Project Lead The Way Grants Aim to Boost STEM Ed in Hawaii

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

Twelve high schools in Hawaii have been announced as the recipients of a multi-year, $2.2 million grant to improve science, math, engineering, and technology education, as well as college and career readiness.

The initiative to improve the state’s innovation economy and workforce was announced in January by Governor David Ige. The state is working in partnership with Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and USA Funds.

The money from USA Funds will help schools implement PLTW’s programs in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science by covering program fees, classroom supplies and equipment, and teacher training at the University of Hawaii – West Oahu.

According to the PLTW website, the programs are project-based and focus on giving students a chance to apply their knowledge, identify problems, find unique solutions, and lead their own education. The curricula are focused around an approach that is collaborative between students, teachers, administrators, and academic and industry experts; evidence- and research-based; and problem-based and inclusive of engaging activities. They are aligned with Common Core in math and English and Next Generation Science Standards, while also being flexible. Students of PLTW programs are more likely than peers to consider STEM careers.

According to Big Island Now, the twelve high schools that were selected to receive this funding are Aiea High School (Oahu), Honokaa High School (Hawaii), Island Pacific Academy (Oahu), James Campbell High School (Oahu), Kalaheo High School (Oahu), Kalani High School (Oahu), Kapolei High School (Oahu), Keaau High School (Hawaii), Lanai High and Elementary School (Lanai), Maui Preparatory Academy (Maui), Mililani High School (Oahu), and Nanakuli High and Intermedia (Oahu).

The state of Hawaii is desperately in need of more workers trained in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, reports KHON2. By 2017, the state is expected to need 16,000 more STEM-field workers every year, but the state is 47th in STEM degrees per 100,000 residents.

Tom Falenofoa, technology coordinator at Mililani High School, said:

Students on Oahu face the same job market and economy as the rest of the country, and having a deeper set of STEM skills will give them an advantage both in college acceptance and in job readiness. Hawaii is currently trying to attract high tech industries, and having a strong community of people with those skills sets will help to encourage that.

PLTW is a nonprofit that provides transformative educational experiences for K-12 students and teachers in more than 8,000 schools in all 50 states. It was founded by an Upstate New York high school teacher in 1986 who realized that there was a shortage of qualified engineering students in the community. In 1997, he expanded it to 12 other high schools.

Rex Bolinger, senior vice president and chief development officer of PLTW, said:

“e are extremely grateful to USA Funds for making it possible for schools in Hawaii to implement PLTW’s programs. PLTW programs empower students to develop the knowledge and transportable skills they need to thrive in our advancing, high-tech economy.

PLTW will be opening a second round of grant requests from Hawaii schools in the fall, reports Globe News Wire.