Marshall Islands High School (MIHS) science department recently concluded a SPREP-funded project to integrate climate change studies within local education programs. A new high luminosity projector and portable panoramic white screen, provided by RMI’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), will allow teachers and students to fully utilize the textbook and multimedia materials, according to MIHS vice principal of academic affairs Tokasa Vitayaki.
In addition to the equipment, the concluded climate education project provided a comprehensive needs assessment of the MIHS science curriculum, teaching materials, and instructional capacities. The assessment, led by Pacific Resources for Education and Learning (PREL) consultant and former science specialist to the Ministry of Education Juanita Rilometo, found “a need to bring in local traditional knowledge, skills, and values into the curriculum,” and furthermore that “active involvement of local participants needs to be strengthened, with the local teachers in Marshallese studies taking the lead.”
This early insight into the needs of science education in the RMI, plus a shortage of teachers at MIHS during Spring 2012 and Fall 2012 semesters, prompted the coordinator for the project Mark Stege to conduct classroom trials with a new approach to teaching 9th grade Earth Science.
“Instead of the regular 50 minute class period,” explains Stege, “each class was an hour and a half long because we were experimenting with a combined Earth Science and Marshallese Language Arts or MLA format which allowed us more time to take science instruction outdoors for laboratory activities.”
Stege continues, “we spent a lot of time practicing Marshallese writing skills as a bridge to becoming better writers of English, and we adopted an indigenous perspective of the world as ae, loñ, kein or ocean, sky and land to deepen student comprehension of oceanography, meteorology/astronomy, and geology subject matter as the foundations of environmental and climate science.”
According to Vitayaki, “the 9th grade students who underwent these trials are very fortunate. It's been wonderful knowing we have friends out there who have been very supportive of the school.”
The EPA project also prompted an MOE training workshop on taking science instruction outdoors for educators from MIHS, Assumption, Jaluit High School, Northern Islands High School, Majuro Middle School, and Mejatto Elementary School. In the case of the participants from Assumption, the training helped inform the development of climate science education activities on Bikirin Islet for incoming 9th grade students conducted this past summer in collaboration with the Enemanit-Latuma Extended Family Association (ELEFA).
Public Service Commission’s Chairperson Marie Maddison, who is a member of ELEFA, was part of a committee to help write the $20,000 grant proposal for this project following the SPREP Roundtable on Climate Change held in Majuro in 2008.
- RMI Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Majuro, Marshall Islands