Bill Wiecking, assistant chairman of the 2008 Hawaii Preparatory Academy Student Congress on Sustainability, discusses the advantages of the school's new WeatherHawk weather station -- the first of its kind in the state -- with honors physics students Samantha Johnson, Sung Hyun "Sam" Nam and Kanita "Fai" Chonecadeedumrongkul. Wiecking and his students have set up weather stations around campus as part of a renewable energy monitoring program.
A student congress will explore ways to be energy efficient
Bill Wiecking speaks with the fervor of a visionary. His office is cluttered with products of his efforts to achieve energy independence for Hawaii Preparatory Academy: a box of recycled paper, models of windmills, and monitors measuring and recording weather data for analysis of the feasibility of solar and wind power on campus. His office is a veritable scrapbook of HPA environmentalism; it is no wonder that this is the nexus for the 2008 Hawaii Preparatory Academy Student Congress on Sustainability.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy
Will Sims and Amelia Evans
65-1692 Kohala Mountain Road
Waimea, HI 96743
Ka Makani (The Wind)
590 (grades K-12)
The congress offers an opportunity for students from Big Island schools to come together and share what they have been doing to achieve sustainability. Scheduled for June 8-11, the event will feature workshops, guest speakers and teleconferences to educate participants about the issues involved with "going green" on the Big Island.
"It's important to get people with different perspectives on sustainability," Wiecking explained. "My main concern is energy use, but yours might be recycling or local agriculture. All of these aspects tie in to what we are trying to accomplish."
The event will feature hands-on workshops highlighting everything from biofuel and electric car technology to local organic farming. Guest speakers include Ka Kahakalau, director of Kanu o ka 'aina New Century Public Charter School, who will speak on the connection native Hawaiians had with sustainability; KTA Executive Vice President of Perishable Operations Derek Kurisu; and trained climate-change speaker Alan Nakagawa, who was certified by the Climate Project to present a talk based on Al Gore's documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."
The event will include conversations with Mathis Wackernagel, executive director of the Global Footprint Network and co-creator of the Ecological Footprint, and teleconferences with student groups in Alaska and Germany to help establish international connections to similar groups working to increase awareness of climate change and its implications.
Additionally, students will take an excursion to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, exploring their renewable energy projects and looking at how companies such as Kona Blue, Cyanotech, Koyo Water and Big Island Abalone incorporate ecologically sound business practices into their everyday operations.
There will be many opportunities for the representatives to interact with students from other schools, tackling issues of sustainability and ecological protection.
"Our main objective is to facilitate student networking and sustainability awareness," stated Karen Yamasato, assistant chairwoman of the HPA Go Green committee and one of the original organizers of the congress. "So much of what we do with other schools is competitive, such as sports or academic competitions. The congress is not about competition; it's about building good relationships and working together to solve a common problem. It's easier to enact change when you have a network of support."
The idea for the congress was developed during a spring 2007 collaboration with HPA faculty, students and parents. Out of these meetings arose HPA's Five-Year Sustainability Action Plan, which calls for the development of greater community interconnectivity to conquer the challenges of developing sustainability, one aspect of which was the Student Congress.
"This island should be a model for sustainable energy use," said Wiecking, who also is assistant chairman of the school's Go Green committee. "We have wind, solar, geothermal. Sustainability can be done here."
The congress is only a part of HPA's commitment to increasing sustainability. HPA has undertaken numerous capital improvement projects, including the installation of solar streetlights and solar hot-water heating systems. An ozone sanitation system also was installed at the pool to reduce the use of chlorine. Energy-efficient compact fluorescent lights, biodegradable cutlery, nontoxic cleaning products and recycled paper for the school's copy machines all are becoming widespread around campus.
The greatest number of environmental projects comes from the students. The Environmental Club, Go Green Committee and students from independent science research classes have made the most valuable contributions toward HPA's sustainability goals. So far, they have begun data collection of energy use and weather data, researched and built prototypes for numerous renewable energy technologies, including growing corn and using it to produce ethanol, and have developed a successful campuswide recycling program.
Student projects will ramp up in fall 2010, when the HPA Energy Lab begins operations. The Energy Lab, still in its planning phases, will have a lab for development and construction of new sustainability projects and a monitoring center for tracking energy use on campus.
