Place-based learning initiatives not only engage students in science, connect them to the ʻāina and ahupuaʻa they live in, and foster values of stewardship – they also help gather valuable environmental data that help inform watershed management decisions!
In 2010, ‘Iolani School, located between the mouths of the Mānoa, Makiki, and Pālolo Streams, began to observe, collect, and analyze data in and around the Ala Wai Canal and the streams that feed it. Named the Ala Wai Watershed Project, students continue to engage in real-world research that contributes to the understanding of the current state of the watershed and to the development of responses and solutions. In addition to independent research, students in ‘Iolani School’s Robotics classes have built a remote-controlled Ala Wai Catamaran and several iterations of drones to collect water samples from the Ala Wai Canal for water quality analysis in the lab. ‘Iolani School also convenes Nā Wai ‘Ekolu, educators from institutions throughout the watershed, working closely with stream biologists and researchers at the University of Hawai’i. Nā Wai ‘Ekolu aims to inspire and encourage schools that care deeply for their place through curriculum development and work in the streams and communities that surround them.
Nā Wai ‘Ekolu is a collective of educators from K-12 and higher education institutions along the Mānoa, Pālolo, and Makiki streams, who care deeply for their watershed through monitoring, research, restoration, and curriculum development with their students.
The University of Hawaiʻi SMART Ala Wai initiative brings together faculty, teachers, and students to develop a network of water quality sensors that gathers continuous data throughout the watershed.
Welina Mānoa is a free online resource platform for educators, including learning modules and lesson plans featuring site visits to Lyon Arboretum, Mānoa Heritage Center, Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai, and Waikīkī Aquarium. Welina Mānoa sites and a follow up classroom lesson plan.
The Hawaiʻi Nature Center is an environmental education non-profit located in Makiki that connects students and their families with nature through immersive outdoor learning activities.
The Mānoa Heritage Center is a non-profit that promotes an understanding of the cultural and natural heritage of Hawaiʻi. It includes Kūkaʻōʻō Heiau, the the last remaining intact Hawaiian temple in the greater ahupua‘a of Waikīkī.
The University of Hawaiʻi’s Institute for Sustainability and Resilience (ISR) partners with communities across Hawaiʻi to foster multidisciplinary curricular programs that empower students to address challenges to sustainability and resilience, such as the Ala Wai Watershed.
Hālau Kū Māna is a charter school located in Makiki with a strong place-based curriculum including stewardship of the Makiki Stream that runs through its campus.
Hawaiʻinuiākea, the School of Hawaiian Knowledge of the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa stewards an area of taro patches and native trees and shrubs, Ka Papa Loʻi ʻo Kānewai, along Mānoa stream, and offers many volunteer and educational opportunities.
The Lyon Arboretum Botanical Garden in Mānoa, run by the University of Hawaiʻi, offers not only research projects on native Hawaiian plants, conservation biology, and Hawaiian ethnobotany, but also community education and volunteer activities, as well as annual plant sales.
The Hawaiʻi Exemplary State Initiative of the University of Hawaiʻi envisions a statewide effort in which K-12 schools in their respective ahupua’a participate in place-based STEM collaborations and systems thinking, and has identified the Ala Wai Watershed as a pilot area.