Mathematician Heeds Call to Return Home to Teach STEM on Maui

Nick Okamoto STEM

NOYCE MENU At a time when many high school seniors in Hawai’i are opting to attend college on the mainland, one prodigal son has returned. Born on the Big Island and raised on Maui, Nicholas Okamoto began his undergraduate studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College and completed his bachelor’s degree at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. His plans were to continue toward a PhD in physics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, but 17 years ago, one little postcard changed the course of his career. “I got a postcard in the mail that I was about to throw away, but it had an unusual math equation that sparked my interest,” Okamoto recalls. “The postcard was looking for mathematically minded people to teach secondary school in New York City.” Math for America A few months later, Okamoto left our verdant islands and found himself gaping at the steel canyons of Manhattan. As part of the second cohort for Math for America, Okamoto would receive free tuition for a master’s in math education at Columbia University plus a …

Teaching in the Land of Rainbows

Aram Armstrong STEM

NOYCE MENU There is a cherished ‘ōlelo no’eau (Hawaiian proverb): “Ole ua,’ole anuenue” (“No rain, no rainbow”). It is through this prism, we shall view teaching in Hawai’i, using the lens of asset framing, a thinking tool that defines situations by their positive aspects and contributions, rather than their problems and deficits. There are a multitude of benefits to teaching in the Aloha State. On any given day in paradise, you are likely to enjoy sunshine and one of 200 varieties of Hawaiian rain from which rainbows are born. From verdant valleys to majestic mountains and even desolate deserts, the diversity of climates is matched only by the diversity of cultures present in Hawaiʻi. Hawaiian cultural values of aloha (love), pono (justice), kuleana (responsibility), and lokahi (unity) create a strong foundation for island living and kinship with the land; ʻāina is ʻohana (the land is home). We love our kumu (teachers) and respect our kupuna (elders). “You Could Be Teaching Here”[Hanalei Elementary School on Kauai  (CC) Wally Gobetz Despite Hawai’i’s abundance of natural gifts, the state education system is struggling …

S.T.E.M. vs. STEM: Moving to a Transdisciplinary Education System

Grant T. Aguinaldo, Envilearn, LLC STEM

NOYCE MENU In a previous post, I explained why, as a scientist, I believe a [transdisciplinary approach is preferable to interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary ones]. That applies whether we’re talking about a particular field of science, teaching methods, or even the certification methods for those looking to teach. There’s a particular irony in academia in that universities produce some of the world’s greatest discoveries and innovations, yet the environment in which these advances are made is often averse to change itself — which is why almost every state in the country finds itself licensing and certifying K-12 teachers via a system that is all but outdated. And that’s created a teacher shortage — and an even greater STEM teacher shortage. Applying the Transdisciplinary Approach to Teacher Certification Simply put, states still teach and license teachers based on a S.T.E.M. (single-disciplinary) approach rather than a STEM (transdisciplinary approach). (See [my previous post] for why I chose to use those terms.) Those disciplines’ old silo walls need to come tumbling down. Individual disciplines are taught in isolation from one another: There is little …

Approaches to Education: Interdisciplinary vs. Multidisciplinary vs. Transdisciplinary

Grant T. Aguinaldo, Envilearn, LLC STEM

NOYCE MENU Aristotle is commonly quoted as saying that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That phrase should be kept top of mind when discussing any aspect of STEM, whether in regard to certification or in the classroom. However, many institutions still keep each of the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math) in rigorous silos, with very little — if any — integration between them. This is in spite of the growing trend of making STEM transdisciplinary. I like to think of the difference between these two approaches as STEM vs. S.T.E.M. Taking a Transdisciplinary Approach As a scientist, I prefer the transdisciplinary, or STEM, approach, which goes a step beyond even interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches. Here’s what each of these terms means. A multidisciplinary approach is one where several disciplines work independently — with little to no collaboration — toward a solution. Climate change, for example, is a problem often tackled by disciplines as diverse as engineering, chemistry, policy, and finance. Because each discipline works within its own silo, they often develop solutions that are …

Teaching in Hawaii: An Experience Like No Other

Jim Cox STEM

NOYCE MENU A little over two decades ago, I accidentally drove my truck over a twenty-foot cliff in the snow and ice of Boulder, Colorado. I survived without a scratch. As I walked away from the wreck, I made myself a promise: that for the rest of my life, I would give back more than I took. That was how I made the leap from a salaried corporate career as a hydrogeologist to high school science teacher. After getting my master’s in education, I left my Boulder life behind and moved to Hawaii. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. Don’t get me wrong. My previous career was a good, solid one, one that I would recommend to any of my students. But after more than a decade working for corporations, I’d lost the passion and drive. I’d also found myself working for a company that was asking me to use my brain, but not my heart. I hadn’t gotten into hydrogeology for that. I got into it because I love science, but my job had not only ceased …

Students and teacher sitting outside in Hawaii

Teach Maui: STEM Teachers Needed

Debra Nakama STEM

NOYCE MENU For those seeking to share their love and knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through teaching, you couldn’t find a better place than Maui. The county has not just acknowledged the need for more STEM educators, it has made an earnest commitment to increase its opportunities in STEM learning. This past summer, Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino officially proclaimed August 10-15, 2020 as STEM Week in Maui. Mayor Victorino said, “STEM education is needed to prepare our state’s youth for high-growth, high-demand careers in computer science, engineering, cyber security, health, life and physical sciences, and math fields. And, we encourage the public to support organizations such as Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) that are helping to build, grow, and strengthen Hawai‘i’s STEM education-to-workforce pipeline.” In a Facebook post announcing the proclamation, the County of Maui shared some of the progress it has made in this endeavor. For one, since MEDB launched the Ke Alahele Education Fund in 2006, it has provided 344 grants to support “students’ needs for STEM equipment, robotics programs, media labs, environmental/sustainability projects, …