Monday, May 17, 2004

Hawaii's Schools

Teachers Frankie Lucas, rear left, and Kateri Inglis help seniors Rebecca Toh, Jayme Shimomura and Courtney Haia prepare for their Senior Project presentation in Ohio. The girls are wearing their matching senior aloha wear. At the laptop at left is Power Point assistant Dee Sugai.

Proof is in their projects

Maryknoll students in the Essential School have demonstrated their understandings in many ways over the past four years -- in groups, portfolios and other exhibitions.

The Senior Project is required of all seniors before they receive their diplomas and is evidence that they can do important things beyond earning credits and sitting in a classroom.

Students demonstrate knowledge, creativity, and ability to do research spanning several disciplines.

The Senior Project is both interdisciplinary and research-based. The exhibition concentrates on process and product as students maintain a research log or binder with information on the selected subject, personal reflections and observations, a letter of intent, a research plan, an essential question and a reflection paper. This part of the graduation exhibition must demonstrate individual analysis and effort.

Another key component is a presentation that includes a brief summary and discussion of the essential question, reading and research, and is given to an audience of teachers, students, parents, and interested community residents.

The Evaluation Committee is made up of three Maryknoll faculty members, two juniors or seniors and a community expert in the chosen field. The students defend their presentations by responding to questions from the Evaluation Committee.


Ceramics fan turns out
to be chip off the old pot

In late June 2003, I started my Senior Project without knowing it. I began to throw pottery on the wheel after an encounter my dad and I had with a local celebrity. We were visiting a relative at Fort Shafter Arts and Crafts Center when my father greeted and started to catch up with a longtime friend and colleague, Jeff Chang.

I didn't know at the time who Jeff was or his role in the development of local ceramics, but he was helping my godmother, Val Kono, in throwing a rather large vase, about two feet high from the base. It looked like a fun hobby, and later that afternoon my dad picked up a piece he had thrown.

It turns out my parents had owned a pottery studio, Polynesian Potter, in the '70s and were quite skilled potters. I found out that week that many of the ceramic art pieces around my house were actually made by my parents. This sparked my interest, and I began to take lessons in both throwing and hand building.

Senior Andrew Nelson used his ceramics skills to make 12 pieces for his project, from a teapot to sake bottles.

Hand building was a bit easier but yielded considerably more asymmetrical pieces. Wheel throwing, on the other hand, brought simple cups and bowls that I now use in my home. Wheel throwing also felt natural to me. With very little instruction and practice, I understood what I could do, what every movement I made did to the clay, and what the clay looked like inside and out.

My understanding of clay became an important ability as the size and difficulty of my pieces grew. I began to develop a preference for Japanese pottery with its earthy tones and classic, sometimes distorted, shapes. I read numerous books and spent over 100 hours throwing, trimming, glazing and firing 12 pieces to put into my project.

My Senior Project mentor, Troy Kamiya, and I decided that showing the pieces was just not enough, coming up with the idea of making my first gallery opening. This took a little more preparation but had many benefits in the end.

Several relatives and family friends attended, along with my advisers and some other students that had heard about my project. Michael Baker, the president of Maryknoll, was also in attendance for the showing. I quickly discussed each piece and gave them some time for questions afterwards.

My project was well received and I was able to sell all but two pieces. Every pot in the show was special to me because of the work involved, and I am glad to have shared that with the people that have supported me.


Senior Project inspires group
on trip to Ohio

Three seniors traveled to Columbus, Ohio, last November to present their Senior Project at a teachers convention. Teachers from all over the United States traveled to Columbus for the Essential Schools Fall Forum, where they attended numerous workshops over three days.

Jayme Shimomura, Rebecca To and I presented our Senior Project, entitled "20th Century Women Writers of Color," to an audience of about 30 teachers. Nervous doesn't even begin to describe the way we felt before the presentation.

We were shy at first, but soon the crowd began to participate. What we thought was going to be a boring workshop turned out to be one of the best workshops of the convention.

Every time I tell someone about our presentation in Ohio, they say, "Oh, yeah," but I'm not sure they really understand its significance.

Last year Kateri Inglis taught "20th Century Women Writers of Color," an elective English course open to juniors and seniors. The course helps students explore their cultural identities through the literature of women writers of color. Poems, essays, and short stories were analyzed to help students understand the true meaning of the literature. Students begin to better understand and appreciate their own culture as well as the cultures of others around them.

Each student leaves this course with a personal sense of being and understanding, which is why this course has been so successful and why Jayme, Rebecca, and I chose this path for our Senior Project.

We began work on the project before the 2002-03 school year ended and continued to work through most of the beginning of this school year. We met during lunch every day to prepare all of the activities we were going to do during the workshop as well as the tools and materials we needed.

With the help of our friend Dee Sugai, we made a wonderful PowerPoint slideshow. Dee also helped with preparing CD-ROMs to give to all of the participants in the workshop. She compiled the student works, rubrics and other lessons for the course into one CD.

After months of preparation, we were finally ready. We left for Columbus as nervous wrecks, but we came back more confident in ourselves, as well as in our project. After about a month, we set up to present again at the People of Color Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Again, we participated in a national convention that draws people from the entire United States and we did just as well as we did in Ohio.


About ‘Hawaii’s Schools’

Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is Maryknoll High School.

Faculty adviser: Kateri Inglis

Next week: Campbell High School

Spartan Facts

Founded: 1927, by the Maryknoll sisters, a Catholic mission society from New York

Colors: Maroon and gold

Nickname: Spartans

Other notes:

» Maryknoll has more than 100 teams in 21 different sports.
» 100 hours of community service are required of all students for graduation.
» All classes have computers and printers; a laptop program was established in 2000.

Compiled by Kamakana Fitchett and Craig Arakawa


Project reflections

Juniors and seniors talk about
their Senior Project topics.

Caitlin Ruprecht
"My Senior Project was about the different aspects of beauty and how cultures use painful procedures to obtain their own images of it. At first, I thought that this project would be a hassle, but in the end, I really was thankful for this experience because it not only taught me how to write and present a large project but it also taught me about different cultures and their customs, beliefs, and reasons for the painful procedures towards 'beauty.'"

Jasmine Trias
"For my Senior Project, I chose the composition of a song, because of my love of music and my interest in singing. After I completed it, I realized my research helped me to grow immensely as a singer, and helped me to better understand the history of music and the process of creating a song. It was an invaluable experience."

Kamakana Fitchett
"When I first found out about Senior Projects, I was a little wary of such a huge task. Our advisors told us the project should be something that means something to you, that touches your heart. So I chose to do my Senior Project on my hero, my grandfather, Raymond Lutz Sr., a 'China Walker,' a B-29 bomber pilot who was shot down over China and walked back to his base. His story is my inspiration in life."

John Pinto
"The Senior Project looks challenging but a great opportunity to show off my work. So far I plan to do my Senior Project on the psychological aspects of life during war. Currently I am creating a short movie about the Vietnam War, to possibly add to my project. I chose this project because of the impact of today's current struggles in Iraq and around the world."

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