ʻIolani School brings cutting-edge genome science to Hilo High

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ʻĀina Informatics instructor Eric ʻIwakeliʻi Tong teaches students how to perform genetic sequencing. (Photo courtesy)

Students and teachers at Hilo High School learned about the world of genetic sequencing, genomics, and bioinformatics during a recent week-long program taught by staff at the ʻĀina Informatics Network, an initiative created by ʻIolani School.

Teachers and 9th and 10th graders engaged in hands-on life science experiments, including an investigation into the prevalence of genetically modified organisms known as GMOs in Hilo’s natural environment.

“It was a fun lab; my friends and I had a good time with it,” said Zoe Kaneshiro, a freshman at Hilo High School in a press release. “It was interesting to see if the papaya leaves we brought in were GMO or not.”


The ‘Āina Informatics Network was established by ʻIolani School in 2017 to develop place-based curricula for genome science centered on local biodiversity and global issues in bioethics, all while generating real data via a community science approach.

Students perform genetic sequencing while participating in the ʻIolani School ʻĀina Informatics program. (Photo courtesy)

After developing the curriculum and purchasing the resources, ‘Iolani School then focused on sharing the free program with any school interested in teaching it.

To date, the ‘Āina Informatics Network now spans 30 private and public schools, involving 52 teachers and providing instruction to more than 3,916 students across the islands.


‘Iolani School continues to expand the network with the support of the Edward E. Ford Foundation, Hawaiʻi Dental Service, Governor Ige’s GEER Grant and the Public Schools of Hawai‘i Foundation.

“The ‘Āina Informatics Network is a great example of our commitment to being a private school with a public purpose,” said Dr. Timothy Cottrell, ‘Iolani Head of School. 

ʻĀina Informatics instructor Ethan Hill works with Hawaiʻi Department of Education teachers to help incorporate genetic sequencing labs into curriculum across the state. (Photo courtesy)

“Thanks to the generosity of the many ‘Āina Informatics Network donors, we can provide professional development, equip schools with modern technology, share our curriculum and undertake research projects statewide. The goal is to increase the number of students in our state who learn from these new research opportunities.”


The Hilo High classroom visit also was made possible through the support of the Stupski Foundation and the Hawaii Science and Technology Museum, a local nonprofit organization focused on promoting science, technology, engineering and math education.

To learn more or become a member of the ‘Āina Informatics Network, visit

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