Down to Earth Fundraiser Supports Sustainability Charter School

Photo: Students Examine Seedlings in a Raised Farm Bed

Earth Day is one of our favorite times of year as it gives us an opportunity to celebrate our passion and appreciation for the ‘aina (earth, land). In addition to our commitment to sustainability by promoting and providing organic and natural foods, we also support sustainability efforts in our local community.

Our latest initiative will be a fundraiser for the School for Examining Essential Questions of Sustainability (SEEQS).  It will be held at Hawaiian Brian's on Sunday April 27th from 9:00am to 11:30pm.  There will be yoga, zumba, a keiki workshop (face painting, cooking class, and clown show), culminating with live music performances by the Mike Love Trio and Ooklah The Moc from 7:30-11:30pm.  For event details, Learn more about this event

Tickets for this full day sustainability and health fair event can be purchased at a discount if buying a day pass, otherwise you can buy tickets to each segment separately. All ages are welcome and children under 14 are free, (except for the keiki cooking class). Life Foods will be selling vegetarian burger plates starting at 5pm. The SEEQS students will be giving a presentation from 5-6pm and this portion of the day is free.

“Down to Earth is honored to align ourselves with other community organizations that are concerned about our environment and want to help make a better tomorrow with a lighter footprint. We are very impressed with SEEQS and want to help them succeed and promote the efforts they are making to teach our future generations how important it is to mālama the ‘aina,” says Mama T, Down to Earth Community Outreach Coordinator.  " We partnered with SEEQS when we learned about the school’s mission and efforts for both our keiki and the environment. It's a wonderful opportunity to help out a new charter school in Hawaii whose main focus is on sustainability.”

What is SEEQS?

SEEQS is the newest public charter school in the State of Hawaii. The school offers a rigorous interdisciplinary, project- and community-based secondary school experience that is tuition-free for Oahu families. Located at a rented facility in Kaimuki, SEEQS opened its doors to 6th and 7th grade students in August 2013 with an initial enrollment of 64 students. They plan to expand by one grade—and approximately 60 students—each year and will enroll 6th, 7th and 8th graders for the 2014-2015 school year. By the time it reaches its full size (expected 2020), SEEQS will be a secondary school with approximately 420 students in 6th-12th grades.

Academia meets Sustainability

SEEQS’ unique academic approach incorporates core academics and an interdisciplinary, project-based curriculum designed around Essential Questions of Sustainability (EQS). Core academic courses, designed around Common Core Standards and Next Generation Science Standards, include Mathematical Applications, Scientific Explorations, English Language Arts, and Historical Perspectives. These courses meet in morning blocks and are designed to help students develop the disciplinary skills and tools they need to succeed in their project work. Each semester SEEQS devotes curricular time to examining one Essential Question of Sustainability, such as their current question, “What is the value of plastic?” Students and teachers devote four 2-hour blocks each week to examining the EQS through student-designed projects. Projects culminate each semester in publicly-attended student presentations, where ‘SEEQers’ explain their findings, their project, and their semester-long learning to community members.

Needed Funds

As a public charter school in the State of Hawaii, SEEQS receives per-pupil funding from the State in the amount of only $6009 per pupil, which is not enough to cover the actual costs of approximately $10,000 per student. Unlike Department of Education schools, which are provided a facility, SEEQS must find and rent its own facility. For these reasons, public charter schools—though they are held to the same rigorous academic standards as all other public schools—must of necessity make up the shortfall, so as not to compromise the education they are offering their students.

SEEQS founder, Buffy Cushman-Patz, explains, “Funds raised at the Down to Earth fundraiser will help us meet our budget these first two years as a school, in which our start-up and operating expenses exceed the funding provided by the State. Raised funds would be used immediately to pay for operating expenses including rent and maintenance of our facility, salaries for our expert and passionate faculty, as well as purchase of research-based curricular materials.”

Earth Day is a time to honor and support our commitment to a better environment. However, every day is earth day for Down to Earth as it is an essential part of our mission and vision: E Mālama I Ka `Āina, E Ola Pono - Cherish the Land, Live in Health and Harmony.