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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 6, 2001

Waimea students get education on wheels

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dominic Bannister, 19, from East Palo Alto, Calif., works with Thomas Trujillo, 14, of Waimea, a student at West Hawai'i Exploration Academy, in a summer program using the "Just Think Mobile."
It used to be a plain yellow school bus. But now, instead of seats, there are iMac computers, scanners, color printers, digital cameras and video editing equipment. And instead of plain yellow, there are brightly-colored graphics inside and out — the creations of 14 teen artists from the Big Island.

The result: the "Just Think Mobile," a high-tech bus that will serve the Waimea area of the Big Island as a movable multimedia learning center for children from elementary through high school.

The mobile learning center is a project of Friends of the Future, a nonprofit Big Island community group, and the San Francisco-based nonprofits Just Think Foundation and salesforce.com Foundation.

"It's one way to wake them up to media, and how pervasive it is and how much it controls them, and then to give them the tools to create their own messages," said artist and teacher Peter Antrim Kowalke, project team leader. "It's all in this swirling possibility time right now where people are submitting proposals."

Kowalke said the range of project ideas is endless, and will include work with researchers on environmental concerns, health awareness, even creating videos about projects as concrete as building a sundial.

"The first project will be with Waimea Middle School on Sept. 20, when the Board of Education is meeting up there," he said. "The project is called 'I'm a Part of Nature, Nature's a Part of Me,' and it's about seeing themselves connected to nature through art and science. They're going to be creating a self-portrait using visual metaphors. ... Kids feel disconnected from nature now, and we're pointing out that we're all mostly water and calcium, like shells and trees."

The mobile media center is partly a response to the Big Island's geography and lack of a bus system, which makes it difficult for children to get around, especially if they live in remote areas. To reach Kowalke to schedule a visit for school, after-school or community events, call (808) 885-8336. He's headquartered at Tutu's House, a Waimea social service center.