"We want to create a global example for sustainability," said Wiecking. "We want to show that sustainability is possible, so people can use our ideas and adapt it to the challenges that they have in their own settings."
With words like these, it seems like Wiecking's dream of a sustainable future might indeed be well on its way to becoming a reality.
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Wizards win their way to Japanese excursion
Quick: What is Japan's highest mountain, and how tall is it in meters? Can you name one professional baseball team in the Tokyo area?
As HPA freshmen HanaSara Ito, Jhernie Evangelista and Kelsi Nishina could tell you, Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest mountain at 3,776 meters, and the Yomiuri Giants are Tokyo's professional baseball team. Ito, Evangelista and Nishina answered these questions and more on their way to a first-place finish at the Japan Wizards Academic Team Competition held in February on Oahu.
Thirty-seven teams from 22 schools across the state participated in the competition, which tested students' knowledge of an extensive range of topics about Japan and the U.S.-Japanese relationship, including arts and culture, daily life, economics, politics and government, history, geography, transportation, sports, language and pop culture.
The challenging, fun-filled competition, sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Hawaii, is held to motivate students throughout Hawaii to develop lifelong skills in research, teamwork, personal responsibility and operating under pressure.
The top-five-scoring school teams for Levels Two and Three and the top-scoring team for Level Four won a five-day all-expenses-paid trip to Japan to be taken this summer. The HPA team won in the Level Two category, along with King Kekaulike High School on Maui. Other winning teams were Punahou School, University Lab School (Level Three) and St. Francis Academy (Level Four).
"HanaSara, Jhernie and Kelsi worked very hard during many (lunch periods) and during the winter holiday," said Yuta Masuda, HPA Japanese teacher and team adviser. "I look forward to planning the trip with our team."
Headed to Tokyo are HPA's HanaSara Ito, left, Jhernie Evangelista and Kelsi Nishina, with adviser Yuta Masuda.
This year, winning team members will visit high-tech companies and environmental management centers in Tokyo to learn how the Japanese use high-tech solutions to solve society's problems.
Masuda expects the students to have the sort of enlightening cross-cultural experience the hosts of the contest hope for. "To actually visit the country is so different from textbook study," he explained. "To go there will be really eye-opening."
The taste of Japanese culture is not the only new experience for the team members, all of whom are residents of the small town of Waimea on the island of Hawaii. "I do not want to take them to the countryside, although it is beautiful. I want to show them the real big city," Masuda stated. "It will be a huge change but a good experience." He is looking forward to taking the students to a professional baseball game and allowing them to discover the bustle of a major metropolis, in what he calls the New York City of Japan.
This is the second year that HPA has participated in the contest. "Students from the past year came in and talked to this year's team," said Masuda. "This year we were ready."
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How does HPA’s international school environment prepare you for college?
Freshman day student
"There is an opportunity for everyone to make new friends and experience new cultures, which helps make you a well-rounded student because you learn to adapt to the challenges of interacting with people from many different countries."
Junior day student
"HPA prepares us for college by providing students with unique opportunities to explore different cultural practices and beliefs every day. We have opportunities to create relationships with people from many places around the world."
Sophomore day student
"Going to a school with students from all these different cultures already has helped me socialize with people everywhere I go. I've been out of the country many times, and having this experience has helped me greatly and will continue to help me in college."
Freshman boarder from Saipan
"In Saipan, I didn't know a lot of people from other countries. Going to HPA is like going to college. I have friends from Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hawaii. Now, if I visit these other countries, I can call my friends and see them."
Junior boarder from South Africa
"As an international student, being away from home and everything you're used to is really hard, but you adapt. I get to meet people from around the world, and that's most likely what college is going to be like, so being at HPA is great preparation for college life."
Sophomore boarder from Saipan
"Being at HPA gives me the opportunity to meet many different people from all over the world. This has helped my social skills and has made me more open to different cultures, which will help me adjust to a diverse college community."
Senior day student
"HPA has given me the opportunity to learn about students from many different places and cultures. Having this experience with people from different cultures has helped me become a better person overall; it's given me a glimpse into what college life might be like beyond the Big Island."
Senior boarder from South Korea
"The opportunity to meet students from many other countries will help me to adapt to the diverse community in college."