Malama ‘Aina Foundation receives grant from Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation

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The Consortium for Hawaii Ecological Engineering Education (dba Malama ‘Aina Foundation), has received a grant award from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation in the amount of $350,000 over a 2-year period. These funds will allow MAF to provide summer and after-school Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programming to at-risk middle school youth in Ka‘u High and Pahala Elementary School, a geographically remote K-12 public school.

According to Hawaii Department of Education reports, students are falling far behind statewide averages in math and science proficiency standards. The community, which is comprised largely of Native Hawaiian families, partly attribute this discrepancy to a shortage of opportunities to reinforce school learning in an accessible, relevant, and culturally appropriate manner.

MAF’s STEM programming will address this gap by providing an integrated approach to STEM that combines Native Hawaiian cultural practices with math and science concepts to increase student and family confidence and familiarity with the subject areas. This approach has already been shown to be successful at schools on Oahu and Hilo.

For example, the recently released 2018-19 HIDOE STRIVE report on standardized academic achievement shows that Native Hawaiian students at Hilo Intermediate (where MAF’s curriculum is implemented), exceeded the state average by 4 points. During the three years of MAF programming, the science proficiency of eighth graders increased from 26% to 48%, while the state average dropped from 46% to 44%.

Through this grant, two summer programs started last week at Ka‘u Gym and Naalehu Community Center, to teach students culture-based STEM lessons centered around the theme of Malama Honua.

The program is led by Education Specialist Kaweni Ibarra, who was raised in the district of Ka‘u and recently served as a substitute teacher at Ka‘u-Pahala and as an aloha ‘aina volunteer with Na Mamo o Kawa.


With a degree in Anthropology and having received knowledge passed down from family and community members throughout his life about various indigenous art forms, Kaweni brings a wealth of cultural knowledge and experience to the program. With recent changes in classroom learning due to the pandemic, this STEM program will provide much needed opportunities to connect and learn.

MAF is a nonprofit public charity established in 1998 to develop educational programs at all levels (K-12 and college-level) that would train Native Hawaiian and other students in the ecological sciences so that they could become better stewards of Hawaii’s unique environment.