Students under the guidance of Brian Ichida have turned a makeshift wood shop into a hotbed of creativity and learning.

Wood shop reaches
new levels

The program and its students flourish
under instructor Brian Ichida

Swimmer makes All-American
You asked
About this page

By Edward Afualo
Kapolei High School

On a typical school day, the afternoon sun pelts the plains of Kapolei, Oahu's second city on the Leeward Coast. It is dry and dusty, with a cool breeze every now and then.

This, however, is not much of a problem for Kapolei High School's students. They have air conditioning in every building thus far -- all, that is, except for a makeshift wood shop found in the campus' back parking lot.

Isolated from the buzzing student activities in the center of the campus, the wood shop is home to many dedicated and talented students.

Brian Ichida, the wood-shop instructor, created the temporary yet professional structure in the open with its wooden beams and roof latched onto a big metal box that is his office. It is here, in this arid environment, that one can smell the odors of freshly sawn wood as students work on their impressive creations.

In only three years, Kapolei's wood-shop program has come a long way, overcoming obstacles and breaking new ground through partnerships with local unions, and helping students achieve success in carpentry.

In an effort to boost campus security, wood-shop students helped build a new guard shack at Kapolei High's entrance.

If you were to ask Ichida about the progress of his program, he would tell you that it is still in its beginning stages. There is a lot he plans to do for his program as he takes wood shop to the next level. It has already become one of the more notable programs in the state.

That did not happen overnight, though. Ichida brought this program up after politics and construction deadlines left it dashed on the rocks.

When Ichida transferred to Kapolei at the beginning of the 2000-2001 school year, he was frustrated to find that he would not get his classroom and facilities for quite some time.

After leaving an accomplished program at Nanakuli High School to come to KHS, the circumstances in which he found himself were grim.

Ichida asked Principal Al Nagasako if he could develop his wood-shop program outdoors. Ichida insisted the program could get rolling and that an unused back parking lot would provide a suitable location from which to start.

One outstanding accomplishment from last year was sophomore Richelle Partido's participation in the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America's national competition, in which she placed 21st in the nation for cabinetmaking.

"The girls in the program do just as well as the male students or even better," Ichida said. "They take the time to measure properly, think the project through and then do it."

Last year, the wood-shop students had a unique opportunity to work with the Hawaii Carpenters Union to build the press box, a small building located near Kapolei High's baseball field. This was an unusual partnership because never before had a union paired up with a local high school.

The carpenters came in and did about 15 hours of construction on the project. The students finished the work with help from master carpenters from the community. This created a win-win situation for all because the school got a new press box, and the students gained hands-on knowledge from the carpenters and a chance to work on something real and unique.

The press-box project helped prepare the students for their big project this year, building the guard shack at the school's front entrance. The guard shack was designed as a checkpoint to ensure that people coming on campus are supposed to be there.

The students again partnered with the Hawaii Carpenters Union on the project, with the carpenters erecting the basic structure and the students doing everything from putting up the inside panels to doing the inside trim and the outside paint.

Ichida, who considers his program top-notch on the state level, says that when he gets his wood-shop facility, he will finally be able to get things off the ground. They will focus on fine woodworking, another thing that has never been done before at a local high school. They will produce rockers, cabinets and other items.

Ichida would like to see the wood shop become a community hub and a learning center for students.

"If the funding comes in, this will become the flagship wood shop and be one of the best in the state," Ichida said.

Meanwhile, back in the makeshift shop, students come ready to work and get dirty, even though there are no facilities for cleaning up. The circumstances have toughened the students and given them a sense of the real world on campus. Everything from the wood-shop setting to the variety of students on the site makes for quite an incredible scene.

Ichida is quick to stress that his wood shop is not the traditional wood shop in the sense that students do not just come to work on projects. It is more integrated and more involved. Ichida combines math and English and plans to incorporate physics into his teaching.

The focus of the program is not necessarily to make carpenters. The true goals of the program are to teach accurate work skills, problem-solving skills, a good work ethic, responsibility and excellent observational skills.

According to Richelle Partido, the program "does not just teach you how to work with wood, but also how to deal with life."

"The skills I've learned from Mr. Ichida will always stay with me," she said.


You asked

How does integrated and project-based learning prepare Kapolei students for life after high school?

Charlie Stevens

"They help me by allowing me to speak professionally in public about what I've researched on and help prepare me for a competitive workplace environment."

Jerusha Lopez

"I learned to speak in public by doing lots of presentations, which has prepared me for a career in business."

Krystal Toilolo

"It has helped me to learn to work independently on complex projects, and the rigorous project guidelines have taught me stress management."

Sunny Leutu

"It has taught me time-management skills and how to do formal presentations. It has also helped me to find success outside of athletics."

Nicole Rosette

"It's very unique, and I've learned more practical skills than many of my friends at other schools. I like learning with a purpose and being able to apply what I learn to real life."

David Yogi

"Integrated learning is great because it takes what I've learned in all my core classes and combines the essentials in a project tackling community issues."

Ferelei Zampaga

"The use of technology in projects helps me to express and exchange my ideas in a virtual forum, giving me the skills I need to follow my dreams."

About this page

Each week, Hawaii's teenage reporters and photographers tell us about their high school. This week's school is Kapolei High School.
Newspaper: Eye of the Hurricane
Editors: Edward Afualo and Tiffany Garrett
Faculty adviser: Janet Leilani Ward
Next week: Kamehameha Schools


Hurricane facts

Address: 91-5007 Kapolei Parkway, Kapolei 96707
Phone number: 692-8200
Web site:
Mascot: Hurricanes
Colors: Teal, black and silver
Principal: Al Nagasako
Students: 1,340
Faculty: 87
Established: July 2000
Number of clubs: 15
Number of sports: 52
Average classroom temperature: 74 degrees Fahrenheit

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

E-mail to Features Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Calendars]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --