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UH West Oʻahu teacher candidate creates virtual STEM camp for fifth-graders


Screenshot of elementary students showing their designs at a recent virtual STEM camp. Image courtesy of Iona Kaai

Dozens of fifth-grade students had some educational fun during their recent fall break thanks to a University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu teacher candidate who believes in the importance of providing children with opportunities to continue learning even when school isn’t in session.

The 38 students from Kanoelani Elementary School in Waipiʻo enjoyed the school’s first ever “5th Grade Virtual STEM Camp” spearheaded by Iona Kaai, a teacher candidate from UH West Oʻahu’s Education Department who is pursuing a Bachelor of Education in Elementary and Special Education. The online camp was held on Oct. 13 during the state Department of Education’s Fall Break.

“Not only was I inspired when Professor Laurie James of my EDEE 462 Math Methods course had my cohort participate in the Central District’s STEM Camp, but I have always had the belief that our students need and want a bridge to carry them through breaks they have in school,” Kaai said.

She continued, “I truly believe students have an inherent love of learning and want to be with their friends from school. If we provide them with the opportunities to continue learning, even during breaks, they will take it.”

The online camp was sponsored by The Home Depot, which donated car-building kits for Kaai’s project. Students were presented a problem and were tasked to discuss, design and build, and test their hypothesis that considered the Laws of Motion.

“The children had a blast!,” said Dr. Joy Mahiko, Assistant Professor of Special Education at West Oʻahu. “They were completely engaged by thinking out of the box for solutions.”

Mahiko noted that other teacher candidate volunteers from UH West Oʻahu’s Education Department included Olena Kasaoka, Haley Kamiya, and Erendira Johnson.

“Iona is a prime example of how UH West Oʻahu’s Professional Teacher Education program not only prepares teacher candidates to be effective, but to take on leadership roles that advance the profession,” Mahiko said. “I have no doubt that Iona will continue to inspire her fellow colleagues and foster the success of her students.”