Teaching Chemistry Through Culture

Teaching Chemistry Through Culture

Learning by doing is a fundamental part of the Hawaiian culture and knowledge.

According to the Principal of Kamehameha Schools Hawaiʻi High School, Lehua Veincent, “Our content courses such as science, math, English, and Hawaiian are taught on the foundation of the Hawaiian culture.”

This school year, chemistry teacher Joel Truesdell has implemented this teaching method in his classes.

Chemistry Teacher, Joel Truesdell, says, “I was teaching the chemistry first, then the culture the second; so I reversed it this year.”

Instead of learning chemistry in the four walls of the classroom, his class became a hands-on project of koa reforestation.

Sophomore Honors Chemistry stundent, Ciarra-Lynn Parinas, says, “At the very beginning, we found out that we were going to be planting koa trees. Which was one of the main resources that our ancestors used. And it kind of hit me right there…our ancestors were scientists.”

“We would like to have the canopy, the understory, the birds, to the point of where the kids, when they go out there, they will have not only taken part in reforestation, they were able to go out there and experience it; right in the backyard. The kids, no matter what, got turned on because the importance of the culture was placed first, and that motivated them to learn.” says Mr. Joel Truesdell.

The success of this project adds to the value of a ʻāina-based approach to education. Hawaiʻi-island teachers are continuing to collaborate to bring these methods into greater use.

“The environment in Pāhoa is different from Laupāhoehoe. The goal is to see how this educational opportunity can be applied to other areas – to benefit our various communities island-wide.” says Principal Lehua Veincent.

“This is a starting point. We would like to establish a network of communications so that we can have future workshops.” says Mr. Truesdell.

Katherine Loke Rosequo, a science teacher at Ke Kula ʻo Nāwahīokalaniʻōpuʻu, says that, “it’s great because the students are able to find a connection between science and their cultural traditions.”

“It wasn’t, it’s not just basic science. Chemistry does involve life, and that life was everyday, day-by-day, for our ancestors.” says Ciarra-Lynn.

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