging but also fun! I have included snapshot of one group's process from research to construction-prep below, in addition to some work photos.


posted Oct 25, 2015, 5:45 PM by Heather Calabro

The students did an absolutely wonderful job at their first Humanities exhibition of the year. The students hosted nearly 100 parents, faculty, administrators, and friends to view their "art gallery" of Heroes Project work. While it was special for the students to display their essays and photographs, it was more important for the students to stand and deliver to a variety of people. It was the perfect opportunity for all of the students, who are all across the spectrum when it comes to extroversion, to gain experience public speaking in a comfortable one on one format. I was proud of the individual progress each student made on this interdisciplinary assignment.

In the Humanities-Stem realm, the students are dangerously close to constructing their hydroponic garden systems. Most teams have gotten final approval on their designs, foamcore models, and are finishing their scale drawings (aka "building blueprints"). They've only really had 1 session per week to work on this endeavor, in addition to researching their industry problem and solution project, so I am proud of their progress, and excitement. 
The students finished out the week with another internship field trip to Mari's Gardens. The aquaponic farm and their experts are helping the students to understand every working of the farm from design to seed to harvest to aquaculture to marketing. This week the students culled catfish, learned about why the catfish needed to be culled and transferred, and also split plants and repotted them for sale, learning about the economics of it all. 


posted Oct 17, 2015, 10:53 AM by Heather Calabro

It was a short week with the holiday and Freshmen Picnic, but the Mpx9s were still able to accomplish a whole lot! 
They have started to prepare for their upcoming Heroes Project exhibition. There have been recent changes to Mid-Pacific's recycling policies, so the students made infographics for Principal McManus to use to help the community understand the changes (a couple of which are housed below). 
Lastly, the students made progress on their Humanities-Stem project work, doing heavy duty research in a topic strand that effects the modern agricultural industry, as well as work on finishing their hydroponic garden designs, models, and scaled drawings. We hope to see most of the groups start to build as early as next week. Of course, our (near weekly) field trip to Mari's Gardens, where the students are interning in every aspect of aquaponic farming from a to z, was a huge highlight. This week, the students received a lecture on the fish side of the business, culled fish (thinned the population in one of the tanks because this particular group's low growth to feed ratio), assembled auto-pots, and prepared auto-pots for cucumber seeds. Photos/videos from this field trip can be seen below.
Check out our Instagram account for timelapse videos:


posted Oct 9, 2015, 4:31 PM by Heather Calabro

In Humanities, the students are preparing for their Heroes Project exhibition coming up on October 22nd. The essays are getting their final touches before being sent to the printer with the photos the students took. The remainder of the week was filled with a lot of research. The students explored the history of agriculture and created an infographic with their findings. The students then went to the library for a lesson with the librarian on researching and citing. The relationship they have now formed with the librarian will help them throughout this year as they research a real problem plaguing the aquaponics industry and posing a solution for it (which they will present to parents, community members, and aquaponics experts at the end of the year). 
Two of our recent field trips were captured in 360 degree technology. Do you have the YouTube App on your phone or iPad? Open these two videos using the App, and you will be able to move your phone or iPad all around you (side to side, over head, straight down, etc) and see our field trip as if you were there! Enjoy:


posted Oct 2, 2015, 5:34 PM by Heather Calabro

In Humanities, the students got a lot closer to completing their Heroes Project, which focuses on writing skills and ties their nightly reading to their present life. They also enjoyed putting on Socratic Circle discussions on their assigned text. 
The highlight of this week was certainly the Humanities-Stem field trip to Mari's Gardens. Our partnership on the aquaponics farm is continuing to grow (pun intended), as the students are learning the workings of the facility and are beginning to do independent research that they will later present to agricultural leaders. While there are photos below to document our field trip today, please check out our Videos on Instagram

The field trip began with a lecture from Dr. Kai Fox, an aquaponics expert, on fish and fish breeding
Before beginning our day's work, we checked out our work from last week. The carrot bed already has sprouts and the cucumber auto-pots do, too!
The students worked to clear out another aquaponic grow bed for future planting, and then got to work on sexing the tilapia fish. They all got to work on netting the fish, handling the fish, and identifying the fish.
The students smeared iodine on the fish to help them identify their sex.
In the end, the students were able to have identified this many males! (The females were put into black tanks and therefore were too hard to photograph)


posted Sep 25, 2015, 5:36 PM by Heather Calabro

In Humanities this week, the students continued their reading of Vespasian and conducted really great Socratic Circles. The students really enjoy talking through the novel with one another and I was impressed at how they notice why and when the author goes into greater detail as well as the inclusion of actual historical events. The students also made good headway with their Heroes Project by conducting peer feedback on interview questions and contacting their hero for the interview/photoshoot. To end the week, the classes created skits with historically accurate information about ancient Roman figures. I can't wait to see the performances at the beginning of next week.

In the Humanities-Stem project work, the students conducted research on real-world, commercial-level aquaponics farming issues (from pest control to energy usage). At the end of the year, the students will present their research findings and propose solutions to the owner of Mari's Gardens. This is exciting but difficult work for 9th graders. The classes also enjoyed their 2nd (of many) field trips to Mari's Gardens, one of the world's largest aquaponics farms! The field trip began with a lecture and presentation on the history of carrots, the nutritional value of carrots, and the challenges of cultivating carrots. Then, a demonstration of different methods of controlling the water in an aquaponic bed. Lastly, the students prepared 2 large aquaponics beds (1st video below) and then planted carrot seeds in them (2nd video below). The students will tend to these 2 grow beds in the coming weeks and then enjoy the fruits, actually veggies, of their labor in 2 months. The students then worked in the greenhouse. And lastly, the students cleared an old aquaponic bed, before eating their lunch at the farm. The videos below are timelaspes (sped up).
Preparing the bed by tilling the perlite deep into the bed.
Planting the carrot seeds.


posted Sep 18, 2015, 11:15 AM by Heather Calabro

In Humanities, the students began to work on a new project, the Heroes Project. Students will link their nightly novel reading's theme of heroism to their lives today by identifying a hero and completing a character sketch over the next couple of weeks. 

In the Humanities-Stem project work, the teams all completed their warm-up design challenge, a stool, and reflected on the process through "vlogging" (video-blogging). One team's vlog can be viewed below, complete with a timelapse of their work. Please ask your child at home to see their team's vlog, many of them are quite the hoot.


posted Sep 11, 2015, 3:11 PM by Heather Calabro

We ended last week with our first field trip to Mari's Gardens. The students toured the entire farm and also learned about aquaponics from the owners of the farm. When we return to Mari's Gardens in a couple of weeks, the students will take part in constructing a new aquaponic system on the farm, which will grow carrots.
In Humanities, the students held their Athens-Melos Simulations. The students were divided into roles: Athenian General, Athenian Admiral, Ruler of Melos, or Melian General. They did a fantastic job preparing for their roles by writing opening statements, itemizing their demands, and working with their peers to try to avoid war between the two ancient city states. This student-centered activity helped the students to understand ancient politics, which dovetails nicely with our nightly novel reading of Vespasian. 
We took an extra field trip this week, by walking next door to the University of Hawai'i campus, to the lo'i. It was a great experience for the students to compare modern sustainable farming methods (what they see at Mari's Gardens) to ancient sustainable farming methods (what they saw at Kanewai lo'i). Despite the heat and humidity, the students really enjoyed working in the lo'i and understanding how the ancient Hawaiians were able to use natural resources to feed a population without harming the environment.

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