Fountains of Youth

Molokai keiki study island streams.

Story by Catherine Cluett, photo by John Mitchell

For Molokai keiki, taking care of the aina is second nature. So is doing a Google search. Three Molokai schools are participating in a program that fosters both technology and Hawaiian values. Students are learning to be the future stewards of the island by gathering and analyzing data from Molokai’s streams.

Ho`okuleana is an educational science program that provides students with the opportunity to study the water quality of island streams. Program director Ellen Federoff says students check for such factors as temperature, ph and salinity levels, turbidity, flow rates, and oxygen levels. The tests they perform monitor the stream’s ability to sustain life and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Students examine water quality, the species that live in the streams, and the effects of pollution through a series of hands-on projects. The three participating schools are Kaunakakai, Maunaloa, and Kilohana.

Learning how to use technology as well as working within the ahapua`a system allows students to combine old and new methods of sustainability, explains Federoff. The curriculum is largely designed by the teachers to fit the needs of their classes.

“The project is cross curricular,” says Federoff. “It can tie into science, language arts, math and social studies. Some teachers plan their whole curriculum around it.”

Teachers involved in the program go through a training workshop to learn how to use the technology and understand the goals of the project. Federoff says 20 teachers participate from Molokai and Maui. About 140 students grades 4 through 6 take part in the program on Molokai.

Molokai students have studied three steams on Molokai – Kawela, Wailua, and Honouliwai. The data gathered from the project is placed in an online database so students around the state can share and interpret the results from the streams.

“It’s exciting to see the kids out there learning about the environment and becoming the future stewards of Molokai,” says Christine Smith, a volunteer with the project. “They love to feel like scientists.”

A $96,000 grant from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs pays for technology such as hand held computers and probes. The grant also covers transportation costs for each class to visit a stream at least twice during the year, says Federoff.

Alaka`ina Foundation that sponsors the program is a Hawaii-based organization that provides students with hands on environmental education and technology and science-based projects. The Digital Bus, another one of their programs, is a rolling science classroom that tours the islands, visiting Molokai every spring.

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