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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 11, 2006

In Waikiki, mindfulness is key

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Laurie Tam's first-graders head back to class at Waikiki Elementary. Elements of the school's "Mindful Thinker" philosophy are printed on the walkway ceiling.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Where: 3710 Leahi Ave., at the base of Diamond Head

Phone: 971-6900

Principal: Bonnie Tabor, for four years

School nickname: The Mindful School

School colors: Blue and white

History: Waikiki School started in 1880. Duke Kahanamoku attended the school.

Testing: Here's how Waikiki Elementary students fared on the most recent standardized tests.

Stanford Achievement Test: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils scoring average and above average, compared with the national combined average of 77 percent. Third-grade reading, 98 percent; math, 96 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 83 percent; math, 93 percent.

Hawai'i State Assessment: Listed is the combined percentage of pupils meeting or exceeding state standards, and a comparison with the state average. Third-grade reading, 81 percent, compared with state average of 51.8 percent; math, 53 percent, compared with 28.5 percent. Fifth-grade reading, 69 percent, compared with state average of 55.6 percent; math, 50 percent, compared with 25.5 percent.

Computers: Computer lab has 35 computers and each classroom two computers.

Enrollment: 343 students, with room for 363

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Waikiki Elementary isn't your average public school; its "Mindful School" philosophy sets it apart.

Just ask Bonnie Tabor. As principal, she exemplifies The Habits of the Mind, a program the school adopted more than a decade ago and has incorporated into every part of the campus. The program acts on the premise that the springboard to learning is a common language and mutual respect for one another.

"The strength of our school is the faculty," Tabor said. "During our inspection today I was so proud. The climate here is so strong, so unified."

Under the program, students are encouraged to remain focused, think before acting, listen with empathy, cooperate, strive for accuracy and precision, and venture out. They are encouraged to use all of their sensory pathways to gather data, to be original and to resist complacency, Tabor said.

Other schools in the state have adopted parts of this philosophy into their character education, Tabor said. But many have not integrated the philosophy into their daily math, science, language arts and other subject area curriculum as Waikiki Elementary has, she said.

  • What are you most proud of? "Waikiki School is a caring, cohesive school where mindfulness is integrated into the curriculum and resonates in the lives of all those involved," Tabor said. "We are all proud to be a part of this Mindful School initiative. It really works."

  • Best-kept secret: "Waikiki School is often mistaken for other schools in the Waikiki area," Tabor said. "We are different because we have the best group of parents, teachers and staff, including the world's best cafeteria that was recognized as an outstanding state team in 2005."

  • Everybody at our school knows: "We know everyone, their families and what kind of food they like even the teachers' favorite books," she said.

  • Our biggest challenge: "The challenge is to acquire and maintain funds to keep all the members of our superb, deeply committed staff," Tabor said. "With the weighted student formula, Waikiki is one of many small schools that stand to lose essential teaching positions due to insufficient funding."

  • Special events: Quarterly mindful assemblies that recognize students and their families for exceptional displays of mindful behavior; annual T-shirt design contest; three days at Camp Erdman for grades 4 to 6; "eat with your keiki" luncheons.

    Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com.