Last year I was appointed to the board of advisors of the Keaholoa STEM program at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

This is a program that aims to increase enrollment, support, and graduation rates of Native Hawaiian students at UH-Hilo in science & mathematics disciplines, and increase familiarity and the use of related technology.

It’s a valuable program, which also does outreach to Hawaiian students from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Its existence is in jeopardy because it may lose its primary source of funding—the National Science Foundation. This program needs dependable local funding. We cannot depend on the National Science Foundation for such an important program.

The name “Keaholoa” means “the long fishing line” and is “a metaphor for the academic tools mentor-teachers will provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics),” with which students “will learn how to plumb the depths of academic inquiry.”

An ‘olelo no‘eau, or traditional Hawaiian saying, goes like this: He lawai’a ke kai papa’u, he pokole ke aho; he lawai’a no ke kai hohonu, he loa ke aho. (A fisherman of the shallow sea uses a short line; a fisherman of the deep sea has a long line.)

It means, “A person whose knowledge is shallow does not have much, but he whose knowledge is great, does.”

Shortly after being appointed to the Keaholoa STEM board I was invited to a Ho‘ike, where the students gave reports on their internship projects.

I didn’t know what to expect and I was surprised—and impressed—by the imagination and careful thought that went into choosing topics to study, and by the execution of those projects.

Some of the presentations at the Ho‘ike:

• One student studied the effect of fog on Lana‘i’s aquifer. Lana‘i lies in the lee of Maui and is relatively dry. However there is a fog that comes through, condenses and runs down trees into the aquifer. There was a significant effect based on condensate that was caught and measured.

• Another student studied the health of coral at the ponds off Vacationland at Kapoho. This involved putting on scuba gear and taking periodic measurements of the health parameters of the coral.

• One student chose to do a DNA comparison between coqui frogs found in Hawai‘i and coqui frogs in Puerto Rico. Those in Puerto Rico could be identified by the elevation they lived at.

• A student studied the health of Hilo Bay by measuring dissolved oxygen, turbidity and other parameters at various locations around the bay.

There were many other presentations that were just as imaginative, relevant and very well executed.

I came away from the Ho‘ike feeling confident that Hawai‘i is in good hands with these young students. It was an uplifting feeling.

From the Keaholoa STEM website:

Keaholoa STEM uses an Outreach Program that builds a strong sense of identity, raises career goals, educational aspirations, and provides meaningful learning experiences through STEM courses and other activities. Keaholoa will reach into the local community in a way that respects and values Hawaiian culture and builds upon the potential for academic achievement in Hawaiian youth. We are partnering with Na Pua No’eau- Center For Gifted and Talented Native Hawaiian Children at UHH, to take advantage of the proven educational practices and statewide resources developed by them over 11 years of successful outreach to native Hawaiian communities.

Outreach Program Elements:

•Super Enrichment Saturdays (K-12 students)
•Summer Institute (K-12 students)
•Hawaiian Family Affair (entire families)
•High-School Mentoring/Tutorial Program