Photo of McKinley High School from Historic Hawaii Foundation
Photo of McKinley High School, courtesy of Historic Hawaii Foundation

Derek Taira, an assistant professor in the College of Education Department of Educational Foundations (EDEF), was awarded a $15K grant from the Spencer Foundation. The funding will enable Taira to design a website dedicated to the history of education in Hawaiʻi, particularly schooling during the territorial period.

Over the next six months, Taira will collaborate with the college’s Distance Course Design & Consulting (DCDC) group to build a website for educators, students, and the general public to visit and learn about Hawaiʻi’s educational past.

“We are delighted that Dr. Taira is receiving his third grant from the prestigious Spencer Foundation for his significant work and research,” EDEF Chair Xu Di said. “Dr. Taira’s work brings a part of Hawaiian history that is not widely known to many of us. His critical examination offers profound insights for Hawaiian indigenous education and its contribution to the world.”

Derek Taira
Dr. Derek Taira

Taira is a previous Spencer Foundation Fellow (2019) and grant recipient for his research project, Forward Without Fear: Native Hawaiians Contesting Americanization in Territorial Hawaii’s Public Schools, 1900-1941. His research reveals a story of Native Hawaiian involvement in education through the examination of Hawaiian language newspapers and petitions, Native Hawaiian student and teacher writings, and legislative journals.

“I am very thankful for the continued support of the Spencer Foundation in advancing historical inquiry into the study of education,” Taira said. “This extension of my previous grant project provides me the opportunity to go beyond an academic audience and make my findings accessible to pre- and in-service teachers and the broader public.”

Plans for the website include a scaffold approach to engage a wide audience through images, audio, video, and brief descriptions of the major events and themes within the period. Then, the website will provide additional resources for audiences who wish to learn more, such as detailed information for students, primary source documents for historians and researchers, and curricular materials for teachers.

“History is not static and undergoes constant negotiation of how and what to tell those in the present about the past,” Taira concluded. “My findings will hopefully provide educators with opportunities to promote student interest and active engagement with learning about the past as well as develop important skills in collecting, assessing, and consuming information.”

Taira’s project has already produced subsequent articles as well as material for an upcoming book.

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