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Hawai’i Prep Academy – A Leader in Sustainability on Campus

By Nicole Swedlow (Executive Director of Compass Education, Compass Facilitator)

Compass Education has the opportunity to work with some amazing schools around the globe and the Hawai’i Preparatory Academy (HPA) nestled between the Kohala Mountains and the slopes of Maunakea on the big island of Hawai’i, proved to be even more spectacular than we imagined.  Although the natural landscape was a wonderland of green pastures and rainbows, it was the school’s commitment to sustainability and the immense steps that they had already taken that was the most inspiring element of our visit.  

Compass Education facilitators, Gitanjali Paul and Nicole Swedlow, visited the village campus at HPA to offer two days of professional development to more than 75 educators from the upper school and lower school campus. Each day began with an introduction of the history of the area and an invitation to learn more about the Hawaiian culture that provides the foundation for all aspects of the school. Of particular consequence was the school commitment to their recently adopted sustainability plan, represented by the Mālama Kaiāulu, a cohesive community developed vision representing care for community, land and spirit. The Compass Education course that followed, Introduction to the Compass Tools: Systems Thinking for Sustainability in the Classroom, offered educators simple, concrete and easy to use tools that would support them in their mission to bring sustainability into the classroom.

The HPA educators were engaged and welcoming and not afraid to discuss hard topics as we practiced and modeled using the tools in the workshop. Masked and socially distanced we worked together to better understand the elements of systems thinking that leads to more sustainable outcomes and greater opportunities for our students to develop as changemakers. After the workshop, Greg McKenna, the sustainability resource director offered our team a tour of the campus to learn about the work that was happening and this is where our appreciation for the school turned into admiration and awe.

As sustainability educators, we have had the opportunity to visit many campuses and to witness great actions towards sustainable outcomes. Sometimes these actions occur with pure grit and limited funding and in other occasions, they are a result of impressive resources and a commitment to do well with them. In the case of HPA, their dedication to steward well the land that they had been gifted, was evidenced in spectacular facilities such as the award-winning Energy Lab, directed by Bill Wiecking, and in simpler ones, such as the student capstone project to create a shared community space along the river that runs through the property.  The drive to truly integrate sustainability in the everyday lives of the students was evidenced in the campus gardens and in the impressive technology tracking system which allowed students access to all energy information on campus for use in science, math and other projects.

Congratulations to the team at HPA for doing the work that we know needs to be done in the world.  If you care about real actions for sustainability on campus, we give our highest recommendation to this impressive team of committed educators who are making it happen!

Fred Wawner – Interim Head of School

Ka’ai Spencer – High School Principal

Glenn Chickering – Middle School Principal

Amy Cole – Director of Studies

Dora Kwong – Lower School Principal

Greg McKenna – Sustainability Resource Director

Bill Wiecking – Energy Lab Director

Kumu Kuwālu – Hawai’i Studies Leadership

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