Students in Nānākuli Take on “Stink Pond”

Students from the Mālama ʻĀina Field School in Nānākuli advance their classroom skills in order to try and save part of their community.


The notorious smell, the murky green water, the overgrown swamp that engulfs the ground: This is the Honiniwai Stream in Nānākuli, commonly known as “Stink Pond.” This summer, kids from Mālama ʻĀina Field School, a program offered by educational nonprofit Mālama Learning Center, began to wonder, what made “stink pond” so gross? How did it get polluted? Who actually has jurisdiction over the area? And why hasn’t anyone done anything about it? So they decided to take on the daunting task of learning more about Honiniwai Stream and figuring out ways to help this part of their community as a part of a project for the Mālama ‘Āina Field School.


Before they could start cleaning the area, however, the 35 students involved had to learn more about the history and ownership of the land. “This project has been hard, being that we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, we didn’t get much information regarding the place. So we can’t really start working until we understand what it is,” explains Nalani Schmidt-Sakaba, an incoming freshman at Nānākuli High.


“What I’d like to emphasize is that this is just the beginning, and I wouldn’t want people to think we’re going to start cleaning trashy areas and pulling out weeds and such from the area tomorrow,” says Pauline Sato, principal coordinator and executive director of the Mālama Learning Center. “If we did that, it would likely last only a short while, because not a lot of planning went into it. We need to understand the history of the area, what the problems are, how to fix the and who is actually supposed to be in charge of the area.”



Students interviewed kūpuna living nearby, asking them about the earlier days, when Stink Pond was a hub for swimming and fishing. After digging for more information, some students became skeptical about the possibility of completely restoring the pond because of the amount of damage that has been caused to it. “It’s just as important as any other local place,” says Schmidt-Sakaba. “My goal is, maybe not restore it, but share our education with the people of the community. [. . .] I judged this place as just being dirty.”


As the students learned more, though, they discovered there’s more to Stink Pond than just a stink. Of course, there’s one large roadblock in their way: After contacting many government agencies, they haven’t found any that claims jurisdiction over the pond. Sato says, “Everyone thinks it’s someone else’s responsibility, so no one actually takes responsibility.”


Although the program will end before the students can fully complete the project, some students hope to stay involved over next summer, as well. “We intend to continue our research and build our plans for the future while engaging even more students, teachers and schools. This is the essence of environmental education—interdisciplinary, hands-on and solution-based,” Sato says.


To learn more about the Mālama ʻĀina Field School in Nānākuli, visit