A team of SENCER representatives and practitioners traveled to Hawaiʻi in February and March for ten intensive days of meetings, conversations, consultations, and site visits with the state’s students, educators, community partners, administrators, and public figures. The goal of the trip was for the SENCER team to learn about the important and inspirational work Hawaiʻi does to advance science and civic engagement, and to share methods and resources that SENCER can provide to further support existing and future projects. This article represents the fifth in a series recapping SENCER’s visit to the islands.
Taking a short flight over to the Big Island, the SENCER group visited the University of Hawai’i at Hilo and Hawai’i Community College. At UH Hilo, SENCER met with marine science majors and students in the Marine Option Program for an informal discussion facilitated by Lisa Parr (UH Hilo Marine Science Program Instructor).
The Marine Option Program, or MOP, is a University of Hawai’i system-wide certificate track that provides experiential, hands-on learning opportunities to majors of any discipline. UH Hilo students cited many benefits of participating in MOP, including the experience it provides, the connections built in the field, the marketability for future careers, and the simple fact that it’s fun.
After talking with the students, the SENCER team spoke with UH Hilo faculty about attracting more non-STEM majors to MOP, and the possibility of using either sustainability or the large role culture plays in the program as a thread to institutionalize Applied Learning Experiences, which are important to the University’s strategic plan.
SENCER then had a brief meeting with Matthew Platz, UH Hilo’s Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs, about how SENCER could specifically improve the school’s chemistry curriculum. This was followed by a more detailed discussion with Lisa Parr, who provided feedback on her experience at a SENCER Summer Institute, brainstormed potential collaborations between marine science and general chemistry, as well as between general chemistry and indigenous science, and stressed the importance of working with students and their families to improve knowledge retention and graduation rates.
The SENCER team next traveled to Hawai’i Community College (HawCC) to meet with Keone Chin (HawCC Hawai’i Life Styles Outreach Specialist) and Lisa Kaluna(HawCC Biology Lab Coordinator). Keone and Lisa provided background on HawCC, mentioning that the school offers a natural science degree and is newly supporting STEM, seeing strong interest and growth in biology. Keone then led the SENCER group on a campus tour, highlighting the campus garden and hula practice room, which are regularly used as part of HawCC’s popular Hawai’i Life Styles program, for which farming, fishing, and hula serve as curriculum frameworks. Between the school’s expansion in STEM and the area’s rich, complex culture of civic involvement–the recent debates over the Mauna Kea observatory, for example–HawCC has an exciting opportunity to lead by example as they adapt to the educational and social challenges they face.
To read the previous articles in this series, click the titles below:
- Hawai’i Diaries: SENCER, Sustainability, and the Hawaiian Islands
- Hawai’i Diaries: Faculty Institute
- Hawai’i Diaries: Kapi’olani Community College Site Visit and SENCER Reception
- Hawaiʻi Diaries: Windward Community College Site Visit
Connect with SENCER on Twitter at @SENCERnet.