As a young student at Webling Elementary School, Kanoe Walker recalls being bullied because of her light skin.
While she is of Native Hawaiian descent, the keiki was beginning to question her Hawaiian heritage.
Then, last summer upon completing fifth grade, Walker took part in Kamehameha Schools’ Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i, a week-long summer boarding program centered around Hawaiian studies for keiki entering the sixth grade. Students from public and private schools across Hawai‘i, the continental United States and around the globe are welcome to apply.
She was initially “forced” by her mother to attend, however, spending the week at KS Kapālama immersed in cultural learning experiences that focus on foundational Hawaiian values and practices led to a shift in Walker’s mindset.
“I discovered my Hawaiian identity,” and Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i helped impart “the importance of showing others how to mālama ‘āina and care for one another,” Walker said.
The summer of 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Hoʻomākaʻikaʻi, the iconic program that has touched the lives of more than 50,000 keiki through Hawaiian culture-based education.
“Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i sets the course in embracing Hawaiian culture and strong cultural identity by introducing keiki to foundational values and practices through learning experiences centered around ‘āina, mo‘olelo, and cultural traditions that include work in lo‘i kalo, fishpond restoration, mele, hula, and more,” said Wai‘ale‘ale Sarsona, managing director of Kūamahi Community Education at KS.
“We look forward to another 50 years of educational opportunities grounded in Hawaiian culture.”
Throughout the program’s history, students have attended classes focusing on Hawaiian language, literature, crafts, plants, ocean studies and music. With the help of community partners, attendees have taken huaka‘i (field trips) to Mauna ‘Ala, ‘Iolani Palace, Hanauma Bay, and Aliʻiōlani Hale.
In recent years, keiki learned about aquaculture and agriculture by visiting active educational sites including Loko Ea Fishpond in Hale‘iwa, Ka Papa Lo‘i ‘o Punalu‘u, and Waipao in the ahupua‘a of He‘eia.
The week’s activities culminate with a Ho‘olaule‘a on Friday night at which keiki share with family and friends what they have learned – including the program’s signature mele: “E ia nei, look at us!”
Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i evolved from a sightseeing activity initiated by John White, a former KSK Elementary School teacher. In 1965, while teaching at Kilohana School on Moloka‘i during the summer, White discovered that most of his students had never left their home island.
He arranged to use KS’ dormitories and dining room, and flew groups of four students at a time to Honolulu for six weekends. The groups visited the Bishop Museum, Sea Life Park, Ala Moana Shopping Center and the Arizona Memorial – culturally and socially significant sites that drew awe and wide eyes from the young keiki.
When that summer ended, Jack Darvill, then assistant to the KS president, thought White’s trips were a great idea and led to the official formation of the Explorations Program in 1968 with 928 students.
“We mahalo (White) for the idea, and everyone who has helped build the program over the past 50 years,” said Kumu Ke‘ala Kwan, who served as Ho’omāka‘ika‘i coordinator from 1987 through 2012 and is currently KS' Director of ‘Ike Hawaii Cultural Development. “Fun is always an important part of the experience. By the end of the week, kids have gotten to know one another and are grateful for the opportunity.”
Share your photos from the past 50 years of Ho‘omāka‘ika‘i by using #Expoturns50 and tagging @KamehamehaSchools on Facebook and Instagram, and @KSNews on Twitter.
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June 13, 2017
The summer of 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Kamehameha Schools Hoʻomākaʻikaʻi program which encourages Hawaiian keiki to embrace their culture by introducing them to native values and practices through a study of ahupuaʻa.