Hawaii partners on statewide STEM, energy curriculum

January 13th, 2016


Defined STEM Curriculum aims to engage students in statewide renewable energy initiatives

The Hawaii State Department of Education (HIDOE) is moving to further support Ka Hei, its statewide strategic program kicked off in 2014 that educates students about sustainable energy transitions happening across schools throughout the state, through partnerships with Defined STEM, the flagship curriculum supplement of Defined Learning, and OpTerra Energy Services.

Hawai’i is the most fossil-fuel-dependent state in the nation, and the state’s schools spend $48 million a year on electricity alone. The Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative aims to relieve the state’s dependence on oil by using 100 percent clean energy by 2045.

The goal of the Ka Hei program is to integrate innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, all while reducing energy costs.

As a comprehensive energy and sustainability program, Ka Hei will transform the learning environment, reduce operational expenses, and provide engaging educational opportunities for Hawai’i’s students and community.

“We are pleased to be part of this partnership with Defined Learning and OpTerra to create such a versatile educational experience for Hawai’i’s students,” said Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support, Suzanne Mulcahy. “We live in one of the most isolated places in the world, and we are stewards of the land we love. We need to take care of our land by using our renewable resources. Our students are the future, and we need to educate them about how to keep our island beautiful.”

OpTerra is designing and implementing a wide variety of new energy technologies that will lower costs and help each school across the islands become more sustainable. To date, energy experts from Defined Learning and OpTerra teams have given more than 300 teachers hands-on professional development to analyze scalable technology such as wind turbines and solar panels in their classrooms.

“The Hawai’i DOE and Defined Learning are great partners in educating students about initiatives happening in their own backyard,” said Dawn Johnson, National Education Manager at OpTerra. “Together we will create a sustainable and energy-efficient environment while helping students understand the importance of protecting the land they know and love.”

The Defined STEM curriculum is available to all 256 schools across the eight islands of Hawai’i, which form one large school district. Grade-specific lessons give teachers an understanding of green initiatives that can be used in their classrooms. Defined STEM performance tasks challenge students with hands-on projects that include research and engaging videos that align with the Common Core and the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards.

In completing the tasks, students will learn core principles of science and will see the relevance of community initiatives such as moving to solar energy, limiting waste, encouraging recycling, and reducing water usage with low-flow toilets. They will also discover potential careers related to sustainable energy.

“Defined STEM is honored to be part of the Ka Hei initiative,” said Joel Jacobson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Defined Learning. “As students see changes happening in their community, they are able to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world in which they live—while exploring new technology and career opportunities at the same time.”

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Material from a press release was used in this report.