Ohana and Aina: Field-based Environmental Education in Hawaii

Friday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Course-Based Research Projects


Sara Cina, Stanford University
Peter Vitousek, Stanford University
Stanford University's Wrigley Field Program in Hawaii is an interdisciplinary field-based program investigating the Earth sciences, life sciences, and Hawaiian culture. Having completed its third iteration this past fall, the program sends up to 20 undergraduates to the islands of Hawai'i and Kaua'i for an entire academic quarter (10 weeks) and has become a model for immersive, experiential education in the university's School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. The students spend their days exploring a range of natural sciences through intensive fieldwork—collecting data and making observations—followed by synthesis, analysis and presentation of that data. The program culminates in student-designed research projects carried out over the final two weeks. A combination of Stanford faculty and local experts provide instruction during a series of one-week long blocks, each devoted to an individual topic: marine biology, ecology, anthropology, volcanology, geomorphology, soils, and resource management. One of the most powerful aspects of the program, however, is the way that the study of Hawaii's unique geology and diverse ecosystems is interwoven with an exploration of cultural perspectives through service-learning and interaction with native Hawaiian community leaders. The program is targeted towards freshmen and sophomores; however, it is open to any student and, in the most recent iteration, nine different majors were represented ranging from Product Design and Psychology to Geological and Environmental Sciences. While a rigorous study has not yet been done on specific educational outcomes, students report that the experience—field-based investigations of natural systems coupled with exposure to native Hawaiian values and cultural practices—gave them a deep appreciation of the connections between environment, community, and the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge. All students who completed the most recent program evaluation (13 out of 19) rated their overall learning as greater than a typical quarter on campus.