Off in the distance of the ahupua‘a of Waimea, a dainty uakoko rainbow casts a faint shadow over the hillsides of Lanikepu. Its low-lying arch almost seems to kiss the sacred wahi pana, where ancient Hawaiian gods and goddesses once dwelled.
Today, students at Waimea Middle School look out their classroom windows and see that same rainbow, taking them back in time and linking them to a place nestled deep within their Hawaiian culture.
Educators at this Hawai‘i Island school have recently been incorporating the beautiful mo‘oleo of Lanikepu with their academic curriculum by showing a short video they created in 2007. The video covers all historic aspects of the hillside – from a women’s healing heiau of Pu‘u Laelae to the forbidden land taboo extended down towards the hillside whenever Chiefess Wao would bear her children.
“It brings me joy and elation to see that the children can learn things that help them to identify with themselves, their place,” said Ku‘ulei Keakealani, resource teacher at Waimea Middle School and the video’s narrator. “It grounds and solidifies them into who they are today.”
She and teacher Pua Case have been showing this video to students before handing out a mapping exercise, where the sixth through eighth graders locate places of Lanikepu. To make it more hands-on, the classes go outside to observe the hillside’s features, putting a visual element to the maps.
“When I listen to the Lanikepu song or watch the video it makes me feel calm and peaceful,” said Keakealani’s fifth grade daughter Kamehana Tachera. “I feel like I’m connected to my people and my place.”
In perpetuating the Hawaiian culture even further, students of Kanu o ka ‘Aina Public Charter School and Waimea Middle School learned and performed a hula pahu one night at the Kahilu Theatre of Waimea. The steady pounding of the pahu drums became the trickle of flowing streams and the howl of dancing winds that night, engaging the audience into the story even more.
“For me it’s all about the students taking my place at the table and being informed enough to make wise decisions in the future of our landscape,” said Case, who taught the students at Waimea Middle School the chant and dance.
Keakealani and Kumu Hula Keala Ching composed this hula’s mele, which was eventually shared with more than 80 students. A mixture of different ages, from 10 to 50 years old, during the performance showed how education is based upon more than just the students.
Keakealani and Case both hope to share the video with more educators, offering it to the public and private educators of the Waimea educational committee and also posting it on TeacherTube.com.
“Just as a word of encouragement to educators, look at stories of your place and community and integrate them into your classroom setting,” Keakealani said. “It will be the best thing you ever did for the keiki.”
Mahalo to Ku’ulei and Pua and everyone in Waimea who participated in producing this video and for preserving and perpetuating those very valuable pieces of history and knowledge for the next generations to come.
Alyssa S. Navares for PacificNetwork.tv