IN THE NEWS:  Teachers use heat, humidity to create ‘cool’ lesson plans for students

By Kristine Uyeno

Published: September 8, 2015, 4:58 pm Updated: September 8, 2015, 6:48 pm

The Department of Education is taking steps to relieve teachers and students who are sweltering in classrooms due to extreme heat and humidity.

KHON2 has learned that the department has already purchased 143 air conditioning units from Lowe’s, which was all the company had in stock.

The DOE is now requesting emergency approval to set aside half-a-million dollars to buy even more conditioning units from other vendors to distribute to schools.

No timetable has been set for when and how this will happen.

Since not every classroom will benefit, some teachers are taking matters into their own hands. On Sunday, we met a Kailua teacher who built a makeshift “air conditioner” for her classroom.

Now, we’re seeing how she and others are incorporating the heat into their lesson plans for students.

Every day at Fern Elementary School in Kalihi, Louise Cayetano fills up two buckets with ice and then puts a fan over the bucket with holes. She began this ritual two weeks ago after students complained.

“They were complaining about rash behind their necks for the girls with long hair, some were getting headaches,” Cayetano said.

It wasn’t just her students. “I just felt more like nauseous, more nauseous than anything and so I decided to go into the ER,” she said.

Cayetano said she was dehydrated. After that episode, the first-grade teacher brought in the creations that her son made, which she believes helps the students.

Cayetano incorporates heat and the weather into her lesson plans with the first-graders.

Another teacher at Aikahi Elementary School in Kailua is doing the same by making her cooling equipment a class project.

Cheryl Sanford showed it to KHON2 on Sunday and brought it to school for the first time Tuesday. Instead of ice, it’s filled with frozen bottles of water.

“It worked okay, we got about two degrees of cooling for 10 minutes,” Sanford said.

Her students are working together to make it better.

“We added a more powerful fan, and we also put a fan in front of the unit to disperse the air a little bit better,” Sanford said.

Both teachers have already seen a change in their students. “They were able to focus a little bit better,” Sanford said.

“They’re more refreshed, they’re more focused. Instruction moves on more readily than it was before,” Cayetano said.

The DOE is meeting with health department officials to find other ways to address the heat, in addition to telling students and teachers to stay hydrated.