UH Mānoa College of Education (COE) Professor Tara O’Neill was awarded a $200,000 grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Part of NSFʻs Rapid Response Research (RAPID) program, funding is given to projects that have an urgent need regarding the availability of and access to data, facilities, or specialized equipment, including quick-response research on natural disasters.
Under O’Neillʻs direction, project Maui Strong will apply trauma-informed STEM education as a tool to support processing, recovery, and healing after the catastrophic wildfires on Maui. Co-directors of the project include UH Mānoa Department of Mathematics Professor Monique Chyba and Associate Professor Yuriy Mileyko as well as UH Maui College Assistant Professor Thomas Blamey.
OʻNeill, who has been with the COE Department of Curriculum Studies for 15 years, serves as the Director of the STEMS2 Masters Concentration and as the Director of the UH Mānoa Learning Assistance Program.
“I have been fortunate to grow with and learn from many students, alumni, and community partners on Maui over the past 13 years,” OʻNeill said. “The community of Lahaina has been a powerful learning environment for five of the nine STEMS2 cohorts and has greatly influenced the development of its framework. This award enables us to offer support to a community that has graciously given so much to so many.”
Employing the STEMS2 Framework, Maui Strong will map the multiple layers of trauma from the wildfires and explore how trauma-informed STEM education may serve as a tool to support those impacted. Over the course of one year, the project will learn from students, teachers, and community members about their needs related to K–12 educational spaces. The primary goal of the first phase is to learn about the communityʻs wildfire experiences in order to inform the intervention design in phase two before implementation.
STEMS2 integrates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with the social sciences and sense of place (S²). The STEMS2 Framework is rooted in connecting with communities, learning from the place, the people, the kupuna (ancestors), and the moʻolelo (stories).