New lab opens doors to science at Haha'ione school
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer
By Suzanne Roig
HAHA'IONE — A small army of dedicated volunteers is working to put Haha'ione Elementary School's newest education weapon in order.
Over the last two weeks, volunteers have dusted drawers, arranged equipment, taken inventory, and cleared bug and rodent droppings from the school's newly renovated science laboratory. In a few more weeks, the large room will be ready for hands-on science projects.
"Just last year it was all termite ridden, and you never knew when the doors on the cabinets would fall off," said Haha'ione principal Cindy Giorgis. "We put this on top of our priority list."
Haha'ione is one of two elementary schools in the Honolulu district equipped with a science lab. The other is Pu'uhale Elementary School in Kalihi. Both are the beneficiaries of a grant for students in grades five through eight in the Kaiser-Farrington complexes. Haha'ione's $456,000 No Child Left Behind consolidated grant will pay for three years of professional development, technology, math and science integration for the gifted student program.
"Science is so important to children," said Jeff Piontek, state Department of Education science specialist. "Not only will it become a testable area in 2007 for No Child Left Behind, but in early education it helps children become more inquisitive. It helps them to understand the bigger picture of the world."
Haha'ione's science lab — the brainchild of a former principal who had a science background — has been in place for several years. But over the years it fell into disrepair. Three years ago, cabinet doors would fall off in teachers' hands, but the state couldn't afford to fix the lab until last year. About $260,000 was spent on renovations.
Teachers are now blocking out double class time — an hour and 45 minutes — for lab activities in most grades. A team of volunteers will come in before and after classes to set up and the clean up.
Members of the Lions Club Hawai'i Kai chapter and members of a church that uses the school during off hours also plan to assist students during the class time, Giorgis said.
"It will be just like baking a cake," she said. "The teachers can just come in and start up."
But before the lab opens, volunteers still have much to do.
Parent volunteers Gail Fox and Angel Rosenfeld, who come in most mornings after dropping off their children at school, have been sweeping and reorganizing and tossing away old papers and broken equipment. They've wiped down cabinets and tossed out bags of questionable items — some dating back to the 1970s when the school was built.
Glass beakers are grouped together in one cabinet. Gallon-sized jugs of vinegar in another. The vinegar is for earth science lessons during which students mix it with baking soda to make model volcanoes explode.
"There's a lot of neat stuff and a lot of dinosaurs," Fox said.
Rosenfeld, who was a researcher before becoming a full-time mother, said she was glad to donate her time to help promote science and hands-on discovery.
Various curriculums are stored in boxes and assembled by grade level at the rear of the lab. For third-graders, for example, there's a plastic 3-foot tall model that depicts how the human heart and lungs work. The volunteers also found a model that features all the parts of the ear canal.
"It's great that the school has this science lab to spike the students' curiosity," Rosenfeld said. "This will help show them that science isn't untouchable."
Reach Suzanne Roig at email@example.com.