In 2018, four students from the Accelerator STEM Programme at Ormiston Junior College travelled to Honolulu, Hawai’i as part of a project investigating ancient Hawaiian fish ponds called Loko’Ea, which are simple yet highly effective aquaculture technique based on lunar cycles and natural observations. We explored if the same technology can be applied in New Zealand with our iwi,  Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki as a sustainable fish management tool to support a project breeding Yellow Belly Flounder in collaboration with Plant & Food Research in Nelson. While in Hawai’i we visited several local schools and cultural organizations and have built relationships that gave us the opportunity to go back and continue to develop strong life-long connections.

During our visit a Hawaiian elder (kuma) who manages a Loko’Ea or fish pond asked if we could place a camera in one of these ancient fish ponds so he can track the types of fish and their patterns as they enter the pond to support thousands of years of traditional observations. So we created a programme using IBM’s Watson and machine learning to train a simple motion sensor camera to automatically take photos of fish and classify them.

We think this is a perfect example of an authentic use of technology as the kumu stated his purpose was to use technology “to support the traditional observations of native Hawaiians in order to develop the next generation’s observational skills, not replace them with technology, and this is extremely important due to the rate at which we are seeing environmental change in this era”.

Now we are preparing to return to Hawai’i later this year to continue building our learning relationships. In addition to visiting fish ponds we will focus on participating in a Polynesian Wayfinding High School Academy as well as developing innovative Polynesian design thinking approaches. We have been working with native Hawaiians to adapt Stanford’s Design Thinking Model within a Mautauranga or Māori perspective. In order to achieve this we have had video conferences with professors from Stanford’s Design School, who are acting as critical friends, as well as getting practical support from industry design experts at Rush Digital. We even spoke to Kiwi author Kinley Salomon who lives in Washington, D.C. where he works at the World Bank to get advice on how to use economic tools to better understand future patterns/trends involved in a current problem. We built a miniature scale Polynesian double hulled waka to learn the traditional techniques of construction.

We realise that not every school can travel to Hawai’i, but every school can develop meaningful projects with a strong purpose that enable powerful learning opportunities that help all students to experience and gain the skills and capabilities they need to be future leaders.

As New Zealand is a world leader in indigenous cultural restoration, we hope to be able to use that influence and strength to connect with other indigenous communities across the globe for both our Maori and non-Maori students and staff to grow, share and learn from other perspectives while strengthening our perspective and personal identity. We hope to be able to support, learn from, and join in the cultural restoration of the Polynesian whakapapa (cultural ancestry) in Hawai’i and across the Pacific.

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