George Lucas Educational Foundation

STEM and the Spirit of Aloha: The Initiative Continues

February 15, 2008

This is the second post in a two-part entry. Click here to go to part one.

One month after the second gathering of the STEM steering committee, some of its members, supported by Ted Liu (from the state Department of Business, Economic Development, and Tourism), met with Governor Linda Lingle, Lieutenant Governor "Duke" Aiona, and Linda Smith, senior policy adviser to the governor, at a meeting that lasted almost two hours. The governor provided feedback on the grassroots initiative and encouraged the steering committee to build a foundation to connect, counsel, and assess the efficacy of STEM projects as models for other communities in the future.

The next day, leaders from thirty-seven corporations and community organizations (including the chamber of commerce, which alone brings 1,200 member businesses to the STEM table) formed working groups in the following areas: partnerships, integrated curricula, equity and access, communication, excellence, and sustainability. This gathering began with a structured session in which all the participants worked through what a vision of aloha would look like in this STEM endeavor. This vision has set the tone for the working groups as we continue to discuss the expectations for and resources of our diverse island communities.

The working groups meet several times a month and post their minutes on the STEM Web site for viewing by other members and the general public. I am honored to co-chair the STEM Equity and Access Working Group with Judy Olson from the Curriculum Research and Development Group (CRDG) at the University of Hawaii's University Laboratory School campus. (The school is featured in this article, originally published in Edutopia magazine.)

In May, our working group will partner with Adele Wada, a leader from Hawaii's federally sponsored GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), to present a strand attached to the May 10 GEAR UP Conference at the Hawaii Convention Center. The strand will have two concurrent parts of five sessions each, one part focusing on STEM best practices using technology and the other on STEM research in algebra, English as a Second Language, special education, teacher retention, and student achievement.

The major sponsor of the STEM strand at the GEAR UP conference this year is Texas Instruments. I would publicly like to thank Rick Tunstall, the TI representative, who has offered invaluable advice on choosing speakers and taught us about STEM technology (the TI-Navigator System for the classroom). He has also given us a small amount of financial support to make this first attempt at a STEM Hawaii strand a reality in such a short time. Our working group is fortunate that Tunstall is working with the CRDG on a National Science Foundation grant in the area of formative assessment and algebra -- which will be the topic of my next blog, so check back later for more information.

The STEM steering committee in Hawaii encourages all readers of this blog to go to our Web site and review our materials. Please create a login if needed; your information will be kept private. Many of the documents are in Acrobat Reader format for easy viewing. We want to know how you use what we have developed in order to set up a STEM-focused learning community. In addition, we look forward to talking with you through this blog about STEM projects around the nation and how you create and sustain community support for these projects.

And who knows? Maybe one of these days you will come to our islands and attend a STEM Hawaii conference to see firsthand how effective the spirit of aloha has been in building community support.

What do you think of our STEM initiative? Share your thoughts, and tell us about similar efforts you're familiar with.

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