Elementary Case Study

 By Mālama Honua Public Charter School

In four short years since it opened in August 2014, Mālama Honua Public Charter School (MHPCS) has shown how Project Based Learning (PBL) can make a positive difference for students. It impacts their academic achievement and their Mind of the Navigator skills – which includes Ethical Problem Solving, Communication & Collaboration, Confident Cultural Identity, Environmental Awareness, Global Perspectives, and Civic Responsibility.

Project Based Learning, taught daily in a three-hour Explorations Block, is a core instructional strategy balanced with intentional and targeted skill building aligned to project standards.

Malama Honua kids


Explorations at every grade level are aligned to an essential question: How do we live Mālama Honua?

Mālama Honua is based on a deep understand that a Hawaiian stands firmly in the present, with his back to the future, and his eyes fixed upon the past, seeking historical answers for present- day dilemmas. Based on this, each trimester, students engage in different service learning projects that focus on past, present and future. Fall projects are designed to help students understanding their personal and cultural histories and values (past). In winter projects, students focus on the present, engaging in scientific inquiry about the local environment. Each spring, students create projects that focus on solving current problems using the past to shape a better future.

This balanced approach to skill building and PBL infused with native Hawaiian language and culture has provided students with what they need to be successful now and in the future.

What did we achieve?

From the start, students at Mālama Honua demonstrated exceptional academic achievement above and beyond their peers in other charter schools and across the State.


This trend continued for reading the following year in reading.


In mathematics, fourth-grade students showed similar results: 69% proficient or above compared to 41% in charter schools and 48% across the State. Third-grade students scored lower than expected with 30% proficient or above, compared to 42% in charter schools and 53% across the State.

In April 2018, 100% of the 14 students in Mālama Honua’s first graduating class of fifth-graders passed their defenses of learning.

In that defense of learning, they answered the question: How do the Mind of Navigator skills help me practice Mālama Honua (to care for the earth)?

Students presented evidence from their portfolios that demonstrated their growth and achievement in one of the Mind of Navigator skills to an audience of peers, family, a panel of community leaders, and a fourth-grade student. Using a school-wide rubric, students were scored on their depth of understanding, oral communication skills, and presentation skills.

"This is and will become a revolutionary school because of the balance between understanding knowledge from the past, the present - truly knowing and practicing 21st Century skills, literacy, math, and science, and applying this knowledge and skills to solve problems they will encounter in the unknown future."

Kanoho Hosoda, Hawaiian Culture and Language Specialist at MHPCS


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