STEMS2 cohort 7
STEMS² Cohort 7 on a learning journey at Kānewai Loi

The College of Education STEMS² Program, in the Department of Curriculum Studies, received a $140,000 gift from the Nakupuna Foundation. The funding will provide tuition stipends for seven kumu (teachers) to complete a 13-month STEMS² Master’s Program in which they will learn to create more culturally applicable contexts for STEM-based learning in Native Hawaiian schools.

A reconceptualized form of STEM education that integrates social sciences and a sense of place with the science-technology-engineering-math construct, the STEMS² Program (spoken as STEMS squared) is designed for educators who want to be transformative, connect with community, and engage students in place and experiential learning.

“A major equity issue in graduate education is financial access,” shared Dr. Tara O’Neill, STEMS² Co-Founder and Program Director. “This gift provides dedicated educators access to an educational experience that may have otherwise been unattainable. The long-term impact will be felt for generations as the recipients become part of a growing network of transformative STEM educators.”

The Nakupuna Foundation is a non-profit Native Hawaiian Organization whose mission is to support the economic advancement of the Native Hawaiian community. The Foundation promotes increased Native Hawaiian representation in STEM industries through investments in culturally-centered programs and other initiatives.

Four kumu from Kamehameha Schools (KS) and three from Native Hawaiian public charter schools will join eight other educators to experience a unique program that focuses on teaching real-world problem solving via project-based and place-based learning within a social context that integrates STEM and social sciences while focusing on youths’ development in relation to their sense of self as local and global citizens.

“Dr. O’Neill and her team have found a way to elevate the value of ‘ike Hawai‘i through transformative educational experiences, and, in turn, help illuminate new STEM career paths for our haumāna,” stated Executive Director of Nakapuna Foundation Lindsay Ahloo. “We see the STEMS² Program as a way for educators to continue their own professional journeys while advancing place- and culture-based teaching in schools.”

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