Returning to nature invigorates biological science teachers – University of Hawaiʻi System News

Science Teachers Enrichment Program participants in the classroom.

The Science Teachers Enrichment Program (STEP), a successful 15-year partnership between Kauaʻi Community College the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), has given K–12 and community college faculty an opportunity to become students again, engaging in hands-on learning using native and introduced plants in Hawaiʻi. STEP enhances the teachers’ knowledge of tropical biology and equips them with innovative techniques to teach their classes using an inquiry-based approach.

Brian Yamamoto (left)

“A teacher who has a passion for biological science knows that life is organic and messy,” said Brian Yamamoto, senior natural science faculty member at Kauaʻi CC. “That teacher wants students to get dirty, feel the wind as a force affecting growth and touch the textures of life, to understand that biology is more than memorization of information,” he said.

The STEP course, funded by the Kenan Foundation, is a two-week course that takes place at NTBG’s such as Kalāheo’s McBryde Gardens, the North Shore’s Limahuli Garden, Salt Pond and Kōkeʻe State Park. STEP is a 3-credit course for both the University of Hawaiʻi and Department of Education Teacher Develop Program. NTBG’s gardens, facilities and faculty serve as a resource for educational experiences that inspires student interest in science education.

According to Harvard Professor and Kenan Fellow Barry Tomilson having a “good eye” is the framework of teaching introductory biology, where students learn, through interaction, the value of observation and how the natural world connects with all academic disciplines. STEP gets teachers reconnected with their good eye, invigorates them to develop learning modules through engaging discussions on teaching pedagogy and solidifies contacts with teachers in the program.

This year, the program welcomed six teachers from California, Hawaiʻi CC, Waipahu High School, Hanalei…

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