Kupuohi Update by Dani Espiritu, Education Specialist

True to its name, our Kupuohi Education Program has seen significant growth this year! Kupuohi means to flourish or to grow vigorously and is the name of our multi-visit education program. 

We are extremely encouraged by the increase in the number of schools participating in our multiple visit program. It was never our intention to be a once a year field trip destination. One of our greatest priorities is to build deep and meaningful connections with the kids so that they can, in turn, make the same with the ʻāina. We are happy to report that five classes are coming four or more times and eleven classes coming two or more times during the 2019-2020 school year.  This number has grown tremendously since last year. Because of the multiple times exposed to the Kupuohi program and the loʻi, we see students making the important connections we were hoping for.

Here are a few statements shared by our students:

“I felt like I really connected with the land and the people there. Everyone was very open and had fun conversations that really made me think about my future and how I could better connect with my culture through education.”

 “Before going to Hoʻokuaʻāina, I didn’t feel a connection with the land and Hawaiian culture. After going to Hoʻokuaʻāina, I realized that the land has a huge part to play in Hawaiian culture because the native Hawaiians had to live off the land in order to survive.”

“Nani ke Kalo. Beautiful kalo. I learned so much from this trip. I think forever ill {I’ll} be intreaged {intrigued}and wanting to know more about the Hawaiian culture and more about island food prodcuction {production}. I think in my future ill [I’ll] really want to make change and include these new ideas.”

In total, we have had the privilege of hosting 1702 students and teachers from 32 schools or institutions in 2019. Each visit is an opportunity for students and teachers to learn more about Hawaiian culture and values through moʻolelo (stories) and ʻōlelo noʻeau (proverbs), participate in protocol, and connect with ʻāina and one another through hana (work) and traditional kalo farming practices. After spending the first three quarters learning how to work and care for the ʻāina, students participating in all four visits learn about traditional and contemporary ways of preparing kalo and in turn, have the opportunity to enjoy the kalo they have been caring for all year. 

One of the most exciting things for us has been the opportunity to host the families of students we have built relationships with through the Kupuohi program. Families from Blanche Pope Elementary School, Mālama Honua Public Charter School, Hālau Kū Māna, and other Kupuohi program schools have the opportunity to visit Kapalai on special community days organized by the teachers outside of the school week. By participating, the whole family can experience all that their keiki (children) have learned over the course of the year in the loʻi. It’s an opportunity for each ‘ohana (family) to not only support their child and for the haumāna (students) to share their learning and connection with Hoʻokuaʻāina but also to build community with the teachers and other families.

A few quotes from makua:

“We get to spend some [time] doing something good for our community as a whole family. We get to learn more about our ancestors and what the land can provide if we take care. We appreciate hookuaaina for letting us experience the hard work they do. We are thankful to them for letting our keikis learn and participate in the loi…Having this program is something you folks are doing exceptionally well! My keikis can learn through hands on experience. They can learn what hard work is too.”

“I love how accessible your program is to kula and the community. The outreach to keiki is amazing and allows them to do meaningful work while learning about their culture and the food they grow and eat. This place was nourishing for the body, mind and soul! Mahalo”

“I’m so proud that my sons aren’t afraid to be submerged in the land. When we are in a place such as a lo`i, I like to imagine that the dirt we touch was once touched by one of our ancestors. Or, that I’m stepping in the exact same spot where one of our ancestors stepped. I like to feel any connection I can…I enjoyed our time at Ho`okua`āina. It was a beautiful day to spend with beautiful people and connecting with our culture.”

In addition to our classroom visits, we hosted a number of school personnel this year, including complex area superintendents, school administrators, teachers, counselors, and university professors all interested in learning more about Hawaiian culture and ʻāina-based education. Overall, we are encouraged by the shift we see in our Windward Complex Area and the interest they are showing in learning in and from ʻāina. It seems from administration down to the classroom there is an increased desire to get students outdoors and exposed to the excellent programs being held at various aloha ʻāina community partner sites. 

Quotes from teachers:

“Hoʻokuaʻāina provides experience and learning opportunities for my haumana to reconnect with their culture and their kupuna.  Through the work in the loʻi, students are able to appreciate the hard work, values, and lessons of haloa and the commitment to keeping the ʻāina momona.  While students have fun getting into the loʻi, they also recognize that this work is hard and important to our communities. The lessons from ʻāina momona materials were the perfect example our trimester learning about balanced resources and thriving communities in our modern day society….Along with the work done with our keiki, the language, moʻolelo, ʻolelo noʻeau, and oli/mele that the staff always strive to use when working with our class helps to showcase the importance of this living culture.  Students experience and witness Hawaiian values being used, the lessons and language brought to everyday life, and being surrounded in this environment strengthens and grounds my students in place and culture…I also appreciate the relationship building that Dani, Uncle Dean, and the “uncles” provide for my students when working and talking story in the loʻi. The mentorship and time to connect with confident kanaka has really provided the care and support that my young Waimanalo boys needed.”

“…having a place who’s willing and excited to have us come multiple times a year it really allows the kids to have a connection to place…If we had just come that one time…and that was their only experience in the loʻi, they would not have the same connection to this place and to kalo…It just makes a huge difference to come back.”

“Having multiple years visiting this site, our haumana have been able to build pilina with this space and with the people of Hookuaaaina. The lessons that Aunty Dani and the staff teach the keiki build upon their knowledge of moolelo, cultural values, and lessons from our past.”