HILO, HAWAII - Unfortunately, thousands of students across Hawaii will be out of school for the next several months due to the coronavirus crisis. With parents taking on a larger teaching role to make sure their kids continue to learn and grow while sequestered at home, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project has awarded a $50,000 grant to the Hilo-based Hawaii Science and Technology Museum to fund its innovative online STEM learning program.
Hawaii Science and Technology Museum's Online STEM Learning Program project-based learning activities and innovative science lessons have been designed to help parents, teachers and students so the keiki don't miss out on critical development. The program will serve 500 students in grades K-8 in the Department of Education's Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area in May, June and July.
"We're committed to serving our community during this time of crisis, and we have an opportunity to help Hawaii Island keiki grow their STEM skills at a time when students will most likely miss lessons for months," said TMT's Hawaii Community Affairs Manager Sandra Dawson. "We had great success in working with Christian Wong and the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum in 2018 to host a series of STEM camps for keiki displaced by the Kilauea Eruption. In a terrible situation, where parents and kids were living on tennis courts and in gymnasiums, Camp Laniakea was a welcome relief for the keiki from the Puna Emergency Shelters. Instead of living in constant fear, they had times when they could continue learning, dreaming, playing and exploring. Today's coronavirus circumstances present another opportunity for TMT to partner and help the community."
The goal of the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum's Online STEM Learning Program is to keep students on the pathway to "reaching for the stars" while helping parents who may be feeling overwhelmed during this difficult time. The program will also keep the kids interested and engaged in learning while helping to support their mental health and need for social interaction. Activities will guide students through hands-on lessons by certified teachers from the community, established online resources and physical kits mailed directly to students' homes.
Students will receive kits with a wide range of hands-on science activities supported by online instruction, including equipment to set up a home laboratory. Physics, biology, robotics, chemistry and much more will be covered. Students will also assist in fabrication of PPE items to support healthcare providers in association with Hawaii STEM Community Care and receive online coding classes with mentor support. The older students will participate in a science exchange program with students from New Mexico, where they will receive instruction from scientists at Los Alamos Laboratory, astronomers, and the Mars 2020 team that includes command/telemetry interface with the Mars Flight System Engineers.
Fun and engaging STEM-based lessons will also be disseminated through Hawaii Science and Technology Museum's website and social media accounts and will be supported by online resources including Khan Academy and Code.org.
"The DOE's Hilo-Waiakea Complex Area's schools are culturally, ethnically and economically diverse with many struggling multi-generational families and is one of the economically challenged school complexes in the state," said Hawaii Science and Technology Museum Director Christian Wong. "We've created a series of online learning opportunities for the keiki of Hawaii Island that feature certified teachers guiding students through meaningful, fun and engaging STEM-based lessons."
The Hawaii Science and Technology Museum and the Thirty Meter Telescope project have similar long-term goals to help diversify Hawaii's economy. The Hawaii Science and Technology Museum is investing heavily in research and development to look for ways to expand the Hawaii Island economy and create a STEM Workforce Development Pipeline. To date, TMT has contributed more than $5.5 million to its THINK Fund initiative to prepare Hawaii Island students to master STEM and to become the workforce for higher paying science and technology jobs.
The Food Basket, Hawaii Island's Food Bank recently received a $100,000 donation from TMT to meet the growing demand for food assistance on Hawaii Island. The Thirty Meter Telescope continues to seek opportunities to help the Hawaii Island community during these unprecedented times.