Solution Overview

Solution Name:

'Ike Hawai'i Science Center

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One-line solution summary:

Connecting Native learners to STEM concepts through relevant indigenous knowledges and approaches

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Pitch your solution.

Despite a long-standing history of intellectual excellence and strength nearly 2,000 years before colonial contact, the Hawaii DOE data shows dismal gaps between Native Hawaiian (NH) student achievement compared with others, especially in math and science. In 2015, 28.4% NH students tested proficient in Math compared to 46.8% non-Hawaiian students. In rural communities, proficiency rates of NH high school students are as low as 7% in science and math. This project aims to increase NH student participation and outcomes in science and math, utilizing a culture-based educational approach. The project links indigenous knowledge and practice with scientific theory, providing hands-on learning environments to engage even the most disconnected youth in scientific exploration, making science relevant to who they are as a people.  This project has the potential to advance knowledge and broaden participation of Native people, currently underrepresented in STEM field, academically and professionally.  

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What specific problem are you solving?

Data indicates that Native Hawaiian students test significantly lower than non-Hawaiian students in math (28% vs 47%), science, and reading proficiency.  In rural communities, the proficiency rates of Native Hawaiian high school students are as low as 11% in science and 7% in math.  This disconnect negatively effects Native Hawaiian graduation rates, with only 3 out of 4 Native Hawaiian students graduating on time, negatively impacting their chance for economic success, especially as 21st Century jobs are requiring increased understanding of STEM concepts.  Native Hawaiian student enrollment in STEM colleges are well below parity with the State population(23.1%): 13.2% in Tropical Agriculture, 11.9% in Engineering, 8.8% in Natural Sciences, 6.5% in Medicine, and 4.4% in Ocean and Earth Sciences.  The combined working population of NHs, Pacific Islanders, and ‘Other Race’ represents 4.6% of the total U.S. workforce, but only 1.4% of STEM occupations. This makes NHs and Pacific Islanders the most underrepresented ethnic group in the nation in STEM employment (factor of 3.3), more so than Hispanic (2.3), African American (1.7), and American Indian and Alaska Native (1.5) groups.  These realities also increase the potential of continued socioeconomic challenges and incarceration rates, especially for Native Hawaiian males.

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What is your solution?

‘Ike Hawai‘i will integrate indigenous Hawaiian culture, history, and language into science exploration and utilize place- and project-based approaches grounded in Hawaii’s host culture.  We aim to create opportunities for Native Hawaiian (NH) individuals, families and communities to learn hands-on that science is not separate from our culture and our identity; that our cultural and traditional management practices and sustainable systems were developed as a result of the scientific method; that science is not a western construct, it is what we have always done, it is a part of who we are; and that science is in fact a strength of our indigenous culture. Interactive exhibits will be designed to foster interest in STEM and motivate Native Hawaiian youth to identify themselves as scientists, while retaining their cultural identities.  ‘Ike Hawai‘i design will also aim to assure that learners engaging with the exhibit can recognize the link to culture and science.  By involving learners in hands-on experiences, we aim to better position our NH youth and instill a desire to participate in future collaborative efforts to address issues our island communities face directly—issues like climate change, rising sea levels, pollution, and the ecological impact of growing population and tourist visitation.

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Strong preference will be given to Native-led solutions that directly benefit and are located within the Indigenous communities. Which community(s) does your solution benefit?

In the State of Hawaii, Native Hawaiians are economically more significantly disadvantage compared to the statewide population of Hawaii.  Native Hawaiians in Hawaii have:

  • The highest unemployment rate of any major ethnic group in the State of Hawaii.
  • The lowest per capita income of any major ethnic group in the State of Hawaii.
  • The highest percentage of individuals living below the poverty level of any major ethnic group in the State of Hawaii.
  • Lower access to capital based on having “a higher loan denial rate” for mortgages and more mortgage loan denials “because of a poor credit history.
  • The highest rate of homelessness of any major ethnic group in the State of Hawaii.
  • Double the statewide rate for use of public assistance at 13.6%.

