The ‘A’ali’i of Nanakuli High & Intermediate


Students in the ‘A’ali’i Program at Nanakuli High and Intermediate School visited Ka’ala Farm weekly since September 1, 2016 as part of the exploration of their year-long project topic, The Science and Politics of Water. This is an integrated, place-based project that provides hands-on learning opportunities in a way that allows students to positively impact their community. The program is comprised of 24 students ranging from grades 7-12, three teachers, including a Special Educator and an Educational Assistant, and several community partners from various backgrounds.

At the start of the second semester, students divided into teams to focus on various, ongoing aspects of the fishpond ecosystem: ‘Auwai, Planting, Pathways, Hale Building, and Cooking. Students learned the science of

water through the creation of the fishpond as an entire ecosystem, while also working in smaller groups to complete one specific aspect. This allowed them to take more ownership over the work they did and more pride in themselves as community contributors.  Additionally, students began applying content and skills they have learned at Kaʻala back on their schoolʻs campus through their weekly gardening activities.


Students regularly learned and applied science and math content, problem-solving skills, and communication skills. With each experience students were provided with opportunities to ask questions, reflect on the process, and build their sense of community through discussion and collaboration. They also learned to be advocates for their community and take leadership roles in demonstrating the proper care for maintaining a healthy watershed and natural resource system. Their work is establishing precedence in the community for subsequent projects to be modeled after.


At the end of the school year, each of the 14 Seniors in the ʻAʻaliʻi program graduated!

What is Kanaka?

  • Grade 7

  • Ka Waihona O Ka Naʻauao Charter School

  • Nānākuli, Hawaiʻi


He Aha Ke Kanaka?  How can we as Ka Waihona O Ka Naʻauao Charter School (KWON) haumana (students) create a movement that spreads our cultural pride to others?  With guidance from teachers and community partners, students explored the varieties of ethnicities that are present in themselves and their school campus.  Students were exposed to cultural field experiences led by experts in their fields, expressed their knowledge through artistic pieces led by Art to Go, and displayed their personal findings to the community in which they live in.


The project benefitted from great collaboration amongst community members who instilled authenticity and relevance by sharing their knowledge with the students.  Students heard and experienced Native Hawaiian community activists invigorating stories of pride and respect for knowing who they are and where they come from.  They worked with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and a master navigator to understand the importance of learning about your culture and sharing it with the rest of the world through the vehicle of the Hōkūleʻa waʻa (canoe).  They met an experienced canoe voyager from the Kanehunamoku Voyaging Academy who taught them that being keen observers of their surroundings can empower them to navigate success in life.  Bringing this all together in a visual piece of artwork that could tell the story of who they are were qualified artists from the Honolulu Museum of Art’s Art to Go program.  


Hoa ‘Aina Farm Internship

  • Grade 12

  • Nānākuli High and Intermediate School

  • Nānākuli, Hawaiʻi


The Hoa ‘Āina Internship is a collaborative partnership between PLACES, Nānākuli High School, and Hoa ‘Āina O Mākaha Farm. This program offered a unique opportunity for seniors to experience a farm-to-table atmosphere, various innovative agricultural techniques, and working with community to develop an intrinsic appreciation for where they live. Interns studied the challenges surrounding agriculture on the Wai’anae Coast by speaking with innovators in the field and gaining empathy for their struggles. Controlling weeds has been a constant battle for farmers in the community, so the interns chose to focus on this for their research. They brainstormed possible solutions and designed models to test their ideas.


The internship culminated with students successfully completing short projects like growing food, constructing a portable chicken coop, and cooking new dishes made with food grown on the farm. These ventures built student confidence should they desire to explore an agricultural startup or develop their own model of sustainability at home.

NHIS AVID Internship Program

In the 21st century, what skills make a high schooler ready for life after high school? Seven NHIS Juniors were part of the AVID class and attended an internship five hours per week, being mentored by a professional in their career field of interest.  Internship sites included Mākaha Studios, Wai’anae Coast Comprehensive Health Center, Ka Waihona o ka Na’auao, and Nānāikapono Elementary School.

NHIS Marine Science

NHIS students in 10th through 12th grades examined the various issues the ocean faces.  The students investigated local and global issues ranging from ocean acidification to regrowth of rare and endangered species.  Using the Wai‘anae Coast as a model example of pristine waters, students could see the damage done to the other parts of O‘ahu and the trajectory of what could happen to Wai‘anae if the community doesn’t take action to restore or preserve the health of the ocean.  

