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The Kamehameha Schools/Arizona State University Virtual Huakaʻi Project has concluded its pilot phase with West Hawaiʻi schools. Above, ʻEhunuikaimalino 8th grade science class interacts with ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix’s Aloha Club during the synchronous session.

KS and ASU Virtual Huaka'i Project concludes pilot phase with West Hawai'i schools

Oct. 16, 2017

Contributed by KS-ASU Virtual Huaka'i Team

Kamehameha Schools is working collaboratively with Arizona State University, striving to improve education systems for Native Hawaiian learners by cultivating vital community partnerships in Hawai‘i and beyond. In April of 2016, an educational partnership was formed between Kamehameha Schools and Arizona State University to develop a series of virtual huakaʻi, beginning with Kahaluʻu Ma Kai in West Hawaiʻi.

"We think Arizona State University has a lot to offer in terms of sustainability education and technology," said Gary Dirks, director of ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. "But what we are really excited about is the opportunity to learn from and with our partners at Kamehameha Schools and the Hawaiian people. This project really built upon the cultural knowledge shared with us by our partners, and our own understanding has grown hand-in-hand with the young students who participated in this experience."

Learners are taken on a journey to this wahi pana (sacred place) and learn about Hāpaialiʻi, Keʻekū and Kapuanoni heiau. In addition, haumāna learn about the different educational components of Kahaluʻu Ma Kai, such as the ability to gauge the seasons using the heiau, architecture, history, and the geometry of the structures themselves. The latest version of the virtual huakaʻi is available on the project’s website.

“It is a powerful experience to co-develop these immersive virtual field trips with Kamehameha Schools,” said Ariel Anbar, director of ASU’s Center for Education Through eXploration.  “In this project we used adaptive technology paired with local subject matter expertise, to engage the students’ curiosity, encourage their exploration, and lead them to active discovery.”

What began as a project to build a virtual huakaʻi has evolved into much more. During the piloting phase with West Hawaiʻi Department of Education (DOE) schools, the virtual huakaʻi was implemented as part of a blended experience. Three DOE middle schools – Nā Kahumoku program (in partnership with Kealakehe Intermediate), Ke Kula ʻo ʻEhunuikaimalino, and Konawaena Middle School – participated in the pilot, which began with a semi-guided in-class virtual exploration of Kahaluʻu Ma Kai.

The experience then culminated with a physical huakaʻi to Kahaluʻu Ma Kai, where the haumāna furthered their learning and built pilina with the ʻāina. A customized Breakout EDU activity was created to engage learners and apply their learning in a series of challenges to use the clues given to “break into” locked containers and win a prize.

Nā Kahumoku program kumu Kara Dumaguin was amazed to see how quickly haumāna in her class at Kealakehe Intermediate excelled. Their progress was especially evident during the Breakout EDU activity at the STEAM Challenge station, when groups had used geometric principles to improve the existing heiau architecture so that it can withstand environmental threats.

Students who struggled in some academic subjects like math or science, were instead highly engaged and articulate in sharing their structures.

“The ‘Aha!’ moment is reminding myself that every student learns differently and it’s important to provide opportunities for them to learn using different approaches,” Dumaguin said.

During the pilot, Ke Kula ʻo Ehunuikaimalino – a Kaiapuni Hawaiian Language Immersion school – was connected with ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenixʻs Aloha Club through an online web conferencing tool. Ke Kula ʻo Ehunuikaimalino was able to give the Aloha Club a tour of Kahaluʻu Ma Kai via iPads.

As part of the sharing, Aloha Club elementary school haumāna performed hula, while Ke Kula ʻo Ehunuikaimalino shared their oli mahalo (gratitude chant). A question-and-answer session was held afterwards, allowing the haumāna from the two schools to connect with each other and ask questions about their respective cultures and locations.

Meleana Spencer, one of the 8th graders from Ke Kula ʻo ʻEhunuikaimalino who participated in the synchronous session, shared, “It was fun to meet a new school in Arizona. I thought that it was pretty cool to see the dance that they showed to us. They’re not from Hawaiʻi, but they still wanted to learn more about us, and actually did hula for us. I thought that was nice!”

