Hawaiian medicinal plant research sparks student interest in STEM professions

August 11, 2014  |   |  2 Comments
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Keolani Noa, Stacy Clayton and Andrew Chang, 2nd year Kapiʻlani CC STEM student and program peer mentor

Keolani Noa, Stacy Clayton and Andrew Chang, 2nd year Kapiʻlani CC STEM student and program peer mentor

Kamehameha Schools has awarded Kapiʻolani Community College $50,000 to fund Project Olonā. Twelve first-year Native Hawaiian college students will research the active ingredients of Hawaiian medicinal plants and compare the difference in the chemical potency of these plants when grown using different methods including traditional soil and hydroponic systems. The students will also investigate the potential healing properties of traditional medicinal plants.

Keolani Noa, outreach and Native Hawaiian coordinator of the STEM Program said, “We are very excited about this innovative collaboration between Kamehameha Extension Education Services Division and Kapiʻolani CC Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. Project Olonā will help students enhance their knowledge about Hawaiian culture and science and help them link traditional Hawaiian practices to contemporary science. This program is poised to increase interest and preparedness of Native Hawaiians for STEM related professions.”

Students will have the opportunity to work alongside experts in the fields of ethnobotany and chemistry, who will lead the program and provide them with scientific skills and knowledge needed to successfully conduct the experiments.

“Experiences like these are critical to linking students learning in the classroom to relevant and real world applications,” said Stacy Clayton, director of Extension Education Services at Kamehameha Schools. “What makes Project Olonā special is the Hawaiian world view in which these undergraduate students will conduct their scientific work and inquiry. Their findings will greatly contribute to the scientific Hawaiian body of knowledge.”

“Through this project Native Hawaiian students will be given the opportunity to find their place and role in the ʻāina in which they live and relate their cultural knowledge and experience to rigorous scientific investigations,” said Kapiʻolani CC Chancellor Leon Richards.

For more, read the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation news release.

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  1. TE. Uʻilanimakamae... Kūhaulua says:

    I know as well as millions of Hawaiians know that Lāʻau Lapaʻau has been in practice for thousands of years in Hawaiʻi. In UH you folks study extensively the hundreds of varieties of kalo, however the magnificent natural Lāʻau Lapaʻau practice is foreign to you folks? does a foreigner have to learn about it and turn around and teach the kānaka about their own history and lineage and birthright? ʻAuwe! How can this happen? My tt was a kahuna Lāʻau Lapaʻau and she would be shame to know that the ʻilikea has more ʻike on nā mea Hawaiʻi than our ʻōpio. Somebody not doing their kuleana. If the ;ike isnʻt passed on to the next generation , then it gets lost and put into books as “historical facts”.
    I am thankful that you folks are trying to pass on the ʻike to native Hawaiian ʻopio. I sincerely wish our ʻopio on Kauaʻi had the same opportunity. No ka mea, with the passing of our Kahuna Lāʻau lapaʻau, much of the knowledge of the kupuna will be lost. They will not pass it all to foreigners. Right now mostly foreigners are learning the practice of Lāʻau lapaʻau. That is heartbreaking. Textbooks are the reference when necessary, not the actual practioner. Tsa!

    • Kitty says:

      You must not be aware of the incredible Lāʻau lapaʻau classes being taught by Kumu Keoki at UH Manoa. He is Hawaiian, as was his late predecessor Levon Ohai. The majority of students in our class are Hawaiian. We do not rely on textbooks, but rather, we rely on our hands, our memories, and our hearts.

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