Gimme a S. Gimme a N. Gimme an A. Gimme a C. Gimme a K.

What does that spell? You are absolutely right! It spells SNACK! Kindergarteners at Waianae Elementary School (WES) joined PLACES’ Mrs. Britt in a cheer about healthy snacks. WES participates in the U.S. Government’s Healthy Snack program and receive a fruit or vegetable every week to sample in order to promote eating healthy. Mrs. Britt asked the students to help their grade level come up with fun and inventive ways to teach others about eating healthy snacks. Excited by the challenge, the kindergarteners spent the morning with PLACES staff in the school garden to begin their investigations around healthy eating.

Come sail away with Makaha 3rd grade!

Students had a wonderful day at Hoa Aina O Makaha building a Hokule’a garden. Students used hammer and nail to lay the floor of the “wa’a” that also supports a ramp for access to all students. The hulls of the wa’a will be used as grow beds for planting and harvesting food that will be prepared for the Hokule’a and her long journey around the world. Students were also engaged in activities such as dry boxes, guest speaker on Astronomy from LCC and continuing the placing of Legacy Bricks in their 3rd Grade garden area. Stay tuned for our next journey to the farm! 

Uncle Anu visits Ka Waihona 7th & 8th Grades

Under sunny skies and cool breezes with the ocean as their backdrop and the mountains in the forefront, 7th and 8th grade students and their teachers at Ka Waihona O Ka Na’auao Public Charter School sat in their courtyard listening to guest speaker Thomas Anuheali’i, more affectionately known as Uncle Anu, from Gil-Olsen Joint Ventures at Palehua Ridge, a magical place atop the Makakilo Ridge.


“He aha ke kanaka?”, he asked the students. “What is kanaka? What does it mean to be a kanaka or person? Who are you? Who are your people? Why is it important to know this?”


Closely tied to his Hawaiian cultural identity, he shared his understanding of his own kanaka-ism with students and challenged each and every one of them to discover their own family histories in order to understand, take pride in, and steward their own stories of kanaka-ism. With their new understandings of self and by sharing their journeys of self discovery, they hope to inspire other students in foreign lands to celebrate their own sense of self using the Hokule’a worldwide voyage to deliver their messages abroad. I mua a lanakila!

Caterpillars 'r' Us

Munch! Munch! Munch! What’s that sound you say? Well it’s the sound of some very hungry caterpillars and they’re coming your way! The kindergarteners at Makaha Elementary School are studying butterflies and they are crazy about them. The children are taking part in The Great Butterfly Challenge and were charged by 1st grade butterfly experts from Wai’anae Elementary school to embark on the following mission: “Create a space in your school that will attract butterflies. Make it beautiful. Make it welcoming. Make it a place where you and the butterflies want to be.” Through their study of the life cycle of butterflies students will discover what makes a good place for butterflies to live, the plants that host them and feed them, and what makes a space attractive to butterflies and to kindergarteners. Students will visit butterfly gardens, read books, and use keen observation skills to observe caterpillars and butterflies in nature and in their classroom’s butterfly houses. Once they become experts they will build their own butterfly garden where they can frolic with the butterflies at Hoa ‘Aina O Makaha farm. What a beautiful sight that will be!

Help us celebrate who we are!

PALS and PLACES students visited a Social Foundations of Education class at University of Hawaii West Oahu, challenging the future teachers to come out to their schools and volunteer. Students danced to the song, "Let it Grow" while holding signs that said: "Help me Grow Up to Be...", "I AM a part of your community", "I want to stay healthy", "Help us plan a 5K run", and "Help us celebrate who we are!" The future teachers got a chance to learn about all the different projects run by PALS and PLACES and signed up to support a project that interested them. Stay tuned to see how the volunteers made a difference in all our projects.

Project Snapshots

There is always something exciting and stimulating happening in PLACES! Whether it is drumming, gardening, and cooking or researching, writing and performing, something new is always being learned as children and teachers pursue their questions and passions! Follow us on twitter or check this page frequently to see what's happening.

University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Student Equity, Excellence & Diversity (SEED)

2600 Campus Rd., QLSSC 413

Honolulu, HI 96822

Place-based Learning And Community Engagement in School (PLACES)