Imua 'Iolani

563 Kamoku Street

Honolulu, Hawai'i

First Grade Tree

October 27, 2017



Among many other things, trees represent growth.  Like a tree, `Iolani is constantly growing and evolving. This is especially true with the First Grade Trees. The First Grade Trees are fabricated trees slated to be built in all 5 of the K-1 buildings.

When `Iolani administrators confirmed the First Grade Trees concept, they didn’t hire professional architects to design the trees. Instead, they turned to who they thought would know best: teachers and students.

Two of the student designers are Ellie Derwenskus '18 and Ashley Pang '18.  Guiding them in their creation are `Iolani teachers Mr. Gilson Killhour (Mathematics), Mrs. Anna Heshiki (iDepartment), Mr. Ryan Roberts (Art), Mr. Taylor Wong, and Mr. Martin Emde (Robotics).  

"Initially we were given ideas and we researched different schools,” said grade 1 teacher Ms. Kori Briones. “A lot of them had a tree or a nest as a centerpiece for their classroom. I think the trees idea just really stuck.  We had a loft for many years.  We really just wanted a gathering for our students."

According to Ellie, the wooden trees will “grow” from a thin base on top of a wooden platform in the middle of two classrooms, and topped with a canopy. It will serve as a creative and fun space for children to play and read.  A prototype of the trees is currently on display in the Sullivan Center 4th floor.  

While  teachers and students are collaborating on the project, it has been largely the students’ job to create the tree design.  

"Ashley and Ellie are in charge of the artistic aspect of the project," says Mrs. Heishiki.  “My primary role in this has been to help fabricate it.”

"I just think it's really cool how the tree is made here [on campus] and not by outside hands," added first grade teacher Mrs. Jennifer Emde.  

  For Derwenskus, participating in the tree design is a wonderful opportunity to do something that she is passionate about.  "I think I'm an artistic person.  I enjoy technical things so I enjoy designing the trunk and the leaves.”  

The full-scale, final prototype of the tree is scheduled for completion and for everyone to see before Christmas break.

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