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`I`iwi Are Detectives

`I`iwi Are Detectives
Jennifer Manuel

Inquiry-based learning is like opening up a treasure chest of curiosity! When students develop theories during inquiry, they are not just absorbing information; they are becoming little detectives, exploring and connecting the dots themselves.

`I`iwi detectives explore and connect the dots as inquirers

It’s all about empowering them to ask questions, seek answers, and think critically. Developing theories in inquiry helps students become active participants in their own learning journey. They are not consumers of knowledge; they are creators of understanding.

This approach also nurtures a mindset of exploration and resilience. When their theories don’t quite match up with reality, it’s not a roadblock; it’s an opportunity to refine and expand their thinking. It’s like a mini scientific adventure every time they dive into a new concept.

As our `i`iwi detectives continue to practice kilo in the piko of our beautiful campus, the children have wondered about how mountains form. They understand from our mo’olelo Kahalaopuna that a man named Kauhi was forced to surrender to the wind and rain gods because of his selfish, unkind ways to Kahalaopuna. The children’s natural curiosities identified each curve of Wa`ahila Ridge and pointed out Kauhi’s face, chest, torso, and legs. Their excitement was evident in their discussion and pointing to each section of the mountain, but also when they were able to sit still and practice kilo quietly as observers.


Practicing kilo allowed the children to look thoughtfully and with intention, beyond the body of Kauhi, and wonder about the colors of the mountain, the shape of the mountains, the drastic height difference between the top of the valley and the gentle slope towards the ocean. One child even recalled a memory of the fire in the valley several years ago and how that could have changed the shape and foliage of the mountain range because there were hardly any trees and plants growing.

One child wondered aloud, “Is there another way that the mountain could have formed?”

This sparked some investigation through scientific research and allowed the children to think about other perspectives of the earth’s geological formations. It was time to gather information! The children extracted new knowledge from resources, such as books and videos, to explain how the Hawaiian Islands were formed from a scientific perspective. Scientific words, such as earth’s crust, tectonic plates, magma, and lava, were introduced and drawn in the children’s inquiry journals.


Notice perspectives on the formation of mountains.

We had an opportunity to unpack an experiment where children thought about the changes that might occur over time to our volcanic islands we call home. They had an opportunity to ‘weather’ our mountain range in the valley created out of sand. The `i`iwi detectives learned that weathering would be a fast or slow process, which changes the shapes of our local mountain range in Mānoa Valley and beyond to create our magnificent Hawaiian island chain.

Let it rain! How does the mountain change due to weathering?


Creating the mountain range with a deep valley to represent Mānoa.

These recent inquiry activities offered a place for the children to share their own theories on the formation of mountains in Hawai`i. As the detectives connect the dots to new concepts, they are beginning to be their own creators in understanding how the world works.

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