Exploring our islands…

Welcome to the adventure of Nature Activities for Learning and Understanding (NALU) Studies, where students participate in hands-on outdoor and laboratory activities in environmental science.  Our mission is to design and implement scientific and ecological learning experiences that have helped transform the lives and families of at-risk youth in our community.

Using our surrounding environment of land and sea along with our cultural history and knowledge, NALU Studies cultivates students’ curiosity and interest through enriched science education opportunities in marine science, biology, and ecology.  Beyond academic learning, NALU Studies strives to transform and empower the lives of youth by building trusting relationships and providing guidance and mentoring with an opportunity to experience personal achievement.

NALU Studies offers two sequential courses and a mentorship program.  Students study a traditional Hawaiian ahupuaʻa (watershed) and engage in a curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  Students can earn high school and/or college credit from Windward Community College for each course towards their academic goals.  Students are between the ages of 13 to 17 years old and are in a cohort of up to twenty.

We are proud that since 2009, Nature Activities for Learning and Understanding (NALU) Studies has provided outdoor and environmental science education opportunities for youth. 

Manning Taite III
NALU Studies 

Oli No Ka Papa NALU

Eia na mamo, na lehua o Ko’olau
Here are the yellow flowers, the lehua blossoms of Ko’olau
We are the descendants, the cherished ones of Ko ‘olau

Mohala mai i ke kawelu holu o Lanihuli
Blooming in the ‘swaying grass winds’ of Lanihuli
Flourishing even in the face of challenges

Huli ke alo i ke kai, i Moananuiakea
Turn the face seaward, to the vast and ancient Pacific ocean
We look toward the abundant wisdom of the ancients

E kamau i ka hoe a pae i ke kula
And the paddle is continually dipped until reaching the shore
And we are nourished until full by this ancestral knowledge

‘Ale ka holopali o Paliku
Gusting is the ‘cliff running wind’ of Kualoa
Strong are the traditions of our heritage

‘Ale’ale ke kai paki o Maunalua
Rising is the spraying sea of Maunalua
Growing in influence and knowledge

Lua ‘ole na ao loa o Konahuanui
Incomparable are the long clouds on Konahuanui, the highest point of Ko’olau
We [ourselves and our ancestors] are unique, of the highest order

Ku kilakila i ka la’i e
Standing proudly in the calm
Grateful that our ancestors have provided us peace and safety

Nature activities lead into a two-week intensive academic program, where students work in the laboratory, conducting college-level scientific experiments, collaborating in groups and working alongside professionals and experts.  Students present their research at the culminating event, a formal scientific symposium attended by scientists, community leaders, and families.

Each course is 150 hours long, with a combination of hands-on learning experiences through field expeditions and academic learning.  Courses start with nature activities that include hiking, canoe paddling, and snorkeling to build trust and relationships.  This is an opportunity for students and staff to get to know each other better and develop a bond as a team.


A program that redirects the lives of Hawaiʻi’s at-risk youth and atypical learners, transforming them into responsible leaders. Accomplished through:

  • Intensive immersion:  addresses academic and emotional needs in a transformative process.

  • Mentoring: connects students with scientists, community leaders, health care professionals, educators, and indigenous cultural practitioners.

  • Application of scientific techniques and culture practices: invites students to solve real-word environmental issues in their communities.

  • Relationships first! Through a well built, trusting relationship anything can be accomplished.

What do we do?

  • NALU Studies

    • Connects students to ʻāina and ahupuaʻa, so that they heal both the ʻāina and themselves! We use synergized approaches in Hawaiian Culture, STEM, and Social Emotional Learning.

    • Connects students to caring professionals as mentors, so students build their networks.

    • Offers responsible leadership opportunities and support that leads to academic improvement, positive behaviors, and graduation from high school, college or vocational schools.

    • Offers stipends, internships, service learning and real world experiences applying scientific and cultural practices.

What Types of Students are best served by NALU Studies?

  • Students who:

    • struggle to learn in typical classroom settings

    • respond better with experiential, hands-on learning

    • are “atypical” leaners needing a different approach

    • are failing out of the system

How does NALU Studies Support the greater educational community?

  • Our students demonstrate:

    • Heightened Responsibility and Motivation to Learn

    • Appreciation for the importance of education

    • Critical Leadership Qualities and Skills and a desire to help others

    • Experience in service learning projects

    • Increased Focus on High School and College Graduation

What Program Services and Activities do we offer?

  • Investigations in traditional and modern land management practices,

  • We place and support students in positions of leadership and responsibility,

  • Service Learning in Loʻi, coral reefs, forests,

  • Ways to heal ʻāina while healing themselves, their communities, and local environment,

  • Connection to caring professionals as mentors,

  • Growth opportunities as students move into leadership roles as Mentors and Team Leaders.

How are student recruited?

Students have multiple points of entry –

  • School Councilors

  • Teacher Recommendations

  • Judiciary

  • Peer Recommendation