Teaching Music through Projects, Challenges, and Portfolios: What School Could Be in Hawai’i

This is an episode from Josh Reppun’s “What School Could Be in Hawai’i,” a podcast on the people, technology and methodologies pushing the mantle of education in the 50th state. This episode features an interview with Zach Morita, music teacher at Niu Valley Middle School in Oahu, Hawai’i.

Zach Morita, a music teacher at Niu Valley Middle School on the island of Oahu in Hawaiʻi, is a relatively new teacher, and is bringing a fresh approach to music education. On this episode of “What School Could Be in Hawai’i”, host Josh Reppun explores how Zach is using a multi-tier approach to teaching music, including project-based, challenge-based, portfolio-based learning. His students are collaborating with each other and members of the outside musical community. Along the way, he is employing Flipgrid, and other educational technologies, to give his students voice and a place to archive artifacts of learning.

Zach is a recent winner of the 2018 Farmers Insurance $100,000 Dream Big Teacher Challenge. He has taken student performance groups to New York, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Texas. In the summer of 2019, the Niu Valley Middle School Concert Band performed at the Australian International Music Festival in the Sydney Opera House. He has conducted and directed student groups at the 2017 New York Wind Band Festival in Carnegie Hall, the 2016 National Conference on Percussion Pedagogy, the 2014 American School Band Directors Association Conference, and the 2012 Winter Guard International Percussion World Championships.

Active in the Hawaii music community, Zach is past Treasurer and ongoing Solo/Ensemble Chairperson for the Oahu Band Directors Association, Associate Music Director of the Honolulu Wind Ensemble, and President/Founder of the Hawaii Youth Percussion Ensemble. He is sponsored by Zildjian Cymbals, Vic Firth Sticks & Mallets, Grover Pro Percussion, and Pearl/Adams Musical Instruments. Zach is also an active member of the Hawaii education community on Twitter.

Podcast episodes are edited by middle school students in the Kealakehe Intermediate Hawk Media Productions program. 8th grader, Mei Kanada, is podcast post-production team leader.

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