Managing Hawaii’s Watersheds
The first field site to Paiko Lagoon provided a chicken-skin moment when a longtime resident of the area, Kai Hoshijo, a volunteer crew member with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center, reminisced about the stories of her youthful days spent at the Wildlife Sanctuary in East Oahu, evoking a navigator mindset of observance and respect for the ‘aina (land).
“Kai grew up in Niu Valley and was telling a story in context of the sanctuary’s meaningful location,” recalls Katrina Roseler, Ph.D., shuddering while she remembered that exact moment. “It was the perfect start to our two-week workshop, demonstrating the reverence of place.”
Thanks to a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Roseler and Environmental Sciences assistant professor, Lupita Ruiz-Jones, Ph.D., were able “to enhance the capacity of Hawaii’s secondary science teachers to engage their students in ahupua’a education and cultivate stewardship.” Ahupua’a is a Hawaiian term for a large traditional socioeconomic, geologic and climatic subdivision of land, which consists most frequently of a slice of an island that went from the top of the local mountain (volcano) to the shore, often following the boundary of a stream drainage.
The summer workshops align with NOAA’s Bay Watershed Education (B-WET) initiative, an environmental education program that promotes place-based experiential learning for K–12 students and related professional development for teachers.
“We had our own play on acronyms with B-WET,” says Roseler, the grant’s Co-Principal Investigator. “We appropriately named our program M2M:WET, which stands for Mauka to Makai: Watershed Experience for Teachers.”
Much like B-WET, M2M:WET aims to foster the growth of new, innovative programs, and encourages capacity-building and environmental education partnerships.
During the field experience, teachers explored two primary questions: 1) How do we determine the health of our watersheds (ahupua‘a); and 2) How can educators engage students in thinking critically about the flow of water and cultivate a sense of stewardship for Hawaii’s watersheds?”
“My observation of the participating teachers was that they were super excited and nerdy in a positive science way,” says Ruiz-Jones, the grant’s other Co-Principal Investigator. “They were like kids on field trips, and eager to use some of the equipment we provided, like the GoPro, water test kits and water loggers, which is an instrument that automatically and continuously records fluctuations in water level.”
The outcome of the workshops helped inform teachers how to bring their field experiences into the classroom and their curriculum. They gained skills in environmental data collection, lab protocols, data analyses and data visualization. Water samples were gathered at the various sites and analyzed for nitrogen compounds, sulfate, phosphate and silica, using an automated spectrophotometry, as well as SEAL AQ400 chemistry and equipment. And they also collected water temperature data with the HOBO Tidbit temperature logger and learned how to use readily available water test kits.
Among the 16 K-12 teachers, Christina Chan of Highlands Intermediate School says she decided to participate in the program because she focuses on watersheds, which is one of her primary foci for her CTE (Career and Technical Education) class next year.
Chan adds that she learned about the use of five different field sites for studying the watershed; how to use a HOBO, GoPro and other devices for sampling water in the watershed; different pedagogy and Understanding by Design models; and making connections with other teachers and ideas on how to share watershed information.
Hanalani Schools’ Jessica Mountz opted in because she wanted to connect with other science teachers on Oahu and the Neighbor Islands, reasoning that in her 20 years of teaching, she found that collaboration with other teachers has been the most valuable tool in her professional growth.
“At the end of each day, I went home with so many lesson ideas my head was sometimes spinning,” says the high school science teacher. “From Wayfinding/ Navigation to Ahupuaʻa of Hawai’i, I plan on developing curriculum for my Biology and Advanced Placement Biology students that not only meets Science Standards (Next Generation Science Standards and College Board), but incorporates Hawaiian culture and empathy. I look forward to continuing conversations and collaboration, not only with the other science teachers from the M2M:WET workshop, but with the faculty/staff at Chaminade University, Huli, and Maunalua Fishpond Heritage Center.”
Since its inception in 2002, 929 B-WET grants have been awarded for a total of $117 million. The B-WET program currently serves seven regions of the country: California, Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, New England and the Pacific Northwest. Regional B-WET programs provide tailored grantee support and capacity building. This allows B-WET to include place-based STEM resources and expertise, and respond to local education and environmental priorities.
“The goal is to provide support for our K-12 science teachers so they can teach their students to become the future stewards of the land,” says Ruiz-Jones, with Roseler adding that they “hope to engage the students to appreciate the mauka to makai value of their ahupua‘a.”