$300K from USDA to train teachers in sustainable ag, food systems

Aloha ʻĀina Academy participants visit MAʻO Organic Farms in Waiʻanae.

Local teachers are learning more about sustainable agriculture and food systems with the support of a two-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded to the University of Hawaiʻi–West Oʻahu‘s Albie Miles, assistant professor of Sustainable Community Food Systems.

In July, the USDA’s NIFA announced an investment of $6.2 million for 21 Professional Development for Agricultural Literacy grants, part of its fiscal year 2020 competition, to increase the number of K̵14 teachers and educational professionals trained in the food and agricultural sciences.

Miles’ grant is for a project titled, “Aloha ʻĀina Academy: Agricultural Literacy through Sustainable Food Systems Education.”

Students digging
Aloha ʻĀina Academy participants visit the UH West Oʻahu Student Organic Garden

“The major goal of the project is to provide high-quality, innovative and practical learning opportunities for middle and high school teachers that enable them to deliver new courses, content and programming that fosters the development of students and engaged citizens who are both literate in the FANH sciences (food, agricultural, natural resources and human sciences) and inspired to become the next generation of sustainable agriculture and food system leaders in Hawaiʻi, Oceania and beyond,” Miles said.

In June, the Aloha ʻĀina Academy kicked off “The Science of Sustainable Food Systems” professional development course with 32 middle and high school science and agriculture teachers. Course instructors are Miles and Koh Ming Wei, an ecoliteracy educator with the Center for Getting Things Started.

The hybrid course, which runs through July 19, includes synchronous online sessions and asynchronous sessions, such as field work in schools, home gardens and farms, and small-group island farm visits. “The Science of Sustainable Food Systems” continues through October with monthly webinars, and culminates in November with a hōʻike (presentation).

“The key long-term outcome of the Aloha ʻĀina Academy is to develop student competencies for higher education and the workforce serving the FANH sciences system,” Miles said. “Specifically, the Aloha ʻĀina Academy will empower teachers as multi-disciplinary science instructors, and prepare students for college and careers in the FANH sciences as an integral part of green workforce development and food system change.”

Read more at Ka Puna O Kaloʻi.

—By Zenaida Serrano Arvman