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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Hilo, Hawaii » Daniel K. Inouye U.S. Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center » Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research » Research » Research Project #445007

Research Project: Strengthening the K-12 Pipeline in Agricultural Career Pathways

Location: Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research

Project Number: 2040-21000-019-007-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2023
End Date: Jul 31, 2025

Many aspects of agriculture include science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The STEM educational approach is designed to build student interest in these subjects at an early age and to avoid a projected shortage in STEM fields, including agriculture. The objectives are to develop a strong understanding of basic biology and its connection to agriculture by offering continuity in STEM education programs for students from grades K through 12, especially in underserved communities. Specific objectives are to: 1) Demonstrate that the effort invested in applying oneself in school can translate into a rewarding agriculture career. 2) Expand the Gene-ius Day Program at the University of Guam to include grades 7-12 curricula. 3) Reconstruct the grades 7-12 lessons to develop a series of curricula that exposes students to multiple areas in agriculture including sustainable food production, natural resource management, biosecurity, biotechnology, and farming. 4) Integrate STEM and Agriculture career pathways into the middle and high school curricula.

The University of Hawaii Gene-ius Day Program is a part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR) broader STEM and agriculture educational efforts. The Gene-ius Day program was developed to increase students’ interest in STEM-related subjects from an early age, develop life-long learners, and create connections between STEM subjects and agricultural sciences. The Gene-ius Day Program, a partnership between ARS, CTAHR, and Hawaii public school system educators, is designed to enhance STEM and agricultural education opportunities that would not be available otherwise. This includes Title 1 schools that serve low-income families. The Gene-ius Day program offers a series of STEM curricula for grades K-12 students with a strong emphasis on agriculture in the grades 9-12 programs. Emphasis is placed on showing students the connections between STEM study areas and agriculture, and the way that STEM subjects are applied in the agricultural disciplines. This goal is accomplished through exciting, tactile (hands-on) activities that build a connection between scientific concepts and real-world applications. This engaging experience motivates students and creates new cohorts of self-directed learners, and provides experiential learning in the process. To increase the percentage of students from Title I schools, a summer Gene-ius program was started in 2016 and has expanded to twelve (12) Title I middle schools including two on the Big Island. In 2023, a new curriculum for rising 9th graders was tested to begin building a bridge between our middle school and high school programs, particularly in Title I schools. In 2017 the Gene-ius Day program partnered with the University of Guam and implemented a 3-year plan to implement the grades I-6 curriculum into Guam Gene-ius Program. Since then, Guam Gene-ius has served over 3,000 students. And since 2019, the Gene-ius Day program has coordinated the joint USDA program, Hawaii AgDiscovery. Through this program high school students experience many career opportunities in agriculture and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Gene-ius Day will continue to expand the education opportunities and exposure to agriculture careers and pathways for K-12 students in Hawaii, Guam, and underserved communities.