Cultural and scientific investigations in kalo

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Date: Monday, June 18, 2007
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

A "revolutionary" culture-based, interdisciplinary course in kalo (taro) is being taught for the first time this summer to a group of Big Island high school students. Ten students are enrolled in the inaugural class being taught at Waiakea High School, the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Management (CAFNRM) and 'Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawai`i. The course is being taught by representatives from these institutions and others, in both English and Hawaiian, and runs from June 12 through June 22, 2007.

Three students from Waiakea, three from Kohala, along with their teacher, three from Ke Kula `O Nawahiokalani`opu`u Hawaiian Medium Laboratory School (part of Hilo High School), and one from Kamehameha – Kea`au will all receive three college credits and one high school credit for completing the course. The academic sponsors of the class include the UH Hilo Colleges of Arts and Sciences, CAFNRM and Ka Haka Ula `O Ke`elikolani College of Hawaiian Language along with Waiakea High School. The cooperative venture seeks to promote interest in science, agriculture, mathematics, and Hawaiian language/culture among youth, to encourage students to pursue academic preparation and careers.

The class teaches students about the cultural significance of kalo, along with traditional and modern methods of growing it. Students are also being taught how to prepare poi, kulolo, taro chips and other kalo products through traditional as well as technology-enhanced means while learning about the economic opportunities available through this crop.

Terrence Moniz, a DOE certified science and agriculture teacher, is the primary instructor for the course, assisted by Hokuao Pellegrino, the plant specialist from 'Imiloa, and Drs. Michael Shintaku and Susan Miyasaka, UH Hilo CAFNRM plant pathologist and UH CTAHR agronomist, respectively. A number of community kalo growers are also participating as guest lecturers and guides for visits to their kalo farms. Financial support was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) -Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (USDA-CSREES), USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center (USDA-PBARC), Alu Like, Hawai`i County Department of Research and Development, and the National Science Foundation.

In addition to its teachings, the class makes UH Hilo career planning services available to the students. Kohala High School plans to offer the course next fall with the teacher enrolled in the current class. The University meanwhile,
is looking to expand the number of students and teachers participating in the course next summer, with the ultimate goal of increasing the quality and quantity of taro along with the number of people who enter science, agriculture, and cultural-related careers in Hawai`i County.

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