Teachers can now receive STEM training in isles

Teachers can now receive STEM training in isles

By Jayna Omaye / .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

A new partnership between the University of Hawaii-West Oahu and a nonprofit that offers science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum programs will open the door for more students to gain valuable skills in fields where jobs are expected to grow over the next several years, officials say.

STEM curriculum, offered by Project Lead the Way, an Indiana-based nonprofit, is taught at several of Hawaii’s schools, with the hope of expanding to more campuses.

The organization offered its first teacher training program in Hawaii last school year to accommodate the growing interest in the curriculum, said Jennifer Cahill, the nonprofit’s senior director of media and public relations. Training sessions are mainly held on the mainland.

Now through the partnership, the university’s West Oahu campus started hosting training sessions this summer, serving as the only program affiliate statewide.

“We did see ourselves as a presence in growing STEM,” said UH-West Oahu spokes­woman Julie Funa­saki Yuen. “Us being able to offer that here is, I think, a huge benefit for schools.”

Funasaki Yuen said several schools that previously adopted the curriculum, including Aiea, Kaimi­loa, Ewa Beach, Maka­kilo and Barbers Point elementary schools, are in Central and West Oahu, adding to the convenience for accessible training options for teachers and schools.

During this upcoming school year, several other schools opted to implement the program, including Kapo­lei Middle, Ilima Intermediate, Campbell High School and Kapo­lei High, according to Funa­saki Yuen. Cahill added that about 54 teachers are receiving training at the West Oahu campus.

“We think it’s a worthwhile investment,” said Campbell Principal Jon Lee, whose ninth-grade teachers will be teaching Project Lead the Way’s biomedical and engineering programs this upcoming school year. “We’re hoping to build it every year.”

Lee added that because several feeder schools will be offering the curriculum, students would benefit from the continuity of the curriculum from middle to high school.

PLTW programs reach more than 6,500 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide, serving public, private and charter schools. The curriculum provides students with a hands-on approach to science and math courses.

The goal is to prepare students for college and STEM careers and to develop other essential skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, Cahill said.

“Through the curriculum, students develop a very solid foundation in STEM,” Cahill said. “(But) even if a student doesn’t pursue a STEM degree in college … they’re developing skills that will be valuable no matter what sector they choose.”

At Kaimiloa Elementary in Ewa Beach, the PLTW curriculum was taught to fourth-graders beginning last school year. Principal Debra Hatada said students have benefited from the STEM-based program, adding that 20 teachers expressed interest in teaching the curriculum for this upcoming school year.

“What we did find was that the students were really, totally engaged with the lessons,” Hatada said. “It’s very hands-on.”

Hatada said several costs to implement the program were covered by the district, saying it would be difficult for the school to pay all of the fees.

Annual flat fees charged to schools include $750 for elementary and middle schools and between $2,000 to $3,000 for high schools, Cahill said. Schools pay an additional fee to the affiliate university for training, as well as any other costs such as equipment.

Training for high school teachers spans two weeks for a yearlong course, one week for a nine-week middle school course and three days for elementary schools, which typically offer 10-hour module courses, Cahill said.

The U.S. Department of Commerce projects that the number of STEM jobs will grow nationally by 17 percent from 2008 to 2018, compared with 10 percent growth for non-STEM fields. In 2010 the department estimated 7.6 million workers were in STEM fields nationwide, which represented about 1 in 18 workers.

State Department of Education spokes­woman Dona­lyn Dela Cruz said that although it is too early to comment on PLTW’s benefits due to its early implementation stage, she said positive results in student learning have been reported.

Additionally, education officials in Hawaii hope to prepare students by providing them with rigorous, accessible STEM-based curriculum.

“I think STEM is a growing kind of field in terms of where a lot of the job opportunities are. So we wanted that opportunity for all our students,” said Lee of Campbell High.