Column by UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
UH Hilo Today
UH Hilo: An active partner in K-12 Education
The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo has never been an “ivory tower” university. From its beginning, UH Hilo has been deeply grounded in the community we serve and especially committed to programs that help prepare school children for a lifetime of learning.
To carry this tradition forward, I’ve begun a series of discussions with island education leaders about the needs of our schools and how UH Hilo might be more involved. I’m impressed with the passion everyone shares for giving our island children the best possible education at every level, from K-12 right up into higher education and beyond.
I’d like to share some of UH Hilo’s K-12 programs and partnerships that support K-12 education.
To begin with, UH Hilo has two outstanding teacher education programs, one in our Department of Education and one in our College of Hawaiian Language. Both help address Hawaii’s shortage of qualified teachers. We offer a master’s degree in education as well. UH Hilo also works with local teachers to improve student writing through the Lehua Writing Project, a federal grant that partners faculty from UH Hilo with K–12 schools.
High school principals have told me they are interested in increasing the number of students who take college-level courses while still in high school. UH Hilo’s existing Running Start program encourages academically talented high school juniors and seniors to supplement their regular high school work with college courses. We’re discussing ways to extend the benefits of this program around the island and increase participation overall.
Because a love of science must be sparked at an early age, UH Hilo is leading the way to encourage kids to explore science, technology, engineering and math, known as the “STEM” subjects.
Graduate students from UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science master’s program have been working with K-8 teachers to develop a curriculum focusing on Hawaiian marine and terrestrial environments. This grant-funded program is called PRISM: Partnerships for Reform through Investigative Science and Math. Inquiry-based lesson plans are now freely available to help excite students about science by doing science.
UH Hilo’s ‘Imiloa Astronomy Education Center welcomed 12,300 students in grades 1-12 from 62 Big Island schools over the past two years thanks to the Adopt-a-Class Program and a generous $637,000 grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.
Our Pacific International Space Center for Exploration Systems is a another good example of collaboration that benefits our school children. PISCES partners with international scientists and engineers in designing “next generation” technology for future space missions. K-12 programs are built right in.
UH Hilo’s annual Astronaut Ellison Onizuka Science Day, coming up on Saturday, January 22, offers exciting interactive workshops for students in grades 4-12. It’s an excellent venue to capture the interest of future university students and to let them know about UH Hilo’s cutting-edge science programs.
Native Hawaiian K-12 outreach also enriches our island communities. Nā Pua No‘eau Center for Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children, a statewide program based at UH Hilo, serves K-12 students of Hawaiian ancestry with activities that embrace Native Hawaiian history, culture, values and language.
One of the most successful K-12 programs in the state is the Hawaiian Medium Laboratory Schools, facilitated by UH Hilo’s College of Hawaiian Language and Aha Punana Leo, a non-profit dedicated to Native Hawaiian family-based education. Laboratory schools are on the islands of Hawai‘i, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i.
These are just some of UH Hilo’s programs and partnerships helping to support K-12 education. Together, we are making a difference in the lives of our young people, but I know we can do more. Our island principals have been telling me they would like UH Hilo students to tutor in the public schools, perhaps through an after-school program. We’ll continue exploring such options in the new year.