East Hawaii News

DOE Partners in STEM Curriculum

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DOE file photo.

DOE file photo.

A five-year partnership between Defined STEM, OpTerra Energy Services, and the Hawai’i State Department of Education was announced Tuesday.

Together, the flagship curriculum supplement of Defined Learning, OnTerra, and the DOE will support Ka Hei, a program which kicked off in 2014 and educates students about sustainable energy transitions at schools throughout the state.

DOE officials say that the state’s schools spend $48 million in electricity on a yearly basis, and under the Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative, the state will aim to relieve the state’s dependence on oil by using 100 percent clean energy by 2045.


The Ka Hei program works towards integrating innovative energy technology with meaningful learning experiences, while also reducing energy costs. Ka Hei transforms the learning environment, reduces operational expenses, and provides engaging education opportunities for students in Hawai’i and the community.

“We are pleased to be part of this partnership with Defined Learning and OpTerra to create such a versatile educational experience for Hawai’i’s students,” said Suzanne Mulcahy, Assistant Superintendent of the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Student Support. “We live in one of the most isolated places in the world, and we are stewards of the land we love. We need to take care of our land by using our renewable resources. Our students are the future, and we need to educate them about how to keep our island beautiful.”

OpTerra is designing and implementing a wide variety of new energy technologies that will lower costs and help each school across the islands become more sustainable. To date, energy experts from Defined Learning and OpTerra teams have given more than 300 teachers hands-on professional development to analyze scalable technology such as wind turbines and solar panels in their classrooms.


“The Hawai’i DOE and Defined Learning are great partners in educating students about initiatives happening in their own backyard,” said Dawn Johnson, National Education Manager at OpTerra. “Together we will create a sustainable and energy-efficient environment while helping students understand the importance of protecting the land they know and love.

All 256 schools across the state have Defined STEM available to them. Grade-specific lessons and performance tasks align the curriculum with Common Core and the newly adopted Next Generation Science Standards. Students will learn core principles of science and will see the relevance of community initiatives such as moving to solar energy, limiting waste, encouraging recycling, and reducing water usage with low-flow toilets. They will also discover potential careers related to sustainable energy.

“Defined STEM is honored to be part of the Ka Hei initiative,” said Joel Jacobson, the co-founder and chief operating officer of Defined Learning. “As students see changes happening in their community, they are able to connect what they’re learning in the classroom to the real world in which they live—while exploring new technology and career opportunities at the same time.”

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