symposium graphic

On June 27, 2019, a goal two years in the making was achieved. The STEMS² Initiative hosted the first annual STEMS² Symposium.

The vision for the STEMS² Symposium was born in the summer of 2017 when students from the second cohort of the Curriculum Studies STEMS² master track (CS STEMS²) were invited to share their master’s thesis work at the Mālama Honua Summit. The summit itself was created to celebrate the return of Hōkūleʻa and Hikianalia from their voyage around the world. Dr. Tara O’Neill, the designer and director of CS STEMS² and the overall STEMS² Initiative, can still vividly remember the sense of pride she saw in her students as they presented to individual community members, local organizations like the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), and national organizations like Patagonia.

Dr. O’Neill explained, “It was clear that future CS STEMS² students would gain from having an authentic place to present their master’s thesis work, and I wanted to ensure that all future CS STEMS² cohorts had the chance to see their work as one part of the community that makes the larger STEMS² Initiative. These students are not just completing program assignments, they are part of a larger movement”.

The purpose of the 2019 STEMS² Symposium was to create a space in which the larger STEMS² Network, made up of teachers, students, policy makers, cultural practitioners, and STEM and STEMS² enthusiasts, could gather to learn with and from each other. This one-day learning journey was open to all educators and anyone interested in promoting STEMS² education. Travel stipends were provided to support neighbor island Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE) teacher participation. Presentations highlighted local and national work that focuses on interdisciplinary place- and culture-based education. Knowledge sharing took place in multiple forms including posters, talk story sessions, workshops, performances, paper presentations, and community partner/exhibitor tables. View the detailed program of presentations.

Community Partner tables
Participants engaging with community partner/exhibitor tables

The overarching goal was to create a dynamic learning environment grounded in the value of A‘o (to teach and learn in a reciprocal relationship) and with over 150 participants from across the state (Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island, Maui, Kaua’i, Molokaʻi) and around the world (Canada, Ohio, Illinois, Maryland, Washington and Texas), that objective was more than met. Presenters included CS STEMS² alumni from cohorts one and three; CS STEMS² cohort four who completed their master’s program this summer; education researchers representing local, national, and international universities; and multiple community partners.

Lisa Uyehara, of the COE Center for Disability Studies, summed it up best: “I left today feeling grateful towards you and glad that I participated. I met some super cool people who I think I can partner up with in the future for different parts of my grant. I got the mana’o of folks in the field and their frustration too. All in all, it was a great day. I hope you do this again next year because it totally MATTERS!”

Group photo of teacher with students
Kumu Bella Finau Faumuina (center) and Kaneohe Elementary students presenting at the 2019 STEMS^2 Symposium

STEMSwould like to mahalo the following individuals and organizations:

  • Jon Matsuda and Jodi Chee from UH Outreach College who provided invaluable logistical and personnel support.
  • Auntie Pua (Pualeilani Santos) and Tino Ramirez of the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies who created a welcoming and open environment that allowed the practice of A‘o to flourish.
  • Starbucks Coffee for graciously donated coffee throughout the day.
  • Da Spot for providing a lunch of wonderful locally grown nourishment to all participants.

Finally, mahalo nui loa to the UH Mānoa College of Education faculty, staff, volunteers, and all presenters and participants whose energy, knowledge, and true embodiment of A‘o created an absolutely wonderful experience.

We are excited to already be planning the 2nd annual STEMS² Symposium which will be held June 25, 2020. Save the date!

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