During the final pilot with Konawaena Middle School, a service component was also incorporated onsite during the culminating huakaʻi to encourage haumāna to mālama ʻāina (care for the land). The four 8th grade science classes took turns getting hands-on with tools in order to clear a grove of mangrove trees. This would create better viewing angles for surveillance and improve security.

Annalise Klein, the science kumu, expressed her gratitude at the opportunity to participate in the pilot, even participating in a live webinar session during the 2017 KS Ed Tech Conference in June.

“The virtual huakaʻi just created this really simple and deep way for my students to connect the science concepts that they’ve been learning in the classroom with their home and with their place,” Klein said. “It not only gave them an opportunity to look back at how we used STEAM in the past, but also new ways that they can use STEAM in the future. So I appreciated them having the access to do that, to work at their own pace, and to explore specific things that are interesting to them. I think it’s empowered them as learners and as people who can contribute to their home in the future.”

Not only did the kumu enjoy the experience, the haumāna who participated in the pilots also expressed their genuine appreciation for the experience. 

Kahina Hewitt, 8th grader at Ke Kula ʻo ʻEhunuikaimalino, described the virtual huakaʻi experience as, “More hands on for the students who may not be as strong in academics. (Students) who are strong in more hands-on projects to do with our own culture, (and can) share their ideas instead of just taking tests… It didn’t really feel like a school assignment, it felt more fun and like a game, but educational at the same time.”

“For the community, learning where we come from and about a very special place (is very important),” Hewitt said. “I can share my new knowledge with my family, friends, and people around me, and educate them so that they’re mindful about what’s going on here.”

The kumu who participated in the pilot agreed that the integration of math, science, architecture, engineering and other academic principles into the special cultural site helped to give students a deeper understanding of the cultural principles and applications to their learnings in school. The ability to virtually visit Kahaluʻu Ma Kai gives haumāna the chance to access this wahi pana.

“To use something like technology in this way, students can, at their own pace, explore, re-explore, (and) ask questions,” Dumaguin said. “By having a project such as this, we’re able to provide this type of opportunity for the students that’s rich, dynamic, innovative and most importantly – for the student.”

Līhau Godden, 8th grade science teacher at Ke Kula ʻo ʻEhunuikaimalino, also emphasized the building of pilina and aloha ʻāina, saying, “To see their culture and their places and their family and their ancestral knowledge be valued in that way and shared in that way, I think is really, really important and is the beauty of this project.” Pilot kumu reflections align to the project’s intent of aligning with Nā Hopena Aʻo and other educational frameworks.

Now that piloting is complete, the project team is moving forward with data analysis and reporting. Close-out of the project, culminating in a report to include recommendations for implementation and potential scale-up of Hawaiian culture-based education, STEM, and ʻāina-based learning in a systemic and collaborative approach is anticipated for the coming months. Concurrently, start-up on the design and development for the next virtual huakaʻi has begun.

To learn more about the project, a website has been developed to share the many resources created for kumu, as well as others who would like to use the virtual huakaʻi as a learning tool. Photos, videos and presentations from various conferences are also included.

Please visit the Virtual Huakaʻi Resource Site for the latest updates and news on the project and partnership with ASU.

The virtual huakaʻi just created this really simple and deep way for my students to connect the science concepts that they’ve been learning in the classroom with their home and with their place... I think it’s empowered them as learners and as people who can contribute to their home in the future.
Annalise Klein, Konawaena Middle School Science Kumu

A Kealakehe Intermediate pilot class works on the Breakout EDU - STEAM Challenge stations.

Kara Dumaguin, left, Nā Kahumoku program kumu (Kealakehe Intermediate), showcases Breakout EDU skills with her participating haumāna and teaching assistant.

Students with Ke Kula ‘o ʻEhunuikaimalino 8th grade science class joins ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix’s Aloha Club during the synchronous session.

Konawaena Middle School haumāna participate in a service learning project to clear the mangrove trees.

Annalise Klein, (displayed in computer monitor) 8th grade science kumu from Ke Kula ʻo ʻEhunuikaimalino, participates in a live Q&A session.

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