Frequently Asked Questions

How is MAF funded?

100% of MAF’s revenue is through grants, such as the US Department of Education’s Native Hawaiian Education Act. In addition, the Makawalu O Nā Kumu (hereafter Makawalu) program also has an agreement with Partners in Development Foundation to operate the Green Machine facility and utilize the site for education as part of its program. The Green Machine is currently partnered with the Hawai‘i Nature Center, Hālau Kū Māna charter school, and the Department of Land and Natural Resources as a demonstration site remediating the wastewater from the Makiki comfort station into usable irrigation water.

Why are MAF’s programs needed?

Years of research have shown that Native Hawaiian youth have lagged behind in achievement in higher academic education when compared to non-Hawaiian students. Native Hawaiian students have been found to be more educationally at-risk and have lower graduation rates than their peers. Records show at least a nine percent deficiency in academic levels compared to their peers, which increases as these Native Hawaiian students move up through the educational system. This has been partly attributed to Native Hawaiian cultural traditions of learning through a hands-on approach, as opposed to the Western educational model of explicit instruction and testing.

Although Hawaiian charters schools are seen as one solution to this issue, those schools themselves face special problems with limited resources requiring additional support, especially in STEM education. Based on research and as confirmed by program staff, the presentation of STEM topics in a place-based and project-based context in addition to the Western model of classroom learning has served to further enhance student comprehension, appreciation and interest. In addition, as Native Hawaiians are severely under-represented in STEM education and professions, our programs serve to stimulate interest in STEM subjects and careers.

The Green Machine provides an example of environmental sustainability. This constructed wetland uses the biology of Native Hawaiian wetland plants and bacteria to purify water. In addition to its benefits of being a wastewater facility and educational resource, the Green Machine has a smaller footprint, lower energy consumption, lower operating cost, and less water usage.

How does MAF determine what type of curriculum to implement?

MAF draws upon a variety of sources when implementing programs, including research and evidence-based practice, data from past MAF programs, feedback from schools, and Native Hawaiian culture and practices. A culture-based model rather than a Western-based model of education has been found to be effective for Native Hawaiian students. Before Western contact, Native Hawaiians utilized education that was place-based, skill-based, and practical, with the land as a natural classroom. Therefore, it is not surprising that outside fieldwork has been found to be very effective especially for Native Hawaiian students, as they are more open to and engaged in this approach in learning. This approach in learning not only increases academic achievement, but also reconnects Native Hawaiian students back to the land and their culture.

Are the schools involved in the development of curriculum?

Yes, MAF uses feedback from the schools to make improvements throughout the programs and when implementing future programs. Pīkoi Ke Kaula Kualena in particular was a natural extension of and incorporated feedback from the previous Mālama I Ka ‘Āina program. The E Ola Pono Me Ka ‘Āina a Me Ke Kai program also used teacher feedback to make changes to the curriculum.

For the current Makawalu program, MAF met with the charter schools to determine their interest and commitment to be involved in the program and gather information to conduct a needs assessment, prior to submitting a grant proposal. Makawalu has also strived to work with principals and teachers to get feedback on the program to fine tune the curriculum and delivery to be most effective for the students.

What makes MAF STEM curriculum unique?

MAF’s alternative approach moves the classroom outdoors where students can learn by doing hands-on lessons involving the use of all five senses. Through this kinetic approach, students and teachers learn how to operate various science and math related equipment and software, are taught statistical mathematics and data analysis, and at the same time learn about their culture and caring for their “backyard.”

For the Makawalu program, 3 units of curriculum (15 lessons each) are delivered in 3 week segments using 6th, 7th, and 8th grade math and science benchmarks from the Hawai‘i Content and Performance Standards 3. In addition to the coursework, outside fieldwork (ropes course, lo‘i farming, sailing canoes, trips to the Green Machine) and iPads are used to enrich the curriculum and increase student engagement. The curriculum is designed to integrate the state benchmarks with the Hawaiian cultural content from place-based learning. Students use the iPads to complete digital worksheets, use third party apps, cameras, videos, and the internet. Documentation on the iPads also allows for the creation of digital student portfolios to showcase their work. Teachers are first trained by MAF staff before administering 3 units of a STEM enhancement curriculum. Through feedback and quarterly evaluation of data, the program continues to make changes such as adjusting the time of day tests are administered and providing one-on-one trainings for teachers who did not attend the prescheduled training sessions.

The Green Machine is based on the ancient ahupua‘a system of Hawai‘i and the Living Machine Technology which uses the latest technologies and engineering to recreate the ecology of natural coastal wetlands. At the Green Machine, students employ water quality meters, microscopes, and measuring tapes to collect data about the volume, condition, and change over time for water in the Green Machine. A photovoltaic system that powers the Green Machine is used to explain concepts of electricity and transformation of energy. The adjacent water quality lab is used to monitor bacteria and nutrient levels in the recycled water and a plant nursery is used for student propagation of native Hawaiian plants for the irrigation field.

How do you determine whether the program goals are being met?

Evaluations are conducted by an external evaluator to analyze results and provide recommendations. By incorporating these recommendations as well as feedback from the schools, our programs are able to make adjustments as necessary within the project and this also ensures that students are comfortable and successful in learning the curricula. This continuous monitoring and reporting of project status (beginning monthly, then quarterly and summarized annually for the Makawalu program), serves to alert administrators of problems before or as they develop to enable immediate remedial actions to ensure project integrity and success.

What is the impact of MAF’s programs?

Students have provided unsolicited testimonials on their appreciation for learning opportunities outside of the classroom as well as their new enhanced interest. This STEM enhancement program has also broadened the scope and coverage of the curriculum for these Hawaiian Charter Schools. The Makawalu activities add to the amount of time dedicated to the STEM exposure provided by these schools, and they create a more “STEM-friendly” environment suitable for addressing barriers to STEM education such as math phobias and a lack of exposure to the many fascinating and stimulating topics embodied in STEM education.

Results so far have already shown a significant increase in STEM knowledge of students and these activities have demonstrated significant impacts on certain individual students, as data have shown that some students had pre to post test gains of up to 600%.

What’s next for MAF?

With the Makawalu program nearing its final year of funding, MAF is currently looking at other sources of funding. Securing additional funding would not only allow the foundation to expand and continue to help teachers and students in Hawai‘i, but it would also allow MAF to revive the Green Machine educational outreach program, which in the past has served over 1,200 students a year. Restarting the program would provide a day of experiential learning and discovery for students and their teachers and increase students’ academic success and environmental awareness through hands-on Hawaiian cultural experience.

Through environmental sustainability education and by increasing the environmental awareness of students and the community, MAF hopes to inspire the community to embrace natural resource management solutions that align with natural processes and traditional Hawaiian practices.