Students Jake DeMello, left, and Kristen Ching, wearing sweatshirt, made water quality measurements on Waihi Stream in Manoa Valley recently as other students in theEarth Systems program looked on.

15 students get paid
to study nature

UH faculty members treat
high-school teens to a
hands-on Earth sciences course

By Helen Altonn

Some students began the six-week course thinking it was "a cool summer cruise," but left with a different attitude and a lot more knowledge, says University of Hawaii associate geochemist Eric DeCarlo.

He and oceanography professor Fred Mackenzie organized the Summer Immersion Course in Earth System Science for Native Hawaiian and Disadvantaged Minority Students.

The program for 15 high school students focused on Earth system science because there is little exposure to it in traditional high school and college curricula, the scientists said.

A ranking of students to determine what they knew about various topics before and after the intensive course showed an across-the-board increase of 50 percent or more in knowledge, DeCarlo said.

Student comments ranged from "good opportunity for us" and "a good taste of what college level science" will be to "looks good on college resumes."

"We're getting recognition from a group of kids who at this age are interested in other things, so we're really pleased with the outcome of this," DeCarlo said when the course ended Friday.

Students were selected based on applications and teachers' recommendations and given $1,500 stipends so they could attend the course instead of taking a summer job.

Mackenzie adapted a UH Earth system science course for lectures to the students, and they had a series of field trips.

Some were "purely show and tell," such as the waste-water treatment plant, DeCarlo said, and others involved experimental work in marine and earth science and ecology.

The students went to Heeia Pond, the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island, Manoa Stream, Koko Crater Botanical Gardens and Ordy Pond at the former Barbers Point Naval Air Station.

They spent the entire day studying water quality at the shoreline and in the middle of Heeia Pond "as a function of time of day," how it is affected by solar radiation and the photosynthesis cycle, DeCarlo said.

At the Ala Wai Canal watershed in back of Manoa Valley, they made measurements in the stream "as a function of distance," ending beyond Kaimuki High School, where the water becomes salty and joins the Ala Wai, he said.

"Nobody in the group had any idea salt water from the canal comes up to the high school. It's a function of tides and how much water is flowing down the stream."

Sediments, nutrients and water density were studied in laboratory exercises modified from those taught in the university's introductory oceanography course, DeCarlo said.

He said he was impressed with the change in some participants who initially thought, "Oh cool, I get paid and get to hang out at UH" for the summer.

The students had to write a number of papers and laboratory reports which, DeCarlo said, "ranged tremendously from very mundane to actually pretty darned good, and it was not necessarily the Iolani kids who did the best.

"One extremely bright student turned in an absolutely horrendous report. We basically let him have it."

He was told to redo it, and "an absolutely spectacular paper came back," DeCarlo said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant College Program funded the course. The course also was supported by the School of Ocean & Earth Sciences & Technology and the Oceanography Department's Global Environmental Science Program, he said.

DeCarlo said he hopes it will be repeated and more professors will become involved to help bridge K-12 classes with the university.

Some participants will attend UH

Students participating in the University of Hawaii Earth System Science Immersion Course:

>> Kristin Ching of Ewa Beach, Maryknoll School junior.

>> Nicole Chu of Ewa Beach, Ocean Learning Academy senior.

>> Matt Del Rosario of Honolulu, Iolani School graduate attending UH in the fall.

>> Jake DeMello of Kaneohe, Kamehameha Schools senior.

>> Kiana L. Frank of Kailua, Kamehameha junior.

>> Tabish Khan of Pearl City, Kamehameha graduate attending UH this fall.

>> Justin Konia of Pearl City, Kamehameha graduate, attending Loyola Marymount in the fall.

>> Sherri K. Lee of Honolulu, Kaimuki High School senior.

>> Brandon P.K. Lum of Lahaina, Maui, Lahainaluna High School senior.

>> Jason Momohara of Pearl City, Kamehameha graduate attending UH this fall.

>> Maile Nuuhiwa of Waimanalo, Ocean Learning Academy senior.

>> Samantha Robertson of Kapolei, Hanalani senior.

>> Bianca Salazar of Honolulu, Ocean Learning Academy senior.

>> Lee Sun On Tsuyoshi Takenaka of Honolulu, Iolani graduate, attending University of Washington this fall.

>> Naomi Walker of Kaaawa, Kahuku High School senior.

E-mail to City Desk


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