Soil Science Society of America

A culturally relevant agricultural and environmental course for K-12 teachers in Hawaii

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A Hawaiian cultural-based agricultural and environmental science professional development course was transformed based on the precepts of situated learning in communities of practice, and offered to K-12 teachers. In this article we describe the format and content of the transformed course based on lessons learned from previous years offered to K-12 teachers. We also describe the teachers’ responses to the course and students’ response to curricula implemented by teachers. Hawaiian ways of learning are experience-based, embedded in real-life purpose and context, highly interpersonal, and location specific. Our goal in transforming this course was to help teachers to incorporate important topics related to the environmental and agriculture science fields into their curricula, and to make that content relevant to their students’ lives and backgrounds, especially those of native Hawaiian decent. Based on observations, written and oral evaluations from teachers, student assessments, and student involvement in community projects, we feel that we have attained that goal. Some of the important factors for effective learning and implementation of this new culture–science curriculum by teachers are: (1) culturally relevant course format that provides meaningful, effective social interactions among instructors and teachers/students; (2) development of a “community of practice”; (3) a team of instructors, each knowledgeable in different areas, such as science, agriculture, Hawaiian culture, all experienced in problem-based teaching; (4) excellent models of problem-based and culturally based projects/curricula; and (5) continued support from peers and instructional team throughout the academic year.

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