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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 14, 2010

Shade trees will cool school

By Darren Pai
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Budding gardeners Jordan Clifford and Titan Lacaden help plant trees at Seagull Schools.

Photo by Mike Gonsalves

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Even on a muggy day, the mid-afternoon sun was bright enough that Chuck Larson had to shield his eyes as he walked around the preschool construction site. The executive director of Seagull Schools stopped at an oval-shaped track of concrete that surrounded a newly planted shower tree.

"The kids will ride their tricycles here," Larson explained, "and this tree's going to keep the track shady and cool."

It's one of nine trees five monkeypods and four shower trees purchased for Seagull Schools' new childcare center with a $16,000 donation from Hawaiian Electric Co. Thanks to the landscaping, the school will enjoy more comfortable classrooms and lower energy bills.

"This helps us provide a cool, comfortable environment for our students, which is essential for them to grow and thrive," Larson said.

Seagull Schools designed its new child care center to take advantage of natural cooling as much as possible. In addition to landscaping, large extended eaves reduce heat, while classroom windows are designed to catch trade winds. Ceiling fans keep classroom air circulating, and vented roofs let heat escape, reducing temperatures indoors.

"We're proud to support Seagulls Schools' new project. Not only is it a great place for kids, but it's a great example of energy-efficient design," said Ka'iulani de Silva, Hawaiian Electric director of Education and Consumer Affairs.

The center was designed to provide child care and education for the West O'ahu community and is expected to open in April. It will serve 140 to 150 children ages 2 to 5. Similar to other Seagull Schools, it will also serve as a community center for use by other organizations.

Seagull Schools is a nonprofit corporation that has been developing and operating early education facilities since 1971. With five centers on O'ahu and one on the Big Island, it is one of Hawai'i's largest private sector childcare providers, serving approximately 900 children from mixed socio-economic backgrounds.

"We want our facilities to serve as an example for our students and our families," Larson said.

"Hopefully, they take those lessons to heart and practice energy conservation in their own homes."