From left to right, at front row: Kapeau Bumanglag, Makaʻi Farm, Hiehie Caceres and ʻĀnela Cullen. Back: OHA Community Outreach Manager Kūhiō Lewis and Senator Brickwood Galuteria. -Photo: Kawena Carvalho-Mattos

Four students whose Hawaiian language science projects qualified for the 2018 statewide science fair were recognized by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs on March 30.

Each student received a certificate of recognition and $100 from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs at the 61st annual Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair awards ceremony. The students were also given kukui plants, which represent enlightenment in Hawaiian culture.

“It was the dream of our former principal, Charles Naumu, to have a science project from our school make it to the state fair.”

— Leilani Kamalani , Ānuenue School Curriculum Coordinator

“The achievements of these haumāna (students) must be recognized,” said OHA Community Outreach Manager Kūhiō Lewis. “Not only are they making scientific discoveries but they are doing so in our native language. Their presence at the state science fair demonstrates that ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i is a viable language for school, government and business, as well as everything else in between.”

The four students submitted two projects:

Hiehie Caceres, ‘Ānela Cullen and Kapeau Bumanglag (9th grade)

  • School: Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘o ānuenue
  • Project Title: Kukui vs. Pulu Niu
  • Category: Plant Sciences

Maka‘i Farm (6th Grade)

  • School: Hau‘ula Elementary
  • Project Title: Lo‘i vs. Māla
  • Category: Plant Sciences

The Hau‘ula Elementary students also received certificates and a $50 award from the Hawai‘i Agriculture Research Center.

In recent years, a growing number of science projects produced in ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i have been submitted to various district science fairs across the state. Since 2015, at least one Hawaiian language science project has advanced to the Hawai‘i State Science and Engineering Fair.

“It was the dream of our former principal, Charles Naumu, to have a science project from our school make it to the state fair,” said ānuenue School Curriculum Coordinator Leilani Kamalani. “We met his goal last year and have set a goal of our own to continue to send projects to the state fair every year. It’s important for Papahana Kaiapuni schools to show that we provide our students with both a rigorous education and a firm foundation in Hawaiian culture and language.”

While once spoken throughout Hawai‘i by Native Hawaiians and foreigners alike, ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i was considered to be nearly extinct by the 1980s, when fewer than 50 fluent speakers under the age of 18 were left. A major reason for the deterioration of the Hawaiian language was an 1896 law that required English instruction in Hawai‘i schools. In practice, this law functioned to ban students from speaking ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i.

Efforts to preserve the language over the years have included ‘Aha Pūnana Leo’s Hawaiian language immersion preschools and the Hawaiian language programs of the University of Hawai‘i system. In 1978, the Hawai‘i State Legislature recognized Hawaiian as a co-official language of Hawai‘i, thereby making Hawai‘i the first state in the union to designate an indigenous language an official state language.

Also among these ‘ōlelo Hawai‘i revitalization initiatives was the Department of Education’s Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (HLIP), also known as Ka Papahana Kaiapuni. HLIP was started in 1986 to revitalize the Hawaiian language by establishing the next generation of native speakers through the public school system. Today, HLIP is offered at 23 schools and educates more than 2,000 students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

“We thank OHA for recognizing our students for their project,” said Ānuenue’s Kamalani. “We really appreciate the Honolulu district science fair organizers, the Department of Education’s Office of Hawaiian Education and the Hawai‘i Academy of Science for taking the extra time and effort to secure judges and translators necessary for our kaiapuni students to enter their projects in Hawaiian. Ke holomua nei nō kākou!”

BONUS VIDEO: ʻĀnela Cullen, Hiehie Caceres, and Kapeau Bumanglag share with us their project, Pulunui vs. Kukui, at the Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair.