UH Hilo sociology class helps Hawaiian-focused charter school assess their curriculum

Using theory and research skills taught in their sociology practicum, UH Hilo students are helping to asses the student-centered curriculum for a Hawaiian-focused charter school.

Snapshots of students working on rick walls, ocean exploration, and gardens. Ke Ana La‘ahana school's logo at the left, with stones and a crescent moon.
Above, Hawaiian-focused charter school Ke Ana La‘ahana, serving grades 7-12, grounds their students in knowledge of place and environment. A UH Hilo sociology class is helping the school develop a way to assess outcomes of the charter school’s curriculum. (Courtesy images)

By Evangeline Lemieux.

A sociology class at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is working on a practicum project at local Hawaiian-focused charter school Ke Ana La‘ahana. Using theory and research skills taught in the class (SOC 480), the students are helping develop assessment protocols that will guide the student-centered curriculum of the school.

Ke Ana La‘ahana serves grades 7-12 and is based in Keaukaha on Hawai‘i Island. Since 2001, over 100 students have graduated; current enrollment is 37.

The school strives to ground students in knowledge of place and environment. In addition to developing critical thinking skills and mastery of academics, the mission of the school is to “recognize, nurture, and foster cultural identity and cultural awareness in an environment that has historical connections and lineal linkage to students… driven by family, community, and culture.”

To achieve these goals, the school’s curriculum prioritizes student-centered growth, identity, and mastery of strengths. Part of the UH Hilo sociology students’ project is to figure out how to assess the success of these goals.

Alton Okinaka pictured
Alton Okinaka

Associate Professor of Sociology Alton Okinaka, who teaches the class working on the project, serves on the board of Ke Ana La‘ahana, and he gives insight into how the school is meeting their goals.

“The curriculum is very personalized, the school already has [their] students learning their genealogy and doing research, they chant their genealogy at graduation,” explains Okinaka. “We have them make portfolios every year they’re there, and this is the record of what their growth is.”

The sociology students are assessing what needs the children have in order to realize their growth, and how the school can help fulfill those needs. Okinaka says his students are helping the school children focus on their current personal identities, while envisioning their future identities.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to assess these things,” says Okinaka. “Nobody does that, so we have to create it from scratch.”

Story by Evangeline Lemieux, who is double majoring in English and medical anthropology at UH Hilo.