Hawaiian Professional Development
Hawaii's strong farming history and its indigenous people's relationships to 'aina (the land) and 'ohana (immediate and extended family) provide the landscape for an experiment in culturally relevant learning. Researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa transformed an agricultural and environmental science professional development course for teachers to strengthen the community of educators and build stronger connections between science and culture. The results are reported in the 2010 edition of the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, published by the American Society of Agronomy.
The researchers' goal was to help teachers incorporate 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. Hawaiian ways of learning are experience-based and highly interpersonal. The course was developed to build a "community of practice," among the teachers. According to Traci Sylva of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, a community of practice is "a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly."
The first two years of the course consisted of short instructional summer classes, with teachers incorporating projects into their curriculum during the school year. …