What’s New in Hawai‘i Education? – from the GEER Summit!

In August 2021, Governor David Ige awarded $8.1 million in innovation grants across the state as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.

GEER innovation grants funded initiatives that address the educational impact the COVID-19 pandemic with programs designed to inspire and promote innovation in education

We invite you to explore these diverse array of programs that have not only addressed the unprecedented pandemic needs, but have also reimagined and transformed education during this challenging time.

Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i and Hawai‘i Parent Teacher Student Association served in GEER’s Parent Group panel to support and provide input.

Click images below for PPS-Hawai‘i and HI PTSA videos.

Below are short interviews with GEER innovators
Click images to see interview videos


STEAM Entrepreneurship and Research Network
– Engaging and empowering all students in a new environment

The STEAMER Network re-envisioned student interest in science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, entrepreneurship, and research by placing emphasis on fun and authenticity in learning. Centered on sustainable agriculture, STEAMER offered experiences in an inclusive and interdisciplinary framework, as opposed to learning typically isolated in subject classwork, after school clubs, and independent research projects. The unique contributions of three participating schools, Washington Middle, Ilima Intermediate, and Waipahu Intermediate, led to new approaches and models of teacher and student engagement.

Link to GEER Steam Middle School Project Summary

Hawaii Literacy – Virtual Community Schools Strategy

Hawaiʻi Literacy developed a program in partnership with Hawaiʻi Afterschool Alliance and Pear Suite to address the social and environmental factors influencing family well-being and academic success. The goal of the innovation grant was to utilize technology to expand the scope and frequency of services offered by Hawaii Literacy to support the educational, health, social, and environmental needs of underserved and under-resourced families in Kalihi-Palama and Waipahu. Trained staff and community health workers utilized a comprehensive tech-enabled but human-centered well-being assessment tool to address barriers to health and education at home. The results from the assessment were used to identify each family’s most significant needs and opportunities and apply that information to develop a personalized set of goals.

Hawaiʻi Literacy’s libraries served as community resource hubs, and the CHWs, who come from the communities in which they operate, helped build connections, educate, and assess progress through each family’s preferred mode of communication. Through regular check-ins, ongoing health education, digital literacy support, and resource linking, community health workers strategically and proactively worked with each family to provide the tools and resources needed to be healthier and more resilient.

Kupu a Natural Resource Sector Partnership

Kupu’s Environmental Education Department (EED) built and launched the Natural Resources Sector Partnership (NRSP), a collaborative effort between educators and industry to better prepare and inspire Hawai‘i’s students to meet the future demands of the NR sector in Hawai‘i.

To advance this work, the EED established an Advisory Group of partners from 10 organizations, has conducted landscape analyses of NR Career Pathways, and is convening NR Educators in a Community of Practice. The NRSP was highlighted at the 2022 Hawai‘i Conservation Conference and Hawai‘i P-20’s Work-Based Learning Convening. The first Full NRSP meeting is planned for October 2022.

To support the goals of the NRSP, the EED invested in Hawai‘i’s students directly by providing ʻāina-based education and NR work-based learning opportunities and programming to over 1,200 students—tackling learning loss and supporting social-emotional health, while preparing students for high-impact NR careers that will have lasting effects across the paeʻāina.

 View a Kupu video on conservation careers

Art Integration Project by The Honolulu Museum of Art

HOMA offers diversified engagement opportunities for educators and students to remove barriers to access. The intent to foster creativity and empower educators and their students during the pandemic was achieved through:

See Art Make Art (SAMA) video series
– Downloadable art lessons inspired by works in the collection.
Art Packs – Based around themes explored in the SAMA video series. Each Art Pack contains supplies for three art activities.
HoMA’s Lending Collection – Educators across the state can borrow up to twelve objects at any given time to use in their classrooms.
Educator workshops – Virtual and in-person workshops that support educators’ abilities and confidence to use art innovatively in their classrooms.
In-person field trips – Provision of self-guided resources and bussing stipends for those educators able to bring their students to the museum.