          The Waianae Coast, located on a 22-mile narrow coastline on the west side of the island of Oahu, is home to almost 50,000 individuals, of which 59% are Native Hawaiian, making it the highest concentration of Native Hawaiians in the world, per census tract.  Statistically, the Waianae Coast has a higher number of households with single-mothers, teenage moms, and grandparents raising grandchildren.  The Waianae Coast is also one of the most economically depressed communities in the State of Hawaii and continues to suffer from greater economic disadvantages.  Many in these communities’ struggle with poverty, unemployment, and a general lack of economic resources. Without exception, Native Hawaiians in the community make up the highest percentage of the individuals struggling with the socio-economic barriers, and the community deals with some of the highest rates of poverty in the entire state: the 24% poverty rate for families with children is more than twice the statewide rate of 10%. For single-mother families on the Coast, the poverty rate climbs to 41%, compared to the statewide rate of 27% for this demographic.

  • Per Capita Income: Waianae= $17,800 (vs. $30,700)
  • Unemployment: Waianae = 11.8% (vs. 7.2%)
  • Children in Households Receiving Assistance: Waianae= 55.5% (vs. 22.2%)
  • Families Receiving SNAP: Waianae= 33.3% (vs. 10.1%)
  • Population living below 100% poverty level: Waianae= 24% (vs. 9.8%)

The Coast also struggles with some of the lowest educational outcomes compared to state averages. While on-time high school graduation has improved in the Nānākuli-Wai‘anae (N-W) DOE complex, proficiency scores continue to be among the lowest statewide in english, math and science.   College graduates make up only 13.3% of the Coast population, compared to the state average of 32%. Census and wage data consistently show a correlation between an individual’s educational attainment and wage earnings: the higher the degree attainment, the higher the annual wage earnings. Low educational attainment of Coast residents is significant, given the extensive research that suggests a strong link between post-secondary degree attainment and individual economic self-sufficiency.

INPEACE is seeking to identify a group of three select cultural themes that will form the core exhibits of a mobile science exhibit circuit. Each theme will be grounded in NH practice, and broken down into several interactive science-based activities to guide understanding of each theme’s underpinning concepts.

There are several reasons why we chose this approach:

First, CBE works: INPEACE has enabled the educational success of thousands of participants on the Waianae Coast through programs delivered through a strong cultural lens. Our Keiki Steps program, operating since 1999, breaks down culture into bite-sized pieces for children and their caretakers to engage them in early learning, resulting in longitudinal improvements in parenting skills and kindergarten readiness. The effects have been shown to be generational – with additional children that enter participant families exhibiting higher outcomes from the outset.

Second, we know that the integration of traditional knowledge systems with Western science, when grounded in values and worldviews, and with attention to communities of practice within indigenous communities, can support successful communication of science and math concepts to NH youth. Our Kupu Ola program has engaged previously disengaged high-need middle-school students at Wai‘anae Intermediate School (WIS) through work in outdoor classrooms, and the training of their teachers. Over 5 years, this programming has garnered the full support of WIS school leadership and science teachers, as they have seen the positive changes and increases in educational engagement exhibited by participating students, some of whom had been considered unreachable. Large-scale research has also shown that the use of CBE can positively impact student outcomes, including reading and math scores, and that students of teachers utilizing culture-based strategies exhibit greater school motivation (Kana‘iaupuni, S., B. Ledward, and U. Jenson, 2010).

Third, there is a long history of mobile museums making education more accessible to the public, allowing institutions to actively seek out their audiences, enabling community influence over resources being made available, and aiding innovative, experience-based approaches – a history ‘Ike Hawai‘i will draw and learn from.

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Which dimension of the Fellowship does your solution most closely address?

Support language and cultural revitalization, quality K-12 education, and support for first-generation college students
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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Fellowship and your selected dimension.

This project seeks to increase the engagement and academic achievement of Native Hawaiian students in STEM fields, particularly in rural communities with high Native Hawaiian populations, utilizing indigenous knowledge to design and build interactive activities that hold the recognition of cultural practice and demonstrate the relationship to contemporary science.  

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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Waianae, HI, USA
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Prototype: A venture or organization building and testing its product, service, or business model
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Who is the primary delegate for your solution?

Maile Keliipio-Acoba

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Please indicate the tribal affiliation of your primary delegate.

Native Hawaiian

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Is your primary delegate a member of the community in which your project is based?

Yes

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Solution Team

  • MK MK
    Maile Keliipio-Acoba Chief Executive Officer , Institute for Native Pacific Education and Culture (INPEACE)
 
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