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Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom Project to enhance students’ environmental literacy

By Staff | Aug 13, 2020

Maui Huliau Foundation’s Huliau Environmental Filmmaking Club, now in its 11th school year, will engage students in grades 7-12 in creating virtual field trips for the Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom throughout the fall semester beginning Aug. 17. More information on the popular film program is available at mauihuliaufoundation.org.

The virtual classroom during these restrictive times is a learning experience without borders; educational horizons are expanding exponentially. On Maui, there are a maze of opportunities available.

The Maui Huliau Foundation (MHF) is collaborating with multiple local conservation associations to advance the awareness of our youth during the upcoming year.

In Hawaiian, “huliau” means a time of change, a turning point, to recall the past. In 2020, these are indeed huliau days.

The MHF mission – to advance environmental literacy and leadership among Maui’s youth through community-based educational experiences – is indeed noble.

Beginning Monday, Aug. 10, the Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom Project will release distance learning resources aimed at grades 8-12 every two weeks.

“Each unit will feature a different partner organization with self-directed distance learning lessons both online and outdoors at various partner sites,” the MHF press release announced.

“Some units,” the announcement added, “will also feature virtual field trips created by Maui Huliau’s filmmaking students or virtual guest speakers on local conservation topics.”

Students have the opportunity to team up with island non-profits to learn firsthand about the complex stewardship of Maui Nui, including Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission, Hawaiian Islands Land Trust, Noho’ana Farm, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, East Maui Watershed Partnership, Maui Ocean Center, Grow Some Good, NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, Digital Bus, Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership and Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership.

During the 2021 spring semester, more lessons will be added to the curriculum of choices.

“With so many educational programs cancelled or restricted due to the pandemic, this program may be the only opportunity many students have this school year to learn about native ecosystems and conservation efforts in Maui County,” advised Kim Thayer of Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership, a Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom partner.

A tentative fall schedule and enrollment information is available on Maui Huliau Foundation’s newly launched virtual classroom web page: mauihuliaufoundation.org/classroom.

To enroll in this free opportunity, students may sign-up at the website to gain access to the Google Classroom with the help from the Maui Huliau team of professionals.

MHF willingly shares its resources and knowledge.

According to MHF’s online presence, “There is also a separate section of the web page and Google Classroom registration for teachers, who may want to use these resources to supplement distance learning for their students.”

Students completing all unit activities and quizzes by the end of the school year will receive a certificate of accomplishment from Maui Huliau Foundation.

Each two-week unit is expected to take two to ten hours per week and is intended as a supplement to the various learning models being offered by both public and private school programs this academic year.

“Working on this project with Maui Huliau will allow us to expand access to Kaho’olawe through a virtual expedition, helping Maui’s children to connect to the island and the values of aloha ‘aina that continue to guide its present and future. We hope this lesson will inspire teachers and students to learn more about Kaho’olawe and its special relationship to Maui Nui,” commission member Margaret Pulver explained.

There is another facet to the foundation’s benefits to our island community.

“In addition to the Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom, the web page also includes a new distance learning version of the Huliau Climate Literacy Project,” developed by the foundation in collaboration with science teachers and program partners over the past three school years, “to integrate hands-on climate literacy activities into their curriculum in alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards,” MHF reported.

MHF’s Huliau Climate Literacy Classroom includes both a direct enrollment and certification option for students in grades 8-12 and Google Classroom registration for teachers.

The teacher-classroom will launch Aug. 17 and will include suggested in-class activities paired with weekly student-directed distance learning activities.

MHF’s two-week units for students exploring climate change causes, impacts and solutions will also begin Aug. 17.

The fourth quarter of the program will involve a final student-led project relating to a local climate change solution, with assistance from Maui Huliau Foundation staff and partners.

“The Huliau Climate Literacy Project provides teachers and students the opportunity to learn about global threats to coral reefs, like ocean acidification and coral bleaching,” the foundation noted.

“One activity involves analyzing past bleaching events that occurred in Hawaii” explained Lily Solano, program director of Maui Huliau Foundation.

“The student-led projects provide opportunities to explore and implement solutions in their community to combat climate change.”

A tentative schedule with more information can be found on the Maui Huliau Foundation website.

Students in grades 8-12 with an interest in environmental education are encouraged to enroll in either or both classrooms, offering up to four to eight hours of activities per week.

In addition to these new virtual classroom activities, Maui Huliau Foundation also offers hybrid versions of their popular filmmaking and leadership programs, involving both virtual and in-person activities.

This year, the 11-year-old Huliau Environmental Filmmaking Club will engage students in grades 7-12 in creating virtual field trips for the Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom throughout the fall semester.

The Huliau Leadership Council holds monthly virtual meetings for grades 9-12 from September to May to plan various youth-led environmental service and leadership projects.

Both the leadership and filmmaking classes have application deadlines in August.

More information about the course and application details can be found on the Huliau website at mauihuliaufoundation.org.

“We know that many students, parents and teachers are concerned about the impacts that COVID-19 and distance learning will have on education this school year,” said Malia Cahill, MHF executive director.

“We were thrilled to receive such an enthusiastic response from our partner organizations about participating in this project. We hope that this will be an opportunity to expose more students to local conservation ecology, cultural knowledge and the important work of these partner organizations,” Cahill affirmed.