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Hawai'i: The Exemplary State

The quality of life in the 21st century and so many of society’s problems depend in large measure on balancing the difficult equation of fostering economic opportunities while safeguarding the environmental health of our planet. The largely negative impact of economic activity on nature, and the widespread dependence of human health, security, and prosperity on natural systems have led to the general agreement that we must redesign our stewardship of Earth’s natural assets. Our ability to use natural resources in an environmentally compatible and sustainable manner requires a strong scientific knowledge base. While basic research in the environmental sciences has significantly increased our understanding of the global environment, an even more rigorous research effort is required to advance new insights and acquire the fundamental knowledge needed to address the entire range of emerging environmental issues.

If society is to truly realize benefit in the long-term from new information and technology, education must also play a key role in a redesigned approach. The “Hawaii Exemplary State Initiative” envisions a statewide effort to enhance overall STEM education by engaging K-12 schools in place-based research activities that are of highest priority and of relevance to the local communities where the schools are located and where the students and their families live. “Learning Communities” comprised of K-12 teachers and students, Graduate Students in STEM fields, engineers, technologists, resources managers, as well as Hawaiian cultural practitioners will collaborate in developing research activities that will contribute to Hawaii’s scientific knowledge base about the current state of biodiversity, climate, and the relationship between environmental and human health. Research modules which can be “adapted and adopted” at any school within the state and potentially anywhere in the nation will be designed and implemented. By integrating traditional cultural values and language into the place-based STEM curriculum, we will foster greater interest level among native Hawaiians as well as other underrepresented groups in Hawaii. These learning communities will be empowered by a truly participatory process to deal directly with issues relevant to their ahupua’a including disaster management, flood mitigation, natural resources management, pollution, infectious disease, etc.

The Exemplary State Initiative is being led by Center for Conservation Research & Training (CCRT), the Center for Island, Maritime, and Extreme Environmental Security (CIMES), and Hawaii State Civil Defense,