Aloha ‘Āina Academy is an innovative teacher training project developed through a partnership between Mid-Pacific Institute, the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui and the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. The goal of this project is to bring knowledge of food systems sustainability to classrooms throughout the state of Hawai‘i. The Aloha ‘Āina Academy team implemented a two-week pilot professional development course for Hawai‘i educators. The course ran from July 13-24, 2020. A total of 21 teachers participated in the pilot course.  

Planning and Course Design

Planning for the Aloha ‘Āina Academy pilot program began in May 2020 with a call that included representatives from six organizations (including Mid-Pacific Institute, University of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui, and Arizona State University). Staff from Mid-Pacific Institute provided instructional design of the course, with the Hawai‘i Farm to School Hui supporting the project with course content. School of Sustainability staff acted as advisors and co-principal investigators for the grant.

The two-week course included six 120-minute online workshop sessions during which participating teachers received guest lectures from experts in food system sustainability, practiced strategies for engaging students and participated in small- and large-group discussions. Teachers also participated in an additional 20-hours of individual work developing a project plan to promote food systems sustainability in their classrooms in the 2020-2021 academic year. All of the teachers enrolled in the Hawai‘i Department of Education (HIDOE) Professional Development (PDE3) course received one-on-one coaching from the course moderators, and others were welcomed to do so.

Recruitment and Enrollment

Despite the relatively short time for recruitment of teachers, at least 56 teachers initially signed up to participate in the course. Of these 31 enrolled and 21 teachers completed the two-week course. Ten teachers enrolled in the HIDOE PDE3 course – MULT185718. The teachers will submit a portfolio of their learning including the project-based learning designs, lessons, and assessment rubrics. 

Feedback and Testimonials

Participating teachers engaged in daily reflections of their work and learning during the course and provided feedback to course facilitators. Some noteworthy testimonials are below.

“I never realized there were so many partnerships with schools and resources out there! I never realized that so much food gets imported and that food systems are so complex and go beyond agriculture and community.”

“Continue to LOVE the rigor, the interaction, the active doing. Appeals to my teacher self, but tougher for my program administrator self. Mahalo for such a thoughtful, deliberate means to infuse food systems into classrooms.”

“I liked that there was a lot of focus on project preparation. Last week focused on information about food systems and today gave a lot more time to look at how project-based learning has been happening in other schools and how we can use it as a foundation for our own. It was very helpful to learn about all of the resources that are out there and find ways to incorporate it into our own curriculum.”