Today’s blog post comes from a school in Hawai’i where students used the inspirED model to change their school’s daily class schedule to a block schedule.

Often, decisions about class and bell schedules are seen as a mysterious process that happens behind the closed doors of the school’s main office. Not so for the inspirED team at Hawaii Baptist Academy!

At Hawaii Baptist Academy (HBA), students reported feeling stressed and overwhelmed with the amount of homework on their plates. In December 2017, they came to an inspirED Youth Engagement and Leadership Lab event and discovered that changing their school’s class schedule was an opportunity to support their peers through the stress they were feeling. Block scheduling usually involves classes doubling in length and occurring every other day. The students at HBA felt that having more time between classes would give them more time to complete assignments.

Upon returning to school, inspirED Educator Advocates Danford Chang, Tara Gruspe, and Dawson Vorderbruegge coordinated for the members of the inspirED team to meet with administrators for preliminary discussions about their idea. Students shared their stories of stress and difficulty balancing their schoolwork. Administrators followed up their conversations with some school climate surveys and ultimately responded by piloting block scheduling for one quarter of the 2017-2018 school year, with the hopes of implementing the new schedule for the following year.

When asked about her thoughts on the process, twelfth grader and inspirED team member Rena Takatsuka related, “The inspirED event was really fun and inspiring; I loved meeting with students from other schools and hearing their ideas as well. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but it encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone. As for the new schedule, overall, it has been a really positive change for me as well as my classmates. As a whole, my classmates and I feel less stressed due to the longer class periods and fewer classes daily.”

As a part of their conversations, school administrators asked the inspirED team if this change would really be influential – how did they know that students wouldn’t put off their work and fall into the same patterns of stress and overwork? The inspirED team served as “ears to the ground” during the pilot, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Students adapted to the new schedule and managed their time well. They reported feeling less stressed and having more balance in their lives. Kathryn Harada, an eleventh grader at HBA, reported her experience: “I thought the block schedule was great! Although classes were longer, I felt that I could manage my homework a lot better especially during volleyball season. I definitely got more sleep than I did last year which I’m very happy about. I’m not so stressed out with having all my classes almost everyday of the week which helped me to focus on understanding what I was learning more than just trying to finish all the assignments due for the next day.”

With such positive feedback and success, the school implemented the block schedule for the 2018-19 school year. Students continue to report feeling less stressed and that they are better able to balance their time between school work, extra-curricular activities, and family. An additional positive outcome is the healthy interactions between members of the school community. Tenth grader Jeremy Oyer emphasized, “The block schedule has helped to lighten the homework load and it reduces our stress because we have less classes on a given day. Looking back on the process of trying to change the schedule, I know that nothing would have been possible without the help of our administrators. I think it is very professional of our administrators to be flexible and willing to try different things with our schedule, listening and meeting with us to hear our concerns. I also think it is very professional of our teachers to be able to adapt to the new schedule and teach for longer periods of time, as it may be difficult to teach for longer periods of time, much like a college class. None of the changes would be possible without the willingness to listen and cooperate with the student body and I am very grateful to our administration.”

To keep the inspirED momentum moving forward, the students have brought one student from each grade level onto the inspirED team, and are working on other ways that they can improve the climate at their school. We can’t wait to see what they’ll do next!