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From left, Congressman Mark Takai, UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences Dean Denise Eby Konan, UH Mānoa Director of Education Hokulani Aikau and Kapiʻolani CC Director of the Office for Institutional Effectiveness Robert Franco.

What do the economics of climate change, the upkeep of a Native Hawaiian fishpond and the removal of invasive algae have in common? They are all part of what makes the University of Hawaiʻi the leading institution in the nation in integrating science with civic responsibility.

The National Center for Science and Civic Engagement has identified Hawaiʻi as the first model state for Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER). The Hawaiʻi SENCER Team was honored at the Washington symposium and national meeting held in late September 2015. U.S. Representative Mark Takai addressed the audience and spoke with pride about Hawaiʻi’s efforts to effectively integrate science with civic engagement and to prepare “citizen scientists.”

Hawaiʻi’s SENCER work is varied and includes social and indigenous sciences with natural sciences as its focus. The now statewide UH team builds on recent work of faculty from Kapiʻolani Community College, Windward Community College, UH Mānoa and UH Hilo and two groups within its team of SENCER practitioners—the Native Hawaiian Initiative and Hui o Moku.

Hui o Moku is inter-island, interdisciplinary and uses activities such as service learning, and community-based research, to strengthen “SENCERized” transfer bridges from community colleges to universities for all students, especially Native Hawaiian and Pacific Island youth.

The Native Hawaiian Initiative links social and natural sciences to indigenous Hawaiian knowledge. The team is currently designing a two-year program that includes coursework, community-based research, engagement and peer mentoring for Native Hawaiian undergraduate College of Social Science majors.

students on canoe
College students in the Ka Holo Waʻa service-learning program hosting Pacific Islander students from Jarrett Middle School and Kaimuki High School at Kualoa. (photo by Ulla Hasager)

Examples of Hawaiʻi’s multi-institutional, statewide, civically engaged programs include:

  • The upkeep of Windward CC campus rain gardens and the ancient Waikalua Loko Fishpond in Kapiʻolani.
  • Marine research and stewardship through Windward CC’s Pacific Center for Environmental Studies (PaCES) and the University of Hawaiʻi systemwide Marine Option Program.
  • The work of students partnering with The Nature Conservancy and Mālama Maunalua, two community groups, to act as citizen scientists and assist with invasive algae removal as part of Kapiʻolani CC’s ecology and the environment lab.
  • Archaeological field training at Kupopolo Heiau, one of the most significant ancestral places on Oʻahu’s North Shore, through the UH Mānoa and Kamehameha Schools’ collaborative North Shore Field School. The field school identifies, documents and investigates archaeological artifacts, features and other cultural landscapes.
  • Ka Holo Waʻa–Creating Oceanic Pathways: Walking the Stick of Our Ancestors, a UH Mānoa College of Social Sciences Program for Civic Engagement and Kānehūnāmoku Voyaging Academy partnership, which brings together people of all ages from both Hawaiian and Micronesian communities to share the knowledge of traditional canoe carving methods and navigation techniques.
  • Service-learning projects that integrate cultural, historic and environmental learning through the Mālama I Nā Ahupuaʻa program. The program helps with restoration, maintenance, documentation and oral history collection. Its participants gain knowledge about food sovereignty, sustainability, traditional Hawaiian use of land and water and understand why this knowledge is important today.
  • Creating policy to address climate change impacts as a part of Climate Change Science and Economics, a SENCER Model course offered at UH Mānoa.
  • Students majoring in a range of various disciplines, many outside STEM, do research on their own sleep experiments through the Science of Sleep, a SENCER model course at Kapiʻolani CC.
  • SENCER team members continue to be actively engaged in developing sustainability policies for the University of Hawaiʻi System.
  • Earlier this year at the 2015 SENCER Summer Institute in Massachusetts, a new award was presented to Hawaiʻi’s SENCER team members for the quality of inter-institutional collaborations and deep partnerships that were established to improve the quality of both formal and informal education.

    College students at work at Waikalua Fishpond in Kapiʻolani Bay. (photo by Ulla Hasager)
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