A group of students on the Hakalau Field Trip
Students gather and look at birds through binoculars

Why We Study Phenology

Phenology is the study of plant and animal life cycles in relation to climate. It is derived from the Greek words phaino, “to show, to bring to light, to appear” and logos, “to study.” It is a simple but powerful way to track species’ responses to climate change. It engages students in citizen science of regional and national importance. Phenology has been used across time, cultures, and climates to understand the intricate connections between cyclical changes in climate and environmental responses. Phenology can be used to improve one’s understanding of the environment around them, and can be applied as a tool in biocultural resource management.

Career Connected Learning

Teaching Change staff, students, teachers, and partners participate in guided career connected discussions and presentations. Students are exposed to potential professional development pathways in order to pursue careers in Natural Resource Management in Hawaiʻi, such as wildlife biologist, land manager, researcher, or conservation biologist. In the field, career connected learning is taken a step further when students take part in restoration activities such as planting, weeding, or reducing fire risk in an area, to gain an idea of what hands-on work duties are like for natural resource professionals.

Hawaiian Knowledge Systems

Hawaiian Knowledge Systems set a foundation for our teachings to facilitate scientific knowledge discovery through unique beliefs, values, and practices. This includes utilizing a biocultural approach that emphasizes the significance of Hawaiian ways of knowing and Hawaiian worldviews. Hawaiian worldviews realize the importance of relationships and reciprocity, and traditions that encourage sustainable practices. This includes mālama ʻāina (to care for the land that feeds you), lōhkahi (unity and harmony), kaiāulu (community), and kuleana (responsibility based on rights) as core values that sustain the relationships between humans and nature. Philosophy found in ʻōlelo noʻeau, “E mālama i ka ‘āina, a mālama ka ‘āina ia ‘oe” (Care for the land and the land will care for you) and “I ola ʻoe, i ola mākou nei” (My life is dependent on yours, yours dependent on mine) describe the respect for the intricate balances in life we all depend on to thrive.

Hawaiian knowledge systems and western knowledge systems can be woven together in teaching science. Hawaiian values and practices such as kilo, moʻolelo, hula, and ʻōlelo noʻeau can be applied in tandem with western practices for scientific knowledge discovery. One example of the biocultural approach taken by Teaching Change is through looking at how both knowledge systems use data as evidence to support a claim and inform land management decisions: western theory tasks us with empirical data collection and statistical analyses to come to a decision on how to preserve land, Hawaiian practice calls on knowledge developed from long-term observations of place (ʻike), ancestral knowledge, and ritual practices such as kapu (a time period when something would be forbidden from use) in making management decisions. Our phenology presentations look at both numerical phenology data to inform us about climate change to monitor ecological shifts across time, and how phenology is applied in Hawaiian perspectives as a calendar for engaging in important activities such as fishing, farming, and when to allow periods of rest in the ecosystem.