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Friday, 10 May 2013

PBRC Researchers Take the Lead in STEM Education in Hawai‘i

A recent article in Honolulu Civil Beat, "Is Hawaii Doing Enough to Engage Kids in Science, Tech, and Math?", highlights the need for Hawai‘i's schools to improve STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programs in the state, and cites the efforts of PBRC researchers in promoting this type of hands-on, project-based learning philosophy. 

Dr. Kenneth Kaneshiro, Director of PBRC's Center for Conservation Research and Training, has been a long-time advocate for STEM programs in Hawai‘i.  He served as Principal Investigator for the UH Mānoa GK-12 program from 1999-2010, a program funded by the National Science Foundation that established learning partnerships between UH graduate students and K-12 educators.  These partnerships helped foster STEM education through the collaboration between graduate fellows and educators to create hands-on, inquiry-based activities that got the K-12 students excited about scientific research, and had them contributing to solving local issues in evolution and conservation biology.

Dr. Robert Richmond, Director of Kewalo Marine Lab, has been involved in conservation and STEM education efforts at community colleges throughout Micronesia and the Pacific Islands (NSF-ATE Program).  But he notes that the STEM effort needs to begin earlier, at the K-12 level, to get young students engaged in science, and to open their eyes to the possibility of pursuing a career path in STEM disciplines.  Richmond and Kaneshiro, along with others, have been advocating for the development of a STEM Research and Education Center in Kaka‘ako Makai, envisioned as a facility where children can get engaged in science from a very young age.  Support from the Legislature for the project is still being sought.

PBRC continues to be actively involved in pushing STEM education forward in Hawai‘i.  Kaneshiro is helping lead the Exemplary State initiative, proposed by State Adjuntant General Major General Darryll Wong, which will recruit K-12 students throughout the state to help collect real-time environmental data to be used in developing a disaster management system for the State.  Integrating technology into the K-12 curriculum will engage the students in inquiry-based learning with real-world applications, and will help stimulate their interest in STEM fields.