OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

OHA recognizes four Hawaiian language immersion students for advancing to the state science fair

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) today recognized four students whose Hawaiian language science projects qualified for this year’s state science fair, which is being held this week at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center.

OHA Community Outreach Manager Kūhiō Lewis presented the students each with a certificate of recognition and a $100 award at today’s awards ceremony for the 61st annual Hawaiʻi State Science and Engineering Fair. The students were also given kukui plants, which represent enlightenment in Hawaiian culture.

“The achievements of these haumāna (students) must be recognized,” said 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 ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi is a viable language for school, government and business, as well as everything else in between.”

The four students submitted two projects:

Hiehie Caceres, ʻĀnela Cullen and Kapeau Bumanglag (9th grade)
School: Ke Kula Kaiapuni ʻo Ānuenue
Project Title: Kukui vs. Pulu Niu
Category: Plant Sciences

Makaʻi Farm (6th Grade)
School: Hauʻula Elementary
Project Title: Loʻi vs. Māla
Category: Plant Sciences

In recent years, a growing number of science projects produced in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi have been submitted to various district science fairs across the state. Since 2015, at least one Hawaiian language science project has advanced to the Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi by Native Hawaiians and foreigners alike, ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi schools. In practice, this law functioned to ban students from speaking ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi.

Efforts to preserve the language over the years have included ʻAha Pūnana Leo’s Hawaiian language immersion preschools and the Hawaiian language programs of the University of Hawaiʻi 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 ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi 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 twelfth 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 Hawaiʻi 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!”

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