The history of the Segues to Science Project is intertwined with the history of the teaching economic and ethnobotany at the University of Hawaii (formerly College of Hawaii). This is summarized as follows:
  • 1918 The first course is taught (Botany 2: Economic Plants) by Joseph Rock.
  • While the campus was being developed, Joseph Rock developed the landscape as a botanical garden featuring economically important trees. Information has been compiled about each of the trees and has been incorporated in courses as they have been taught.
  • Over the next sixty years a series of botanists continue to develop courses and research in the areas of economic and ethnobotany. Chief among them is Dr. Harold St. John.
  • In the 1970s Bea Krauss was teaching ethnobotany to over 1000 students each year and because of that ethnobotany become a household term in Hawaii. Subsequently, ethnobotany become part of the elementary education and became incorporated to some extent in different parts of the K-12 educational system as a whole.
  • In the 1980s Isabella Abbott began to teach ethnobotany emphasizing modern scientific research methods and she expanded the range of ethnobotany courses being offered to include courses for senior undergraduates and graduate students. Isabella Abbott systematically reached out to Native Hawaiian students encouraging them to learn to be good scientists and to be proud of the science of their traditional cultural practices.
  • In the 1990s Will McClatchey and Kim Bridges began to expand the ethnobotany courses to include a global perspective. This culminated in development of a Bachelor of Science in Ethnobotany degree through the Department of Botany.
  • In the 2000s the Department of Botany organized an Ethnobotany Track including five core faculty members (Kim Bridges, Will McClatchey, Mark Merlin, Tamara Ticktin and David Webb) in order to teach the courses of the Ethnobotany degree and provide research leadership in the area of Ethnobotany.

Throughout the above development period there have been several observations that the faculty have consistently made about the entry level students in the ethnobotany courses. They are often:

  • non-science majors (and "turned-off" by "science")
  • members of self-identifying ethnic communities
  • excited about exploring their own "home" culture
  • interested in learning from their family and in their own (non-English) language
  • interested in "alternatives" to modern lifestyles and culture

Regular results of the ethnobotany courses have included:

  • non-science majors becoming interested in science (or at least warming up to parts of it)
  • new science undergraduate students who changed majors based upon an ethnobotany course
  • students interested in science as part of their overall means of learning about their own family and culture
  • new undergraduate and graduate students from ethnic communities not usually well represented in sciences in Hawaii

The Segues to Science Project was to developed to:

  • Specifically articulate the transitional developments that we have been observing particularly as they relate to transitions between ethnobotany and other sciences.
  • Quantify the observations so that the project can be scientifically evaluated.
  • Develop follow-up mechanisms to encourage and track students participating in segues to see if they continue to develop interests in science.
Funded by National Science Foundation Grant Award Number DUE06-18690