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  • Writer's pictureAlaka`ina Foundation

Teach Maui

A science and Hawaiian culture enrichment program for children.

By Cindy Schumacher

Maui Weekly

POSTED: August 13, 2009

Local educators Evelyn and Ed Zayas have concluded that the best way to develop a sense of stewardship in our community would be an investment in the minds and attitudes of our children.

“Our enrichment program for fourth through eighth grade Maui students coordinates and delivers engaging activities in a four-week Saturday morning format,” they said. “We want to teach our children to appreciate and care for the environment, making them aware of our natural resources.”

The Zayas’ program, established in 2007, is named Teach Maui Inc. It is a technology-infused program that seeks to engage students in problem-solving to protect natural resources, ecosystems and historical and cultural sites.

“We provide a program for natural resource conservation and Hawaiian culture educational enrichment,” they stated. “Our lessons and activities are held throughout the island.”

Some of the lessons are based on the University of Hawai‘i’s culturally responsive curriculum, while others are developed by local educators, scientists and cultural practitioners.

Teach Maui was recently awarded a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The grant proposal was titled Malama i Na kamali‘i kokua nui O holomoana, (to nourish our child’s voyage of stewardship),” said the Zayases. Beginning in August 2008, the proposal grew from a vision shared among Kihei Charter School, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, Teach Maui and Kihei Canoe Club. These organizations wanted to engage children in solving the problems facing our island. “The new grant will fund outdoor classroom experience for over 400 students,” they said.

In one such outdoor classroom, Maui Digital Bus-Alaka‘aina Foundation Educational Outreach Coordinator Ellen Federoff showed students the importance of testing water for a variety of factors, such as temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen and acidity. The children then conducted the tests at several locations and collected data on standardized water monitoring sheets.

“When we got back on the Digital Bus, we used laptops to draw a map of our research area to describe the samples,” the children recalled.

Federoff believes that “the Teach Maui program is an outstanding opportunity for the youth of Maui. It provides a focused, integrated approach, allowing a small group of students to gain a wealth of knowledge in a short time.”

Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund Maui Research Coordinator Cheryl King gave a presentation on Maui turtles at the National Marine Sanctuary Education Center in Kihei. The children learned about turtle nesting habits and ways to help with marine conservation.

“We are all so lucky to live here, but our island ecosystems need our help,” said King. “We hope that by engaging the children’s imaginations through hands-on learning, we can teach them the ethics of respect and conservation needed here.”

Creative sessions at Teach Maui include making computer-aided presentations. The children upload the pictures they have taken from their cameras onto laptops, and learn how computers handle data.

“Ms. Zayas taught us how to create an animated slide show and present it with music,” said a child from the Spring Session. “That was my favorite. We learned how to burn our slide show onto a CD, and then our parents came to view our presentation.”

Visiting a taro farm and hiking to discover native plants can lead one into the history, genealogy and culture of the Hawaiian people. Kumu Kepa Meno, Hawaiian culture practitioner, gave a presentation on taro and demonstrated how to make poi.

“We peeled the steamed taro and used poi pounders to make it,” the children said. Then we took it home to eat.”

Teach Maui Director of Conservation Education Judy Edwards summed up the program: “One of the hopeful aspects of a fresh and energetic new nonprofit is seeing Ph.D.-level technology now being used to teach kids about the natural world, in the natural world. The Zayases are techno-savvy in their approach, bringing a 21st century perspective to teaching and experiencing.”

Children pick up these tools and skills immediately and are able to conceptualize the world in a way we couldn’t at their ages. Edwards believes, “The double-whammy of hands-on, get-wet, get-gooey approach plus follow-up with high-tech tools creates understanding in a way we couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago.”

Teach Maui’s summer session starts Aug. 22, for four consecutive Saturday mornings.

For more information, visit or call (808) 879-4605.



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