Mid-Pacific earns high marks from education expert Dr. Tony Wagner - Mid-Pacific Institute

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Mid-Pacific earns high marks from education expert Dr. Tony Wagner

"I have seen the future of education and it is happening right now at Mid-Pacific."

Posted on January 26, 2017 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

Mid-Pacific welcomed renowned education advocate, Harvard University Innovation Lab Expert-in-Residence and Senior Researcher at the Learning Policy Institute Dr. Tony Wagner on Friday, January 13. Wagner spent the entire day on campus, taking a learning walk through Mid-Pacific's preschool and elementary, middle and high schools, and meeting with President Paul Turnbull, Principals Tom McManus, Dee Priester and Edna Hussey, as well as dozens of Mid-Pacific faculty and students. Dr. Wagner is the co-author of the book Most Likely to Succeed: Preparing Our Kids for the Innovation Era together with education philanthropist and venture capitalist Ted Dintersmith. The book was produced as an award-winning documentary film "Most Likely to Succeed" that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, and will air on PBS Hawaii for the first time on February 16. Dintersmith will visit the Mid-Pacific campus and speak with students, faculty, staff and parents on February 21.

Wagner began his day at Mid-Pacific with a roundtable discussion with senior administrators to discuss the school's evolution since his first visit to campus in 2010. The group discussed Mid-Pacific's commitment to the goals outlined in the Mid-Pacific Learner Profile and to the concepts of deeper learning.

"The original greenhouse for project-based, deeper learning is the Mid-Pacific eXploratory program," said Principal Tom McManus. "We have been teaching the precepts of this program through our Kupu Hou Academy professional learning program that not only our teachers take, but has attracted lots of folks from around the community."

Mid-Pacific Chief Innovation Officer Brian Dote also shared with Dr. Wagner one of the core principles of the Mid-Pacific Technology Vision and commented, "Our view is to teach programmatic thinking as a method of solving problems as opposed to learning the syntax of a specific coding language. We are producing students who can decompose a problem using an algorithm in any language. It doesn't even have to require a computer."

Wagner commented, "What's the competitive advantage kids will have going into the workplace? I think it's the capacity to solve problems creatively."

The meeting was documented by high school students in Lance Iwamoto's Video Storytelling and Documentary class who traveled with Wagner throughout the day, filming his discussions with faculty, staff and students, and later sitting down with him for a face-to-face interview at Atherton House.


Dr. Edna Hussey, Dr. Tony Wagner and Dr. Paul Turnbull take a learning walk through the Mid-Pacific Preschool and Elementary School while high school students in the Video Storytelling and Documentary class record video footage.

Together with Preschool and Elementary School Principal Edna Hussey, Wagner visited a kindergarten classroom where students were participating in a lively discussion with Atelierista Jordan Guillory who asked the children how they would represent "analysis" as a picture. As mentioned in Dr. Hussey's weekly blog, Dr. Wagner was truly impressed with the high level discussion and remarked "Symbolic language! Unbelievable! And this is kindergarten!"

He then observed the preschool classroom's morning assembly discussion on the topic of "treasureness" where students talked about their findings from a recent walk around the campus in search of Mid-Pacific visible and invisible treasures. Principal Hussey shared with Dr. Wagner how the process of learning through inquiry begins at Mid-Pacific's Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool and culminates at the elementary school with the fifth grade capstone project. He ended his tour of the elementary school at Pam Jenkins and Sarah McKay's fifth grade classroom where students were working in pairs to come up with essential questions related to a variety of capstone project topics including volcanoes, cancer, living on Mars, and more. In a tweet following the visit, Wagner declared "I'm often asked about models for elementary education. Mid-Pacific is the best I've ever seen!"



Dr. Tony Wagner listens to Mid-Pacific fifth grade students develop essential questions for their capstone projects.

Middle School Principal Dee Priester then took Dr. Wagner on a learning walk through Wood Hall where they discussed how the building was designed to support inquiry and project-based learning, and how middle school faculty teach in a space without walls, resulting in increased collaboration between students, and between the teachers themselves. Together they observed and spoke with sixth grade math students in the Da Vinci Studio who were working on tessellations with their iPads, as well as eighth-graders in Nathan Javellana and Jennifer Porter's science class who were using Minecraft to learn about cell mitosis. Before heading out for his next stop, Wagner paused for middle school students in Leilani Sills' Design Thinking class to complete a 3D scan of him that was later printed and delivered to Wagner as a memento of his time spent with Mid-Pacific students, faculty and staff.


Mid-Pacific middle school student Hobey Moss 3D scans Dr. Tony Wagner in the Chew Technology Center.

The next stop on the learning walk was the Mid-Pacific eXploratory (MPX) program where High School Principal Tom McManus and Dr. Wagner watched students testing trebuchet projects and working together to fine tune designs with the assistance of MPX teachers Dr. Mark Hines, Gregg Kaneko, and Lyssa Zawalski. He spent some time asking students their thoughts on the design process and why learning about the concept of momentum was important.


Mid-Pacific eXploratory high school student Jarren Matsumoto speaks with Dr. Tony Wagner about his trebuchet project.

Following the MPX classroom visit, Dr. Wagner sat down for lunch with elementary, middle and high school faculty from Mid-Pacific's Kupu Hou Academy, and discussed ideas for building trust in classrooms and ways for developing intrinsic motivation in students. "The essence of classroom learning is trust," said Wagner.

In the afternoon, High School Principal Tom McManus led Dr. Wagner through Kawaiahao and Mid-Pacific's School of the Arts where they observed Celia Wright's ballet and Charlaine Katsuyoshi's dance class and discussed the school's many certificate programs and International Baccalaureate pathways for graduation. Wagner later observed and spoke with students in Marcie Moura's Game Design class who were working on character renderings, and then donned the HTC Vive to view student-created worked in Virtual Reality at the Weinberg Technology Plaza.

Dr. Wagner also engaged Mid-Pacific middle and high school students for an hour-long discussion about their thoughts on learning at Mid-Pacific. He asked them what they liked best about the school, what they would most like to improve, and how they feel about their learning.

Mid-Pacific senior Zion Shepherd commented "As Dr. Tony Wagner began to question us and have a genuine human interaction that broke the common society perspective, it began to get all the students heads turning and made them realize that Mid-Pacific has been teaching us in a way that is preparing us for life and work, and not just to get into college or ace a test."

"The fact that students like me were able to meet someone with such great stature was truly a testament to Mid-Pacific," continued Shepherd. "To this day, I could never imagine receiving as much assistance in pursuing my passions and dreams. Every door I dream of opening is unlocked by Mid-Pacific."

Wagner wrapped up the day with a sit-down interview with Lance Iwamoto's Video Storytelling and Documentary high school students and a chat with President Paul Turnbull and all Mid-Pacific principals. "Students asked fabulous questions!" tweeted Wagner following the interview and discussion. "I have seen the future of education and it is happening right now at Mid-Pacific."


In another tweet Wagner gave Mid-Pacific high marks and said, "A truly extraordinary school! Congrats to the Mid-Pacific community for creating an amazing place! Best school visit in a very long time."