Waipahu Safe Haven, Waipahu High School & UH Manoa College of Education Filling the Pandemic Gap

This collaborative project aimed to innovate and support a safe space for the Waipahu community, including Marshallese and Chuukese families. Student learning was accelerated and Safe Haven community members were supported through cultural and educational sessions, underscored by the project’s provision of supplies to renovate an existing structure and support all services. UH Manoa’s College of Education teacher candidates also participated in the project and served as providers of professional development in an effort to “catch up” student learning loss. Trusted cultural experts from the community were vital to the success of the program as all members began to “catch up” and have their learning and life needs met after the setbacks of the pandemic. This grant has also been the catalyst for growth beyond the “catching up” phase where all partners — the students, community members, and tutors — fulfill Safe Haven’s mission of developing into leaders in a healthy community.

See Artifacts from the Safe Haven Project

Kailua-Kalaheo Complex Family Resource Centers

The GEER grant established four Family Resource Centers in the Kailua-Kalaheo Complex with furnishing, technology, staff training, and programming to strengthen the family protective factors, improve the quality and accessibility of family engagement, and increase family leadership and decision making in the schools.

Our vision is to be the catalyst where parents, children and families can learn, network, grow and support one another enabling them to strengthen our families and community.

Our mission is to serve as a welcoming and supportive place for all families to identify and connect with resources enabling them to thrive, strengthen and support themselves, their Ohana and community.


The SPEDucator Project by University of Hawai‘i,Manoa

Although the Covid-19 pand emic disrupted public education for everyone, this was especially true for those in special education. This period of uncertainty, combined with personal and professional stress, caused even the most skilled special education teachers to question whether they could make it through the year. As the teaching field with the worst shortages and highest attrition rates, the SPEDucator Project aimed to address the recruitment to retention pipeline through community-building and efforts touplift the profession. Led by a current Hawai‘i special education teacher and the UH Manoa special education recruitment specialist, this collective included 15 high-quality special education teachers who represent 5 islands and 13 of 15 complex areas across the state. Together, they represent the broad scope of what special education covers, including all grade levels, placement types, and years of experience with a goal of supporting others in the state on topics unique to this field.


Ke Aloha O No Noeau: Saturday Arts Classes – Castle High School

Saturday Arts Classes is a new experiential arts program of non-credit classes, held during after school hours and on Saturdays for students, K-12, for 10 weeks each semester. Five cohort groups hosted classes taught by professional artist educators, for students who registered for classes either in-person or online, serving students from all over the islands. Artistic content areas were as diverse as the student demand! The pilotstarted in January of 2022 and the registration numbers exploded! Over 300 students from 62 public, private and homeschools on three islands attended 28 different Saturday classes! We even extended into this past quarter, offering another 23 classes, from Tap Dancing to Sound Design, from the Culinary Arts to Broadway Jazz. The most popular was the K-3 Creative Dance class — completely online! The youngest of Hawai‘i’s children needed to move, to hear music, and to have structured play in their lives! They still do!

George Kon on “T-Shirt Theater”
–  successful Farrington HS, Kalakaua and Dole Middle Schools
“low tech/high zest” theater arts. 

George teaches teenagers how to rehearse for life. He is the director of The Alliance for Drama Education and he co-founded and leads the T-Shirt Theatre, a performance group based out of Farrington High School in Kalihi, Oʻahu, which uses a low-tech, high-zest approach to their productions. Learn how Kon’s approach to theatre helps his students navigate the challenges of life and translates to skills far beyond the stage.

View  PBS Interview with Geoge Kon 
See 60 minute Anti Bullying Documentary
on Prime Video – “Kipuka Anti-Bullying Project”

Click images below for info on each of the 32 GEER-Funded Innovation Projects

Hawaiʻi Friends for Restorative Justice

Hawai’i Literacy

Hawaiʻi Space Flight Lab

Honolulu Museum of Art

ʻIolani School

Kailua-Kalaheo Complex

Kanoelani Elementary

Kanu o ka ʻĀina

Kaʻu High and Pāhala Elementary


Le Jardin Academy

Leeward Community College

Leilehua Complex

OceanIT Research Foundation

Pacific Resources for Education and Learning

Partners in Development Foundation

UH College of Education #3

UH College of Education #7

UH Hilo #2

UH School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene

Volcano School of Arts and Sciences

Waiāhole and Kaʻaʻawa Elementary Schools

Waimea High School

Waipahu High

Washington Middle School