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Distance learning options with local conservation groups

The Maui News

Maui Huliau Foundation, a nonprofit organization offering environmental education programs to Maui youths ages 12 to 18, is partnering with at least 15 local conservation organizations to launch new distance learning options for the upcoming school year.

The project, called the “Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom,” will release distance learning resources aimed at grades 8 to 12 every two weeks beginning Monday. Each unit will feature a different partner organization with self-directed distance learning lessons both online and outdoors at various partner sites. Some units will also feature virtual field trips created by Maui Huliau’s filmmaking students or virtual guest speakers on local conservation topics.

Partners for the project so far include 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, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, Digital Bus, Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership, and Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, with more to be added in the spring semester.

“With so many educational programs canceled 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.” says Kim Thayer of Mauna Kahalawai Watershed Partnership, a Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom partner.

A tentative fall schedule and enrollment information for students can be found on Maui Huliau Foundation’s newly launched virtual classroom web page, mauihuliaufoundation.org/classroom.

The programs are free.

Students can enroll through the website to gain access to the Google Classroom with assistance from Maui Huliau Foundation staff. Students who complete all unit activities and quizzes by the end of the school year will receive a certificate of completion from Maui Huliau Foundation. Each two-week unit is expected to take two to four hours per week to complete and is intended as a supplement to the various learning models being offered by both public and private school programs this school year.

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.

“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,” says Malia Cahill, executive director of Maui Huliau Foundation. “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.”

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, which has been developed by Maui Huliau Foundation in collaboration with science teachers and program partners over the past three school years. The mission of the project is to work with science teachers in grades 8 to 12 to integrate hands-on climate literacy activities into their curriculum in alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards.

The Huliau Climate Literacy Classroom includes both direct enrollment and certification options, 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.

The two-week units for students exploring climate change causes, impacts and solutions also will 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.

In addition to these new virtual classroom programs, Maui Huliau Foundation also is offering hybrid versions of its filmmaking and leadership programs involving both virtual and in-person activities. This year’s Huliau Environmental Filmmaking Club, now in its 11th school year, will engage students in grades 7 to 12 in creating virtual field trips for the Maui Aloha ‘Aina Virtual Classroom throughout the fall semester.

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