Monday, February 25, 2008


One of the most wonderful parts of living in Hawaii is the richness and beauty of it's land. We've been fortunate to have now visited five of the eight major islands. Of the three not visited, one is an uninhabited former bombing range, another is privately owned and inhabited by only native Hawaiians, and the other is Lanai, a former Dole pineapple plantation (the only one open to the public).

Courtney and I spent the three days of President's Day weekend on Molokai, population 7,400. The island stood in stark contrast to the others we've visited - both in its lack of people, and in its arid landscape. Most of the island is covered in agriculture, brush, and cattle. It has no obstetrician, only midwives, and no Wal-Mart! We rented an enormous house with seven of our buddies, spending most of our time out on the huge lanai (balcony/deck), watching humpback whales play in the seas between Molokai and Lanai.

On our final day there, we visited Kalaupapa peninsula, an isolated piece of land on the northern coast of the island, where for more than fifty years Hawaiians with leprosy were dumped to fend for themselves. Twenty-seven patients still live in the colony, along with about 150 National Park Service and Department of Transportation (who run the tiny airport) workers. There's one subsidized grocery store, and one gas station. The only way in is a 1.5 hr hike down the tallest sea cliffs in the world, by plane, or by boat. You can learn more about the history of the colony by watching the movie Molokai. Click on the slideshow below for captions.

Monday, February 04, 2008

9,000,000 Words

I don't brag about my students enough, so this here's a braggin' post.

We have a reading program called Accelerated Reader (both Courtney and I used this program in elementary school). The students read a book, then take a computerized comprehension test. The program assigns them a certain number of points based on the reading level, length of the book, and how well they did on the test. It's a phenomenal way for me to track what/how much they are reading, as well as how well they're understanding it. It's also a great motivation tool for the students. It's primarily used by 3rd-6th grade at our school.

Today I was looking at our school's "dashboard" and saw that my fifth graders are averaging 28 minutes of reading a day (almost all of it done outside of school) compared with 21 minutes by the fourth grade (of which I teach 15), and 11 minutes per day in sixth grade. My 38 students have read a total of 9,000,000 million words this year - the school's total is 17,000,000.

We're making lots of progress, and it's exciting. It astonishes me more and more that there are those who believe students like mine aren't as capable or somehow don't deserve as much as students in wealthier communities. An excellent education should be a RIGHT for all children in this great country.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Plastic Bags

Last year Courtney and I realized how many plastic bags we were bringing home every week from the grocery store. We re-used them for random things, but we couldn't get rid of them fast enough. Finally, this summer, we found a beach bag on sale at The Gap, and started taking that with us to the market and grocery store. The difference has been phenomenal. These bags are such a nuisance and detriment to the environment, and the stores seem ready and willing to give you hundreds during each shopping trip. We now have two re-usable cloth bags (and another set waiting for us on the mainland) that we use for every grocery trip.

Ireland has recently imposed a $0.33 fee for each plastic bag, and this New York Times story tells about its impact - they saw a 94% decrease in plastic bag usage within weeks.

Published: February 2, 2008
The Irish have embraced the use of cloth bags to carry groceries, encouraged by a 33-cent tax on plastic ones.