Students Plot New Course For Learning

Melissa Moniz
Wednesday - November 11, 2009
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Island Pacific Academy’s Astronaut Academy students and teachers gather regularly for nighttime learning under the West Oahu skies. Photo courtesy of IPA.

Inquiry-based learning is the 21st century model that fuels Island Pacific Academy’s new Astronaut Academy.

Math teacher Jennifer Higa and science teacher Jennifer Bradley collaborated on their courses to allow students a hands-on approach to learning. Instead of the traditional approach of doing a project to show what was learned, for the seventh-graders at IPA, the project is the learning.

“The Astronaut Academy is a class, and what we have done is designated a time for science and math,” said Higa. “Michelle and I combined our lessons, so, for example, they will learn about math data analysis and then do a lab experiment, which involves collecting data.”


The Astronaut Academy, a pilot program that began in August, focuses on astronomy and physics as the vehicle to learning. As Higa explained, “It’s about how to design an experiment and figuring things out, because in the world we’re living in, life is coming so fast that it’s become much less necessary to have a body of knowledge than it is to have the skills to gain knowledge.”

The students’ next big project is Jupiter: Project 24. To celebrate Galileo’s discoveries Nov. 22, a worldwide antenna network supporting the exploration of the solar system will be used for 24 hours of continuous radio observation of the planet Jupiter. The goal is to search for possible nonthermal variability from causes such as fluctuations in solar activity and other possible changes.

“Our students are going to be involved in an antenna session, and they are so excited,” said Higa.

The public can learn more about the Astronaut Academy and other programs at its open house from 2 to 4 p.m Sunday.

IPA sits directly opposite of Kapolei Library and instructs about 650 students in grades pre-K to 12.

For more information, call 674-3563.

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