HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Once again this summer in Nanakuli and Waianae teenagers will explore the meaning of being Hawaiian.
About 30 students enrolled in a unique summer school program run by the Malama Learning Center.
"We're teaching about Hawaii. But we're also teaching about the ecosystem, the natural systems, the culture, and how it all weaves together," Malama's executive director Pauline Sato said.
The Malama Aina Field School summer course lasts five weeks.
Students work in the classroom, but the real education takes place on service-based field trips that tie science, math, art, social studies and English to Hawaiian studies.
“What I call it is environmental education. It’s connecting people to their place,” Sato said.
The program started seven years ago with students from Nanakuli, but it now includes young people from Waianae.
Some of this year's students enrolled before and wanted to come back for more.
"You come into detail with the aina and the people you love. Communication is key with everything. That's how come I enjoy this program. And I take it back to school," Andrew Koniske said.
“It just made me open my eyes and see that not a lot of people can be Hawaiian, or proud about what we know, and grow up like how we do,” Kawehi Cariaga said.
Instructors want the teens to delve deeper into their Hawaiian heritage and the responsibility that comes with it.
"I think the infusion of culture, language, a sense of place, a sense of belonging, a sense of duty, a sense of responsibility to our land and our people needs to be infused at every school," guest lecturer Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu said.
This is the seventh year Malama Aina has held the summer program for teenagers.
"We want them to feel like this is how school should be. You want to learn," Sato said.
The students earn course credits for their commitment.