Palolo Elementary students, parents, staff and community members celebrated the dedication of the school’s new Center for Creative HeARTS (CFCH) at a special event on Friday evening. Funded by a $90,000 School Design Innovation Grant, the CFCH repurposes an existing section of the campus to energize students with new tools and innovative resources.
Additionally, in an adjacent courtyard is a newly constructed Learning Garden which includes a weather station, erosion table, dryland taro patch, and STEM watering system that will provide hands-on lessons about environmental sustainability and stewardship for all students. Grades K-1 will care for and operate the weather station; grades 2-3 the erosion table; and, grades 4-5 the watering system and taro patch. These stations will be open for cross-grade level study and experimentation, and as students transition to the next grade level, each class of students will share their knowledge and teach the incoming class how to care for their new station and be responsible stewards.
“Palolo Elementary’s new Center for Creative HeARTS is an amazing example of what can be accomplished when Student Voice and Teacher Collaboration combine to create innovative School Design improvements,” said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto. “Our teachers and administration worked together with students to help develop dynamic new learning resources that will not only improve the academic curriculum, but also give students a true sense of place and connection to their community that will endure for generations.”
The most visually striking part of the CFCH is a beautiful new outdoor Mele Mural, envisioned and painted by Palolo Elementary students in collaboration with the Estria Foundation, local artists, cultural advisors, and Iolani School student mentors. The mural depicts historical stories and features of Palolo Valley and focuses on themes of community responsibility. Measuring nearly 70-feet wide, the mural adorns three classrooms that will be used to integrate a variety of visual and performing arts across all content areas and through the school’s social emotional learning (SEL) Choose Love program, while the Learning Garden will serve as a dedicated space for the garden projects.
“These projects will engage our students with hands-on environmental learning activities that give them a direct connection to the Palolo Valley community and its rich history,” said Principal Holly Kiyonaga. “We wish to thank our partners and design consultants HHF Planners, Oceanit, the Estria Foundation, along with our students, parents, teachers, staff, and community who volunteered their time and hard work to make the CFCH and Learning Garden a reality. Allowing the students to envision key elements of the CFCH, such as the mural, has given them a tremendous sense of pride and ownership in seeing that their ideas are truly valued. These gifts of learning were collectively and collaboratively designed and developed through the hearts, minds, and hands of our Palolo ‘ohana.”
Palolo Elementary was one of 13 schools to receive a Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) School Design Innovation Grant in March 2018. The grant opportunity is open to all HIDOE and charter schools with the capacity to improve student achievement and academic success.