Sixtieth Annual Conference themed ‘Aina, A.I. and the Next Generation of Science Teaching’
After attending a series of workshops over the summer, Shawna “Kumu” Nishimoto, Tina Chan and Clarissa Tores developed engaging curriculum for their students, teaching them the importance of place-based/‘āina-based learning, especially as it relates to our ahupuaʻa.
In a breakout session during the 60th Annual Hawai’i Science Teaching Association (HaSTA) conference, the three middle school educators presented “Creating Stewards of the ‘Āina,” an hourlong discussion that focused on incorporating Native Hawaiian practices into the field of science.
“Attending the M2M:WET, which stands for ‘Mauka to Makai: Watershed Experience for Teachers,’ helped me deepen my knowledge of watersheds and our ahupuaʻa system,” said Nishimoto ʻ22, who teaches at Ilima Intermediate School. “In this six-day, eighth-grade unit, students had to investigate the ability of tilapia to survive in different types of water to develop an understanding of adaptations and natural selection.”
Bringing the tilapia to the classroom and separating them into three different aquariums—some in fresh water, others in salt water and the third in brackish waters—Nishimoto had her students test the waters’ salinity with a Monitor Test that she learned how to use during Chaminade’s M2M:WET workshops.
“They all said ‘No Way!’ How could the tilapia survive in salt water,” Nishimoto told attendees. “It really engaged them because it opened a lot of self-questioning and peer-questioning.”
Thanks to a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Chaminade’s Teacher Preparation Programs Director and Education Associate Professor, Dr. Katrina 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.”
The summer workshops aligned 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.
“If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take your students to Kapapapuhi Point (formerly called West Loch Community Shoreline Park), where they can help restore vegetation, remove invasive species and learn about the mo‘olelo of the place,” said Chan, who teaches at Highlands Intermediate School. “The goal is to create future stewards of our ‘āina.”
In her “Malama ‘Aina—To Care & Honor The Land,” Clarissa Torres detailed the learning outcomes for her Mililani Middle students. At the end of her class, she said they should be able to define or explain the term ahupua‘a; describe the Native Hawaiian’s view of the importance of streams; observe positive and negative human impact on ecosystems; and create their own solutions based on their new knowledge of ahupua‘a systems.
Running through her PowerPoint presentation, Torres stopped on a slide with a salmon image that linked to the “Salmon Survival Board Game” developed by NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region. “The salmon could easily be substituted with one of our local indigenous fishes,” says Torres, ’20 (Bachelor’s in biology) and ’22 (Master of Arts in Teaching). “The dice game goes through the life cycle of the salmon and shows the many manmade and natural challenges throughout their lives. It really brings into question what we could do to help fish, in this instance salmon, survive in the open waters.”
Although they weren’t presenting at the Saturday morning conference, Chaminade students Paige Garcia ’24, Gabe Zapata-Berrio ’24, Naomi Noguchi ’24, Madisyn Polendey, ’25, Kylie Ye ’25 and Kelsey Davidson ’24, attended the “‘Aina, A.I., and the Next Generation of Science of Teaching” to build connections with other educators.
“It exposes us to teachers who are already in the field,” Garcia said. “We get to network and learn about resources that we might not be aware exist.”
Also present was Jessica Mountz, a participant in the M2M:WET summer program. “The main drive for participating in the workshops was to better understand Hawaii culture and its relevance in teaching science,” said the Hanalani Schools high school teacher. “It was also a great avenue to connecting with other teachers and resources.”