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Lanai High students' study published in prestigious medical journal

Their work was featured this month in the Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health

In August of 2016, 22 high school students at Lanai High and Elementary School had some key questions they set out to answer: How does what we eat affect who we are, how we feel and what we hope to become?

They did such a good job answering these questions that their findings were published this month in the Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health (September 2018, Vol. 77, No. 9) Read the entire medical journal article here. 

Using opinion research methods, students in Karen De Brum's Lanai High Expository Writing class surveyed 656 community members and conducted 15 focus groups on Lanai, where access to food can sometime be a challenge on the remote island.  On three separate occasions, the students presented their findings to the community, representatives at Pulama Lanai and the Lanai Community Health Center.

English teacher de Brum led the project-based learning effort with grant money from The Conservation Fund and her partnership with Lanai non-profit Laulima Kuhao. 

“This has been the most engaging teaching opportunity in years," de Brum said. "The students worked harder and made more educational gains during this project than I have seen in more traditional classes.  To see their work published in a medical journal is a proud moment not only for the students, but for the island as a whole."

As the report said, “This Community Food Assessment was not only about collecting, analyzing, and presenting the research; it was also about teaching the students how to collect, analyze, and present the data.  This is how the students demonstrated mastery of their English Language Arts standards.”

This effort not only resulted in a much better understanding of our food relationship on island, it enhanced student performance in many ways.  In a survey of the students, they reported improved public speaking and communication skills, along with graphing, use of spreadsheets, and how to collect and analyze data.  

Students said they hope this work sparks change in three ways: healthier lifestyles, more Lanai-grown food and greater self-sufficiency. 

The students' comments speak to their thoughtful perspective:

 “I realized that Lanai is prone to many problems in the future because of how greatly we rely on off-island sources.”

“I feel like I’m more concerned about being connected to the land and trying to sustain myself and my family.”

“Nothing would be more beautiful than to see Lanai living off its own land.”

Students identified four goals they hope the community hears from the research:

  • We can be healthier.
  • We can be more self-sufficient and more sustainable.
  • We need a few more items in our stores (organic, produce, cultural, healthy).
  • We need to grow more of our food, including in personal gardens.

The student researchers included:

Ashley Agcaoili

Gina Anton

Naighel Calderon

Emma de Brum

Jomel Etrata

Nichole Galdones 

David Hughes

Steven Jackson

Morgan Jonas 

Liana Koanui

Nalu Lopez-Agliam

Ka Mele Mano-Nakooka

Micah Manuel

Tabitha Medeiros

Alex Natividad 

Joel Nisperos 

Roderick Noble 

Geo Pillejera 

Hailey Spano-Calderon 

Alika Tan

Christian Teppang 

JP Thompson   

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Author: Keoki Kerr
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