Community college students showcase ‘ike gained through summer oceanography course

During the Summer Bridge Hōʻike last month, University of Hawai‘i (UH) community college students shared the ‘ike (knowledge) they gained through an innovative oceanography course at UH Mānoa. 

The course, “Mauka to Makai,” is part of the National Science Foundation project “Halau Ola Honua, Our Living World”–a statewide collaboration among Windward Community College,  UH Mānoa, Honolulu Community College and Kauai Community College.

“Mauka to Makai” was offered through the Department of Oceanography at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Through this six-week bridge program, students engaged in a place-based oceanography curriculum grounded in Native Hawaiian values. The overarching goal of the program is to foster a transfer pathway from the community colleges to geoscience degree programs at UH Mānoa, with a focus on Native Hawaiian and other underrepresented students. 

In addition to traditional lectures and laboratories, the students engaged in mālama ʻāina (stewardship of natural/cultural resources) as well as independent research. 

“Our students utilized contemporary instrument observations to characterize the chemical, physical and biological properties of two ahupuaʻa and nearshore areas,” said Rosie Alegado, co-principal investigator of the program and associate professor in SOEST Oceanography and University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program. “They analyzed and developed independent projects around these data and shared their findings at the Hōʻike. This created an opportunity for students to have an authentic research experience that connected cultural heritage, scientific investigation and human impacts on a watershed.”

Funded as part of an award from the National Science Foundation Tribal Colleges and Universities Program to Windward Community College, Honolulu Community College, Kauaʻi Community College and UH Mānoa, this fresh approach provides hands-on learning, wherein the students are immersed in the natural environment. A unique aspect of the course is its connection with community groups involved in the preservation and restoration of traditional Hawaiian resource management practices in watersheds and coastal waters of O‘ahu.

During the Hōʻike, Michael Guidry, program co-investigator and chair of the SOEST Global Environmental Sciences program, shared that the instructor team—Alegado, UH Mānoa graduate student Ku‘i Keliipuleole and Leeward Community College instructor Donn Viviani—put forth a phenomenal effort to make this a success.  The students completed the course with new knowledge, lifelong connections and a network of scientists, cultural practitioners and community groups, he added.

“Our Mauka to Makai summer oceanography program was offered in 2018, 2019 and 2022,” said Margaret McManus, program co-investigator, professor and chairwoman of the SOEST Department of Oceanography. “I am so pleased to see several students from our 2018 and 2019 programs continuing their education in geoscience degree programs at UH Mānoa. We hope that students from our 2022 class will also join us in the future!” 

“Historically, Native Hawaiians and other ethnic minority groups, including Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans, have been underrepresented at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in SOEST,” said Alegado. “Our goal is that efforts like this will nurture Hawai‘i’s local talent so that kamaʻāina students will be empowered to become the leaders we need to face the challenges ahead.”

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