students on mountain
Cohort 2, sunrise hike to Makapuʻu

Social Science × Sense of Place = S²

STEMS² is science, technology, engineering, math, social science, and sense of place, hence the “S².” At the US federal level, STEM education policy is driven primarily by industry and military needs, and content is framed in an exclusively western lens. However, as communities seek to address issues of climate change, poverty, housing and other issues of equity and access, the question of “whose knowledge matters” arises.

Inclusion of additional letters to STEM have attempted to address the need to broaden its definition–for example, an “A” in STEAM to represent “art”, “‘āina”, “ancestral” or perhaps “agriculture.” While we value the inclusion of “A” for art or “R” for reading (STREAM), there is no need to choose one over the other.  A goal of STEMS² is to move beyond fighting for letters in an acronym. We’ve added social science to recognize the need for inclusion of all knowledge (i.e., language arts, social studies, art, etc.).

Real world problem solving is not limited to content areas. To sustainably solve real world problems, our identities, cultures, and the communities that define us need to inform which problems to solve and how.

Learn more about the S² of STEMS² from director, Dr. Tara O’Neill.

Students in Loi

STEMS2 is grounded in five pillars that result in our embracing of the Hawaiian proverb of Ma ka hana ‘ike – through doing one learns. The five pillars are A‘o, Makawalu, Mo‘olelo, Sense of Place and Advocacy.

A‘o – Teaching and learning is a reciprocal relationship in which one is both a learner and a teacher at all times.

Makawalu – literally meaning “eight eyes”, represents the need to see real world problems and solutions  through multiple lenses and many angles at the same time.

Mo‘olelo – In Hawaiian meaning the “stories, myths, legends, and history”, all people and cultures have mo‘olelo. Valuing the mo‘olelo of people and their places provides expanded breath and depth of knowledge to apply in real world problem solving.

Sense of Place – An identity construct made up of how an individual seeʻs themselves and a space and how they perceive others see them.  Our sense of place drives our actions and/or inactions.

Advocacy – The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Specific to STEMS2 advocacy is related to educational transformation and addressing issues of access and equity.

Five Pillars of STEMS²

STEMS² is grounded in five pillars that result in our embracing of the Hawaiian proverb of Ma ka hana ‘ike – through doing one learns. The five pillars are A‘o, Makawalu, Mo‘olelo, Sense of Place and Advocacy.

A‘o – Teaching and learning is a reciprocal relationship in which one is both a learner and a teacher at all times.

Makawalu – literally meaning “eight eyes”, represents the need to see real world problems and solutions through multiple lenses and many angles at the same time.

Mo‘olelo – In Hawaiian meaning the “stories, myths, legends, and history”, all people and cultures have mo‘olelo. Valuing the mo‘olelo of people and their places provides expanded breath and depth of knowledge to apply in real world problem solving.

Sense of Place – An identity construct made up of how an individual sees themselves and a space and how they perceive others see them.  Our sense of place drives our actions and/or inactions.

Advocacy – The act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. Specific to STEMS² advocacy is related to educational transformation and addressing issues of access and equity.

Ways to Participate

The STEMS² Masters is a 13-month hybrid program offered through the department of Curriculum Studies at the UHM College of Education.

More about the STEMS² Master’s Concentration

STEMS² Professional development experiences are offered to formal and informal educators at the PK-20 level.

More about PD opportunities

STEMS² welcomes engagement with local, national and international individuals and groups. Please contact us to discuss a possible collaboration!

More on Custom and International Collaborations

Why Participate?

Waynele Yu describes how participating in STEMS² changed her life.

Bella Finau-Faumuina describes the impact STEMS² has had on her.